At the beginning of every NBA season, speculators make their predictions on who will be the most valuable player, defensive player of the year, and rookie of the year, these are some of the pre-Season front-runners.
Coach of the Year: Mike D’Antoni
Typically the Coach of the Year comes from a top contending team, and after acquiring many assets this offseason to pair up with the new dynamic duo of CP3 and James Harden they are almost a lock as a top-tier seed in the tough Western Conference. The true point to push them over the edge to vote for him to win the award will be the fact that he finds a way to get the offense work. Chris Paul ranked 7th last year in ball possession and James Harden ranked 1st, so that may become an issue as the season progresses when it comes down to the line, ‘who takes the shot?’. If it does work however, they can truly contend vs teams such as the Warriors.
Rookie of the Year: Lonzo Ball
Lonzo has been thrust into some of the darkest days of the Lakers franchise history, but that is all the more opportunity to put up big numbers and to steal the show. At the same time he will be the main facilitator and could have big games on the rebounding part due to his size and position. Not to mention, prior to Lonzo Ball, not a single player in Summer League history had ever triple-doubled twice or reached 10 assists more than once. Lonzo Ball however, triple-doubled twice and managed double-digit assists 4 times. By the end of his 6 games played, he earned Summer League MVP honors by averaging [16.3PPG, 9.3APG, 7.7RPG, 2.5SPG]. Clearly, the shadow of being the #2 draft pick hasn’t held him back thus far.
Most Improved Player: D’Angelo Russell
After the trade sending Russell to the Nets, people were saying ‘RIP DLoading’s career!’ however, this is just going to rejuvenate him more so to be successful, although he is young and unproven; this is his team. Russell can only truly go up from here, as last season he didn’t play up to standards averaging [15.6PPG, 4.8APG], the perfect stat sheet the year before most improved. Realistically, this past season with Antetokounmpo, his impact increased all around the board, going up 4PPG, 1APG and 1RPG. Someone on the Nets has to be the team leader, so D’Angelo averaging [19PPG, 6APG, 5.5RPG] isn’t that unheard of, in college he always managed to get his teammates involved and found a way to score how he pleased.
Defensive Player of the Year: Rudy Gobert
In a similar case as Russell Westbrook, Gobert was being over shadowed by his teammate, he was always seen as Robin to the Batman. This season however, he will flip the script on everyone and come out with a taste of revenge and with the re-enforced Western Conference, will have many high ticketed names to defend. After Durant left Westbrook, we saw him average a triple double and win MVP, so with Hayward leaving Gobert, he will likely do the same only with DPOY. Not to mention this year he arguably was the best defender in the NBA averaging 2.6 Blocks a game.
Most Valuable Player: Kawhi Leonard
Someone has to step up to the task in the tough Western Conference, Kawhi will be armed with the task of leading Pop’s offense and defense by shouldering the load of this aging core. While most assume someone like LeBron will win MVP, it isn’t realistic due to being paired up with another All-Star on the roster. The most recent MVP’s have earned it by being the lone star on their team who is in charge of ‘carrying’ the team to the playoffs. Kawhi has seen a steady increase in his usage on the Spurs and is hitting his prime at just the right time, the Spurs always manage to hit a top seed in the West with Leonard leading the way. Due to the shared ball possession that many of the other All-NBA talented stars have on their team now, it eliminates a laundry list of candidates. Westbrook, PG13, LeBron, Love, Irving, Curry, Durant, Anthony Davis, Cousins, CP3, Harden, IT, Hayward are all virtually out of the running due to having to focus more on playing as a team and can’t take all the credit for taking that ‘last shot’. Last season Kawhi helped on both ends of the court, he was in the running for DPoy and MVP as he put up terrific stats [25.5PPG, 5.8RPG, 3.5APG, 1.8SPG], he has the hustle and the drive to bring himself the trophy when the season wraps up to a close.
As you can see, this season is already shaping up to be a wild one with teams reshuffling, causing regrets, revenge and rebuilds just trying to catch the Warriors, who will be MVP, will THEY have what it takes?