The season is way too young, but let’s make some NBA Awards predictions. It’s never too early to speculate.
Many months lay ahead, but here is who to watch now.
Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks
The Greek Freak, Milwaukee’s Best, the man known as Giannis. This 22 year old stretch Armstrong is averaging 33 points a game, and has the highest player efficiency rating (PER) in the history of the NBA. PER is the culmination of all your stats, subtracting the negatives against the positives. Michael Jordan has the all-time PER at 27.91, and this season Giannis is at 33.6. Of course this will slow as the year progresses, but it’s still remarkable. The future of the NBA is a seven-footer who plays point guard. Imagine this guy at 30.
Rookie of the Year
Ben Simmons, Philadelphia 76ers
Boston’s Jayson Tatum may nip, but this is Simmons’ award to win. He’s technically a second-year player, missing last year to injury, but this Aussie is as good as advertised. Much like the Greek Freak, Ben Simmons is a 6’ 10 giant who plays point guard. And if center Joel Embiid can stay healthy until the playoffs, I’d expect the 76ers to be heard from. This is the culmination of “the process”, a five-year long strategy of intentionally losing to get draft picks. So far it’s been worth the wait.
Defensive Player of the Year
DeMarcus Cousins, New Orleans Pelicans
There is a beast down in the Big Easy, and his name is Boogie. DeMarcus Cousins is electrifying, and statistically thriving alongside Anthony Davis. He’s averaging 13.7 rebounds, 2 assists and 2 blocks a game. Not to mention 29 points. If there was ever a player whose reputation outweighed his talent, it’s Cousins. Somehow he gets lost in the conversation, but there is no better true big man in the NBA. I hope New Orleans can be competitive, because his unique skill set deserves to be seen.
Most Improved Player
Eric Gordon, Houston Rockets
Eric Gordon is an absolute baller in Houston. He’s a quick-release shooter, who can push into defenses with the aggression of a running back. Last year Gordon ran away with 6th man of the year, and this year he’s increased his scoring average by almost 7, to 23 points per game. All while sharing the backcourt with James Harden. He and Harden are the future of the Rockets, and a top three backcourt in the NBA. Keeping these two happy will be the key to Houston’s playoff run, not Chris Paul. If there is a knock on Gordon and the Rockets, it’s defense. But Houston is unapologetically an offensive team, and Gordon is still on the way up.
Lou Williams, Los Angeles Clippers
This is one of the trickier awards to predict, with the stipulation that a Sixth Man of the Year must play more games coming off the bench than with the starting lineup. Slumps and injuries will constantly take players in and out of contention, but Lou Williams is my leader here. He’s averaging 14 points and 4 assists, statistically not mind blowing, but the Clippers will rely on him heavily when it counts. He’s like inserting a can of Red Bull into the game, dazzling and impossible to guard in spurts. When it’s on the line, you want Lou with the ball.
Coach of the Year
Frank Vogel, Magic
Okay this is probably going to change significantly, but the Magic are third in the East. With impressive wins over the Spurs and the Cavs, Frank Vogel is getting more out of players like Evan Fornier and Aaron Gordon than anyone ever has. I’d love to see the Magic make a run. They are a fun, young team. Made of up and coming talents like Nikola Vucevic and Jonathan Simmons. Orlando may have its’ work laid out, but thanks to Frank Vogel, likely to make the jump sooner than later.