Ryan Hess predicts the winners of this season’s NBA Awards as we approach the return to basketball action in Orlando.
This week the NBA announced that the seeding games being played will not be taken into consideration for the end of the year awards.
This decision makes voting for the Rookie of the Year much easier, but it simultaneously makes voting for MVP and the Sixth Man of the Year awards much harder.
Today we’ll take a look at predictions and odds for each award winner, and maybe give you a great parlay to play and look forward to as we inch closer to the return of the NBA.
Pick: Giannis Antetokounmpo, MIL (-2500)
Stats: 29.6 PPG, 13.7 REB, 5.8 AST, 1.0 STL, 1.0 BLK, .547 FG%, .306 3P%,
Runner-Up: LeBron James, LAL
We have seen Giannis grow from a lengthy 18-year-old with a very raw game to one of the best players and athletes the NBA has ever seen in just six seasons.
What more can we say about Giannis anymore? The “Greek Freak” has lived up to his nickname in just about every way possible.
While players like LeBron James, Luka Doncic, James Harden, and others had phenomenal seasons, none of them stack up to Giannis in any way.
The only knock against Giannis is his struggle to consistently knock down 3’s in a league dominated by shooters. Even without a consistent shot, Giannis has continued to thrive and lead the Bucks to plenty of wins.
Get used to saying “back-to-back-MVPs” because as far as I see it, Giannis already has it in the bag. While betting on Giannis won’t net you a massive return, you’d be losing money thinking anyone else will be named MVP.
Rookie of the Year Winner
Pick: Ja Morant, MEM (-10,000)
Stats: 17.6 PPG, 3.5 REB, 6.9 AST, 0.9 STL, 0.3 BLK, .491 FG%, .367 3P%
Runner-Up: Kendrick Nunn, MIA
To address the obvious absence up front, I don’t consider Zion Williamson to even be a candidate for Rookie of the Year.
Was he fantastic in the 19 games we saw? Yes.
Will he grow into a superstar for years to come? Yeah, probably.
But putting a player into an award conversation based on such a small sample size is ludicrous, especially when other rookies played incredibly well in 50+ games.
That being said, Morant is the only true candidate here. Nunn had a very nice season, especially for an undrafted free agent in 2018, but no rookie could touch what Morant did this season.
While Morant was always projected to have a very nice rookie year, nobody could have predicted the impact he had on the Grizzlies. Projected to finish dead last in the Western Conference with a group of mostly unproven players, Morant had the Grizzlies in line for the eighth seed in the West when the season was stopped. Thus far, Morant has outperformed all expectations.
While a playoff spot isn’t guaranteed after the NBA season will be restarting at the Orlando bubble, Morant gives the Grizzlies a great chance to hold onto their spot and secure a date with the Lakers or Clippers.
Morant is another player with the award locked up already so you won’t get great odds on him, but betting someone like Zion wouldn’t be a very wise bet.
Sixth Man of the Year Winner
Stats: 18.6 PPG, 7.1 REB, 1.7 AST, 0.6 STL, 1.1 BLK, .580 FG%
Runner-Up: Dennis Schroder
If you told me 3 years ago that the Clippers would end up winning the sign-and-trade that sent Chris Paul to Houston, I would’ve called you crazy.
But here we are 3 years later, and the Clippers are in a better position than the Rockets.
While that is in large part due to the acquisitions of stars Kawhi Leonard and Paul George, the haul the Clippers received from the Rockets created the perfect scenario for the Clippers.
In that trade, they received Patrick Beverley, Louis Williams, and Montrezl Harrell.
Williams has won two Sixth man of the Year awards since joining the Clippers, and he has mentored Harrell to embrace the Clippers culture and embrace the role of sixth man for the good of the team.
While Harrell could clearly make an argument he deserves to start, he has gracefully accepted his role and has performed incredibly well.
Harrell is a durable big that has missed just one game in the past two seasons and has been productive in every role he has filled. While his lack of a mid-range or three-point game concerns some, Harrell has managed to stay productive both offensively and defensively.
While you can make the argument for Schroder to win the award, he hasn’t done enough to set him apart from guys like Harrell. If Schroder’s rebounds, assists, and/or steals were up higher, he would have had a better chance. But right now, the only correct pick is Harrell.
The Clippers spot at the top of the league gives Harrell more exposure and coverage than any other Sixth Man (with the only possible exception being teammate Louis Williams.) Harrell’s excellent season should culminate in winning the award.
Most Improved Player Winner
Pick: Bam Adebayo, MIA (-125)
Stats: 16.2 PPG, 10.5 REB, 5.1 AST, 1.2 STL, 1.3 BLK, .567 FG%,
Runner-Up: Brandon Ingram, NOP
We had many candidates for Most Improved Player this season.
Some have been shocking, such as the Hornet’s Devonte’ Graham transforming from a benchwarmer to one of the best young scorers in the NBA.
Some we’ve been waiting for a breakout for a while now, with the biggest example being former Laker Brandon Ingram’s climb to stardom in New Orleans.
But nobody has been able to generate the hype that Bam Adebayo has in Miami.
After showing signs of improvement during his first two seasons in Miami, Adebayo has put it all together this season.
Winning the NBA Skills challenge, becoming a first time All-Star, and quickly entering the top 5 centers in the league conversation, Adebayo has done just about everything right this season.
Just last season we saw Adebayo come off the bench for the most part while only putting up around 9 points and 8 rebounds per game. Not bad stats at all but jumping from a role player off the bench to a star center in less than a year is truly phenomenal.
With the Heat being such a well-rounded team in a nice position in the East, Adebayo should have no issue getting the recognition he deserves. If anyone else were to win, I would be shocked.
Defensive Player of the Year Winner
Stats: 26.7 PPG, 9.4 REB, 3.1 AST, 1.5 STL, 2.4 BLK, .511 FG%, .335 3P%
Runner-Up: Rudy Gobert, UTA
The consensus is that Giannis Antetokounmpo, Rudy Gobert, or Anthony Davis will be the winner of the Defensive Player of the Year award.
To me you can already eliminate Giannis from the conversation, despite some claiming he is the front runner.
Is Giannis a fantastic defender? Yes. I can only imagine how much of a nightmare it is to have your defender be nearly seven feet tall while having an even larger wingspan.
However, Davis and Gobert are much better pure defenders than Giannis. That is not a knock against Giannis at all, but more of a testament to the defense that Davis and Gobert have become known for during their careers.
Davis is the building block to the Lakers defense. The Lakers defense struggled mightily last year, but Davis has helped them improve in almost everything. The Lakers now rank third in defensive rating, fourth in steals, first in blocks, and eighth in least amount of points in the paint scored. During the games that Davis had missed the Lakers have struggled mightily on defense, which lends Davis’ spot as defensive leader of the team that much more legitimacy.
Davis has been a savior for the Lakers and is the best defensive player in the NBA in my opinion. If everything goes well, the Defensive Player of the Year award might not be the only trophy that Davis ends up holding this season.
Coach of the Year Winner
Stats: 40-24 Record, Clinched playoff spot (Currently in the 5 seed)
Runner-Up: Nick Nurse, TOR
What Nick Nurse has done in Toronto has been incredibly impressive.
After losing Kawhi Leonard in free agency and having to play stretches of games without Pascal Siakam, Fred Van Fleet, and Marc Gasol, the Raptors were in a tough spot.
And yet they still sit in second place in the East with the third best record in the league.
Nick Nurse has claimed his spot as a top coach in the league already, but what Billy Donovan has done is that much more impressive.
Donovan was given a team with incredibly low expectations after the team traded stars Russell Westbrook and Paul George during the offseason. Many expected them to send the often-injured Chris Paul packing the second they acquired him from the Rockets, while giving young stud Shai Gilgeous-Alexander a chance to grow.
But Donovan has used the Thunder team to perfection and have them headed to the playoffs.
Paul has had a renaissance in Oklahoma City, staying healthy and playing his best basketball in years.
Shai Gilegous-Alexander has blossomed into a star playing with Paul, giving the Thunder one of the best guard combos in the league. Combine them with often underrated sharpshooter Danilo Gallinari, and the Thunder are a team capable of putting up bunches of points every night with Donovan’s fluid and high-paced offense.
While the Thunder probably won’t be able to compete with the Lakers or Clippers, they are absolutely in position to contend very soon with the right acquisitions.
Coach of the Year and Sixth Man of the Year are often the hardest awards to predict, so keep that in mind. Donovan is often ranked behind other coaches like Nick Nurse, Brad Stevens, Mike Budenholzer, and Frank Vogel, but he is still firmly in the running.
To mark the return of the NBA, DraftKings are also offering odds of +500 for a team of your choice to win between July 30 and August 1 with their ‘Choose Your Boost’ promotion. Get involved!