You might be thinking that it’s way too early to be making any predictions for the upcoming NBA season. We disagree.
Two of our staff writers, Jared Knugle (JK) and Nicholas Tozier (NT), present their case for some of the NBA hardware winners for the 2014-15 season.
Coach of the Year:
JK: Tom Thibodeau
Take a look at what Tom was able to do with a team which had little-to-no scoring ability last season. The Chicago Bulls still managed to get the 5th seed in the Eastern Conference. Now, add in a healthy Derrick Rose along side veteran PF Pau Gasol, and the Bulls look like a top team in the East.
NT: David Blatt
So, Tozier decided to pick a rookie to win the Coach of the Year in the NBA this season, huh? Well, call me crazy, but more often than not this award goes to one of the teams with the best regular season record. I believe that the top seed in the Eastern Conference could very well be the Cleveland Cavaliers.
My fellow staff writer explains that the addition of Gasol and return of Rose is too much for the rest of the East; however, the Cavs added the best player on the planet! And while Chicago did draft college sharp-shooter Doug McDermott, they did not add to their bench the way Cleveland has–with Mike Miller, James Jones and Shawn Marion (plus a rumored Ray Allen signing could happen soon). Which is more likely: Derrick Rose returns to his MVP-caliber self from years ago or LeBron returns to his MVP-caliber play from… right this second?
Cavs win the East. Blatt gets absolutely no credit the entire season, until this award is handed out. Book it.
Most Improved Player:
JK: Anthony Bennett
I know what you are thinking right now. You think Anthony Bennett was a bust, but I am here to tell you that you’re wrong.
Bennett started the last season with an injured shoulder. When he SLOWLY started to get things on the right track he was sidelined with yet another injury. So, can Anthony Bennett improve this season? He is with a team with plenty of young potential–it’s his time he show the league what he is truly capable of.
The “Greek Freak” has received a lot of press this offseason, mostly for his massive growth spurt that has turned him into a 6’11″ player with a 7’4″ wingspan. Listed as a SG/SF last season, and currently listed as a C(enter) by NBA.com, he actually ran the point for the Milwaukee Bucks Summer League team in Las Vegas–averaging 17 ppg, 5.8 rpg, 1.8 apg, 1 spg, and 1 bpg.
Last season he averaged 6.8 ppg, 4.4 rpg, and 1.9 apg… assuming he gets an uptick in minutes played (he could start at SG or SF or be the team’s Sixth Man), I think he can improve to the tune of 14 ppg, 7 rpg, and 4 apg. Add these numbers to the highlight reels he’ll appear on this season and he’ll take this award back to Milwaukee.
Sixth Man of the Year:
JK: Isaiah Thomas
I was confused when the Phoenix Suns signed Isaiah Thomas this off season–they already have two great young PGs in Eric Bledsoe (assuming he re-signs) and Goran Dragic (not to mention they drafted Tyler Ennis from Syracuse). Thomas deserves to be a starter in this league, but with the talent the Phoenix Suns currently have it looks like he will be spending most of his time coming off the bench.
NT: Anthony Morrow
The one knock on the Oklahoma City Thunder going into the postseason was that their stars held the ball too much, largely in part to a lack of perimeter shooters to space the floor–enter Anthony Morrow.
Morrow, a lethal spot up shooter, gives the Thunder the player they lost when former Sixth Man SG Kevin Martin left the team via free agency before last season. To be honest, I love Morrow to win the Most Improved Player this year (if he starts at SG); however, he may be relegated to coming off of the bench (Reggie Jackson could still start at SG due to Morrow’s complete lack of defense skills).
Give Morrow five-to-six 3PT attempts per game in OKC, and assume he hits on a career norm of 50%, you have a 9 ppg scorer without any 2PT attempts or FTs. The people choosing the Sixth Man of the Year have recently rewarded the following players with the award in the past 10 years– Ben Gordon, Mike Miller, Leandro Barbosa, Manu Ginobli, Jason Terry, Jamal Crawford (twice), Lamar Odom, James Harden and J.R. Smith–all of whom are one-dimensional scorers (like my boy, Morrow).
Rookie of the Year:
JK: Jabari Parker
Lets be honest, the Bucks aren’t the best team in the NBA. Matter of fact, they are probably one of the worst teams in the Association. Put a great young rookie on one of the worst teams in the NBA and he’ll have a good chance to win Rookie of the Year. Jabari will bring the ability to score with him to Milwaukee, he also has some other young talent around him so his assist numbers may be up there. With Jarabi Parker, and the other talent Milwaukee has, the Bucks will be better in no time.
NT: Andrew Wiggins
Lets be honest, the (Timberwolves) aren’t the best team in the NBA. Matter of fact, they are probably one of the worst teams in the Association. Put a great young rookie on one of the worst teams in the NBA and he’ll have a good chance to win Rookie of the Year. (Wiggins) will bring the ability to score with him to (Minnesota), he also has some other young talent around him so his assist numbers may be up there.
I’ll stop messing around now, but the case JK made for Parker is even more true of Wiggins. And think about this, what does every great scorer need by his side? A man to get him the ball in a good position to score. So, who would you rather have running your point–Brandon Knight (over 15 shot attempts per game last season and 4.9 apg) or Ricky Rubio (8 shot attempts per game and 8.6 apg)?
On top of that, Milwaukee has a “finesse-forward” in their best big (Ersan Ilyasova, 11 ppg and 6 rpg), while Minnesota has the beast known as Nikola Pekovic in their paint (17.4 ppg and 8.7 rpg), so Wiggins has a great PG and C combo around him (plus Kevin Martin)–something Milwaukee can’t claim. Remember, in the Kevin Love deal, Minnesota also secured Anthony Bennett and Thaddeus Young… so this team has some nice supporting pieces all of a sudden.
Defensive Player of the Year:
JK: Serge Ibaka
Ibaka always seems to be in the race for Defensive Player of the Year, but he never seems to win it–even after averaging nearly 3 blocks a game last season. If he can some how find a way to increase his steals he will be a clear cut winner of the Defensive Player of the Year.
NT: Dwight Howard
Serge Ibaka is personally my favorite player in the NBA right now; however, since the 2007-08 season, the men who have secured this award have dominated as rebounders as much (if not more so) than shot blockers. “Iblocka” is the best shot blocker in the NBA, but because he is so good on help defense, he takes himself away from the rim (and possible rebound opportunities) regularly.
Dwight Howard, who won the award in 2008-09/2009-10/2010-11, led the NBA in blocks per game, total rebounds per game, and offensive rebounds per game last season. Joakim Noah, last season’s Defensive Player of the Year, only averaged 1.5 bpg last season–well behind Howard’s 2.8 bpg (as well as Ibaka with 2.5 bpg… which tied for second in the league). Give me Dwight Howard.
Most Valuable Player:
JK: LeBron James
LeBron is back in the city of Cleveland with one goal–to bring a championship to a city that has been starving for one for decades. Not only will LeBron push himself to be the best player he can possibly be, he will also push his other teammates who have no idea what the playoffs feel like. With LeBrons leadership, and his all-around ability to play the game of basketball, he seems like a good choice to put as the MVP.
NT: Kevin Durant
In the NBA, as I just proved with the Defensive Player of the Year Award, it isn’t always about statistics as much as it is about “feel”. KD is the best scorer in the NBA, because he needs to be for the Oklahoma City Thunder to make a run at the title. This team is currently constructed with two of the top four scorers in the NBA last season– Durant (#1 at 29.6 ppg) and Russell Westbrook (#4 at 26.7 ppg). LeBron James will have Kyrie Irving, Dion Waiters, James Jones, Shawn Marion, Tristan Thompson and even Anderson Varejao to chip in… KD… not so much.
Besides, Kevin Durant’s MVP acceptance speech… right?
We want to hear what you think… do you agree or disagree with these picks? Have a sleeper you want to share? Comment below or hit us up on Facebook.