2017-18 NBA Season Awards Predictions


After a wacky and wild offseason that saw seven — yes, seven — NBA All-Stars change teams, Dwayne Wade join the Cleveland Cavaliers, Kyrie Irving force his way to the Celtics, and Chris Paul making his way to the Houston Rockets, the 2017-18 NBA season is finally upon us. No more preseason basketball, no more watching reruns of historic games on NBATV, and no more watching your teams’ top-10 plays from last season, repeatedly. It is finally time to see if the 29 other franchise have a shot of dethroning the Golden State Warriors.

What better way to kick off the new campaign than to predict who wins what award this season in The Association? We wrangled up 10 of our Hashtag Basketball writers and asked them to give us their picks.

Who will win Most Valuable Player this season?

George Ayad — Kawhi Leonard, San Antonio Spurs

The Claw is the only player in the West on an elite team without another superstar, with all due respect to LaMarcus Aldridge. He’s finished top-3 in the past 2 seasons and his lack of a supporting cast compared to other teams will give him the edge, especially if he can finish in the top-4 in the conference.

Jordan Christmas — Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors

Kevin Durant might be the better talent in a vacuum but the gap isn't as big as people think. Curry is and has been the Warriors most important player. The team could sleepwalk to 70+ wins with a year of chemistry under their belts.

Evan Dammarell — LeBron James, Cleveland Cavaliers

His star point guard doesn’t want to play with him anymore, people are saying he’s older, losing to Kevin Durant in the NBA Finals make people think he’s no longer the best player in the league. This is a damn-near Disney movie with the storylines for LeBron James this season. His entire time during his second stint with Cleveland has been filled with drama and this season will more than likely be full of it. Fortunately for Cleveland, James thrives in the most chaotic moments and in what could be his last possible season in Cleveland will be his best, ever, and he will be crowned with his fifth MVP award.

Devon Haripal — Kawhi Leonard, San Antonio Spurs

Although he is currently sidelined due to a quad injury, Kawhi Leonard is the pick to win MVP. The reason behind it is simple: Kawhi is on the verge of his prime, as he turned 26 years old this past June. Add in the fact that Russell Westbrook has two more stars with him in OKC, James Harden must give up touches to another ball-dominant guard in Chris Paul, and you are left with the last MVP-caliber guy in Kawhi.

Jason Hynson — Anthony Davis, New Orleans Pelicans

With all the top teams all having players to split votes (Curry-Durant; Harden-Paul; Westbrook-PG) and the voter fatigue surrounding Lebron, that only leaves two legit MVP candidates in my opinion; Kawhi and Anthony Davis. I think the storyline behind Anthony Davis will be stronger if the Pelicans overachieve this season, bringing in more votes for AD.

Erik Judd — Kawhi Leonard, San Antonio Spurs

The way I see it, Curry and Durant cancel each other out. Russ has to share with Paul George and Melo now, and Harden has to include CP3 in his stats party. That leaves LeBron and Kawhi, and my guess is LeBron takes just enough of his foot off the gas during the regular season to give Kawhi the window to win MVP.

Sam Macey — Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks

Not just because I own him in multiple [fantasy] leagues, but I genuinely think after spots 1-2, the East is wide open. Giannis only needs to win 48-52 games and he’s a top-5 candidate unless LeBron goes Biblical to prove a point.

Mike Muskett — Blake Griffin, Los Angeles Clippers

Really, it’s going to be Kawhi Leonard, but that isn’t a very exciting prediction. It will be a star without another star on his team that carries his team to more wins than they were expected to finish with. This means the team that finishes with the most wins between the Clippers, Bucks, Blazers, and Spurs will have the MVP.

Kevin Nye — Kevin Durant, Golden State Warriors

Kawhi’s injury is more serious than we thought, so he’ll falter a bit. Russ and Harden have “real” sidekicks, so they’ll falter a bit. LeBron is going to turn 33 years old (JK he’s immune to time) and has two new non-shooters around him so he’ll falter a bit (also he doesn’t care until March). But KD? He’ll score 29 a night and shoot 60% from the floor on a 70-win team. That’s an MVP.

Kevin So — Kevin Durant, Golden State Warriors

Carrying over from the postseason, Durant will continue to destroy his opponents while making it look like a walk in the park. He may not best his career high counting stats, but his efficiency could be from another planet. Being on the best team ever also helps his case.

Who will win Rookie of the Year this season?

George Ayad — Lonzo Ball, Los Angeles Lakers

Ball seems to be the only rookie who will have complete control over the offense from the start of his season debut. Most of the other rookies will either be playing with guys who will need to be developed just as much as them, will play on the bench to start the season or simply won't get the playing time to make a case for themselves. Check out Ball’s Summer League showcase if you’re still not convinced.

Jordan Christmas — Ben Simmons, Philadelphia 76ers

People are going to be reminded why Ben Simmons was considered a generational prospect. He will have the ball in his hands a lot as a 6-foot-10 point guard (lol) and people will be surprised by him on defense. Brett Brown is going to pull that out of him, as most players don’t play defense in college.

Evan Dammarell — Ben Simmons, Philadelphia 76ers

After years of being worse than Popo’s stool, Philadelphia fans can finally see the fruits of The Process when Markelle Fultz, Dario Saric, Robert Covington, Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons all take the floor together for the first time this season. After being shut down due to injury last season, we finally got a taste of Simmons in the preseason and boy, he did not disappoint. The fact that Fultz will start his career as a reserve, coupled with the fact that his jump shot works as well as Midorya first using All-for-One, will keep him from winning the award. Instead it will go to his teammate Simmons, who looks like the next LeBron James.

Devon Haripal — Dennis Smith Jr., Dallas Mavericks

Lonzo Ball and Ben Simmons will be odds-on favorites to win Rookie of the Year, with the former the heavy favorite. However, there is a point guard in Dallas who has drawn comparisons to high-level NBA point guards such as Chris Paul, pre-injury Derrick Rose, and Baron Davis. Although the basketball world considered Lonzo Ball as the best passer coming out of college, Smith Jr. was lurking in the shadows, 14th in the nation in total assists. Just YouTube some of his college play and you’ll see the Chris Paul-lite passing and D-Rose athletic ability. Not only does he possess unreal athleticism, Smith Jr. can run a team, which is exactly what the Dallas Mavericks drafted him to do. Dennis Smith Jr. will turn a lot of heads this season, capped off by winning Rookie of the Year.

Jason Hynson — Ben Simmons, Philadelphia 76ers

It’s the same thing we saw with Blake Griffin as a rookie, and nearly the same thing we saw with Embiid just last season. Sitting out a year is a huge advantage as you have time to learn NBA schemes and utilize NBA trainers for an entire year (or more) before ever stepping on the court. He’ll put up absolutely stellar numbers and everyone will wonder why they ever doubted him, without realizing he looks so much better than other rookies because he isn’t really a rookie.

Erik Judd — Dennis Smith Jr., Dallas Mavericks

Fan bias alert, but come on! Dallas hasn’t had a rookie to be excited about since we drafted Dirk 20 years ago with the No. 9 pick, the pick DSJ was chosen at. I see the stars aligning here and him taking the first step toward his destiny.

Sam Macey — Ben Simmons, Philadelphia 76ers

It looks like Markelle Fultz will be taking a back-step to the previous No. 1 pick, as he will take time to adjust to the NBA rigors. Lonzo will have the Ball a TON, but even he is having some rookie gloss taken from him by the Kuz. Simmons should average 14 points, 7.5 rebounds, and 6.5 assists [a game],- which is enough to win ROY.

Mike Muskett — Lonzo Ball, Los Angeles Lakers

He already has all the attention he needs. As long as he puts up a few highlight-reel assists and gets enough counting stats to compare with Dennis Smith Jr. he will win the award.

Kevin Nye — Ben Simmons, Philadelphia 76ers

He just does. It’s between him and Lonzo but if Simmons stays healthy, he’s got everything that Lonzo has, plus the added value of a better team.

Kevin So — Lonzo Ball, Los Angeles Lakers

Being on the Lakers already gives him a 10 percent bonus for fans. He will be on TV, a lot. The LaVar backlash will go so far it will come back around and give Lonzo the assist for once.

Who will win Defensive Player of the Year this season?

George Ayad — Draymond Green, Golden State Warriors

Green is the engine that keeps the Warriors’ defensive engine running. Kevin Durant was able to have one of his best defensive seasons, mainly due to Green’s ability to lock up the paint and provide help defense on switches. Simply put, Green simply focuses on his defense to help his teammates focus on their offense and the results speak for itself.

Jordan Christmas — Draymond Green, Golden State Warriors

He will, once again, be the best defender on the best team in basketball. Can guard 1-5 and was up there in rim protection numbers last season as a guy who is maybe 6-foot-7. I still think he should’ve won it in ‘14-15.

Evan Dammarell — Draymond Green, Golden State Warriors

This award is pretty cut and dry for Green. The Golden State Warriors had the best defense last season and they brought back every key member of their championship team. Green is the player everyone would love if they have him on their team. Everyone else hates [him] because he plays for the Dubs and his defensive ability is what is holding the entire Warriors’ defensive scheme together.

Devon Haripal — Rudy Gobert, Utah Jazz

Gordon Hayward bolted the Utah Jazz for the Boston Celtics in order to reunite with his college coach Brad Stevens. However, he was not the most important player for the Jazz last season, it was Rudy Gobert. He led the league in blocks last season, registering 214 total swats, 42 more than second-place Myles Turner. Gobert, 25, was first in defensive win shares totaling 6 on the season. Draymond Green was behind him in second-place, with 5.4 win shares. In total win shares, Gobert trailed only James Harden for the top spot, 15-14.3. Advanced stats favored him last season, and with Gordon Hayward gone, Rudy Gobert will finally get some respect, winning his first Defensive Player of the Year award.

Jason Hynson — Anthony Davis, New Orleans Pelicans

We’re going for the first MVP/DPOY of the 21st century here. The Pelicans were top 10 defensively last year, and they only look to be getting better. When they finish top 5 defensively this year it’ll be between AD and Draymond, and I think people will start to be fed up with voting for Warriors players by the end of this year.

Erik Judd — Rudy Gobert, Utah Jazz

Yea, this is a boring choice. And no, I don’t care. Gobert is a monster presence on the inside; I have rarely seen players so visibly bothered by a shot blocker’s presence when they enter the lane. Gobert wins the award going away.

Sam Macey — Rudy Gobert, Utah Jazz

He should have won last season and I want to break out my “Gobert Naked Ladies” picture when he wins it.

Mike Muskett — Draymond Green, Golden State Warriors

There are a ton of players that could win this, but I don’t see a reason for Draymond to drop off this year — he has the advantage going into the year. If the Rockets show a big defensive jump this year and Chris Paul plays a lot of games, he could be an interesting dark horse candidate.

Kevin Nye — Draymond Green, Golden State Warriors

Because he’s the best defensive player in the NBA and he’s on the best team in the NBA. Rudy Gobert has a chance, but Kawhi will miss out for the same reason as MVP.

Kevin So — LeBron James, Cleveland Cavaliers

He’s motivated, never won this, deserves it at some point, won’t win MVP, and can kind of do as he pleases. Make it so LeBron.

Who will win Most Improved Player this season?

George Ayad —Avery Bradley, Detroit Pistons

Bradley came into his own offensive groove last season, after being widely recognized for his defense. He will continue to build on that, especially considering the Pistons’ best players had iffy play last season. In a sense, he may have a similar workload as Kawhi and ultimately, he will be recognized for it.

Jordan Christmas — D’Angelo Russell, Brooklyn Nets

No Kobe Bryant retirement tour BS, no Byron Scott throwing him under the bus and then running him over...then reversing to run him over again. The Nets’ system is tailor-made for D-Lo’s skills, even if the Nets might struggle to crack 25 wins. He won’t have the scope of the Lakers on him.

Evan Dammarell — D’Angelo Russell, Brooklyn Nets

I must have missed the announcement where D’Angelo Russell was no longer considered a future NBA star after the mediocre haul the Los Angeles Lakers got for him. After battling against Byron Scott’s coaching and having most of LA’s media souring on him, Russell will get to play in the biggest basketball city in the world and show why he was so highly lauded coming out of Ohio State.

Devon Haripal — Aaron Gordon/Derrick Favors, Orlando Magic/Utah Jazz

There are actually a handful of players who can win this award, but Aaron Gordon stands out the most to me. He’s an analytical nightmare and I mean that in the kindness way possible. Look, Gordon just turned 22 years old, he’s headed into his fourth season in the league. Last season, he had four games in which he topped 30-plus points. The scoring potential is there. The move to play power forward after the All-Star break, ignited Gordon to the tune of nearly 16 points and six rebounds, to go along with nearly a steal, block, and three in 24 games. This is the year he puts it together and shows the rest of the league why the Magic took him No. 4 overall in 2014. He’s in for a monstrous year.

I’m torn between Aaron Gordon and Derrick Favors so I’m including them both here. It’s this simple. Injuries certainly mess with a player’s rhythm, especially big men who operate down low. Think of it as a paper cut between the webbing of your fingers. Simple tasks become a chore. Favors had an injury-riddled season last year and was evidently out of shape. He’s healthy, has a training camp behind him, and will definitely return to the 16 points and 8 rebounds kind of player we know, especially with Gordon Hayward gone.

Jason Hynson — Myles Turner, Indiana Pacers

With Paul George gone and their next best offensive option being Victor Oladipo, you’ve got to think Myles Turner is finally going to shine. He’s the least talked about big man from a stellar big man class, and this is his year to show off just how skilled he truly is.

Erik Judd — D'Angelo Russell, Brooklyn Nets

I’m not completely sure why I’m buying into this, because I’ve never been a huge fan of Russell’s game (or demeanor). However, someone has to score in Brooklyn, and I think his light is going to be greener than a Colorado head shop. 

Sam Macey — Aaron Gordon, Orlando Magic

An expanded role, locked into the starting power forward spot where he should be, and growing young talent around him that lacks a leader = sign me up. He already has national exposure from the other-worldly dunk comps, so he is a semi-known commodity.

Mike Muskett — Myers Leonard, Portland Trailblazers

This is the hardest award to predict in my opinion. I’ve heard that Meyers Leonard looks great this year. If he averages 25 minutes and rejoins the 50/40/90 club, he has a great shot.

Kevin Nye — Myles Turner, Indiana Pacers

Turner’s got nothing holding him back this year. He’ll play 30-plus minutes a night and pull down a ton of rebounds. Since they’re going to be a 30-win team, he’ll get to do whatever he wants on offense. Could be a big-time year for him.

Kevin So — Rodney Hood, Utah Jazz

With the departure of Gordon Hayward, and a point guard switch to the setup artist, Rubio, Hood will be forced to take on a gigantic offensive load. His usage should be huge and he showed serious flashes of breaking out prior to his injury-plagued season last year. Expect big scoring and a ton of 3-pointers.

Who will win Sixth Man of the Year this season?

George Ayad — Lou Williams, Los Angeles Clippers

Before the end of his tenure with the Lakers last season, Lou was turning into an offensive nightmare for opposing defenses. He will continue that play, especially because the Clippers lack a lot of offensive firepower to strike fear into their opponents. He might even be the fulcrum of the offense if injuries plague the team or if Blake Griffin can't get it going.

Jordan Christmas — Dario Saric, Philadelphia 76ers

This will be a breakout year for Saric, especially if he brings his 3-point percentage up to 35-37 percent. He is a great passer and with his game, he will eat second units alive. He’ll also mesh well in other lineups Brett Brown will have the opportunity to experiment with this year. I hope people stop looking at the sixth man as “the guy who scores the most points off the bench” award.

Evan Dammarell — Tristan Thompson, Cleveland Cavaliers

Something that has always been synonymous with Cleveland basketball is that they have always had a high-energy player coming off the bench for them. For a while, it was Anderson Varejao (when healthy) and then it was Matthew Dellavedova until he got a massive paycheck from the Milwaukee Bucks. With Kevin Love sliding to center, in comes Tristan Thompson, who has always been a high-energy rebounding fiend for Cleveland. He will still get a lion’s share of minutes at the center spot for the Cavs and will be the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year.

Devon Haripal — Tyler Ulis, Phoenix Suns

With fellow University of Kentucky alum Brandon Knight out for the season after suffering a torn ACL, Tyler Ulis has a path to clear minutes in what once was a crowded backcourt rotation. This is a Suns team, that needs help off the bench, desperately. In the final 15 games for the Suns last season, Ulis averaged 16.1 points and 8.5 assists. Not only can he get it done from the scoring department, but Ulis can facilitate as well. Setting up easy buckets for the second-unit would be beneficial for a rebuilding Suns team. I’d take a sixth man that can do more than just score off the bench. Tyler Ulis is my dark-horse candidate for Sixth Man of the Year.

Jason Hynson — Nick Young, Golden State Warriors

Nick Young was outstanding for the Lakers last year. Career year all around. Now he gets to come off the bench for a team with the best spacing of all time, and will probably be getting a lot of shots as the sixth man with Andre Iguodala potentially out for a while.

Sam Macey — Will Barton, Denver Nuggets

Will Barton. People need to watch this guy more. He is fearless and plays much bigger than his slight frame suggests, grabbing boards and taking off down court with reckless abandon. The Nuggets play a fast pace so the stats will be there, but he'll have competition from the always reliable Lou Williams.

Erik Judd — Nerlens Noel/Eric Gordon, Dallas Mavericks/Houston Rockets

Okay, kidding. Kind of. I mean, if he’s going to be chained to the bench by the warlock known as Carlisle. Is it that farfetched to think Noel might win it? My actual pick is Eric Gordon, who should feast in lineups with Chris Paul or Harden running with him and the reserves.

Mike Muskett — Andre Iguodala, Golden State Warriors

He has been the best player to come off the bench for a couple years. Dario Saric is a dark-horse candidate, but Andre should get this award as a “lifetime achievement award” if nothing else.

Kevin Nye — Tristan Thompson, Cleveland Cavaliers

By the time all is said and done, Tristan will be at least as productive as ever. His newfound bench role is weird, but he’ll get 8-10 points and 10+ boards a game. That’s fairly close to sixth man winning, right? (Probably not - Sixth man winners are almost always scorers)

Kevin So — Eric Gordon, Houston Rockets

Gordon seemed to do well as the sixth man last year, prior to Lou Williams’ arrival. With Williams gone, expect Gordon to take on a major role for a playoff-bound team as the clear-cut third guard and most likely third highest scorer. Scoring always does well for this award.

Who will win Coach of the Year this season?

George Ayad — Gregg PopovicSansan Antonio Spurs

Pop has a tall task ahead of him in the unforgiving West. However, given his history, it would be stupid to doubt arguably the greatest coach in NBA history. Pop will continue to lead the Spurs in a deep playoff run and no one should be surprised if the Spurs notch another 60 win season, regardless of the obstacles.

Jordan Christmas — Steve Kerr, Golden State Warriors

I mean, he is the coach of this mega-death-star-destroyer.

Evan Dammarell — Erik Spoelstra, Miami Heat

Normally Brad Stevens would be the perennial front-runner for this award, but now he has one of the best rosters in the league and has a much easier coaching job compared to a few seasons ago. Instead, the Coach of the Year award should go to Miami Heat coach Erik Spoelstra, who squeezes every last ounce of talent and potential out of his team. I mean, the guy was able to turn Dion Waiters into a solid NBA player and helped turn lots of undrafted prospects into a solid core for Miami’s future.

Devon Haripal — Brad Stevens, Boston Celtics

If the Celtics are able to best the Cavaliers for the No. 1 spot in the East come playoff time, Brad Stevens wins Coach of the Year. It’s that simple. Stevens should have won the award last season, this year it’s his.

Jason Hynson — Brad Stevens, Boston Celtics

I don’t see their record improving like you normally see with COTY winners, but with all their new pieces, and even two new main guys, I think when people see how they’re still a good team despite almost an entire turnover from the year before he’ll win it.

Sam Macey — Brad Stevens, Boston Celtics

Pop is still the G.O.A.T. and should win every year, but Stevens has a chance to assemble a rare mix of talented/ready youth alongside very talented/experienced stars. They should walk to 55 wins if no injuries occur - but they are thin up front.

Erik Judd — Gregg Popovich, San Antonino Spurs 

I’m going to take a big risk and predict the best coach of this generation will take home the trophy, that he almost certainly couldn’t care less about. Pop gonna Pop, ya’ll.

Mike Muskett — Brad Stevens, Boston Celtics

If he takes the Celtics to the No. 1 seed two years in a row, with different personnel, he has to be in serious consideration for the award. Stevens is already generally regarded as one of the top coaches in the league.

Kevin Nye — Brad Stevens, Boston Celtics

Not that many coaches in the NBA actually “coach,” most of them manage egos and talents. Brad Stevens does both and he does both exceptionally well.

Kevin So — Mike D’Antoni, Houston Rockets

In an extremely tough West, D’Antoni will continue to increase the pace with new addition Chris Paul, leading to a top-notch and incredibly watchable team. With all of the major moves, D’Antoni will have the easiest time integrating Paul, and the team will be running on all cylinders out of the gate.

Who makes the All-NBA First Team?

George Ayad — Russell Westbrook, James Harden, LeBron James, Kawhi Leonard, Anthony Davis

All of these players really don't need much explanation, but considering the tall task that lies ahead for all of them, with the exception of LeBron, they will all need to be at their absolute best.

Jordan Christmas — Stephen Curry, James Harden, LeBron James, Kevin Durant, DeAndre Jordan (by default)

It feels like going chalk, but Russell Westbrook won’t average a triple-double again, and Jordan will be on a good Clippers (if healthy) team. The Boogie and Brow experiment in Nola implodes, and Utah takes a step back giving Rudy Gobert less steam.

Evan Dammarell — Russell Westbrook, James Harden, Kawhi Leonard, LeBron James, Anthony Davis

Nothing will really change from last year’s All-NBA First Team since the majority of the players on here are playing on even better teams this season. Anthony Davis is the only question mark on the team if his Pelicans are unable to make the playoffs in a tightly contested Western Conference.

Devon Haripal — Stephen Curry, James Harden, Kawhi Leonard, LeBron James, Rudy Gobert

Everything is chalky except the Rudy Gobert pick. Anthony Davis may put up greater scoring numbers than Rudy Gobert, but that’s not where his true value lies. I’m a huge proponent of rewarding defensive-minded players, and with Gordon Hayward out in Utah, Rudy Gobert finally gets his name in the conversation of All-NBA First Team. After all, who are we going to be talking about from Utah?

Jason Hynson — Stephen Curry, James Harden, LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Anthony Davis

No explanation really necessary for this. These are the 5 best players in the NBA right now, and they deserve their spots.

Erik Judd — Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, LeBron James, Kawhi Leonard, James Harden

Russell slips a bit from his MVP campaign and it’s enough to knock him back to the second team and bring Steph back into the fold. You might notice I don’t have a traditional big on this list, and I think it’s because there won’t be one on the NBA’s 1st team.

Sam Macey — Russell Westbrook, Stephen Curry, LeBron James, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Anthony Davis

I typed and re-typed this 14 times. It doesn’t feel right leaving Kawhi and Kevin Durant off, but I think Russ becomes more efficient and OKC wins more games than last season. Durant probably makes it in over Giannis and should make it in over Davis, but alas...

Mike Muskett — Stephen Curry, James Harden, Kawhi Leonard, Nikola Jokic, Karl Anthony-Towns

Kevin Nye — John Wall, James Jarden, Kevin Durant, LeBron James, Karl Anthony-Towns

No big surprises, but Towns is a monster. The guy averaged 28 points, 13 rebounds and shot 43 percent on threes after the All-Star break last year. Having another weapon at his side and a better team? If he adds shot-blocking to his repertoire, this is a monster.

Kevin So — Stephen Curry, James Harden, Kevin Durant, LeBron James, Anthony Davis

Put Curry here instead of Westbrook because I have to see that OKC team first. Anthony Davis gets the nod over KAT because he’ll have less sharing to do and eyebrows.

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