To provide some much needed clarity:
*These are MY predictions on who SHOULD be the winners of these awards. They are NOT my predictions of who WILL receive the most votes. For example, last season I would have predicted Jokic to deserve the MVP. Yet, I would have predicted Embiid would win it. See the difference there? Good.
*Secondly, I listed 3 players (with some honorable mentions mixed in) for each award category. These are not my predictions of who will wind up 2nd or 3rd in, for example, MVP voting. Instead, these are my predictions of who is most likely to be the most deserving of the corresponding award. No, it’s not a major difference, but it needed to be mentioned.
DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR
- Honorable mentions: Alex Caruso, Jaren Jackson Jr., Draymond Green, Evan Mobley
- 3rd: Rudy Gobert
- 2nd: Bam Adebayo
- Winner: Anthony Davis
Why AD: The ultimate “IF” player, as in “If Anthony Davis stays healthy…”, he’s been flirting with this award for years now. He’s now the undisputed “Best” player on the league’s most popular team. The Lakers are expected to make a run at the Finals, and AD is the most important piece of it. Plus, with guys like Rui and Vandy to accompany him in the frontcourt, it should allow AD to toggle between the 4 & 5 and do the roaming he so dearly loves.
COACH OF THE YEAR
- Honorable mentions: Darvin Ham, Steve Kerr, Mark Daigneault, Ty Lue
- 3rd: Chris Finch
- 2nd: Taylor Jenkins
- Winner: Eric Spoelstra
Why Spoelstra: I flip flopped between Spo and Jenkins here. One of the most underrated coaches in the league, Jenkins has a .579 winning percentage since getting the Grizzlies gig in 2019. Despite Ja being suspended for the first 25 games of the season AND losing Stephen Adams for the season, Memphis still has some pretty big expectations. Those are 2 pretty big blows to overcome, which is why I’m taking Spoelstra. He’s the best coach in the league, and he routinely squeezes the most out of his guys. It’s a crime he hasn’t won one already.
6TH MAN OF THE YEAR
- Honorable mentions: Malik Monk, Kyle Anderson, Bogdan Bogdanovic, Andrew Nembhard
- 3rd: Santi Aldama
- 2nd: Immanuel Quickley
- Winner: Bobby Portis
Why Portis: Over the last 10 years, the award has been given to Jamal Crawford 2X, Lemon Pepper Lou Williams 3X, Tyler Herro, Jordan Clarkson, Malcolm Brogdon, and Montrezl Harrell. One of these is not like the other! Trez was the only Big on the list. Typically, the league simply awards the highest scoring guard off the bench of a winning team. I think Portis breaks the trend this year. The Bucks aren’t deep at all, and Bobby averaged 14.1ppg, 9.6rpg last season. Milwaukee needs him. Quickley and Aldama have legitimate shots as well. Quickley is likely hurt because Josh Hart will steal some of his bench Thunder for the Knicks, while Aldama is totally under the radar now with Adams out for the season.
MOST IMPROVED PLAYER (aka MOST PLEASANT SURPRISE)
- Honorable mentions: Coby White, Austin Reeves, Jaden McDaniels, Devin Vassell, Trey Murphy, Alperen Sengun
- 3rd: Mikel Bridges
- 2nd: Tyrese Maxey
- Winner: Desmond Bane
Why Bane: It’s a bizarre award to predict because you’re literally trying to predict the most unpredictable player to make the most unpredictable jump. Opportunity is the big factor here, as Maxey (Harden) and Bane (Ja) become go-to scorers on their respective teams as a result of the previous go-to guy being out of service. Although Maxey was a finalist a year ago, I think he makes an even bigger jump this year, now that Harden quit on his team again. But Bane is a star in the making, and I think he swoops in to steal this one.
ROOKIE OF THE YEAR
- Honorable mentions: Amen Thompson, Scoot Henderson, Keyonte George
- 3rd: Jaime Jacquez
- 2nd: Brandon Miller
- Winner: Wemby
Why Wemby: Well, why not Wemby? Have you seen this guy yet?! Immediately must see TV. He will likely set the record for blocks by a rookie, assuming he stays healthy. Rarely does a rookie actually contribute to winning, but Wemby will.
- Honorable mentions: Lebron James, Russell Westbrook, LaMelo Ball, Tyus Jones
- 3rd: Luka Doncic
- 2nd: Nikola Jokic
- Winner: Tyrese Haliburton
Why Tyrese “Oil Smooth” Haliburton: He’s already a borderline top 5 point guard (Steph, Luka, Dame, Murray, Fox/Haliburton). He finished 2nd last season despite playing on a poor Pacers team. He’s one of the best passers in the league already. Indiana should be better this year, and improvements from guys like Toppin, Mathurin, and Nembhard should only increase assist totals.
- Honorable mentions: Giannis Antetokounmpo, Jayson Tatum, Anthony Edwards, Donovan Mitchell
- 3rd: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander
- 2nd: Joel Embiid
- Winner: Luka Doncic
Why Luka: Slimmed Down Luka is my favorite Luka. He finished 2nd behind Embiid in scoring a year ago, and Embiid was chasing MVP all season. With Kyrie taking pressure off of him, and Luka in better shape, I predict Luka’s 3pt% rises, resulting in being 1st in scoring, in his age 24 season.
MOST VALUABLE PLAYER
- Honorable mentions: Anthony Davis, Steph Curry, Devin Booker, Jayson Tatum
- 3rd: Luka Doncic
- 2nd: Giannis Antetokounmpo
- Winner: Nikola Jokic
Why Joker: Well, he is the best basketball player in the world. So there’s that. Secondly, though I consider Giannis the 2nd best player in the world, there will be a learning curve in Milwaukee as he and Dame figure out how to play with one another, and for Adrian Griffin. Luka and AD are legit outside shots here. Wouldn’t be surprised if either makes a real run at it. But there will be lingering regret from voters who chose Embiid over Joker last year, and then watched as Joker tore through the playoffs en route to a ch’ip.