As the 2016-2017 NBA season has come to a close, it seems like an interesting discussion to have regarding predictions for the winners of the regular season awards. To be discussed will be who wins the Most Valuable Player, Most Improved Player, Sixth Man of the Year, Defensive Player of the Year, Rookie of the Year and Coach of the Year. I will discuss this in two parts, the first 3 awards in this part 1 entry, and the next 3 awards in my part 2 entry. Feel free to comment your opinions below about my thoughts and/or who you think will win. Because I have a running bet with my brother, Ardi, I will also include who I thought would win each respective award coming into the season, and now that the season is over, who I think will win it now. Overall, the season has been quite entertaining with milestones being achieved, history being broken, great battles and games throughout between top teams, and even great appeal for fans with potential and completed upsets night in and night out. Great play on both ends, great competition and great coaching can be seen in many aspects around the NBA, but, there can only by one winner for each award, so, here we go into the discussion.
Most Valuable Player
Pre-Season Prediction: Damian Lillard, Point Guard of the Portland Trail Blazers
Coming into the season, I believed that Portland would take the next step forward after last year’s surprising run to the number 5 seed in the West and a first round series win against the Los Angeles Clippers. With the thought of last season in mind, I figured Lillard would continue his growth and lead the team further to a potential top 3 seed and claim the Most Valuable Player award in the process. He still has amassed a great individual statistical year, but, unfortunately, the team has struggled at times throughout the season, especially on the defensive side of the ball, where they battled to just make the 8 seed and a playoff berth. Therefore, it is highly unlikely for him to capture the award because of the struggles and low seed of the team.
Current Prediction: Russell Westbrook, Point Guard of the Oklahoma City Thunder
Before the season started, I did believe that Russell Westbrook would average a triple double, however, I didn’t think that the team would have enough success for him to warrant the Most Valuable Player award. I initially thought they would be in a similar position to Portland where they would be in a battle for the 8 seed, but I was pleasantly surprised by their success. There is still a large debate with he and Harden for the award because of the great season he and the Rockets have had. But, with Westbrook having led the way for the Thunder to clinch a 6 seed, plus the historic overall season he’s had with the triple double numbers he averaged, I believe he is deserving enough of the award. I can honestly say that I slightly underestimated his leadership ability and his constant attacking on both sides to benefit himself and his teammates out on the court. The void left in the lineup from Kevin Durant’s departure can be seen and felt, but, Westbrook has been able to make up for a lot of it. I wanted to wait until the last few weeks to gain a greater picture of the MVP race and to me, Westbrook has stood out most. The clinching moment was the huge 50 point triple double against the Denver Nuggets where he also had the buzzer beating, playoff eliminating dagger 3 pointer to win the game. Therefore, I believe that Westbrook should get the MVP award.
Most Improved Player
Pre-Season Prediction: Devin Booker, Shooting Guard of the Phoenix Suns
Booker’s late season rise in his rookie year, along with his youth, opened the eyes of the basketball world to his heavy star potential. Therefore, before this season began, it seemed natural for him to progress further into that especially with the available minutes in Phoenix to continue his rise. He has definitely lived up to that billing by upping his scoring and he had some outstanding moments throughout the year, such as his 70 point performance against Boston. However, his rebounds, assists, blocks, steals and scoring percentages all currently seem to be around the same from his rookie year. This, along with so many other great performances from those around the league, makes me think that he can still be considered a candidate in the top 10, but, maybe not so much the leading candidate for the award anymore.
Current Prediction: Giannis Antetokounmpo, Small Forward of the Milwaukee Bucks
The Greek Freak, Giannis Antetokounmpo, to me, looks to be the favourite for the Most Improved Player. It’s not just because he may be the popular pick and is likely the biggest star amongst potential candidates. But, it is because his performance throughout the year has been that exceptional in every category. He has increased his averages for all his percentages (field goal, free throw and three point), points, rebounds, assists, steals and blocks. On top of that, he did something quite rare in that he led Milwaukee in points, rebounds, assists, steals and blocks which has only ever happened 4 times previously. He also made history by being the only player to finish in the top 20 in totals for those 5 categories. All of these statistical points and his leadership to keep the team in the hunt for the playoffs leading to a clinch of the 6 seed make it seem appropriate to give him the nod as my pick for Most Improved Player of the year.
Sixth Man of the Year
Pre-Season Prediction: Jamal Crawford, Shooting Guard of the Los Angeles Clippers
My early prediction pick for this award was probably one of the toughest one’s I could actually decide on. In the end, I settled on the reigning award winner, simply because of his continued ability to be successful off the bench for so many years now, even as he grows older. It seems as if father time will never catch up to Crawford based on how he continues to play. His numbers on the year are quite similar, although very slightly down, compared to last season when he won the award for a third time. However, because of other player’s contributions off the bench so far this year, I believe that I will have to change my pick for the award to another player who is also a past winner.
Current Prediction: Lou Williams, Shooting Guard of the Houston Rockets
Starting out the year, Lou Williams was a member of the Los Angeles Lakers where he thrived in his role off the bench, particularly scoring. He was traded before the trade deadline to the Houston Rockets and has shown that he can still produce in the same way he did earlier in the year with his new team. Albeit, his percentages and scoring are down since joining Houston, but it is only a slight difference in the other statistical categories where he is still quite in line with who I believe are the other two major contenders for the award (Jamal Crawford and Eric Gordon). Therefore, for the second time in his career, I believe Lou Williams will secure the Sixth Man of the Year award.
– Deejay (The Middle Fro)