Photo Credit: bleacherreport.com
The 2015-16 NBA season has been a very eventful one to say the least. With just a few games to go before the playoffs begin, this is a better time than the last version I made of this post to make educated predictions on who will win this year’s major awards in the NBA. Here are my predictions as of April 8th, 2016:
MVP: Stephen Curry
Why? He is leading the league by averaging 29.9 points per game and has led the Warriors to a 70-9 start, and has given them a great opportunity to pass the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls (72-10) for the best record in NBA history. He also has a legitimate chance of being the 1st NBA player in history to knock down 400 3-pointers in a season (385 with 3 games to go, averages 5.1 made 3-pointers per game). No other NBA player in history had ever even knocked down 300 prior to this season. Oh, and he frequently sits out fourth quarters when the Warriors are up big (which happens a lot), and yet he still puts up top-notch numbers. There’s a reason this is one of the shortest of the blurbs on this article. This should be a unanimous choice.
But you could make an argument for Russell Westbrook.
Why? The man has 17 triple-doubles, which is tied for the most in the past 30 years with one of the greatest players of all time in Magic Johnson. He passes the ball more than Curry and tends to play better defense. He averages 23.6 points, 10.4 assists, and 7.8 rebounds per game.
Most Improved Player of the Year: CJ McCollum
Why? The Blazers are a team that returned one starter from a team that went 51-31 a year ago. They were interchangeably power ranked with the 76ers at 29 or 30 to start the year on most websites. Not only has McCollum helped Damian Lillard to get them back in this year’s playoffs with a 43-37 record (2 games to go), but he has stepped up in a big way, contributing 20.9 points, 4.2 assists, and 3.3 rebounds per game. This won’t be unanimous, but I think this is a good pick.
But you could make an argument for Stephen Curry.
Why? Huh? The MVP as the most improved player? It’s possible. He is averaging more than 6 points more this year than he was a year ago, his field goal percentage has gone up, he has nailed more than 100 more 3s, and his 3-point percentage has gone up. He has also led the Warriors to a 70-9 record, just the 2nd team to reach 70 wins in a season, and they are within reach of the all-time record for wins in a season. So what if he’s already the best player in the league? There’s always room for improvement, and that’s exactly what he’s shown us.
Defensive Player of the Year: Hassan Whiteside.
Why? Define defense. Good defense is not letting other teams score. The Heat have one of the NBA’s top defenses this year in terms of scoring (98.3 points allowed per game, 2nd in the East and 4th in the NBA), and much of that can be attributed to the fact that Hassan Whiteside is leading the league in blocks with 3.71 per game, almost 1.4 more blocks than 2nd best (DeAndre Jordan with 2.32). He is also grabbing an average of 11.8 boards per game, which is 3rd best in the NBA. He is also contributing on the offensive side of the ball with an average of 14.1 points per game. On top of that, he has gotten numerous triple-doubles with blocks, something the NBA had not seen in a long time prior to him coming along. I’ll quote the man himself: “Ain’t nobody doin’ it with blocks.”
But you could make an argument for Andre Drummond.
Why? Andre Drummond is a monster on the glass. He averages 16.4 points, 14.9 rebounds, and 1.4 blocks per game. He has recorded 66 double-doubles out of 79 games so far this season. The next best is 52 out of 78 games for Russell Westbrook. Of those 66 double-doubles, 30 of them have been with 15+ points AND 15+ rebounds.Key word being AND and not OR. No other player even has half of those 30.
Rookie of the Year: Karl Anthony-Towns
Why? It is going to come down to Towns and Kristaps Porzingis. The reason it goes to Towns is because, well, let’s be honest. No one thought Porzingis was going to succeed the way he did, so much of the Rookie of the Year talk focused on him is purely on hype. Towns on the other hand was supposed to succeed, just not as much as he has. He has averaged 18.2 points and 10.5 rebounds, which are both higher than Porzingis’ stats in those respective categories, and has 1.7 blocks, which is only 0.2 shy of Porzingis’ 1.9. Towns is one of only 10 players this season to be averaging a double-double, and is the only rookie to be doing so. Also, Towns’ player efficiency rating is almost 5 points higher than Porzingis. All of this combined should seal the deal and give Towns the award.
But you could make an argument for Kristaps Porzingis.
Why? Well, given that I just basically stated why he was undeserving of the award, I really don’t know. But he has been pretty impressive, averaging 14.3 points, 7.3 rebounds, and 1.9 blocks per game after being booed at the NBA draft when the Knicks selected him 4th overall. He has exceeded his expectations in a way that no other rookie quite has this season, and that is why I think he will at least be considered.
Sixth Man of the Year: Victor Oladipo
Why? Oladipo is not the ordinary sixth man, as he averages 16.1 points per game, which is 2nd best on the team, 4.0 assists per game, also 2nd best on the team, and 4.8 rebounds per game, 5th best on the team, off the bench. He is also the team’s leader in steals with an average of 1.63 per game, more than 0.4 steals per game higher than the Magic’s next best player. He provides a spark to the Orlando Magic when he is in the lineup. His season highs are 45 points, 13 rebounds, and 10 assists, and he has scored 37 points or higher twice this season. He is not your typical sixth man, and although the Magic are not going to make a postseason run, he is a major reason they were even in the discussion for the majority of this season.
But you could make an argument for Will Barton.
Why? Barton sits 2nd in scoring for the Denver Nuggets with 14.5 points per game, and 3rd on the team with 5.9 rebounds ber game. He has been an asset that this Nuggets team could not have done without this year, and although they are not going to make this year’s playoffs, they would be a lot farther down the Western Conference seeding if Barton would not have played the way he did all year off of the bench.
Coach of the Year: Steve Kerr
Why? This was a tough one. You can easily give it to Warriors interim head coach Luke Walton for propelling the team to the best x-0 start in NBA history with 24 wins. However, I think it all comes down to pressure. Obviously at 24-0, there is a lot of pressure not to lose, but in reality, there was never a chance they were going 82-0. Thus, there is more pressure on the 70-9 team that we have now to break the all-time wins record set by the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls because it is actually doable, and I think Steve Kerr has done a great job game in and game out preparing that team so that they don’t trip up and lose focus on that goal. Another interesting thing to point out here is the fact that when the Warriors fell to 62-7, that was the first time ALL SEASON that the Warriors winning percentage was under 90%. It took 69 out of 82 games to finally sink the Warriors under the 9/10 mark. Even the 1995-96 Bulls did not go nearly as far as the Warriors did with that. And, the obvious, this is a team that is battle-tested and championship ready, and the reason that is the case is because of the amazing 67-15 season they had a year ago with Steve Kerr taking over that program and turning it into one of the greatest NBA teams of all time.
But you could make an argument for Gregg Popovich.
Why? Without the media attention the Spurs would have gotten any year other than this one (because the Warriors have a better record and are doing historic things as well), Popovich has silently led the Spurs to a franchise record 65-win season with 4 more games to play. He is a master at mind games and knows when to sit players not only to rest them, but to mess with the other team’s knowledge of what they think they’re getting when they play against San Antonio when it matter most. Not only that, but the Spurs are 39-0 at home this year, and no team has ever gone a perfect 41-0 at home. Could be more history in the making for this underhyped Spurs team.