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[column size=”1/3″]Nate Timmons[/column]
[column size=”1/3″]Harrison Wind[/column]
[column size=”1/3″]Kalen Deremo[/column]
Most Valuable Player:
Nate’s Pick: James Harden
If the Rockets want to duplicate the success they had last season, then it’ll be up to Harden to again put this team on his back. While he has plenty of help in teammates like Dwight Howard, Ty Lawson, Trevor Ariza, Clint Capela, Terrence Jones and Donatas Motiejunas, Harden is still the engine that allows this sports car of a team to go. If Harden puts up more eye-popping stats like his 27.4 points, 7.0 assists, 5.7 rebounds and 10.2 free throw attempts (86.8 percent from the foul line), it’ll be hard to deny The Beard MVP honors.
Harrison’s Pick: Anthony Davis
Not only did Davis led the league in PER last season, but he also became one of just seven players in league history to notch a PER over 30. The crazy thing is, Davis just might be scratching the surface. Enter Alvin Gentry, who has had his fingerprints all over innovative offenses in Phoenix during the 2000’s and Golden State this past season, and Davis just might eclipse the historical numbers he put up last year.
Kalen’s Pick: Anthony Davis
Though most every year the NBA’s Most Valuable Player award lands in hands of the “best player on the best team,” 2015-16 is bound to alter this trend thanks to the maturation of Davis. The Pelicans won’t be that good but Davis looks poised to put up such eye-popping numbers that voters will be forced to recognize his excellence by awarding him MVP.
Defensive Player of the Year:
Nate’s Pick: Anthony Davis
Davis should see more minutes at center this season under Gentry, who understands the benefits of small ball from his time with the Suns and Warriors. This award can have big man bias and Davis’ block numbers have been on the rise since coming into the league (1.8, 2.8, 2.9) and this award can be all about the blocks and steals (1.3 steals per game career average) – both of which Davis can claim in bunches and should help him here.
Harrison’s Pick: Rudy Gobert
He was the best rim defender last year, according to a variety of different metrics and as the Jazz improve their record as a team, the Steifel Tower will begin to get the recognition he deserves. This team went from a bottom five defensive unit to the best in the second half of the season after they traded away Enes Kanter, and the Jazz should pick up right where they left off again this year. The anchor of what could be a top three defense will be right up there for this award.
Kalen’s Pick: Draymond Green
Again, a near perennial tradition is scheduled to change in the NBA, this time surrounding big men and their favoritism when it comes to being gifted Defensive Player of the Year honors. Last season Kawhi Leonard interrupted a decade-long streak of big men winning the award and I see no reason why that differs this year. The NBA is changing. Small ball is here to stay. Wing defenders are en vogue. And last year’s leader in first-place votes, Draymond Green, is due the recognition he likely deserved in 2014-15.
Coach of the Year:
Nate’s Pick: Kevin McHale
While I’m not picking the Rockets to win the West, McHale should be rewarded for implementing a system that favors 3-pointers, layups and free throws – especially on a team that doesn’t have well-known 3-point shooters besides Harden (and even Harden is known more for being an attacker). Houston doesn’t need to win the West for McHale to be honored at the end season for a job well done with this talented, but big ego team.
Harrison’s Pick: Kevin McHale
I’m picking the Rockets to win the West and if they do, this award should go to McHale. The addition of Lawson adds another component to an already downright scary team to play, joining the rising Capela and Montejunas. Lawson, Harden, Howard and Co. are an enigmatic bunch and although McHale might not be in the top tier of coaches when it comes to X’s and O’s, he knows how to get through to this bunch in a way other coaches might not be able to.
Kalen’s Pick: Jason Kidd
I really like the Bucks, and though I thought I’d never say this, I really like Kidd as a basketball coach — at least at the moment. The Bucks looked fantastic last year in the playoffs giving the Chicago Bulls a run for their money in the first round. They’re a long, defensive-minded squad with a budding superstar (Jabari Parker) and numerous two-way wings who can drive their opponents off the 3-point line in crunch time when it matters most. The addition of Greg Monroe is gonna truly push this team to the next level.
Rookie of the Year:
Nate’s Pick: D’Angelo Russell
I think Emmanuel Mudiay will be right in the mix for ROY, but Russell will get more national exposure with the Lakers. Perhaps I’m jaded from Carmelo Anthony losing this award to LeBron James in 2004, despite the Nuggets making the playoffs that year (Cavaliers missed the playoffs) and Melo putting up equal stats to LBJ.
Harrison’s Pick: Jahlil Okafor
Mudiay has been my pick ever since the draft, but I’m switching to Okafor for a couple of reasons. He’s most likely going to lead rookies in points scored, usually the deciding factor in this race and he plays on the East Coast where that bias somehow, someway still exists. He’s also going to be the focal point of their offense from day one. Mudiay, Russell and Karl-Anthony Towns should all be up there with him though.
Kalen’s Pick: Emmanuel Mudiay
I don’t think any rookie had a better combined Summer League and preseason stint than Mudiay. I’m of course a bit biased here, but I truly think Mudiay is going to be given the playing time and confidence from his head coach to take the Nuggets wherever he can. Voters like maturity and they like winning percentage. Mudiay will likely have the most of both of those among any high-profile rookie by season’s end.
Sixth Man of the Year:
Nate’s Pick: Gerald Green
Looking into my crystal ball, I foresee a Dwyane Wade injury that paves the way for Green to pad his stats before returning to his sixth man role. Green came off the bench for the Suns last season in all but four games and will get to wreck havoc on second units in Miami this season. Green averaged 17.7 points for the Heat in the preseason, and I like his fit on a sleeper team in South Beach.
Harrison’s Pick: Isaiah Thomas
I think the Celtics continue to get better, get the eight seed for a second straight season, and Thomas will be the main reason why. He’s a joy to watch play, along with the rest of that Celtics team, and the fact that he’s probably their go-to scorer at the ends of games puts him over the top for me.
Kalen’s Pick: Andre Igoudala
The high praise for Iguodala will continue from last year’s Finals MVP to this year’s regular-season Sixth Man award. The Warriors will again be one of the best teams in the league and with Davis poised to steal the MVP award from Curry and other teams in position to threaten the Warriors for the best team out West, I think voters will look to award the Warriors for something, and Sixth Man of the Year will likely be it.
Most Improved Player:
Nate’s Pick: Donatas Montejunas
Donuts (as CBS Sports’ Matt Moore calls him) is coming off back surgery that will keep him out of the season opener against the Nuggets, but when he is able to get back on the floor he will be a difference maker for the Rockets as a power forward and small-ball center. The 25-year-old saw a major jump in production last season over his first two seasons in the league. He went from averaging around 13.8 minutes as a rookie and sophomore to 28.7 last season. His points jumped from 5.6 per game to 12.0 last season. He’s a 3-point threat (36.8 percent last year), big body in the post and this should be his coming out party.
Harrison’s Pick: Meyers Leonard
I have a feeling the winner of this award is coming from a Trail Blazers team that has three guys who could take it. I settled on Leonard because I love pick-and-pop centers who can force mismatches. Leonard has a pretty awkward game that will get more aesthetically pleasing once he logs more minutes and becomes more comfortable on the court, once that happens he could really excel.
Kalen’s Pick: C.J. McCollum
I’m in total agreement with Harrison on this one. The Blazers have so many young and talented players on their roster in a position to get ample playing time after their starting-rotation exodus that occurred this summer. There are a lot of candidates for Most Improve Player — including even Damian Lillard — but I think McCollum is the most primed for a breakout season.
Executive of the Year:
Nate’s Pick: Daryl Morey
Another award that seems to have some retroactive leanings, Morey has yet to be honored for any of the work he has done in Houston with that roster. Morey stole Harden from the Thunder and he robbed the Nuggets of Lawson this summer for a first-round pick (Nuggets waived the four players received in the trade at various points over the summer). General managers have to take chances in the NBA, and Morey’s big moves have paid off. Adding a top 15 point guard for a draft pick while not surrendering any key prospects should be enough to give Morey the nod for EOY. Oh, and Morey was able to convince Lawson to make the final year of his deal non-guaranteed… little to no risk in that trade with Denver.
Harrison’s Pick: R.C. Buford
I think the Spurs could struggle out of the gate this year, but close hard and ride that momentum to a deep playoff run. I see them resting Duncan often, freeing up games where LaMarcus Aldridge can revert back to his Portland form and dominate from the elbow. Aldridge was the biggest free agent signing his summer and the Spurs snagged him while also bringing back Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green for below market value and signing David West for practically nothing. Their depth took a hit when they lost Marco Belinelli and Tiago Splitter, two invaluable parts to their regular season success last year, but there’s no doubt in my mind that Kyle Anderson or another Spurs-ey type role player will step in and make a seamless transition to the rotation.
Kalen’s Pick: John Hammond
As I said before, I’m on the Bucks bandwagon. I think Hammond has done an outstanding job of building this team through the draft, while his free-agent signings (Greg Monroe, O.J. Mayo) and trades (Michael Carter-Williams, Greivis Vasquez) have solidified the Bucks as a real threat in the East. But to me, the true sign of a great GM is often not the number of stars they accrue (this usually requires a fair amount of luck); instead, it’s the underrated role players they attain at the back end of the draft and through free agency. Landing Giannis Antetokounmpo, John Henson and Rashad Vaughn in the middle of the first round, and Khris Middleton and Damien Inglis in the second round is just pure genius. Though he may not be as high profile as other candidates, Hammond likely deserves this award as much as anybody.
All-NBA 1st Team
Kalen’s Pick: Stephen Curry, James Harden, LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Anthony Davis
All-NBA 2nd Team
Harrison’s Pick: Chris Paul, James Harden, Kevin Durant, Paul George, Blake Griffin
Kalen’s Pick: Chris Paul, Russell Westbrook, Blake Griffin, Marc Gasol, DeMarcus Cousins
All-NBA 3rd Team
Kalen’s Pick: Kyrie Irving, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, LaMarcus Aldridge, Dwight Howard
All-Rookie 1st Team
Nate’s Pick: D’Angelo Russell, Emmanuel Mudiay, Justice Winslow, Karl-Anthony Towns, Jahlil Okafor
Harrison’s Pick: Emmanuel Mudiay, D’Angelo Russell, Stanley Johnson, Karl-Anthony Towns, Jahlil Okafor
Kalen’s Pick: Emmanuel Mudiay, D’Angelo Russell, Stanley Johnson, Karl-Anthony Towns, Jahlil Okafor
All-Rookie 2nd Team