EVERY season welcomes a new argument over who will take home some valuable hardware after their 82-game regular season slate. Some names are annually associated with certain awards with LeBron always in the MVP conversation and players like Anthony Davis and Joel Embiid set to feature heavily in the Defensive Player of the Year race. However, every so often we are thrown a curveball, with an unlikely character throwing their hat into the ring.
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…Markelle Fultz wins Sixth Man of the Year this season
GOING off all reports, Markelle Fultz seems poised to have a much better sophomore campaign after a year from hell in his first pro season. Injuries and flaky jump shot mechanics derailed any chance the 19-year old had for success in 2017-18, but he seems to have resolved his these woes. Personnel around the 76ers think that Fultz has sorted out his jumper, with the former No. 1 pick canning mid-rangers and 3-pointers regularly throughout camp. Philly is ready to launch themselves into championship contention as well so Fultz’s projected production from the second unit could help them truly contend for a title.
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…Dwane Casey wins Coach of the Year this season
NO NBA coach has ever managed to win consecutive Coach of the Year awards. Pop came close winning in 2012 and 2014, with Don Nelson the only other coach to claim the award twice in three seasons. Dwane Casey would be the first coach to not only win consecutive COY trophies, but he could achieve the feat at two different franchises after Toronto parted ways with him during the offseason. Now the Detroit Pistons head man, Casey wasn’t the main reason for the Raptors problems, but someone had to take the fall. Health will be the biggest factor in Detroit’s season, with Reggie Jackson and Blake Griffin not exactly pillars of consistently staying on the court. In the last two seasons, the most games that either player has featured in is 61 (Griffin in 2016-17) and if they can BOTH cross that threshold and appear in roughly 80% of the regular season games, Casey should definitely be in the mix.
…Kevin Durant wins Defensive Player of the Year this season
DURANT was well on track to win this award last season before eventually falling out of contention as Draymond Green recaptured his form and the Warriors prioritised playoff health. Still, Durant showed he was more than capable of playing the 5 and blocking the shot of anyone who dared to challenge him. Durant has taken his defensive game to another level in Golden State and with both JaVale McGee and Zaza Pachulia bolting in the summer to new squads, Durant might be called upon to clog the paint more often this year.
…Kawhi Leonard wins MVP this season
HAVE we kind of forgotten how dominant Kawhi can be when he’s healthy? Leonard finished 2nd and 3rd in MVP voting in his last two fully healthy seasons and there’s no reason he can’t recapture that form in Toronto. Let’s not forget, Leonard is joining a team that nearly won 60 games and they no longer have to worry about the ‘LeBron roadblock’ that they constantly kept running in to. After his messy divorce from San Antonio a healthy, happy Leonard will be eager to get back to what he does best. Make life hell for opposing NBA players. A fresh start might be just what the doctor ordered.
…Trae Young wins Rookie of the Year this season
THERE’S no doubt this kid has talent. Trae Young was the topic of much debate on draft night, with the Hawks electing to trade down to secure the slight-framed OU guard. Time will tell if Atlanta made the right choice or not, but either way, Young is ‘the guy’ in Atlanta now and the ball will be in his hands for a large portion of the season. If he can find his mojo don’t rule out Young scoring a bunch of points in 2018-19 while chalking up plenty of assists with his creative passing. If he can do those two things and helps Atlanta win a few more games than they should Young should definitely be in the ROY convo.
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…Rodney Hood wins Most Improved Player this season
THIS award is virtually impossible to predict, there are 100 players I could have chosen for this slot. That being said, we have a rough idea of which players have a roadmap for success in front of them and Rodney Hood is one such individual. A ball-dominant scorer, Hood struggled mightily to slot into the Cavs lineup after a mid-season trade and as a result, he fell out of favour and saw DNP’s during crucial playoff games. Much like the aforementioned Raptors, Hood could also benefit from the King switching teams, with a larger role in Cleveland’s offense up for grabs. If Hood can return to the near 20 PPG scorer he flirted with becoming in Utah then it’ll be hard to ignore him for Most Improved honours.
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