Pre-Season Candidates for Each NBA Award 2017–18 Season
Coming off of the most tumultuous off-season in NBA history, the 2017–18 NBA season has filled fans with more intrigue than I can remember. PG and Melo teamed up with Russ in OKC, CP3 went to H-Town, Wade is reunited with the King in Cleveland, Cavs and Celtics swapped All Stars and the Warriors still have KD… smh. Couple the Free Agent moves and trades with what looks to be a special draft class and you get an intriguing NBA season.
The amount of moves that were made in the off-season makes for an interesting outlook for the season awards. Predictions for MVP, DPOY, MIP, 6MOY, ROY all in one place!(Each award will have the “top two” candidates, followed by an explanation.)
MOST IMPROVED PLAYER:
Candidate #1: Rodney Hood, SG/SF Utah Jazz
The departure of All-Star F Gordon Hayward leaves a burden for someone on the Jazz to pick up. Hood battled injuries last season and only played 59 games but in his fourth NBA season look for Rodney Hood to become the go-to scorer for this Utah Jazz squad. The addition of Ricky Rubio should increase his chances him to average points in the high teens to low twenties. Rookie Donovan Mitchell will want to shutdown everyone, leaving Hood free reigns to the offense.
Candidate #2: Brandon Ingram, SF Los Angeles Lakers
Brandon Ingram has the potential to become one of the best players in the NBA over the next few seasons and this season will be telling in how good he can really become. He is long, athletic and has the ability to become a good/great ball handler. He now plays with Lonzo Ball, who’s first goal is to get others involved, which should bode well for his touches primarily in transition but on spot up threes as well. Ingram is a great candidate if he can use his “improved” body to get rebounds and create plays for his team.
DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR
Candidate #1: Draymond Green, F/C Golden State Warriors
Look at that supreme defensive play by #23. Sometimes you have to just marvel at what some of these guys are capable of. All jokes aside, Draymond will be the defensive catalyst on a team that has the potential to win 70+ games. This alone is grounds for consideration for the DPOY Award. Draymond will look to replicate or even build on his 2.0 Stl 1.4 Blk averages from 2016–17. While he isn’t the most athletically or physically gifted player, his grit and defensive attitude is evident on the floor every night which gives him a great chance at repeating as the DPOY.
Candidate #2: Rudy Gobert, C Utah Jazz
Gobert is the best rim protector in the NBA. He uses his length (8'0 Wingspan) to change every shot at the rim while averaging 2.6 Blk a game. He finished first in Defensive Win Shares (6.0) and finished third in Defensive Rating (99.2). His candidacy for this award will most likely be dependent on how much he can affect the overall success of the Utah Jazz during the 2017–18 season.
SIXTH MAN OF THE YEAR
Candidate #1: Lou Williams, G Los Angeles Clippers
LOUUUUUUUUUU (Drake Voice). Lou Williams is in a perfect position to thrive on this Clippers team. During his 2016–17 campaign with the Lakers, Williams averaged 18.6 ppg 3.2 apg in only 24 mpg, (27.7 ppg per 36). He never fully got settled in Houston and there was a stark contrast in his stats because of it. He has consistently been good for 16–21 points each game throughout his career. This “new and improved”Clippers team will need someone to draw attention and make big shots with the departure of Crawford and Paul. Lou is that guy.
Candidate #2: J.R. Smith, SG Cleveland Cavaliers
In my opinion, J.R. Smith is likely to regain the starting role later on this season. Unless Dwyane Wade has become a 35%-40% three point shooter, Ty Lue will probably bring Smith back in the starting lineup. But if he does primarily come off the bench this season, he could be very special. In an interview with ESPN’s Dave McMenamin Smith said,“…now I got to change my mind frame from where I was at the last three years to flip it back to me being the sixth man”“I got to go back to being the sixth man and just scoring, scoring, scoring. Being aggressive.” J.R also added that “he was hurt” by the new bench role(via RoadTrippin’ Pod). I believe J.R. will be especially aggressive this season on both ends of the floor.
ROOKIE OF THE YEAR
Candidate #1: Ben Simmons, F/PG Philadelphia 76ers
Simmons is the engine for this young 76ers team. He will have the ball in his hands on most possessions and create for their offense. Simmons is one of those “Do it all” guys, he can’t score in a variety of ways yet, but is good at attacking the basket. He is already one of the top five to seven passers in the NBA and with his size and strength he is also a good rebounder. He is not the greatest defender, but if he guards 3’s and 4’s he should be just fine. His usage should give him a great chance to win the award, especially if the Sixers make the playoffs.
Candidate #2: Dennis Smith Jr., PG Dallas Mavericks
Dennis Smith Jr. should have a major impact for the Dallas Mavericks this season. The Mavericks do not project to be a very good team this season and Smith Jr. has high potential to be the lone bright spot. He averaged 17.3 ppg in the Summer League and if given the reigns of the team, he could put up big numbers. His athletic ability is absolutely ridiculous. DSJ has He has routinely done “dunk contest 50’s” in warm-up’s and may just become a favorite to basketball fans everywhere.
Candidate #3: Lonzo Ball, PG Los Angeles Lakers
I believe Lonzo Ball can become a great player in this league. The reason he was so effective and dangerous in those summer league games is because he was being aggressive. In almost every sub-par game Lonzo has had dating back to his UCLA days, have been because he lacked aggression. He is going to have to either be aggressive going to the basket or become a knockdown three-point shooter in order to put fear into defenses around the league. If he can learn to be more aggressive early on in his rookie campaign, he will be one of the front runners for this award.
MOST VALUABLE PLAYER
Candidate #1: LeBron James, F Cleveland Cavaliers
King James has found another reason to prove himself this season. If nothing else, the Finals loss against the Warriors made him think about how he can get better. The ugly departure of Kyrie Irving likely had the same effect. With Isaiah Thomas likely out until January, LeBron will have more than enough time to lead this Cavaliers team to the best regular season record they’ve had in his second tenure with the team. LeBron is always chasing greatness and a fifth MVP would be nothing less than amazing for someone this late in their career. In LeBron’s fifteenth NBA season, he will look to make Kyrie wish he would’ve stayed in Cleveland.
Candidate #2: Kawhi Leonard, F San Antonio Spurs
Kawhi Leonard is one of, if not the best two way player in the NBA. Last season, Kawhi’s play on the defensive end definitely slipped. This is mostly due to the offensive burden he had to carry. He can no longer give as much energy on the defensive end of the court because he is so important to their offense. If Kawhi can be the catalyst on a contending Spurs team in the Western Conference, his chances of winning the MVP are very high.
Candidate #3: Giannis Antetokounmpo, F Milwuakee Bucks
This could be Giannis’s explosion year. If Giannis can extend his range (Increase 3FG% to 32%–35%) and increase his usage rate to about 33% he will put up MVP level numbers. Having a healthy Jabari Parker, Khris Middleton and an improved Malcolm Brogdon should be a great supporting cast for Giannis to create for. How dominant Giannis decides to be, will shape the NBA for years to come. He is only 22 so this is just the beginning, but we could be looking back on this year as the year Giannis became a true Superstar.