Early NBA Awards and All-Star Predictions

A week into the new season and the NBA has already offered the level of excitement that fans have come to expect. With still a lot of season still left, a lot will change before awards are handed out. But that doesn’t mean it’s too early to project how players will progress based on what I have seen thus far. Here are my All-Star and end-of-the-year award predictions. All of the rookie awards have links to my pre-draft scouting reports on those players.

MVP: Anthony Davis (Power Forward/Center, New Orleans Pelicans)

Right now, AD is the second best player in the league and the most dominant two-way player. Through four games, he is averaging 27.3 points, 13.3 rebounds, and 4.8 assists a night, with the latter two on pace to blow away his previous season highs. Outside of his 57.1% mark from the three-point line, most of what you see from the Kentucky product is sustainable. With Niko Mirotic (45.8% 3PT) spacing the floor, the Brow has ample space to operate and react to double teams. As long as the Pelicans stay in the playoff hunt and AD stays healthy, this won’t be a hard decision. Though LeBron’s revival of the Lakers will definitely create some debate.

Primary Competitors:

LeBron James (Small Forward, LA Lakers) – 25.8 ppg, 8.6 rpg, 9.2 apg

Kawhi Leonard (Small Forward, Toronto Raptors) – 26.6 ppg, 8.0 rpg, 3.0 apg

 

Defensive Player of the Year: Kawhi Leonard (Small Forward, Toronto Raptors)

Perimeter players have struggled to win this award that has historically gone to rim-protecting bigs. This year I expect Leonard to become the first wing to win three DPOY awards. On a new team, Kawhi looks even better. He’s become an MVP-caliber offensive weapon while continuing to lock down opposing stars. His arrival has made Toronto a contender in the East and he is guiding a top-10 defensive unit. The typical defensive anchors will likely challenge Kawhi.

Primary Competitors:

Rudy Gobert (Center, Utah Jazz) – 12.8 rpg, 1.5 spg, 2.3 bpg

Anthony Davis (Power Forward/Center, New Orleans Pelicans) – 13.3 rpg, 2.5 spg, 3.8 bpg

 

Rookie of the Year: Luka Doncic (Guard, Dallas Mavericks)

Early last year, I said Luka was the best international prospect I had seen and would debate anyone who questioned whether his game would translate to the NBA. I would say he’s adjusting to the speed and physicality just fine. So far he’s averaging 19.6 points, 6.2 rebounds, and 3.8 assists while making 2.6 threes a game. He dropped 22 against Kawhi last night and has been a reliable defender. With so much freedom in Dallas’s offense, he’ll need to take better care of the ball, as he already has 19 turnovers. His aggression has wavered from quarter to quarter, which seems in part due to a lack of peak conditioning. Luka is in a perfect situation to showcase his maturity, playmaking, and craftiness.

Primary Competitors:

DeAndre Ayton (Center, Phoenix Suns) – 16.3 ppg, 10.8 rpg, 3.8 apg

Trae Young (Point Guard, Atlanta Hawks) – 21.5 ppg, 7.5 apg, 3.0 3PM)

 

Most Improved Player: Zach LaVine (Shooting Guard, Chicago Bulls)

If you told me before the season that LaVine’s 4 year, $78 million deal would be a discount, I’d have some doubts. Here we are, five games into the year for an injury-plagued Chicago team, and LaVine (29.8 ppg, 3.4 apg, 42.4% 3PT) has only had one game scoring under 30 points. You can question his defense or even shot selection, but you cannot deny his work ethic. After working his way back from an ACL injury, he looks fully healthy and ready for this breakout year to continue. Lauri Markkanen, Kris Dunn, and the rest of the crew should be back together by the end of the calendar year. If he can stay around the 48/40/80 line that I think he’s capable of, LaVine should be able to be the go-to scorer for this promising young core in Chicago.

Primary Competitors:

Caris LeVert (Shooting Guard, Brooklyn Nets) – 21.0 ppg, 5.2 rpg, 4.0 apg (12.1, 3.7, 4.2 last year)

JaVale McGee (Center, LA Lakers) – 17.2 ppg, 7.0 rpg, 2.8 bpg (4.8, 2.6, 0.9 last year)

 

Sixth Man of the Year: JJ Redick (Shooting Guard, Philadelphia 76ers)

With the decision to give Markelle Fultz the starting role to increase his confidence, Redick has picked up where he left off last season. Still receiving similar playing time, the veteran sniper is averaging 21.2 points a game while making 42.6% of his long-distance attempts. On a team lacking perimeter shooting, Redick is indispensable to this team. Expect the typical starter-level production off the bench.

Primary Competitors:

Julius Randle (Power Forward, New Orleans Pelicans) – 17.5 ppg, 8.5 rpg, 1.5 apg

Lou Williams (Shooting Guard, LA Clippers) – 16.6 ppg, 2.4 apg, 30.4% 3PT

 

Coach of the Year: Mike Malone (Denver Nuggets)

Denver should be a top-four seed in the stacked West and that will be in large part due to the leadership of Malone. With a talented, young team led by Nikola Jokic, the Nuggets are balanced on offense and solid on defense. If skilled rookie Michael Porter can come back at full health, this will be a team nobody wants to face in the playoffs.

 

All-NBA 1st Team

G Steph Curry (Point Guard, Golden State Warriors) – 33.7 ppg, 4.7 rpg, 6.0 apg

G James Harden (Guard, Houston Rockets) – 28.5 ppg, 6.3 rpg, 9.0 apg

F LeBron James (Small Forward, LA Lakers) – 25.8 ppg, 8.6 rpg, 9.2 apg

F Kawhi Leonard (Small Forward, Toronto Raptors) – 26.6 ppg, 8.0 rpg, 3.0 apg

C Anthony Davis (Power Forward/Center, New Orleans Pelicans) – 27.3 ppg, 13.3 rpg, 3.8 bpg

 

All-NBA 2nd Team

G Russell Westbrook (Point Guard, Oklahoma City Thunder) – 22.5 ppg, 13.5 rpg, 8.0 apg

G Damian Lillard (Point Guard, Portland Trail Blazers) – 31.8 ppg, 5.8 rpg, 6.8 apg

F Giannis Antetokounmpo (Forward, Milwaukee Bucks) – 25.8 ppg, 15.6 rpg, 6.6 apg

F Kevin Durant (Forward, Golden State Warriors) – 29.7 ppg, 8.2 rpg, 5.8 apg

C Joel Embiid (Center, Philadelphia 76ers) – 29.6 ppg, 12.4 rpg, 4.2 apg

 

All-NBA 3rd Team

G Kyrie Irving (Point Guard, Boston Celtics) – 16.2 ppg, 4.4 rpg, 5.6 apg

G John Wall (Point Guard, Washington Wizards) – 21.2 ppg, 7.6 apg, 1.8 spg

F Jimmy Butler (Shooting Guard/Small Forward, Minnesota Timberwolves) – 20.6 ppg, 5.2 rpg, 3.2 apg

F Blake Griffin (Power Forward, Detroit Pistons) – 33.8 ppg, 11.0 rpg, 5.0 apg

C Nikola Jokic (Center, Denver Nuggets) – 23.4 ppg, 10.6 rpg, 6.2 apg

 

All-Defensive 1st Team

G Victor Oladipo (Shooting Guard, Indiana Pacers) – 21.4 ppg, 5.8 rpg, 4.2 apg

G Jimmy Butler (Shooting Guard/Small Forward, Minnesota Timberwolves) – 20.6 ppg, 5.2 rpg, 3.2 apg

F Kawhi Leonard (Small Forward, Toronto Raptors) – 26.6 ppg, 8.0 rpg, 3.0 apg

F Anthony Davis (Power Forward/Center, New Orleans Pelicans) – 13.3 rpg, 2.5 spg, 3.8 bpg

C Rudy Gobert (Center, Utah Jazz) – 12.8 rpg, 1.5 spg, 2.3 bpg

 

All-Defensive 2nd Team

G Jrue Holiday (Guard, New Orleans Pelicans) – 14.8 ppg, 4.3 rpg, 8.0 apg

G Paul George (Shooting Guard/Small Forward, Oklahoma City Thunder) – 24.5 ppg, 6.0 rpg, 3.0 apg

F Draymond Green (Forward, Golden State Warriors) – 8.0 ppg, 6.8 rpg, 6.8 apg

F Al Horford (Power Forward/Center, Boston Celtics) – 13.0 ppg, 7.8 rpg, 4.0 apg

C Joel Embiid (Center, Philadelphia 76ers) – 29.6 ppg, 12.4 rpg, 4.2 apg

 

All-Rookie 1st Team

G Luka Doncic (Guard, Dallas Mavericks) – 19.6 ppg, 6.2 rpg, and 3.8 apg

G Trae Young (Point Guard, Atlanta Hawks) – 21.5 ppg, 7.5 apg, 3.0 3PM)

F Jaren Jackson (Power Forward, Memphis Grizzlies) – 14.8 ppg, 6.5 rpg, 1.3 bpg

F Marvin Bagley (Power Forward, Sacramento Kings) – 13.7 ppg, 7.2 rpg, 1.2 bpg

C DeAndre Ayton (Center, Phoenix Suns) – 16.3 ppg, 10.8 rpg, 3.8 apg

 

All-Rookie 2nd Team

G Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (Guard, LA Clippers) – 8.8 ppg, 3.0 rpg, 3.0 apg

G Collin Sexton (Guard, Cleveland Cavaliers) – 11.0 ppg, 2.0 rpg, 1.8 apg

G Donte DiVincenzo (Guard, Milwaukee Bucks) – 6.2 ppg, 3.4 apg, 1.8 apg

F Kevin Knox (Forward, New York Knicks) – 9.3 ppg, 2.0 rpg, 44.4% 3PT

C Wendell Carter Jr. (Center, Chicago Bulls) – 6.6 ppg, 5.0 rpg, 1.8 bpg

 

All-Star Teams: Votes are for 4 guards, 6 frontcourt players, and 2 other players

All-Stars From East

F Giannis Antetokounmpo (Forward, Milwaukee Bucks) – 25.8 ppg, 15.6 rpg, 6.6 apg

C Joel Embiid (Center, Philadelphia 76ers) – 29.6 ppg, 12.4 rpg, 4.2 apg

F Kawhi Leonard (Small Forward, Toronto Raptors) – 26.6 ppg, 8.0 rpg, 3.0 apg

G Kyrie Irving (Point Guard, Boston Celtics) – 16.2 ppg, 4.4 rpg, 5.6 apg

G Victor Oladipo (Shooting Guard, Indiana Pacers) – 21.4 ppg, 5.8 rpg, 4.2 apg

G Ben Simmons (Point Guard, Philadelphia 76ers) – 12.5 ppg, 10.3 rpg, 8.5 apg

F Blake Griffin (Power Forward, Detroit Pistons) – 33.8 ppg, 11.0 rpg, 5.0 apg

G John Wall (Point Guard, Washington Wizards) – 21.2 ppg, 7.6 apg, 1.8 spg

G Kemba Walker (Point Guard, Charlotte Hornets) – 30.8 ppg, 3.8 rpg, 5.7 apg

G Kyle Lowry (Point Guard, Toronto Raptors) – 19.8 ppg, 3.7 rpg, 10.3 apg

C Andre Drummond (Center, Detroit Pistons) – 18.5 ppg, 17.8 rpg, 1.0 apg

F Kevin Love (Power Forward, Cleveland Cavaliers) – 19.0 ppg, 13.5 rpg, 3.5 apg

 

All-Stars From West

F LeBron James (Small Forward, LA Lakers) – 25.8 ppg, 8.6 rpg, 9.2 apg

G Steph Curry (Point Guard, Golden State Warriors) – 33.7 ppg, 4.7 rpg, 6.0 apg

F/C Anthony Davis (Power Forward/Center, New Orleans Pelicans) – 27.3 ppg, 13.3 rpg, 3.8 bpg

G James Harden (Guard, Houston Rockets) – 28.5 ppg, 6.3 rpg, 9.0 apg

F Kevin Durant (Forward, Golden State Warriors) – 29.7 ppg, 8.2 rpg, 5.8 apg

G Russell Westbrook (Point Guard, Oklahoma City Thunder) – 22.5 ppg, 13.5 rpg, 8.0 apg

G Damian Lillard (Point Guard, Portland Trail Blazers) – 31.8 ppg, 5.8 rpg, 6.8 apg

C Nikola Jokic (Center, Denver Nuggets) – 23.4 ppg, 10.6 rpg, 6.2 apg

G DeMar DeRozan (Shooting Guard, San Antonio Spurs) – 26.5 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 7.8 apg

G/F Paul George (Shooting Guard/Small Forward, Oklahoma City Thunder) – 24.5 ppg, 6.0 rpg, 3.0 apg

G/F Jimmy Butler (Shooting Guard/Small Forward, Minnesota Timberwolves) – 20.6 ppg, 5.2 rpg, 3.2 apg

F LaMarcus Aldridge (Power Forward, San Antonio Spurs) – 21.3 ppg, 12.5 rpg, 3.5 apg

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