The 2017-18 NBA season doesn’t officially tip off until mid-October. So, we Fadeaway World can only use our NBA knowledge to make educated speculations on how this season is going shape out. There are 30 NBA teams as you know, but only 7 awards for us to predict. 6 are merits for individual achievement, while only 1 team will win it all and hold that Larry O’Brien trophy in June.
Just like any other season much of the league’s landscape has changed. Teams got better and so did certain players who aim to their skills to a whole other level. Role players can become starter level players if given the chance to shine. Starter level players can become stars if they made improvements to their game during the off-season. Stars can become superstars if they become an engine that makes their team go. That is what separates the franchise players from another All-Star. It’s in the body of work. Just remember that effort elevates.
Now that the motivational intro is over, here is how the NBA award winners should shake out this season.
Rookie of the Year: Ben Simmons (76ers)
Let’s start out small with the award of the newcomers. The Rookie of the Year award race should be competitive as ever this season. The 2017 draft class pegs to be one of the most stacked draft classes in years. Last year we saw a second round steal in Malcolm Brogdon of the Milwaukee Bucks take the award home. This year I am banking on a rookie named Ben Simmons of the Philadelphia 76ers to trust the process on his path to snatching this award. What gives him the edge in this race will be all mentally. You need to know what to expect to truly find yourself and your game in this league. Ben Simmons spent all of the last season sidelined due to injury. He still got to experience what the talent level is in the NBA by having an up-close seat.
Ben Simmons projects to be a poor man's LeBron and the jump shot will come along. How can you not bet on that potential and just ride with it? Simmons is more prepared than any of these incoming rookies will ever be to make that adjustment to the NBA. It doesn’t hurt that he hit a growth spurt over the off-season and is now about 7 ft tall. I expect him to average about 15 ppg, 8 rpg, and 6 apg along with 1.5 spg and 1.6 bpg for good measure. Efficiency will be an issue for most rookies, but if he sticks to his game and avoids jacking up bad shots, he will be more than fine.
I feel like all this Markelle Fultz and Lonzo Ball hype made everybody forget that Ben Simmons is a rookie too and projects to be a stud as well. It is a shame, but they’ll know who he is once the season is well underway.
Runner-Up: Lonzo Ball (Lakers)
Most Improved Player: Clint Capela (Rockets)
Ask DeAndre Jordan how it felt to play with a playmaker like Chris Paul? It elevated his offensive game tremendously. Clint Capela is already a much-underrated rim protector and as a defender overall. Now, Clint Capela has two of the top 5 playmakers in the league feeding him in the post and lobbing passes into his airspace. As Shaq would say the others are “BBQ Chicken”. I already felt that Clint Capela made good strides last season with the Rockets, especially in the 2017 Playoffs. It was a small sample size through 11 games, but the big man averaged 10.5 ppg, 8.7 rpg, and 2.5 bpg in those 11 games. Assuming, that he improved on his game even more in the off-season has to be taken into consideration too.
That body of work in the off-season coupled with the added elite playmaker in Chris Paul should greatly improve Clint Capela’s stock as a player. Don’t overthink it too much. It’s the Chris Paul effect. Capela should average a nice double-double at 13.3 ppg, 11.3 rpg, and 2.2 bpg on 60% shooting. This should make the MIP award in the bag for the man from Switzerland in Clint Capela.
Runner-Up: Dennis Schroder (Hawks)
Defensive Player of the Year: Giannis Antetokounmpo (Bucks)
This may be my most long shot prediction of this article. We will see how it pans out. On the other hand, it’s not so crazy when you break it down. Certain players just have this presence or way about them. Call it a full out all-around player. That is what Giannis is, an all-around player minus a good perimeter shot. The Greek Freak will make his bones in this league, but it will at the defensive side of the ball. His length, defensive prowess, athleticism, and competitiveness will make him an even more standout defender next year. This past season, Antetokounmpo was named to All Defensive 2nd Team.
It wasn’t the obvious defensive tally marks of blocks per game and even steals that helped him maintain good company with the elite defenders in this league. He just doesn’t block shots, he alters them, and he forces opposing players into bad shots. Just call it a “shooting turnover”. Giannis does not just gamble to rack up steals. Giannis is a lockdown defender that can play the passing lanes very well and rotate to be an elite help defender. One that works within the team concept. All these reasons are why I’m betting on the Greek Freak to be adding to his collection of career accolades this season by taking home DPOY.
Runner-Up: Kawhi Leonard (Spurs)
Most Valuable Player: Kawhi Leonard (Spurs)
The first thing I want to say is the Spurs got worse this season. Even if it’s ever so slightly. As of right now, I would peg them as the 3rd best team in the West behind Golden State and Houston. They have an aging nucleus. Luckily, they are building around Kawhi. The best two way player in basketball. I expect the Spurs to lean on Kawhi Leonard more this year. More than they ever have. The value of Kawhi Leonard to the San Antonio Spurs cannot be overstated. He has finished in the Top 3 in the last 2 seasons for the award respectively. Losing out to Stephen Curry (2016) and Russell Westbrook (2017) respectfully.
It really isn’t just the age argument for the foreshadowing of the Spurs slight decline. It’s the unknown of their latest injuries. We saw a noticeable decline in LaMarcus Aldridge, Pau Gasol, Tony Parker, and Manu Ginobili last season. It’s likely only going to be a steeper decline going forward. Tony Parker and newly acquired player, Rudy Gay are coming off major injuries. Parker ruptured his left quad tendon and shouldn’t return until the middle of the season. That means Kawhi will have to step up as one of the Spurs main playmakers. Rudy Gay sustained a full rupture of his left Achilles tendon. He is eager to get back, but will he be the same player before the injury? Tough to say. That’s why I’m going all in on 2017-18 being the season of Kawhi Leonard. Stats like 28 ppg, 7 rpg, 5 apg and 2.3 spg on efficient shooting on a Top 3 team in a stacked West should be more than enough for his name to be engraved on that award.
Runner-Up: LeBron James (Cavaliers)
Coach of the Year: Brad Stevens (Celtics)
It’s about time that Brad Steven’s genius coaching skills get the grand recognition that they command. I felt that it was a shame, how he coached the Celtics to the 1st seed and it still wasn’t enough for him to even be nominated for the award, let alone win it. His coaching display went on deaf ears and blind eyes. That Celtics team was expected to be a top 4 team in the East, not a 53 win team and certainly not 1st in the conference. His calm and focused coaching approach is one of the best in the league. Back in 2015, ESPN Staff Writer, Chris Forsberg interviewed with Gregg Popovich after his Spurs narrow win over Brad Steven’s Celtics.
Popovich deeply praised Brad Steven’s coaching style, even admits to taking notes on his style. “I really respect what he does. I'll still watch his Butler tape, trying to learn some stuff he did there, to be honest with you," Popovich said of Stevens after Sunday's game. "I really respect the hell out of him. He's a really fine young coach, great demeanor. His team executes really well, and they're just going to keep getting better. So I enjoy him." That type of praise from arguably the greatest NBA coach ever should speak for itself.
One last thing to consider is how much better the Boston Celtics should be next season. It should be another great back and forth battle between them and Cleveland to see who takes first in the East. The Celtics are going be deep as any team in the league adding an All-Star in Gordon Hayward, a Top pick in Jayson Tatum and solid depth in the frontcourt with Marcus Morris and Aron Baynes. The loss of Avery Bradley stings, but this team got much better.
Runner-Up: Tom Thibodeau (Timberwolves)
NBA Champions: Golden State Warriors
I try to talk myself into the West is tougher crap, but I just can’t. The Warriors got tougher and better too. They may have nabbed one of the biggest draft steals in getting Jordan Bell out of Oregon, who went for a 5x5 game in Las Vegas Summer League. Sure, it is summer league, but he played more than well. They also went onto have a great off-season. They retained most of their core. Their superstar, Kevin Durant decided to sign on for less money. Allowing Golden State to maintain the chokehold that they currently have in the whole league. They bolstered their bench by adding two dead eye shooters in Omri Casspi, and Nick Young.
This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t watch this NBA season and we should just skip to the NBA finals. No, this off-season was crazy and the NBA is where amazing happens. This is the era of Super Teams. It takes 3 or 4 stars to win a Championship now. You are either competing with Golden State or you are not competing. At end of the day, it is still a loaded West, but I’m putting my bets on a more improved Warriors team.
Finals MVP: Stephen Curry (Warriors)
When will people give Stephen Curry his due as one of the greats in this game? He is more than a shooter. Curry honestly could’ve been Finals MVP this year, he averaged a near triple-double in the finals, but Kevin Durant was just a bit more impactful. There is no reason to say that Curry can’t improve on that performance or simply maintain it. I believe this will be the finals, where Curry finally delivers as the best player in the series.
Yes, the Warriors have KD, but if the best shooter on the planet is in rhythm, would let him take the wheel of the offense? I am sure Kevin Durant doesn’t mind being a sidekick if it’s for the better of the team. If Curry is more on than Durant. They’ll go to Curry and play through him more. Next June will be the moment, where Curry shuts the haters up once and for all. Curry is probably the 2nd most hated player in the NBA and honestly, it’s completely unwarranted. Time for Curry to show the world just how good he can be on the grandest stage in the NBA Finals.
Overall, it should be an amazing season. One for the ages. Be sure to be right here at Fadeaway World as we break it down, piece by piece. Have a blessed day!