With the NBA regular season on the horizon and the Preseason winding down, it is time to take a look at who won the NBA Preseason Awards. All honors are the same as those given out at the end of the regular season. You won’t see these awards given out anywhere else except for here at Fadeaway World.
The following players and coach, have all had standout NBA Preseason’s and deserve to have their level of play highlighted. Please note that Sixth Man of the Preseason was not included as lineups and rotations are always changing and players have less defined roles.
Coach Of The Preseason: Tom Thibodeau, Minnesota Timberwolves
Coach Tom Thibodeau is leading the resurgence of the Minnesota Timberwolves and he is off to a good start. In six preseason games so far, Minnesota currently sits tied for third in the Western Conference with four wins and two losses. Thibodeau was brought in at the end of last season to help improve the defensive side of the game for Minnesota, who ranked 28th in the league in defensive efficiency in 2015.
In the team’s six preseason games so far, the young Timberwolves rank 10th in steals per game and rebounds per game and rank third in blocks per game. It comes as no surprise to see Minnesota’s defensive play rise under Coach Thibodeau and, if the Timberwolves can continue to improve defensively they might even find themselves in the hunt for a playoff spot come April.
Two players who seem to be benefiting the most from coach Thibodeau’s defensive mindset are second-year phenom Karl-Anthony Towns and stellar Rookie, Kris Dunn. It is worth noting that in a recent survey of General Managers conducted by the NBA, Thibodeau was voted by 60% of GM’s as the coach with the best defensive schemes and voted by 78% of GM’s as the most likely new or relocated coach who will make the biggest impact this season.
Defensive Player Of The Preseason: Hassan Whiteside, Miami Heat
Runner Up(s): Andre Drummond, Detroit Pistons & Matt Barnes, Sacramento Kings
After being considered by many as the real 2015-16 Defensive Player Of The Year Whiteside, is the 2016-17 Defensive Player Of The Preseason. The 27-year-old big man currently leads the league in Blocks with 2.8 per game and ranked second in Rebounds per game with 12.
There is no doubt that Whiteside’s rim protection and interior presence will anchor the Miami Heat defense this coming season. It would come as no shock to see Hassan Whiteside be crowned the NBA’s official Defensive Player Of The Year this coming spring. Now that Dwyane Wade has left, Chris Bosh is medically unable to play and Goran Dragic is at the center of recent trade rumors, Hassan Whiteside will be THE GUY in Miami this year and his play, along with his numbers will most definitely increase as well.
Whiteside, however, was not the runaway winner of this award. Detroit Pistons Center Andre Drummond and Sacramento Kings Veteran Matt Barnes were also close runner ups to Whiteside. The deciding factor in crowning Whiteside Defensive Player Of The Preseason was the fact that he was ranked top two in two major defensive categories. The numbers simply never lie.
Rookie Of The Preseason: Buddy Hield, New Orleans Pelicans
Very close Runner Up: Jamal Murray, Denver Nuggets
Choosing Buddy Hield over Jamal Murray was a very tough decision however, it all came down to numbers and percentages. Although Jamal Murray is currently ahead of Buddy Hield in Assists and Rebounds per game among rookies, Hield had statistically better averages in fewer games played. While Murray has averaged 12.1 points on 37.8 percent shooting, 3.6 assists and 4 rebounds per game in 7 games played, Buddy Hield is averaging 12.8 points on 43 percent shooting, 3 rebounds and 2 assists per game in 5 games played.
Buddy Hield also has more Made Field Goal Attempts per game as well. Many scouts were wary of their General Managers drafting Hield due to the fact that he decided to play all four years in college and is already 22. Currently, it seems as though Hield’s transition to the NBA is going just fine. The young Guard already finds himself as New Orleans’ third-leading scorer in the preseason and if he can continue to produce at this rate during the regular season he may end up being a key piece for the Pelicans as they try to make a run at making the playoffs.
In the recent survey of NBA General Managers Hield was voted by 13% of the league’s GM’s to win Rookie Of The Year honors this season. That put him second behind Timberwolves Guard Kris Dunn whom which, Hield has averaged better numbers than so far in the preseason.
Most Improved Player Of The Preseason: Devin Booker, Phoenix Suns
Runner Up: Enes Kanter, Oklahoma City Thunder
Let’s get one thing straight, Devin Booker is on the verge of becoming a star. As a Rookie in 2015 Booker averaged 13.8 points, 2.6 assists and 2.5 rebounds per game. Devin Booker also became the youngest player to ever compete in the Three-Point Contest, at just 19 years of age and was named to the 2016 NBA All-Rookie First Team.
Fast forward to the 2016 Preseason now where Booker is averaging 21.5 Points, 3.0 Assists and 3.5 Rebounds per game. Add in a 50 percent shooting percentage and a 95 percent free throw percentage as well. Devin Booker’s breakout game this Preseason came on October 7th when he torched Portland for 34 points on 65 percent shooting in an eventual loss. If the young star can continue to keep up his sharp shooting and absolute offensive dominance the Phoenix Suns may have found themselves a new star player and also, a future All-Star.
When February rolls around it is more likely that the 19-year-old makes a return to the Three-Point Contest, however, never say never to Booker becoming an All-Star this year. When the young guard first came into the NBA many thought his young age and level of maturity would keep him from becoming a star but now, after proving many doubters wrong it truly is the Devin Booker show in Phoenix. After his strong Preseason play, Booker is now a prime candidate to win the official NBA Most Improved Player Award in April.
Thunder big Enes Kanter has been averaging 17.8 points and 9 rebounds a game, however, Booker wins here because of consistent play against NBA level talent and statistical dominance. Kanter was the early favorite for Most Improved Player after he scored 24 and 29 points against some of the top-level European talents, however, his high scoring and play seemed to drop significantly against NBA level talent.
Most Valuable Player Of The Preseason: James Harden, Houston Rockets
Runner Up: Devin Booker, Phoenix Suns
After years of waiting for James Harden is finally the NBA MVP, at least of the 2016-17 Preseason. Harden has been playing phenomenal averaging 20 points, 10 assists and 6 rebounds per game, in 6 games played. It seems that every year James Harden is always raising his level of play.
In a year where the top MVP Candidates coming into the season are Russell Westbrook, Steph Curry, and even Paul George, if Harden can continue this level of dominance for 82 games, the bearded one is a legitimate threat to win Most Valuable Player Honors. One area of Harden’s game that has always been criticized is his defense or lack thereof.
Currently, in the preseason, Harden is averaging 1 steal and 5.7 defensive rebounds per game. 1 steal, of course, does not make James Harden an instant defensive threat, however, the increase in defensive rebounds does show that the effort is in fact there. Harden will also most likely represent the Western Conference at the All-Star Game in New Orleans this February and will once again look to take a somewhat new look Houston Rockets to the Postseason.
The early play of James Harden is not only entertaining to watch but, makes for an MVP chase that could be unlike any we have ever seen before. It may only be October however, the competition for one of the NBA’s most illustrious honors is already heating up.
*Statistics are as of October 21st, 2016*