The NBA season is only two weeks away and a lot has changed this off-season. Kevin Durant has made the Golden State Warriors even better, but it came at a price because he has now become the villain in Oklahoma City. The Boston Celtics added Al Horford as they continue their climb to the top of the East, while the Chicago Bulls added Dwyane Wade along with Rajon Rondo in a completely new backcourt. All eyes will be on New York, as they went out and acquired Derrick Rose to pair along with Carmelo Anthony, Kristaps Porzingis and former Chicago teammate, Joakim Noah.
Ben Simmons, the favourite for Rookie of the Year, will be out for a significant period of time due to an injury, so it is safe to say that ROY award will be up for grabs this season.
The MVP award is always the most interesting one because it recognizes the best player in the league. Look for a handful of guys to contend for the award this season.
Here is a look at all my awards predictions for the 2016-2017 NBA season.
Most Improved Player: Dennis Schroder, Atlanta Hawks
This is always a tough award to predict because player roles change throughout the season, whether it is due to injuries, trades, or simply more playing time versus the previous season. Schroder will no longer be playing in Teague’s shadow, as he has the past few seasons, this year he will get to showcase his skill as the starting point guard for Atlanta. Schroder is one of the faster guards in the league and a lot will depend on him both defensively and offensively as Atlanta lost Al Horford this off-season to the Boston Celtics. Schroder’s shooting-both three point and mid-range-will need to get much better if he wants to keep the defense honest. Maybe Schroder is the point guard who can bring Dwight back to life.
Coach of the Year: Quin Snyder, Utah Jazz
This is the year that Utah finally gets over the hump and makes the playoffs. Hayward is out for the first three weeks of the season, or so, but the Jazz are a pretty deep team this year with a solid bench. Gobert has to assert himself as a threat on the offensive end of the court, but he has done a good job of defending his own basket in the past two years. A lot is expected from veteran guard George Hill who should provide leadership and defense to an up and coming team.
Sixth Man of the Year: Will Barton, Denver Nuggets
Will had an exceptional 2015-2016 season for the lowly Nuggets and was one of a few bright spots in a miserable season. The 6’6 guard put up career numbers in points, rebound, assists and minutes. With a very young team, look for Barton to continue his tear this season and put up even better numbers. If he continues to put up great numbers, it will be interesting to see if he finishes the season with the Nuggets, or if he will get dangled in trade talks.
Rookie of the Year: Buddy Hield, New Orleans Pelicans
With Ben Simmons out for an extended period of time, Buddy has emerged as my favourite to win Rookie of the Year. Hield is a good defender who has great size for a shooting guard. Anthony Davis is going to need all the help he can get to just try and get the Pelicans into the playoffs and I think that Hield will be extraordinary in his first season. As for the Pelicans, I do not see them making the playoffs. Simply not enough depth.
Most Valuable Player: Paul George, Indiana Pacers
This award is always the toughest when you have guys like James, Curry, Harden and others making the best league in the world look rather easy. However, this season I think that George will win the MVP trophy. Indiana has done a phenomenal job of bringing in players who can help the team win and reach the next level-Teague, Jefferson and Young are among those guys. Add those players to a young and up and coming Turner, and the Pacers could be a real threat in the East. We know that George shows up on both sides of the ball, but offensively I think he will excel with the new additions. Double teaming George this season could be tough to do because of the players around him who can make shots and contribute.
Predictions/thoughts for the entire season:
-An unsung hero for the Knicks could very well be Noah. It is hard to find a C who can rebound, defend and pass as well as him. If Rose can stay healthy, there is no reason they should not make the playoffs.
-The Warriors will lose more than 15 games. Remember when everyone thought Miami would go near perfect in their first season with the big three? I think that will happen in California as well. The team needs to gel, guys have to give up shots now that they have another superstar on the team. The Warriors still have one of the best benches in the league, in my opinion. The Warriors have Spurs, Trail Blazers, Raptors and Celtics on their schedule in the first 12 games.
-The up and coming Timberwolves make the playoffs. Wiggins is improving every year, Towns was a monster in his first season and will make an even bigger leap in his second and they drafted Dunn, a kid who will push Rubio for that starting spot as the season progresses. T-Wolves squeak in as the 8th seed.
-Race for ROY could potentially be an exciting one with Embiid, Saric and Hield the favourites to take the award home. Simmons is out an extended period of time, while it looks like Ingram will not be in the starting five for the Lakers. Dunn and Murray could be dangerous weapons off the bench for their respective teams.
Eastern Conference Standings
- Cleveland Cavaliers
- Indiana Pacers
- Toronto Raptors
- Atlanta Hawks
- Boston Celtics
- Milwaukee Bucks
- New York Knicks
- Chicago Bulls
- Detroit Pistons
- Charlotte Hornets
- Washington Wizards
- Miami Heat
- Orlando Magic
- Philadelphia 76ers
- Brooklyn Nets
Western Conference Standings
- Golden State Warriors
- Houston Rockets
- Los Angeles Clippers
- San Antonio Spurs
- Portland Trail Blazers
- Utah Jazz
- Oklahoma City Thunder
- Minnesota Timberwolves
- Memphis Grizzlies
- Dallas Mavericks
- Phoenix Suns
- Sacramento Kings
- New Orleans Pelicans
- Denver Nuggets
- Los Angeles Lakers
Ogi is a graduate of Humber College’s Sport Management program. He is the founder of Blago Blogger Sports.