MVP: Damian Lillard
While it may come off as a bold prediction, but if any player can make a bold prediction come true then Dame is the guy. Blazers did not have the best offseason but certainly added some pieces that will fit in well with Dame; Jerami Grant, Drew Eubanks, Josh Hart, Gary Payton ll, Justise Winslow and rookie wildcard Shaedon Sharpe are amongst those names along with familiar faces like Jusef Nurkic, Nassir Little and Anfernee Simons who is on the rise to the level of an all-star level player. This blazers team has 3&D players that will create great floor spacing for Dame to work but are also the same players that can slash to the basket to finish strong at the rim. If the Blazers are serious about improving and being a contender I expect them to make a trade or hit free agency pool to add more key pieces. I expect Dame Lillard to have some rust to knock off and when he does knock that rust off, the league will be in trouble. Dame will be returning with a vengeance and will lead the Blazers to the playoffs while locking in his first MVP.
Luka & Embiid are two others that should be heavy favorites for MVP. Embiid who many feel who should have won MVP last year could right that wrong this year by securing MVP. However, Luka is the player I feel the league wants to win the most while Giannis name will always be in the mix and KD’s play will force the league to consider him as an MVP candidate.
DPOY: Bam Adebayo
Someone who should already have an DPOY award under their belt, Adebayo who is one of the very few players who can sit down and legitimately guard 1-5 . Bam has the defensive consistency, athleticism, versatility and IQ needed for a player who has a DPOY award on their career checklist. With the Heat losing Markieff Morris and PJ Tucker, Bam will have to take on an even bigger role on the defensive end which essentially will lead to him finally conquering DPOY award.
Other top DPOY contenders to watch out for are Anthony Davis and Ben Simmons. However, you are guaranteed to hear Giannis & Gobert’s name in the mix every year.
Most Improved Player: PJ Washington
Truthfully, I don’t believe PJ Washington will win it but I think he will be the player most deserving. The NBA has weirdly been giving the MIP to players like Ja Morant who had all-star like numbers the season before, however I think PJ Washington will be the “should have won” player. With the unfortunate loss of Miles Brides who was coming off a breakout season, Hornets will be looking to replace the production of Bridges and the player to do that will be PJ Washington. Washington career thus far could have been perceived as underwhelming, however that is not a result of lack of talent and PJ will have the perfect opportunity to prove that this year.
Two other players that I have just as likely to win MIP for the year are Anfernee Simons & Keldon Johnson. With the departure of Dejounte Murray and CJ McCollum, Simons and Keldon Johnson have shown more than ready to fulfill those allstar level roles. These two players rank amongst the highest in my list of young studs waiting to blossom at any point.
Rookie of the Year: Jaden Ivey
While their are a ton of players in this rookie class that could be the one to take home the ROY award, the name that sicks out is Jaden Ivey. Jaden Ivey finished his impressive NBA debt with 19 Points, 3 Rebounds, 4 Assists and 3 Steals. Ivey’s outstanding scoring ability could be a huge factor in his ROY chances after Detroit parted ways with Jerami Grant this offseason. Pistons could arguably be the team with the most young talent, therefore it could be become a usage rate problem for Ivey compared to other ROY contenders which could lessen his chances to win ROY. However, the vast amount of young talent could also work in Ivey’s favor helping him secure ROY on an improved Pistons roster. I would not be surprised if another stud rookie took home ROY, but nor should fans be surprised for Ivey to secure that award.
Keegan Murray, Benedict Mathurin, Banchero, and Jabari Smith are the other rookie names I expect to hear in the conversation at the end of the year during the tight race for ROY.
Shaedon Sharpe will be a standout rookie that will really solidify his spot in the league but still will not be considered for ROY.
Coach of The Year: Ty Lue
Ty Lue has consistently been one of the best coaches throughout the league in his first 6 season as head coach with a record of 209–140. No matter what roster Ty Lue has been presented with, he has overachieved. Coach of the Year has much to do with the success of your team and on paper no team has a better roster than the LA Clippers. If Paul George & Kawhi, John Wall can stay healthy, it is difficult to imagine Ty Lue will not coach his team to a top three seed.
However, if Miami Heat can figure out a way to be a top 3 seed with their constructed roster then we may see Erik Spolestra secure his long overdue COY award but it may also be an unexpected new face to win this award. Joe Mazzulla, Interim head coach of the Boston Celtics was thrown in the water after the unfortunate situation with Ime Udoka which resulted in him being suspended for the year. The Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown led Boston Celtics have an opportunity to be a special team after bringing everyone back while having additions of Malcolm Brogdon, Blake Griffin and Derrick White.
6MOY: Christian Wood
With the uncertainty if reigning 6MOTY, Tyler Herro will remain coming off the bench after expressing his urge to start then I expect Christian Wood to take home this award. Christian Wood is easily a starter on almost any team in the league, however, his new team Dallas Mavericks decided to bring Wood off the bench which seems questionable initially but also makes sense. Wood ended his Dallas Mavericks debut with a stat line of 25 points & 8 rebounds off the bench in 23 minutes of play. While being the 6th man, Wood will likely be getting starter minutes and ending most if not every game on the floor. Wood playing alongside an MVP Caliber player such as Luka Donic will be a dangerous combination league wide and will assistance Wood in securing 6MOTY
Two other heavy favorites to win this award: Malcolm Brogdon, and Jordan Poole who seems like the fan/media favorite at this point.
Most Improved Team: LA Clippers
From top to bottom, LA Clippers undoubtedly have the most stacked roster in the league which is why I have them as most improved team and also my championship favorites. Yeah, Clippers were without the duo Paul George and Kawhi but even if they were healthy I do not think they would have taken home the championship last year. Bringing their whole rotation back from the past two years while adding the late additions of Norman Powell, Robert Covington before last season’s trade deadline already have the Clippers as favorites coming into this year. However, acquiring John Wall who is coming off a year of healthy rest and who is willing to split the minutes with Reggie Jackson if that means results in winning was the icing on the cake for me. Another move that I think the Clippers will eventually be praised for is the pickup of 7’0 Center Moses Brown as a rotational player who has shown glimpses of his high potential. If anybody can handle having a roster this stacked, I believe Ty Lue can and all these are why the Clippers will be the most improved team and championship winners at the year’s end. Including even the years of Lob City, this is the best roster the LA Clippers have ever had and anything less than a winning a championship this season should be viewed as a huge disappointment.
However, it is expected for the Pelicans to make a major jump in improvement from recent past years. After acquiring CJ McCollum and Larry Nance Jr from Portland via trade and the emergence of two-way role player Herb Jones and lead by Brandon Ingram the Pelicans showed they were on the verge of taking that next step. The excitement for these young team grew as Zion Williamson returned for the Pelicans opener and finished with 25 points, 9 rebounds and 3 assists in a win over the Brooklyn Nets. If CJ, Zion and Brandon Ingram and double-double machine Jonas Valanciunas can stay healthy while continuing to improve role players like Herb Jones, Devonte Graham, Larry Nance, and Trey Murphy lll then the Pelicans will be a dangerous opponent league-wide
Other teams I have for most improved: Timberwolves, Cavs and Kings