With The NBA Season Upon Us, Let's Argue About Who Will Win Each NBA Award
Can you feel it? October 18th is about to be here before we know it. We're so close to NBA basketball being back in our lives on a nightly basis I am a little overwhelmed with excitement. It'll feel great for my life to have purpose again and considering this is setting up to be another crazy NBA season, I would like the calendar to hurry up.
This is also the perfect time to argue on the internet. One of the easiest ways to do that is to preview the NBA awards for the upcoming season. Everyone thinks people are morons for selecting players that don't play on their favorite team, regardless of the rationale behind it. It never fails, people get VERY triggered by it for some reason and I imagine you'll see it in the comments of this blog. People will say mean things to me because I didn't choose their favorite player, even though everyone I'm going to select in this blog has legit reasons for it.
Because of this, I want to institute a rule for this blog. If you want to tell me what a moron I am, by all means go nuts. But you have to post your own picks too. Whenever we get any sort of ranking list or top 10 at a position list, everyone talks about how the order sucks, but nobody ever gives their own picks. Who do you leave out? In terms of this blog, if you don't think a certain player will win, who do you have? I think that's more than fair.
With that said, let's dive in
Realistic Candidates: Luka Doncic, Joel Embiid, Giannis, KD, Nikola Jokic, Ja Morant, Jayson Tatum, Steph Curry
If recent history has shown us anything, we're about to get another absolute bloodbath when it comes to this year's MVP. Every year it feels like the race gets tighter and tighter and given how ridiculous the top end talent in the league is at the moment, why should we expect things to be any different this season?
The one thing I do think we can bank on is the idea of voter fatigue for both Jokic/Giannis. I can't see Jokic winning three straight. I know it's been a few years since Giannis won his two back to back, but this season feels like the year we get a new winner. With all of these awards health will obviously play a factor in how this shakes out, but my guess is the league/media is ready to pass the torch to a new person.
That's why for me, it's basically a two man race between Embiid and Luka to start the year. Embiid has come close the last few seasons but his games played really hurt him. Not only will that roadblock still exist, but he's now going to have to fight the Luka Narrative. You can feel it, the basketball world is ready to give Luka his first MVP. The Mavs are slated to be pretty good and now entering Year 5, the timing of a Lula MVP feels right. It's not like his numbers don't warrant the hype
but it does feel like when it comes to the MVP this year the conversation has sort of been decided. He's the favorite for it at the moment, even though I'm not sure the Mavs will be better than the Sixers this year. That doesn't feel like an accident
Greenie Pick: Luka Doncic
6th Man Of The Year
Realistic Candidates: Tyler Herro, Jordan Poole, Bones Hyland, Malcolm Brogdon, Jordan Clarkson
When it comes to 6MOY, it's about opportunity. Not only do you need minutes, you also need the green light to let things fly. If you look at the recent winners, they all are what I would call "super subs". Guys that might have starter level talent and play a ton of minutes, they just come off the bench.
Looking at the pool of candidates, if I keep this line of thinking I really like a certain name on that list. No, it's not Malcolm Brogdon. Credit to me for being unbiased.
6MOY is one award where it's not uncommon to see repeat winners. Both Lou Williams and Jamal Crawford seemed to win it every other year for a decent stretch. If you think someone like Tyler Herro is about to go back to back, that's not crazy. I'd say the same about Jordan Clarkson winning again, but who knows maybe he starts in UTA now since nobody is left.
My choice though is Bones Hyland. Not just because he's absolutely electric
but everything suggests he's going to have the opportunity to make a legit case. With Murray back and the team trading away Monte Morris, Bones is slated to be the primary backup point guard. When he steps on the floor, is coach gives him the ultimate green light. The Nuggets by all accounts should be pretty damn good and in the 23 games after the All Star break Bones shot 40% from three while playing under 20 minutes a night. I expect his minutes to jump a substantial amount and now with a year under his belt I'm assuming he'll be way more comfortable at the NBA level.
Plus, playing with Jokic makes everyone better. Now that defenses will also have to worry about Murray/MPJ, I don't see how Bones doesn't benefit. Sort of like what happened with Jordan Poole last year. Both Herro (17 FGA) and Poole (13 FGA) had that same sort of green light last year, and I don't think somewhere between 13-15 FGA is all that crazy to expect from Bones this year (8 FGA last year).
Greenie Pick: Bones Hyland
Defensive Player Of The Year
Realistic Candidates: Bam Adebayo, Rudy Gobert, Draymond Green, Mikal Bridges, Giannis, Mikal Bridges
Normally, this entire section would be a jerk session to Robert Williams. My homerism would know no bounds. But again, credit to me for being unbiased. Once we learned that Rob is going to miss 3-4 months, that pretty much cooked his DPOY chances in my mind. You need to be on the floor for an award like this, sorry. That's what really hurt Bam last year. He for sure had a DPOY case, but he played just 56 games. When other players also have dominant defensive seasons and play more games, they more often than not get the nod (albeit with some exceptions).
The more I thought about this season and all the available candidates, I couldn't stop going back to one guy. I know he gets clowned on the internet all the time, people think he sucks and all that bullshit, but I think Rudy Gobert is the play here. Allow me to explain.
The Heat, Warriors, Bucks, and Suns are all expected to have elite defenses, mostly because they are anchored by the players you see above. Last season those teams ranked 4th, 2nd, 14th (MIL was kind of coasting), and 3rd in team defense. The Wolves finished the year 13th in team defense and brought in Rudy Gobert to fill their biggest need.
If somehow the Wolves end up not just top 10, but maybe close to a top 5ish defense after adding Gobert, I feel like that's going to have more weight than an already elite defensive team staying elite. If there's one award that doesn't seem to experience voter fatigue, it's DPOY. In year's past you basically just looked at the best defensive player on the best defensive team, but I think this year it all comes down to what type of defensive jump the Wolves make. If they become elite, even if they rank behind some of the teams listed above, I think Gobert gets it again.
Greenie Pick: Rudy Gobert
Most Improved Player
Realistic Candidates: Anthony Edwards, Tyrese Haliburton, RJ Barrett, Cade Cunningham, Jalen Brunson
MIP is a weird one. You might think that it should go to a player that busted onto the scene with a surprise season. Someone that maybe wasn't all that good the year before who took a legit leap. That didn't really happen last year when Ja Morant won it seeing as how Ja Morant was the ROY and already really, really good. Personally I would have went with guys like Dejounte Murray/Darius Garland/Poole/Bane etc. Guys who took legit leaps, some even making an All Star team for the first time.
That's what makes this year kind of tough. Could we see someone like Zion win it after missing an entire year? Could we see Scottie Barnes replicate what Ja was able to do if the Raptors are better than most think?
When I look at the landscape of a player who could see an uptick in production and have the numbers jump to warrant winning, I can't stop thinking about Tyrese Haliburton, and here's why. In his 26 games as a Pacer, Haliburton put up 17.5/4.3/9.6 on 50/41% splits (5.3 3PA).
We all know the Pacers are going to stink, but I don't think that will hurt Haliburton's case when it comes to MIP. Brandon Ingram won it in 2019-20 and the Pelicans went 30-42. That was actually 2 fewer wins than they had in 2018-19. Haliburton only took 12 FGA last year, and I don't see how that number doesn't skyrocket simply due to who is no longer on the roster. Caris LeVert (15.9 FGA), Malcolm Brogdon (15.1) and Domantas Sabonis (12.1) are no longer there. Someone has to score! All that's really left from their high FGA players is Buddy Hield (15.6) and who knows how long that lasts. Would it shock anyone if Haliburton flirted with a 20/10 type season on efficient splits?
Greenie Pick: Tyrese Haliburton
Rookie Of The Year
Realistic Candidates: Paolo Banchero, Keegan Murray, Jaden Ivey, Jabari Smith Jr, Bennedict Mathurin
When it comes to ROY, this feels like the award that is the most predictable. Last year gave us quite the battle between Scottie Barnes and Evan Mobley, and I do wonder if Mobley getting hurt for a stretch there is what ultimately did him in (74 vs 69 games played).
This season, I get the sense that almost everyone thinks Banchero is going to walk to this award. Not only is he really really good, but he has the best opportunity. Looking at the Magic roster, you could make the case that Banchero starts the year as that teams #1 option. He's going to have the shot volume to put up big numbers, even though the Magic will probably stink.
If that's your choice, I won't get on you for it. I'm going in a different direction though. I'm going with another guy who will start Day 1 who plays for a team that I think will take a surprise leap. When I thought about Evan Mobley's case, what really helped was that the Cavs sort of came out of nowhere and were much better than people initially predicted. Nobody had that team as a top 4 seed, and that's what they were before injuries ruined their season.
Looking at the candidates, there's really only one player who I think could be on a team where he both starts right away and collectively they take a step forward. The choice for me is Jaden Ivey and the Pistons. There's a chance he ends up being the best player in the class to begin with
and as someone who thinks the Pistons are going to be feisty this year and could very well compete for a play-in spot, I think it makes sense that if a rise like that happens the play of Jaden Ivey will play a big role in that, just like it did with Mobley and the Cavs.
You figure Cade is going to get his shots (16.1 FGA), and I imagine Bogdanovic will be around his career average of 12-13 FGA, but there's still the hole of Jerami Grant's scoring to fill. I could see a world where both Ivey/ Saddiq Bey are right around that 14-16 FGA range to help fill that gap. The combination of production + team success is what I think can separate Ivey from the other candidates.
Greenie Pick: Jaden Ivey
Alright, there's my list. To recap
MVP: Luka Doncic
DPOY: Rudy Gobert
6MOY: Bones Hyland
MIP: Tyrese Haliburton
ROY: Jaden Ivey
Now, go ahead, tell me how moronic I am but remember, you have to give you list.