The Demo Tape’s 2017-18 NBA Awards Predictions

Can LeBron end his MVP drought? Is Ben Simmons or Lonzo Ball the favorite for Rookie of the Year? These and more questions answered

It’s the most wonderful time of the year once again. Ahh, yes, the NBA season is upon us. That means two things – the countdown to the Warriors v. Cavs Finals begins once again, and I now have an alternative to the horrendous atrocity known as Thursday Night Football.

While the Warriors and Cavs are favorites to win their conferences once again, that doesn’t mean there isn’t parody within the league. Gordon Hayward’s injury last night puts a dent in the chances of anybody in the East beating the Cavs, there’s still some interesting stories in the conference. For instance. we get to see Giannis Antetokounmpo play all five positions on the court because Jason Kidd can’t figure out where to play him (Then again, who can? He might be there best player at each position anyways – he did lead the team in all major categories last season).

We also get to see the 76ers with all of their young players healthy for the first time ever. While Simmons and Embiid are likely to be on a minutes and game restriction, they should be fun to watch alongside Markelle Fultz and Dario Saric.

The real parody lies out West though, with Carmelo Anthony and Paul George leaving the East to go play with 2016 MVP Russell Westbrook in Oklahoma City. Chris Paul also joined James Harden in Houston, and can hopefully teach him how to stop turning the ball over and some defense.

Young teams like the Timberwolves and the Nuggets look to hopefully make a run at a playoff spot too. Minnesota head coach Tom Thibodeau looks like he finally has the team he wants, and unicorn Nikola Jokic looks like he’s going to anchor one of the league’s best offenses this season.

Of course, we couldn’t skim over the disaster ready to take place budding core of the Los Angeles Lakers. They will probably have the worst record of teams continuously in the headlines this season.

Then, of course, we have the always-consistent Spurs. Somehow, every year, people write off the Spurs and they show us why every season to not do that. Even with Kawhi not on the floor to start the season, my money is on them figuring it out.

With all this being said for the teams of the NBA, how will individual players fair this season? It seems like more superstars than ever switched teams, making for a lot of adjusting this season. One thing that doesn’t switch is that somebody has to walk away with the year-end awards, like Most Valuable Player and Rookie of the Year. Thus, here are my picks:


Kawhi Leonard
Photo via Sports Illustrated

Most Valuable Player – Kawhi Leonard, F (San Antonio Spurs)

This award last year went to Russell Westbrook. However, with the addition of All-Stars Paul George and Carmelo Anthony, some of the weight on his shoulders is bound to be lifted this season. Last year, Westbrook averaged a triple double on his way to leading the Thunder to a 47-35 record; good for 6th in the Western Conference.

LeBron James is also a solid pick to win his 5th regular season MVP award. Newly acquired All-Star point guard Isaiah Thomas isn’t set to return until the All-Star break, and with some new faces on the roster, James will be faced with the task of taking the Cavs back to the Finals. However, in a tremendously weak Eastern Conference (one that got even weaker with the injury to Gordon Hayward last night in the season opener), he could see tons of rest towards the end of the season. With an already established legacy, I don’t expect to see James in meaningless games at the end of the season to chase an MVP award.

Who I do have winning this award is Kawhi Leonard. We saw just how valuable Leonard is to the Spurs when he was injured in the series against the Warriors last postseason, in which the Spurs went on to get swept 0-4. He’s arguably the superstar who will have to carry their team the most this season. Face it, if Leonard isn’t the most valuable piece to the success of the Spurs, then it’s Popovich.

Although he’s not on the court to start the season, I expect him to play at an MVP level when he does return to the floor. Popovich reportedly says there’s no timetable for his return, according to SB Nation, but I think this is just Pop with his player’s best interest at heart, keeping the media pressure off as he does so well.

 

Draymond Green
Photo via NBA.com

Defensive Player of the Year – Draymond Green, F (Golden State Warriors)

What looks like a mega-powered offense on paper in the Golden Stat Warriors also ranked amongst the league’s elite last season on defense, finishing second only to the San Antonio Spurs. the anchor of said defense? Draymond Green.

While I could see this award going to Rudy Gobert, the center of the league’s 3rd best defense in terms of defensive efficiency last season, I think the Jazz take a step back with the loss of Gordon Hayward. I’m not sure how inclined the judges will be to give this award to a player whose team doesn’t finish in the top half of the conference.

The Warriors could be even better than they were last season, with another year to mesh on both sides of the ball. Draymond Green will be integral in how good they are on both sides of the ball.

 

Dennis Smith Jr.

Rookie of the Year – Dennis Smith Jr., G (Dallas Mavericks)

Since Ben Simmons missed all of what should have been his rookie year last season, he’s eligible to pull a Blake Griffin and take home this award, playing for a 76ers team that finally looks like they have pieces to play NBA teams. However, I don’t expect their front office to push Simmons to his fullest this season. They’ll probably sit him out of back-to-backs and have him on a minutes restriction, especially early on. I think that caps his ceiling this season.

Lonzo Ball is a rookie that should have the ball in his hands a ton this year, running the show for the Showtime Lakers. With great responsibility though comes great pressure, and there are sure to be plenty of growing pains as a starting point guard in the Western Conference, especially with a target already on your back.

I like Dennis Smith coming away with this award, as he already looks to be one of the most NBA-ready players in his class. He averaged 12.4 PPG on 43.6 percent shooting this preseason. While he was a little loose with the rock in the preseason, with almost three turnovers in under 21 minutes, I don’t expect that to continue, especially under coach Carlise, if he hopes to see substantial minutes this season. With the Mavs in rebuilding mode, look for them to give the rook plenty of opportunities to shine.

 

Tristan Thompson
Photo via USA TODAY Sports

Sixth Man of the Year – Tristan Thompson, C (Cleveland Cavaliers)

I don’t expect the Cavs to play small ball for entire games all season, with Jae Crowder at the 4 spot. With that being said , I think Tristan Thompson will still see a bunch of minutes, especially against bigger front courts.

He’s still the best interior defender and rebounder, even after being relegated to the bench. I think this makes him a prime candidate for Sixth Man of the Year in a race that really looks like anybody’s for the taking. He’ll come off the bench, especially in crunch time, and provide some crucial boards late and defense.

 

Photo via USA TODAY Sports

Most Improved Player – Myles Turner, C (Indiana Pacers)

Can Giannis Antetokounmpo win this award back-to-back years? Because I think he gets even better this year. No? Ok.

With that being said, there are a couple prospects to consider here. One is Rodney Hood of the Utah Jazz. After the loss of Gordon Hayward and George Hill n free agency (and the non-existent offensive game of the newly-acquired Ricky Rubio), he’ll be looked to shoulder the offensive load even more this season. With a contract season in front of him, and the Jazz “unlikely to reach an extension,” according to the Salt Lake Tribune, he’ll be looking to earn a big pay day next offseason. Only problem is that he’s coming off of probably the worst season of his career, with career-lows in MPG, PPG, and RPG, in just 21 starts due to lingering injuries. If he can stay on the court this season though, I’m sure he’ll bounce back.

However, I think Indiana has a budding star big in Myles Turner. After the departure of both Paul George and Jeff Teague, they really have no other option than to just let turner lose. He plays both sides of the ball well, averaging 14.5 PPG last season and more than 2 BPG. I see him being a consistent double-double for the Pacers down low all season. They mat struggle all season, but I don’t think Turner will.

 

Tom Thibodeau
Photo via USA TODAY Sports

Coach of the Year – Tom Thibodeau (Minnesota Timberwolves)

Whew, Thibs has a squad in Minnesota. I haven’t been so excited to watch the Timberwolves unless it was Zach LaVine in a slam dunk contest or Kevin Garnett was playing. While the lost of LaVine hurts, they switched out a back court of him and Ricky Rubio’s nonexistent offense for Jeff Teague and Jimmy Butler – that’s a W to me. Karl-Anthony Towns keeps getting better and better, and I expect that defensive potential scouts praised Andrew Wiggins for back at The University of Kansas to finally show (don’t expect Wiggins to be the Thib’s favorite of he can’t be counted on to do anything but put the ball in the basket).

I expect this team to get better all around on defense after ranking 26th in the league last season in defensive efficiency, according to ESPN. This team is too talented to repeat that, and Thibs won’t accept that anyways. The Bulls ranked within the top five in the league in defensive efficiency four of their five years under Thibs; twice 1st, and another 2nd. I think he finally has a team where we can see that same defensive intensity implemented, especially with his guys Jimmy Butler and Taj Gibson in town.

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