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Shooting the crystal ball: NBA awards predictions

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Shooting the crystal ball: NBA awards predictions

Tom Mueller, features writer

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From game-winning shots in double overtime to freakish displays of athleticism, the NBA’s best players routinely captivate crowds with their dazzling displays of basketball ability. This season is different from previous ones, as there is a refreshing feeling of diversity among the candidates competing for this year’s awards. While many familiar faces could still win the awards, the distinction between this season and previous years is the influx of younger players competing for these awards. Here are my predictions for this year’s awards.

Coach of the Year: Dave Joerger, Sacramento Kings. This may be shocking to many basketball fan who may lean toward Milwaukee Bucks’ coach Mike Budenholzer or Denver Nuggets’ coach Mike Malone, as their teams are the top seeds in each conference. However, the Kings, who have no superstars or all-stars, are only five games out of the final Western Conference playoff spot and have more wins (33) than they had all of last year (28) with 15 games left to play. Coming into the season, ESPN projected the Kings to have the worst record in the league (24-58). Although they have played inconsistently coming out of the All-Star break (posting a 3-7 record), all of the losses have been by fewer than ten points and five of them were against playoff teams, including the Milwaukee Bucks and Golden State Warriors. A renaissance of attitude and energy now surrounds the team who currently holds the NBA’s longest postseason drought of 12 years. The development of young guards De’Aaron Fox and Buddy Hield and center Marvin Bagley III have been key factors in the team’s success thus far.

Sixth Man of the Year: Domantas Sabonis, Indiana Pacers. Sabonis has once again increased his production during his second season in Indiana. He averages 14.3 points and 9.2 rebounds in just under 25 minutes per game, which can be attributed to his efficient 60.8 shooting percentage. Compared to his rookie season stats of 5.9 points and 3.6 rebounds in 20 minutes per game, the third-year center is no longer a minor piece from the trade that sent Paul George to the Oklahoma City Thunder. Sabonis also has a top-15 defensive rating and has had a stabilizing presence in the Pacers’ bench production, which supplements some of the missing production from injured all-star guard Victor Oladipo. 

Rookie of the Year: Luka Dončić, Dallas Mavericks. Dončić averages 21.0 points, 7.4 rebounds and 5.7 assists per game in his first season in the NBA, on par with some of this year’s all stars. Dončić’s success is largely due to his experience playing in Europe, where he had played professionally since he was 13 and won the 2018 Euroleague MVP. In January, the now 20-year-old forward became the youngest player with at least 25 points and 10 assists in a game since LeBron James in 2004, highlighting the lack of competition between him and his fellow rookies.

Most Valuable Player: Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks. Also known as the “Greek Freak,” Antetokounmpo, the 2017 Most Improved Player, has once again substantially elevated his level of play. Apart from his averages of 27.0 points, 12.6 rebounds and 5.9 assists, he leads the league in defensive win-shares, is tied for second in player-efficiency rating (PER) and has helped lead the Milwaukee Bucks to the top seed in the Eastern Conference. 24-year-old Antetokounmpo has already reached superstardom in his sixth season and could eventually become the league’s best player.

Defensive Player of the Year: Paul George, Oklahoma City Thunder. George has become the premier wing defender in the league, with a large component of this due to his defensive versatility (ability to effectively defend guards, forwards and centers) and elite perimeter defense. The six-time all star averages the most steals (2.2) and second most deflections (3.7) per game, has a top-15 defensive rating and has helped the Thunder rank third in team defensive rating, which means they allow the third-fewest points per 100 possessions. In the current era of scoring and shooting threes, wing defenders of George’s caliber have become increasingly scarce, making his defensive production even more valuable.

Most Improved Player: Derrick Rose, Minnesota Timberwolves. This award is the closest race, as Toronto Raptors’ forward Pascal Siakam, Chicago Bulls’ guard Zach Lavine and Sacramento Kings’ guard De’Aaron Fox all have very strong cases for winning the award. Alternatively, the revitalization of the former MVP’s career this season goes beyond normal increased statistical production. He has increased his scoring by 10 points per game and assists by three per game, averaging 18.0 points, 4.3 assists and 2.7 rebounds per game this season, while also having the best shooting season of his career.  While many of the players listed above also had substantial offensive advancements, only one of them is doing it from the bench (Siakam) as Rose is. The 30-year-old guard has been one of the few bright spots for a Timberwolves team still in the playoff picture and could also easily be considered a contender for Sixth Man of the Year. 

 

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About the Contributors
Tom Mueller, features writer



Interests: I like playing basketball and watching the NBA and hanging out with friends. I also sometimes draw if I have the time.
Favorite quote:...

Grace Ferguson, staff artist

Interests: Art/gymnastics/dance/music
Favorite food: Mac and cheese
Favorite quote: “One often meets his destiny on the road he takes to avoid it."
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Shooting the crystal ball: NBA awards predictions