With the 2016-2017 NBA season rapidly approaching, I thought I would make my predictions as to who will win each award after the season is finished.
MVP: Russell Westbrook, PG, Oklahoma City Thunder
Ever since Kevin Durant inexplicably left the Thunder early this summer, Russell Westbrook has emerged as the heavy favorite to win MVP this year despite not having as good of a team around him. Now that he is running the show by himself and signed a fresh new contract a couple months ago, there is nothing holding Westbrook back from absolutely destroying the league. There is no reason why Westbrook can’t and shouldn’t have the best season of his career where he wins the MVP. Even if he takes the Thunder into the playoffs and they lose in the first round, that right there should be enough for him to win the award.
It’s Westbrooks team now. No more distractions. He has a good enough supporting cast around him with young guys like Victor Oladipo, Steven Adams, and Cameron Payne, to do some damage this season. Expect Westbrook to unleash the monster inside of him like you’ve never seen it before. He will not only average a triple-double but will also be holding up the Maurice Podoloff Trophy to cement himself as not only the best point guard in the league, but also a top three player in the league.
Most Improved Player: D’Angelo Russell, PG, Los Angeles Lakers
While there are a large number of candidates I could choose from, I ended up going with the Lakers extremely talented second year floor general. After an up-and-down rookie season, Russell definitely showed signs of the star potential that made him the second overall draft pick in 2015.
Now, having a full year under his belt I fully expect Russell to play like the All-Star caliber player he is. With some new faces around him like 2016 second overall pick Brandon Ingram and free agent acquisitions Luol Deng and Timofey Mozgov, lots more talent has been added around Russell to help him thrive. The pieces are in place for the Lakers to have a much better season than last year, and Russell will be leading the way.
Defensive Player of the Year: Kawhi Leonard, SF, San Antonio Spurs
The reigning DPOY will hold the crown for the third year in a row. Once again there are a number of strong candidates like Draymond Green, Anthony Davis, and Karl Anthony-Towns. But it’s easy to see who the top defensive player in the league is. Kawhi Leonard has gotten better every year and solidified himself as a top five player in the league last season. He has become a great all-around star, but he’s been a fantastic defender since the beginning.
As long as Kawhi’s there the Spurs are contenders. He should have another superb season and take his team deep into the playoffs at the very least. This superstar will continue his top defense and complete the three-peat of the Defensive Player of the Year award.
Sixth Man of the Year: Andre Iguodala, SF, Golden State Warriors
With the Warriors on paper possessing possibly the most lethal starting lineup in league history, there just isn’t enough room for Iggy in the starting lineup. They could put him in and go small ball, but they will likely prefer a big man like Zaza Pachulia to put alongside Draymond Green. And besides, with so much of their bench now gone to make room for Kevin Durant, they desperately need a guy like Iggy to provide that spark off of it.
Iggy will be a phenomenal sixth man for Golden State. He provides so much energy off the bench to give opposing teams even more of a hard time. He is an electrifying athlete and is a strong two-way player. By having a guy like Iggy leading the second team, the Warriors will complement their insane starting five with a lethal bench attack to provide the best roster in recent memory.
Rookie of the Year: Ben Simmons, SF, Philadelphia 76ers
As of now most people believe that the Rookie of the Year race will be between the top two picks, Ben Simmons and Brandon Ingram. Of course there are other promising rookies who can snatch that award like Kris Dunn, Buddy Hield, or Dragan Bender, but the favorite is clearly Simmons.
Since being tagged as the next Lebron James and being selected first overall in June, Simmons has expectations as sky-high as they come. He will step into a young but troubled Sixers team and try to carry the franchise to at the very least a respectful season. He should hit the ground running and prove to everyone why he was the number one overall pick. I expect this to be the beginning of a great career for Simmons, showing off his top-level skill and freakish athleticism.
Comeback Player of the Year: Blake Griffin, PF, Los Angeles Clippers
It was a pretty rough season for the Clippers’ super star. After having very high expectations for last season to possibly be the best of his career, it was probably the worst of his career. It started off with a torn quad injury that kept Griffin out for a while. Then he made everyone scratch their heads in confusion and punch a hole in their walls out of frustration when he got into a fight with one of the assistant equipment managers and broke his hand. If those two weren’t bad enough, when Griffin finally was healthy again, he injured his quad a second time towards the end of the season. Even when Griffin was healthy, he was constantly involved in trade rumors and it felt like he wasn’t taking his career seriously.
Despite only playing 35 games Griffin still put up some pretty good numbers, averaging 21.4 points per game and 8.4 rebounds. Nevertheless, this year is obviously going to be a huge year for Griffin. He needs to not only stay healthy and stop putting himself in stupid positions, but he needs to show everyone that he is serious about his career. He needs to re-ignite that passion and determination that made him the player we all love and focus on basketball, not getting distracted by anything else. I expect Griffin to come out this season hungry and vicious. He will be healthy and back to his old self where he destroys any opponent in his path.
Coach of the Year: Tom Thibodeau, Minnesota Timberwolves
I don’t know about you but I’m tired of seeing Steve Kerr win this award. Even though he will probably win it yet again this season, he’s an overrated coach on a superstar team. Anybody could be the coach of the Warriors and win this award. All Kerr did was make a smart decision by going to the Warriors in the first place because he knew they would make him look like the best coach in the league. He isn’t. And he shouldn’t even win this award. Tom Thibodeau will be the man who should win this award when the season comes to an end.
He is in the perfect situation in Minnesota. He’s got all the young foundational pieces he needs from Karl-Anthony Towns to Andrew Wiggins to rookie Kris Dunn. This guy was the missing piece needed to take this team to the playoffs. Thibodeau is the kind of tough, no-nonsense coach who can help these players and this team thrive as a whole. Barring any injuries, definitely expect Thibodeau to take this team to playoffs this season and have a very successful tenure in Minnesota.
Executive of the Year: Bob Myers, Golden State Warriors
This one is pretty obvious. I mean anybody who signs Kevin Durant in free agency automatically puts up a good argument for this title. If you’re team already has three superstars and then adds a fourth in Kevin Durant, you should basically receive the award right then and there. What Myers has accomplished to do this offseason is make the Warriors better. Yeah, you heard me. He has managed to make the 73-9 Warriors, who made it to the Finals last season after winning it all the year before, significantly better. That’s pretty crazy to think about.
Myers’ warriors were already heavy title favorites before the acquisition of Durant, but now its not even a competition anymore. Unless some of their super star players suffer serious injuries or Durant doesn’t fit into the system as well as they thought, it will be a very annoying season for every other team in the league. I hope they don’t, and I’m still mad at KD for chickening out and joining the enemy, but they will probably win the title. Next offseason I wouldn’t be surprised if they find a way to re-sign Durant and Curry while inking Lebron or Blake Griffin. They seem to have all the money in the world, right?