Super Early 2014-2015 NBA Awards Predictions
With little happening in the basketball world other than the FIBA World Cup, the dark days of the NBA calender are officially upon us… That is, until the start of training camp and eventually the preseason.
Over the last few days the biggest headlines were the Cavaliers signing Shawn Marion, Donald Sterling shooing away a TMZ reporter and numerous rookies signing contracts with their respective teams.
Pretty amazing stuff, right?
Luckily, I have a solution for this lack of compelling news.
Now introducing the annual Super Early NBA Awards Predictions, where yours truly, decides which big names will take home some of the NBA’s most coveted awards this year.
As always, please feel free to drop your own predictions in the comment section below.
Rookie of the Year: Jabari Parker, Milwaukee Bucks
There are plenty of reasons why Jabari Parker is the consensus choice for the Rookie of the Year award.
First and foremost, his size. Standing at 6’9″ and weighing in at nearly 240 pounds, Parker’s immense frame should allow him to match up nicely against many of the leagues elite forwards from day one, without getting too overpowered inside.
His offensive versatility will also be paramount, as no other rookie in his class has the ability to generate buckets from both inside and out so efficiently. (barring that Doug McDermott doesn’t have a ‘Like Mike’ type of season).
Another strong candidate is of course Cavs/soon-to-be Wolves forward Andrew Wiggins.
The former Jayhawk will get to be the number one option on a rebuilding Minnesota team, and could steal the award from Parker if he’s able to thrive as the team’s go-to option on offense.
One guy I’d also keep an eye on though is Nerlens Noel. The big man looked better than ever in the Orlando Summer League after tearing his ACL 18 months ago, and could end up posting big numbers on this depleted Sixers team, much like reigning ROY Michael Carter-Williams did last season.
Most Improved Player: Lance Stephenson, Charlotte Hornets
It’s hard to pencil a sure-win for this award, but my guts telling me Lance Stephenson will be one of the top candidates if he’s able to transition quickly in Steve Clifford’s system.
Why’s that you may ask?
Well other than Al Jefferson and Kemba Walker, Charlotte doesn’t really have another legitimate scoring option on the roster, unless you believe in Gerald Henderson. (sorry Duke fans, he’s not).
With Stephenson slated to be the team’s starting two guard, there’s no question he should receive more touches on offense and hopefully blossom into the additional scorer that the team so desperately needs.
Andre Drummond could also be another legitimate option for this award, as he’s bound to improve with new coach Stan Van Gundy under the helm. The same goes for Bucks sophomore Giannis Antetokounmpo.
Executive of the Year: Ernie Grunfeld, Washington Wizards
Determining which executive will take home this award can be a tricky one to gauge.
Generally it’s granted to teams that are at least near the top of the standings, but there has been cases in which teams have earned the award under special circumstances.
My guess is that Wizards general manager Ernie Grunfeld wins the award by seasons end, based on the belief that the team will clinch at least one of the top 4 spots in the East.
If Washington can successfully nab over 50 wins this season, it should be enough to garnish plenty of the votes, since they haven’t achieved that feat since the 1978-1979 season.
Coach of the Year: Steve Clifford, Charlotte Hornets
Since there’s yet to be one coach that has won this award back to back, it’s safe to say Gregg Popovich is an early elimination candidate. (Unless the Spurs end up going undefeated).
Tom Thibodeau will surely be in the hunt as well, but he may lose consideration for the award if voters feel that Chicago’s new-found success is solely due to the acquisition of Pau Gasol, Doug McDermott and the return of Derrick Rose.
This is exactly why Hornets coach Steve Clifford is primed to be one of the frontrunners for this award.
With the addition of rookies Noah Vonleh, P.J. Hairston and free agent guard Lance Stephenson, the team could end up finishing with the best defense in the league and greatly improve their mediocre offense when compared to last season.
It’s up to Clifford to figure out the appropriate offensive and defensive schemes for the team, but he’s more than capable of winning the award if he puts it all together.
Sixth Man of the Year: Isaiah Thomas, Phoenix Suns
This was probably one of the toughest predictions for me to make, due to the fact that there’s a long list of candidates capable of snagging this award from reigning champ Jamal Crawford.
First there’s big man Taj Gibson, who’s coming off a monster year and is bound to only get better this upcoming season. Then there’s Manu Ginobli, a guy that’s been in the hunt for the award since what seems like the dawn of man.
However the bench player I’m really putting my money on is Suns point guard Isaiah Thomas, under the assumption that Eric Bledsoe actually remains with the team.
Thomas has shown he’s more than capable of scoring points in a flurry, averaging a career high of 20.3 points last season. With this Suns team, he’s bound to flourish given the amount of quality teammates he’ll actually get to work with this season.
My guess is that his scoring average drops down to around 15-17 a game, but his efficiency takes a major leap forward, which will hopefully sway voters to give him the edge over other top candidates.
Defensive Player of the Year: Serge Ibaka, Oklahoma City Thunder
It’s about time Serge Ibaka got some recognition for the work he’s done in Oklahoma City.
Over the last three years he’s finished second, third and fourth in voting, but has never been able to secure this award, which seems odd given the large amount of defensive categories he’s ranked highly in.
During the postseason the Thunder power forward held opponents to the league’s lowest field goal percentage at the rim, in addition to ranking 3rd in blocks per game and 10th in rebounds per game out of all power forwards during the regular season.
Serge may just end up getting snubbed again, but I think this season will be the one in which he finally gets the respect he deserves.
Most Valuable Player: LeBron James, Cleveland Cavaliers
Lets be honest, this is really a two man race between LeBron James and Kevin Durant.
There’s other players like Derrick Rose, Anthony Davis and Chris Paul, who will at least receive some recognition for the award, but it’s highly unlikely they’ll manage to upstage the two best players on the planet.
With that in mind, I gave the edge to homecoming king LeBron James.
With Russell Westbrook back 100% healthy, Kevin Durant will no longer have the luxury of running Oklahoma City’s offense, and likely dip production wise when compared to last season.
LeBron James on the other hand is truly the head honcho of this newly formed Cavs team, destined to post the same or even better numbers when compared to last year, which will all depend on how well he meshes with Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving.
Barring another Westbrook injury, I believe James will earn his 5th MVP award in the last 7 seasons, joining Bill Russell and Michael Jordan as the only players in NBA history to do so.
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