It’s been a tumultuous off-season…to say the least. Now that things have finally (somewhat) settled down, it’s time for another round of my annual predictions columns. Although last year’s awards didn’t turn out quite like I thought they would, I’m back at it for another round. Here’s what the magic eight-ball came up with for your 2015 NBA awards.
NBA MVP: Kevin Durant, Oklahoma City Thunder
The 2014 NBA MVP, Kevin Durant, has to be the favorite to win the award. For once in his career, LeBron is the clear underdog. While I do think that the next 3-4 years could easily go back and forth between KD and King James, LeBron’s first year in Cleveland will at least start off slow. The chemistry, new coach, and all the hype will take some time getting used to. Meanwhile, Kevin Durant is off in Oklahoma City preparing for another chance at an NBA title.
My dark horse candidate here that I couldn’t quite pull the trigger on is Steph Curry. Under the new coaching regime, I fully expect Curry to have his best year. He proved last year that he could handle a greater percentage of the offensive playmaking, but with an incompetent coach (in terms of offensive), Curry still has potential to fill. Mike Malone was sorely missed when he departed for Sacramento and the front office lit a torch to the coaching staff, which should prove to be a good thing. If Durant to the Wizards talks come up and start being a distraction of their own, I will regret not picking the former Davidson star.
NBA Rookie of the Year: Andrew Wiggins. Minnesota Timberwolves
Wiggins somehow went from an overhyped high school prodigy to an oddly underrated no. 1 overall pick. While I wouldn’t put any money on his future over at William Hill Sports Betting Online, I think Wiggins will succeed in the immediate future. The chip on his shoulder combined with the explosive youth he’s surrounded by in Minnesota—Thad Young, Anthony Bennett, and Zach Lavine—will motivate Wiggins to improve his spotty jumper. It’s tempting to give the Buck’s Jabari Parker the nod here, but Wiggins upside and his situation will give him the edge in Year 1. I could see 18-7-4 from him.
NBA Defensive Player of the Year
The NBA Defensive Player of the Year award is the easiest one of all: James Harden. Type in James Harden Defense into any video or search engine you can find and you will see some of the NBA’s premiere defense on display. There’s no question that the Rockets’ star will finally be recognized for his greatness on the defensive side of the ball.
In all seriousness, though, I think this is the year that one player does break through and win his first DPOY award. Cleveland may have a rocky start, but defense is not something that needs too much scheming. Effort and rotations get you 90 percent of the way there, and David Blatt can cover that. Combine that with his expressed desire to win this award and surrounding offensive talent, and LeBron James finally wins his first Defensive Player of the Year Award.
Most Improved Player of the Year: Anthony Bennett, Minnesota Timberwolves
This is paradoxically both the boldest and the easiest pick of the 2015 NBA awards. On the one hand, Bennett was terrible last year. His future did not look bright when he was throwing bagels all over the stat line for the majority of the year. On the other hand, Bennett was terrible last year. So it makes it that much easier to “improve.”
The trade to the Timberwolves was also a great career move for Bennett, who needs more playing time and less pressure to regain his positive career trajectory. He gave me reasons to be optimistic and then this off-season, I called him out on Twitter for not joining LeBron and Melo in the weight-loss trend…
@NBA @MNTimberwolves Bennett looks like he needs to lose some weight.
— Elijah Abramson (@ElijahAbramson) August 26, 2014
And then this popped up recently.
You’re welcome, T’wolves fans, you can thank me when he wins this award.
Sixth Man of the Year: Jamal Crawford, LA Clippers
I don’t see anything changing in this department from last year to this. Manu Ginobili doesn’t get enough minutes and Jamal Crawford starts on the bench but plays near-starter minutes. I’m taking one of the league’s best raw scorers to become the first NBA player ever to win three Sixth Man of the Year awards.
Coach of the Year: Steve Kerr, Golden State Warriors
I hinted at it a little bit earlier, but I really think that the Warriors made the right decision firing Mark Jackson in favor of Steve Kerr. Well-connected and intelligent, Kerr’s personality also fits well with the Warriors roster that feeds off of great chemistry. The second stringers in the NBA Summer League put Kerr’s offensive potential on display. Put together one of the league’s best defenses with a rejuvenated offense and increasing hype surrounding a good team, and I’m taking the first year coach to win big in 2015.
Executive of the Year
Only one person brought LeBron James, Kevin Love, James Jones, Shawn Marion, and whoever else the Cavs will grab this off-season. It took the great general manager that is LeBron James to pull that off. You don’t have to take my word for it, either.
Lebron James best executive in the NBA!!!
— Isiah Thomas (@iamisiahthomas) August 7, 2014