MVP: Kawhi Leonard
This is Kawhi’s time to shine. Coming off of a 25 PPG season, the 2x Defensive Player of the Year Award winner has a chance to win even shinier hardware this season. I expect Leonard to average a career high in rebounds and assists this season, as well as points, most likely. It is clear that Kawhi is the best two-way player in the league today and I think he is going to take the league by storm yet again.
Runner up: James Harden
Defensive Player of the Year: Draymond Green
The reigning Defensive Player of the Year will become the 9th player to win the award in consecutive seasons in 2017-18. He will also become the 10th player to win the award multiple times. Green is the heart and soul of the Warriors team and has been one of the most valuable players on both sides of the ball on the Warriors’ two championship teams.
Runner up: Rudy Gobert
Rookie of the Year: Dennis Smith Jr.
Lonzo Ball and Markelle Fultz are grabbing all of the attention, but DSJ could make the biggest impact for his team. The Mavericks took the 6’3” guard with the 9th overall pick in 2017 out of NC State, and he could very likely be the most dependent rookie in the league. Dallas, with 20 PPG scorer Harrison Barnes and aging legend Dirk Nowitzki, will likely force Dennis Smith Jr. to start Opening Night and he will average the most minutes per game among rookies. In a loaded point guard draft with guys such as Markelle Fultz, Lonzo Ball, De’Aaron Fox, Frank Ntilikina and others, DSJ will shine the brightest.
Runner up: Lonzo Ball
Sixth Man of the Year: Lou Williams
Coming off of a career year with the Lakers and Rockets in which he averaged 17.5 PPG and finished with his highest field goal percentage since 2009-10, Lou Williams gets my pick for 6th man. He will become the 5th player to win the award multiple times as he won the award in 2015 and was a finalist a season ago. Lou-Will is playing for his 5th team in 4 seasons, as he was traded to the Clippers along with a handful of other players for Chris Paul in June. I think he has a chance to be the top scorer on the team if Blake Griffin can’t stay healthy, but he will definitely be close if Griffin does stay healthy.
Runner up: Eric Gordon
Most Improved Player: Victor Oladipo
The Indiana Pacers are going to have an interesting season in 2017-18. The last time they were in the Eastern Conference Finals in 2013-14, their starting lineup was: George Hill, Lance Stephenson, Paul George, David West, Roy Hibbert. Just four years later, only Stephenson remains in Indy, but not before he played for five other teams in less than three seasons before re-signing with the Pacers. The Pacers traded Paul George to the Thunder for Domantas Sabonis and Victor Oladipo, who is my pick for MIP. I think he will average 20+ PPG this season and will help the Pacers get close to a postseason berth. The Pacers will be the perfect fit for Oladipo to help resurrect his career into the player he was projected to be when he was drafted by the Magic in 2013.
Runner up: Brandon Ingram
Coach of the Year: Brett Brown
The process is going to pay off in 2017-18. Since Brett Brown was hired in 2013, the 76ers have endured a lot of losing, going 75-253 in four seasons. Having Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons healthy, the impressive Dario Saric, the underrated Robert Covington, along with the additions of Markelle Fultz, JJ Redick and Amir Johnson could boost Philadelphia back into the postseason in the weak Eastern Conference.
Runner up: Erik Spoelstra
STATS (Per Game):
Scoring Leader: James Harden
Rebounding Leader: Andre Drummond
Assists Leader: Russell Westbrook
Steals Leader: John Wall
Blocks Leader: Rudy Gobert