The 2017 NBA offseason was certainly one for the record books, and now, the regular season is right around the corner. Despite LeBron James being questionable to play in the opener, the new-look Cleveland Cavaliers will host the Kyrie Irving-led Boston Celtics on Tuesday, October 17. Following that, everyone will witness an early season matchup between the reigning champs and possibly the second-best team in the West, the Houston Rockets. Regardless, all the superstars that changed teams this summer will be competing for the same goal, an opportunity to take down the Golden State Warriors. Here are my predictions for the regular season awards, as we approach the calm before the storm.
Most Valuable Player: Kawhi Leonard, San Antonio Spurs
Perhaps the least emotional player in all of the NBA, Leonard epitomizes Gregg Popovich basketball with his undeniable heart and relentless effort on both sides of the floor. With all the blockbuster moves this offseason, the Spurs look even less sexy than they did a year ago. Still, we all know they will be right there come playoff time. Leonard’s two-way stardom, coupled with the lack of superstar talent surrounding him, will make him appealing as an MVP candidate at season’s end.
Runner-up: Kevin Durant, Golden State Warriors
Rookie of the Year: Dennis Smith Jr., Dallas Mavericks
Dennis Smith Jr.’s summer league performances caught the eye of every basketball fan. His athleticism and decision-making shows you that he is ready for what the league has to offer. The sexy pick here would be Lonzo Ball, but truth be told, Smith will have more opportunity to truly shine in Dallas. Ball has a plethora of young talent around him, which means he will make mistakes. Smith is on a roster full of veterans that will guide him to the award.
Runner-up: Lonzo Ball, Los Angeles Lakers
Defensive Player of the Year: Draymond Green, Golden State Warriors
There’s really not much to say here. Draymond Green is widely considered the best defensive player in the league. He’s able to focus heavily on the defensive end of the floor with Steph, KD, and Klay making up for his offensive deficiencies. Kawhi Leonard could be a candidate for this award, but he also has the responsibility of being the go-to scorer for San Antonio, which could hurt his chances.
Runner-up: Rudy Gobert, Utah Jazz
Sixth Man of the Year: Jamal Crawford, Minnesota Timberwolves
Yes, Jamal Crawford is 37 years old, which is ancient for a professional athlete. However, Crawford has come off the bench for a majority of his career and hasn’t sustained the kind of minutes that most starters do; therefore, he has more tread left on his tires, so to speak. He will be the primary scorer for the second team in Minnesota, a team that will be much improved this season. Look for the veteran to make an immediate impact for the rising Wolves.
Runner-up: Lou Williams, Los Angeles Clippers
Coach of the Year: Tom Thibodeau, Minnesota Timberwolves
My list is littered with Timberwolves, because well, they made some big changes this offseason. A young core of Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins looked promising, but after another sub-500 season, it was time to make a splash. Through trades and free agent signing, Minnesota was able to acquire Crawford, Jimmy Butler, and Taj Gibson. Tom Thibodeau is a defensive coach that will instill the right qualities into this team. Minnesota will make the playoffs for the first time since 2004, ending the longest active drought in the NBA.
Runner-up: Brad Stevens, Boston Celtics
Executive of the Year: Sam Presti, Oklahoma City Thunder
Much like Draymond winning DPOY, there isn’t much explanation needed for this selection. Sam Presti should be commended regardless of how the Thunder perform this season. After losing KD last offseason, he had to watch Russell Westbrook struggle his way to a 6-seed in the West. Sure, Russ won MVP and broke records, but it was clear that OKC needed some more help. So, what did Presti do? He traded for Paul George and Carmelo Anthony, and in one of the most underrated moves of the summer, he acquired Patrick Patterson to add depth to the roster. Once again, Presti has put the Thunder in a position to succeed. Now, it’s up to his players to execute.
Runner-up: Scott Layden, Minnesota Timberwolves
Most Improved Player: Andrew Wiggins, Minnesota Timberwolves
Yet another Minnesota name on the list, Andrew Wiggins has shown All-NBA talent early in his career, but his defensive woes have been way too obvious to overlook. He just received a max contract extension to the tune of $148 million, so it is time for him to take his game to another level. Butler and Gibson used to place for the tough-minded Thibodeau, so having them on the squad should help Wiggins improve defensively. Plus, they can help make up for some of his defensive mistakes. He may be the third option in Minnesota now, but I believe he will excel as a result and will end up having his best season yet.
Runner-up: Derrick Rose, Cleveland Cavaliers