With the NBA season right around the corner, it’s always fun to project where everybody will be at the end of the year. NBA awards hold a lot of prestige for players, and the most coveted award, the MVP, can truly alter a player’s career. Although the actual award show is usually poorly timed and draws little interest, the awards themselves are highly interesting.
Rookie of the Year: Deandre Ayton
Runner Ups: Luka Doncic, Trae Young
Despite the question marks surrounding all three of these rookies entering the NBA season, they should all have fantastic seasons. But, Ayton should have a step up on the other two. Ayton will be a featured part of the Sun’s offense and after watching him dominate in preseason I’m confident he will be able to put up big numbers as a primary option. Obviously, defense remains a question mark for him, but defense very rarely determines a rookie of the year.
Doncic likely won’t get good enough stats as the Mavericks aren’t making him an offensive priority. While I think he will still be good, the lack of stand-out talent makes it seem unlikely he’ll win the award. On the other hand, Trae Young is full of stand out talent. His 3-point shooting is obviously electrifying, but also highly inefficient. The number of bad games Young will have his rookie season will likely outweigh the good, preventing him from winning.
Sixth man of the Year: Lou Williams
Runner Ups: Terry Rozier, Eric Gordon
This one isn’t too hard to choose. Unless Williams drastically drops off as a player this season he should be the favorite to repeat as 6MOY. After averaging over 22 PPG last season, no other bench player came close to his offensive value. In fact, Williams led the Clippers in scoring, as a sixth man. Rozier and Gordon will likely put up good numbers off the bench as well, but their teams have too many other scoring options. Williams will be the clear-cut number one option on offense for the Clippers, which will allow him to put up ridiculous stats and bring home the award once again.
Defensive Player of the Year: Joel Embiid
Runner Ups: Kawhi Leonard, Anthony Davis
Embiid has already shown signs of elite defensive ability and has only played two seasons in the league. Despite only playing 63 games last season, Embiid got nominated for defensive player of the year. While the previous winner, Gobert, is an elite rim protector the Rockets exposed his weaknesses in the playoffs. He was unable to defend the perimeter at all, and the high pick and rolls led to easy baskets for the Rockets. Unlike Gobert, Embiid has shown an ability to defend guards on the perimeter. Last season, he ranked 3rd in defensive rating and will have his first healthy offseason to train instead of rehab from injury. I would expect substantial improvement in his conditioning as well as his defensive skill set, which should propel him into being the league’s best defender.
Most Improved Player: D’Angelo Russell
Runner Ups: Rodney Hood, Mario Hezonja
After an extremely lackluster season, Russell is in a great position to win Most Improved. Largely due to injuries, Russell only managed to score 15.5 PPG on very poor efficiency in just 48 games. If he is able to stay healthy, Russell will have plenty of opportunities to prove himself. On a roster featuring no other elite scorers. Russell will be in control of the offense the entire time. Players such as Crabbe, Carroll, Lavert, and Harris will provide Russell with floor spacing as three-point threats. Also, Jarrett Allen and Ed Davis both appear to be solid screeners and strong rollers which will provide Russell another avenue to put up points and assists. Russell is in a perfect position to have a breakout year and has shown flashes of talent that will hopefully come together by his fourth-year in the league.
Coach of the Year: Brad Stevens
Runner Ups: Gregg Popovich, Nick Nurse
Last season, Stevens proved his basketball genius as he coached the injured Celtics to game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals. The culture he had built, in addition to the game-winning plays he drew up, led to their unexpected success. Now with an even better team, I would expect the Celtics to win at least 60 games. They should also clinch the first seed in their conference, which is usually a requirement to win COTY.
His biggest competitors will be Popovich and Nurse. This year’s Spurs team is by far the least talented Popovich has coached in a long time. If he is still able to make the playoffs in spite of the injuries and players lost this offseason it will be hard to deny him the award. On the other hand, Nurse’s team will be fighting for the one seed in East with the Celtics. If, as a first-year coach, Nurse leads the Raptors to a new franchise record in wins he will be a serious candidate as well. I believe after people claimed he was robbed last season along with the team’s projected success Stevens should win the 2019 coach of the year.
Most Valuable Player: Anthony Davis
Runner Ups: LeBron James, James Harden
After being a top 3 candidate last year, this should be the year Anthony Davis wins his first MVP. Most MVPs require three things, a storyline, great stats, and some level of winning. The storyline is already set perfectly. Davis lost the second best player on his team, Demarcus Cousins, to injury and then the Warriors, forcing him to carry the rag-tag group in the ultra-competitive West. This ties into the winning as well. Usually, an MVP’s team has to win 50+ games, but this is unlikely for the Pelicans. If we look back to 2017 when Russell Westbrook won, we see an exception. Similarly, Westbrook lost his best teammate to the Warriors and was forced to carry his team. Even though the Thunder only won 47 games, Westbrook’s incredible stats and storyline made 47 wins enough to snag the award.
It is very reasonable to expect Davis to have the best statistical year of his career similar to 2017 Westbrook. After losing Cousins to injury last season, Davis averaged 30.6 PPG to go along with RPG APG BPG. Additionally, Davis is only 25 years old and has gotten better every season. Since he hasn’t quite hit his prime, offseason development, in addition to a larger role, should lead to insane stats. Given his storyline and projected statistical output, I believe 2019 will be Davis’ first MVP.