2016 NBA Award Predictions
Our Take on Who Will Win the Regular Season Awards
With record breaking performances across all facets of the game, the 2015–2016 NBA season is one to remember. Now, it’s time to acknowledge and award certain players (and coach) for their work.
Below, you will see who is most deserving of each major NBA Award.
Most Valuable Player: Steph Curry
As I stated in an article last week, there is no doubt Steph Curry will win his second consecutive Most Valuable Player Award. He is leading the league in scoring, steals, 3-pointers, and most importantly, Player Efficiency Rating. Last season, Curry put up a ridiculous 28.06 PER (and won the MVP), but has improved that to a 31.18 PER this season. Only 3 players in NBA history have finished a season with a PER over 31 — Wilt Chamberlain, Michael Jordan, and LeBron James. On top of it all, Curry is about to join the 50/40/90 club. From re-breaking his record for most 3-pointers in a season, to leading the Golden State Warriors to debatably the most dominant season in NBA history, the real question is not “will Steph Curry win the MVP?”, but rather “will Steph Curry become the first ever unanimous MVP?”
Defensive Player of the Year: Kawhi Leonard
Most notably this season, Kawhi has improved his offensive game drastically. Not only is he the leading scorer on the Spurs, but he has developed a fairly accurate 3-point shot. The most impressive part is even with his improved play on the offensive end, he has not lost a step on defense. He is the engine behind the Spurs defense, which just so happens to be the #1 defense in the NBA, allowing only 92.9 points per game. Kawhi’s combination of length, athleticism, and pure determination is what makes him a force on the defensive end of the court. Whether it’s LeBron James, Kevin Durant, or Paul George, Kawhi is always tasked with locking up the best player on the opposing team. While he isn’t leading the league in steals or blocks, he is the player that nobody looks forward to matching up against.
Most Improved Player: CJ McCollum
Damian Lillard gets most of the credit when it comes to the Portland Trailblazers on-court success this season, but CJ McCollum has turned himself into one of the best scorers in the NBA. He is known for being a threat from 3-point range, but McCollum can score in a plethora of ways. He is averaging 20.9 points per game this season. I would say that’s a slight improvement from his 6.8 point per game average last season. CJ McCollum’s improved play has created a “Splash Brothers 2.0” in Portland, and a back-court that Portland can build around to become competitive for the foreseeable future. Currently, he is approaching 200 3-pointers on the year, and has managed to improve his 3-point shooting % in the process (42%). On top of his impressive scoring ability, he has managed to put up more than 4 assists per game at the shooting guard position. In a year where many NBA players have stepped up there game, CJ McCollum separated himself to become the leagues Most Improved Player.
6th Man of the Year: Jamal Crawford
Will Barton of the Denver Nuggets made a strong case for 6th Man of the Year by leading his team in scoring off the bench, but Jamal Crawford has provided the spark behind the Clippers 2nd half of the year resurgence. Crawford has hit multiple game-winners this season, and is as dangerous a scoring threat as you will come across in the NBA. Since the start of February, in games where Crawford has played 20+ minutes, he is averaging 17 points per game. Not many teams have the luxury of a bench player who is a threat to score 20+ on any given night. His slow start to the 2015–2016 NBA season may hurt him come voting time, but I believe his value in the 2nd half of the season was more than enough to claim the 6th Man of the Year Award.
Rookie of the Year: Karl-Anthony Towns
While Steph Curry may not be the unanimous MVP, Karl-Anthony Towns is the unanimous Rookie of the Year — and it’s not even close. Kristaps Porzingis may be far ahead in jersey sales, but that’s about it. Towns was named Western Conference Rookie of the Year every month this season (November, December, January, February, March). When matched up against other notable rookies in NBA history, Towns is on pace to become the first rookie since Elton Brand in the 1999–2000 NBA season to average 18+ points, 10+ rebounds, and 1+ block per game. His development is far ahead of what anyone could have imagined, and it looks like he will be the centerpiece of the Minnesota Timberwolves for years to come. To top all off, he currently has the 12th highest Player Efficiency Rating in the NBA…AS A ROOKIE!
Coach of the Year: Brad Stevens
Yes, I know the Golden State Warriors have the chance to complete the most-winning regular season in NBA history. I also know that Steve Kerr has undoubtedly played a large part in their historic run, despite being injured for the first half of the season. I also know that Gregg Popovich has coached the San Antonio Spurs to a historic season with an aging Tim Duncan. BUT, Brad Stevens is doing big things in Boston. At the beginning of the year, the Celtics looked like a team that would be fighting for the 7th or 8th seed in the Eastern Conference. With a team that lacks any legitimate superstars, somehow the Boston Celtics are on pace to gain home-court advantage in the playoffs. With Brad Stevens running the show, the Celtics are a scary team for anyone to match up against in the playoffs. The Coach of the Year Award should be given to the coach who is able to get the most out of his players, and I believe Brad Stevens exemplifies that as much as any coach in the NBA.