NBA Regular Season MVP
NBA Defensive Player of the Year
NBA Rookie of the Year
NBA Most Improved Player
NBA Coach of the Year
NBA Sixth Man of the Year
The MVP award
Also known as the Maurice Podoloff Trophy. The trophy is named after the NBA’s inaugural Commissioner, Maurice Podoloff, whose organisational and administrative skills are still thought of as the key factor that kept the league alive in the early years. This award is the highest personal accolade a player can achieve for the regular season.
If you asked most people who they think is going to receive the MVP award this season a high percentage of those you asked would say Russell Westbrook, but I’m going to argue the case for James Harden.
After 7 years of playing SG in this league Harden is being asked by newly positioned Rockets coach, Mike D’Antoni, to make the step across to play PG and have the ball in his hands even more. If you’ve seen any of Harden’s career in Houston you’re probably thinking that he had the ball in his hands a lot anyway, and you’d be right. He had the 2nd highest usage rate in the league last season, just behind Steph Curry. The only difference this season is now the responsibility of distribution lies on Harden’s shoulders more so than ever before, not just the weight of carrying the scoring load.
Everyone who’s ever seen a Mike D’Antoni coached team knows what the man is about; he likes fast-paced offense, he’s an offensive specialist. Coach D’Antoni has a ‘we’ll outscore you’ mentality, which could make, or break James’ game. On the one hand, he could take advantage of the faith his coach has in him and recklessly put up 30 shots a night, and lead the league in scoring, but that wouldn’t benefit his team come playoff time where the game slows down to a half court battle and the defensive pressure is raised to a higher level. On the other hand, Harden could take this newfound opportunity and become the leader that we’ve witnessed him show glimpses of in the last 2 seasons, he now has the duties of being the point guard.
James doesn’t get enough credit for his passing ability that he’s shown in the last 2 seasons, averaging 7.5 assists per game in the season just past, as well as showing his court vision being the distributor off of the bench in his years at the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Spacing is something that comes to light when you have a player like Harden who has a very consistently good jump shot but also has the ability to get to the rim, and make athletic plays. It’s a rare combination for a PG to have, therefore making opposing players guarding him must make the tough decision on whether to get up tight and play him so he has to drive, or take the drive away and force him into taking jump shots. That’s where one of the new teammates that the Rockets have brought in for Harden to dish to come in. Ryan Anderson is also going to thrive under a D’Antoni coached offense, coming from the New Orleans Pelicans, averaging 17ppg and 6rpg in the season just past, Anderson has established himself as one of the league’s most effective stretch-4s.
A lot of sports journalists look at ‘win shares’ and factor those into their decision on MVP, Harden ranked 6th in win shares last season with 13.3. If you remove Harden from this Rockets team, it would lower their win total to 27.7, dropping them out of playoff contention. The thing that could hold Harden back is his turnovers, he’s notorious for turning the ball over, in fact he’s had the most turnovers in the league for the last 2 seasons. If he can hone that in and still be aggressive on offence I think he’ll have a good chance of contesting for this accolade
Russell Westbrook (Oklahoma)
Damian Lillard (Portland)
The Defensive Player of the Year
This award is presented to the player who has shown the most ability on the defensive side of the floor.
For a 7’0″ player his ability to switch out on opposing team’s guards and stay in front of the ball is highly impressive. There’s a certain natural intensity that Jordan possess and it’s hard to emulate, this comes from his stellar post-defence and his shot blocking. A common problem amongst centres in this league is being able to stay out of foul trouble, DeAndre stays relatively out of foul trouble, which allows him to play heavy minutes, especially late in games.
A lot of people will tell you the best way to stunt an opposing team’s offence is to score when you have the ball, and DeAndre makes that easier for the Clippers, he tore down a league leading 3.5 offensive rebounds per game last season, giving his team more opportunities to score and limit the other team’s fast break points. Not only his offensive rebounding but Jordan’s ability to finish anything he catches around the rim also helps the Clippers prevent fast break points.
There’s no denying DeAndre knows what he’s doing when he’s on defence, he was voted NBA All-Defensive First Team in 2015, as well as All-NBA Third Team in the same year. He set the Los Angeles Clippers franchise record for most 20+ rebounds games in the 2014-2015 season he managed to grab 20+ rebounds a ridiculous 13 times. In the same season he also set the Clippers’ single season franchise record for rebounds, when he pulled down 1,226. He’s also known as one of the toughest players in the league, being able to play through injuries and illness, DeAndre owns the record for consecutive games for the Clippers with an impressive 322 games in a row. This stat might not seem like something that would benefit him when it comes to DPOY voting, however when a player is physically able to go out and compete for all 82 games and leave his all on the court that stands him in very good stead, there’s few players that can make it through a full NBA season without missing a game, for one reason or another, Jordan is in exiguous company with his ability to stay healthy.
The big question mark around whether Jordan could become DPOY is whether or not the Clippers can ever achieve a top 3-5 ranked defence, last year they came in at seventh, which is good, just not elite. Whilst this is a personal award, it’s hard to reward someone with individual accolades if his team’s not better defensively when he’s on the court.
Rudy Gobert (Utah)
Kawhi Leonard (San Antonio)
The Rookie of the Year award
Also known as the Eddie Gottlieb Trophy. Gottlieb was famous for being the first coach and manager of the Philadelphia (now Golden State) Warriors, as well as being essential in the formative years of the NBA. This award is presented to the best first year player.
The well awaited NBA debut of #3 pick from the 2014 Draft is soon to be upon us. Embiid missed the Big 12 tournament and the NCAA tournament in the March of 2014 due to a stress fracture in his back. 6 days before the Philadelphia 76ers used their lottery pick to chose Embiid he underwent surgery on a broken navicular bone in his right foot, and was ruled out for 4-6 months, this unfortunately was not the case. On August 26th 2014, he was ruled unlikely to play at all in the 2014-2015 season due to the broken navicular bone.
On June 13th 2015 is was learned that Embiid had suffered a setback in his recovery after a CT scan revealed less healing than anticipated. Soon it was determined that Embiid’s chances of playing in the 2015–16 season were again slim following a second round of surgery on his right foot in the August of 2015. He did miss the entire season once again.
That is all in the past, Joel is healthy and ready to put his stamp on the league, with not long to go until the 76ers season tips off against Oklahoma, on October 26th in downtown Philadelphia, the jitters are probably setting in. Embiid proved he was talented last time we saw him play scoring 12 points, and grabbing 13 rebounds against a great Oklahoma Sooners squad, then a week later he posted another solid night of stats, scoring 13 points, and another 13 rebounds against Oklahoma State Cowboys, doing so in under 30 minutes of playing time in both games. With that being said, that was 964 days ago, not exactly a good example of his current ability. What we do know is that Embiid’s weight has fluctuated within the last 24 months, he left Kansas 250lbs but still needing to put some muscle on, it was reported that in January of 2015 that he had unhealthily climbed up the 300lbs mark with his unwillingness to do conditioning workouts. In the preseason games he has just played he looks more muscular than when he left college, and he looks to be at a healthy weight.
The huge cloud that looms over Embiid’s rookie season potential is whether he’ll be fit enough to keep up with the speed of an NBA game, that’s not a knock on Embiid’s fitness in general, it’s purely a observation that he hasn’t played a competitive game of basketball (other than this preseason) since March 2014. If he has a motor that allows him to play close to 30 minutes a game the sky is truly the limit for Joel’s potential.
Kris Dunn (Minnesota)
Brandon Ingram (Los Angeles Lakers)
The Most Improved Player
This award is presented to the player who has shown he’s improved his game the most from one season to the next.
Coming into the league after just one year at the University of Pittsburgh, originally hailing from New Zealand, Steven Adams wasn’t on the tip of everyone’s tongue to go top 12 in the 2013 NBA Draft, yet he did. Adams’ made the Big East All-Rookie Team during his freshman season, he also averaged 7.2 points on 57.1% shooting, as well as 6.3 rebounds and 2.0 blocks in just 23 minutes per game.
In a recent preseason poll done by league GMs Steven ranked in the top 5 of ‘toughest’ guys in the league, he’s been known to get under opposing player’s skin with his physicality. He subtly annoyed Zach Randolph so much that Zach uncharacteristically punched Adams in the head during the 2013 Playoffs. Randolph was subsequently banned for an important game 7, that his team lost. It’s clearly an effective method for the mild-mannered Adams to get opposing players off their game. Adams’ durability is noteworthy, missing only 1 game last season.
The Playoffs came about and Steven upped him game. Against first round opponents Dallas he was matched up with David Lee and he managed to contain the former All-Star to a measly 6ppg and 3rpg in the 5 games, he also matched up against Zaza Pachulia in the same series and held him to 6.6ppg and 5.4rpg. This level of play was continued by Adams’ in the next round when he was tasked with guarding 5 time NBA champ, and future Hall of Fame inductee, Tim Duncan. The curtain was calling on Duncan’s illustrious career, but everyone knows he could still ball out if his number was called on offense, Adams led the 6-game series in rebounding averaging 11.8rpg, he also helped the Thunder by scoring 10.3ppg. This was a ‘coming of age’ series for Adams, it showed the coaching staff that he could be relied on to defend, rebound, and score when the game slowed down.
With the departure of Kevin Durant all of the players on the Thunder roster will be seeing more of the ball, one of the biggest beneficiaries of KD leaving will be Adams. He showed glimpses through the season that he has a plethora of moves in, and around, the paint. He’s also a great p&r roll man with excellent ability to catch the ball. The athleticism Adams’ possesses is fantastic for someone his size meaning he can get a lot of easy points from lobs.
Steven will need to understand his new role and adjust to having the ball in his hands more, he’ll need to improve his free throw percentage from 58% to at least high 60s, with more touches on offense and opportunities to score he needs to make sure his efficiency doesn’t drop. If he makes a smooth transition from role player to leader he could have a fantastic season.
Dennis Schröder (Atlanta)
Tyler Johnson (Miami)
The Coach of the Year
Also known as the Red Auerbach Trophy. Auerbach is widely regarded as one of the greatest coaches in American sports history, coaching his Boston Celtics to 9 championships in a 10 year span (1956-1966). This award is presented to best coach for the regular season.
Coach Stevens is a big believer that a teams players in a similar demeanour to how their coach is on the side lines, if he appears nervous he feels that energy will transfer to his players, hence Stevens constant calm attitude towards side line coaching. He was already a household name for fans of college basketball stemming from his 5 extremely successful years as the head coach of the Butler Bulldogs, Stevens broke the NCAA record for most wins by a head coach in his first three seasons when on the February 26, 2010, Butler travelled to Valparaiso and beat them 74-69, he had achieved 82 wins in his first three seasons.
Sports Illustrated have been quoted on saying Stevens is an expert “on breaking down tape and looking at statistical trends to find opponents’ weaknesses.” he’s very much a student of the game, which makes him so knowledgeable. Stevens’ teams are built around the fundamentals of basketball more than individual basketball skills, this inspires teamwork and team chemistry. Forcing your opponent into bad decisions and out of character mistakes is the way coach Stevens implores his teams to play, which fits perfectly with the players he has at Boston. Marcus Smart and Avery Bradley are both extremely talented defensive guards, both in different ways. Smart is very strong and athletic for his size (6’4″), and is willing to sacrifice his body for the betterment of the team. Avery Bradley is one of the quickest players you can find in the NBA, his ability to stay in front of opposing players and maintain excellent defensive positioning is unparalleled. These two players are the anchor of Stevens’ defensive small-ball system.
He’s arguably in the top 2 coaches for calling out of time out plays, for a long time no one has questioned that Doc Rivers’ is the coach that’s devises the most cunning plays during a time out, but Stevens’ has proven he is definitely in that conversation now.
His biggest job this season could come down to player management, getting the players ready for the season, and all reading from the same playbook, as it were. The Celtics have some new players coming in like Al Horford, Gerald Green, and the rookie star Jaylen Brown will all be in the Celtics main rotation, with the likes of former key pieces in the way of Evan Turner and Jared Sullinger parting from Boston to get more money else where this season. Overall Coach Stevens has done a fantastic job in his 3 years at the helm in Boston, and continues to impress.
Quinn Snyder (Utah)
Billy Donovan (Oklahoma)
The Sixth Man of the Year
This award is presented to the player who makes the greatest impact for his team whilst coming off of the bench.
Sixth man of the Year is a prestigious award. it’s hard enough to make an impact in the NBA when you’re in a starting position let alone relied on to come off of the bench, make an impact, and lead your team’s ‘second unit’. This season I feel Enes Kanter will be the best player coming off of the bench in terms of positive impact for his team.
With Kevin Durant leaving for the Golden State Warriors (no, I don’t want to talk about it) Oklahoma City Thunder coach, Billy Donovan, will be asking for a little more from all of his players, but Enes especially. Enes has been in Oklahoma since the February of 2015, and he’s been productive in his 18 months, averaging 12.7 points, 8.1 rebounds whilst shooting 57% on his field goal attempts, all in only 21 minutes per game, however with the scoring load that Durant brought leaving for the Bay area Enes’ minutes will increase and subsequently his ability to influence the game.
He’ll be played more in the closing sequences for the Thunder this season, being one of the best knockdown shooters the team have available. It’s not just Kanter’s ability to score that makes him dangerous, he’s an extremely efficient rebounder too, proving it last season against the Portland Trail Blazers, posting a hugely impressive 33 points and snatching 20 rebounds on his way to being the first player in Thunder history to score at least 30 points and grab at least 20 rebounds in a single game.
The thing that could hold Kanter back the most from becoming the Sixth Man of the Year is whether or not the Oklahoma City Thunder starting 5 can score enough points to start games out with him on the bench, if the team is regularly being outscored by other team’s starting fives Coach Donovan could easily make the decision to take Domantas Sabonis, who I feel has made it clear he’ll be the starting Power Forward come opening night, out of the starting line up and slid Kanter into the starting 4 spot.
Jamal Crawford (Los Angeles Clippers)
Andre Iguodala (Golden State)
NBA regular season MVP – James Harden (Houston)
NBA Defensive Player of the Year – DeAndre Jordan (LA Clippers)
NBA Rookie of the Year – Joel Embiid (Philadelphia)
NBA Most Improved Player – Steven Adams (Oklahoma)
NBA Coach of the Year – Brad Stevens (Boston)
NBA Sixth Man of the Year – Enes Kanter (Oklahoma)