NBA Awards Predictions: Who’s the frontrunner for MVP, Rookie of the Year, and more

James Harden

James Harden is the leader in the clubhouse for MVP, with a 70 percent chance to win, according to MyTopSportsBooks. (Photo by Issac Baldizon/NBAE via Getty Images)

The NBA season is heading into the stretch run, and, as sad as that may have been to type, that means it’s time to get serious about who’s going to win each of the major postseason awards.

Who’s going to come out of this wildly entertaining season with hardware?

Check out our predictions, with NBA awards odds according to MyTopSportsbooks:

MVP: James Harden, Houston Rockets. 1/3 (75%)

The Bearded One is our leader in the clubhouse, with his league-leading 31.3 ppg and 9 assists per, which trails only Russell Westbrook. The Rockets entered the All-Star break with the league’s best record at 44-13, and with Chris Paul having missed 18 games, much of the credit for that can be given to Harden.

Since Mike D’Antoni re-imagined who he could be as a player, casting aside the ball-hogging, 1-on-1-reliant, flopping (though he still does some of that) head-down,-nose-to-the-basket 2-guard, and introduced this generous, long-range sniping, can’t-even-double-’em offensive wizard, Harden’s career has completely transformed.

He’s now in the conversation among the very best players in the world, and this year, we think he deserves MVP honors. The other top contenders either haven’t had enough team success (LeBron James), or have too much help around them as compared to Harden (Kevin Durant, Steph Curry. That’s what you get when you team up like that). As long as Harden stays in the top three in both scoring and assists and his team anchors itself in one of the top two spots in the West, we think this award is Harden’s to lose.

Donovan Mitchell

The slam dunk champ has produced plenty of in-game highlights this year, and we think enough to surpass Ben Simmons to earn the award as top rook. (Photo: Adam Fondren/Deseret News)

Rookie of the Year: Donovan Mitchell, Utah Jazz. 2/1 (33%)

Alright, so technically, Ben Simmons (16.4 ppg, 7.8 rpg, 7.3 apg) is a rookie, and statistically-speaking, he’s having one of the greatest debut seasons of all time. Still, we think he’ll be hurt by the fact that this is his second year on an NBA roster.

Simmons has been beastly, but Mitchell (19.6 ppg, 3.5 apg, 3.5 rpg) has played better than anyone would have imagined. He’s only picking up steam after winning the dunk contest, and the Jazz entered the break having won a league-best 11 straight games.

We think those two factors, combined with a strong finish from Mitchell, could sway the award in his favor.

Coach of the Year: Mike D’Antoni, Houston Rockets. 5/1 (16.67%)

Yes, D’Antoni won the award last year, and yes, there are a number of other deserving candidates, like Boston’s Brad Stevens and Toronto’s Dwyane Casey. Still, we’re taking D’Antoni because his impact on the Rockets, and the rest of the league, has been profound. No team in history has played quite like Houston does, spreading the court, pushing the pace to breakneck levels and launching 3’s at will.

They’ve got the best record in the league to show for it, have beaten Golden State two out of three times in the regular season, and we think they’ve got a real shot to dethrone the Dubs come springtime. The Coach of the Year will be voted on before then, of course, and it’s likely voters won’t give D’Antoni honors in back-to-back years, but they should. His innovative system has Houston in position to challenge the best team we’ve seen in two decades, and a blueprint for other teams on how to attack them.

Most Improved Player: Victor Oladipo, Indiana Pacers. 2/5 (71.4%)

There are a bunch of contenders for this award, but Oladipo has separated himself from the field. He credits his one year in Oklahoma City and Russell Westbrook for showing him exactly what it took to be successful in this league–and he’s flourished after finding the answer. He’s always been an athletic freak, but this season, Oladipo has developed that Indiana-sweet, Jimmy Chitwood jumper, and he’s shooting a career-high 48.4 percent from the field.

He’s also putting up 24.4 points, 5.3 boards and 4.1 dimes per, and is the main reason why Indiana sits fifth in the Eastern Conference, at 33-25 heading into the break.

Sixth Man of the Year: Lou Williams, L.A. Clippers.  4/5 (55.6%)

Sweet Lou has been the Clips’ best player, and should have been an All-Star. The 10-year-vet and perennial Sixth Man award contender is having the best season of his career, averaging 23.3 points and 5.3 assists while shooting 44% from the floor.  He put up 50 against the Dubs earlier this year, and even earned himself a three-year, $24 million contract extension (which may or may not have been wise after the Clips traded Blake Griffin). He’s easily earned honors as the league’s best bench man this year.


Also see:

Why Chris Webber deserves to be in the Basketball Hall of Fame, plus who else should get in

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