2021 NBA Award Predictions
With just days separating us from NBA basketball, fans have begun making their cases for there favorite players to win an NBA award.
The NBA is reaching astounding levels in terms of talent across the league. So many players can have a case made for MVP, Sixth Man of the Year, Rookie of the Year, etc.. New players solidify themselves every season as major players in this league and that’s the beauty of the association.
With 10 less games being played and the possibility of players missing games for covid precautions, award races could be the most bizarre we have seen in years. Nevertheless games will be played and cases will be made. But at the end of the day, only one player can hoist the individual award trophies.
Here are my picks.
Coach of the Year: Monty Williams
Some may say that Monty Williams had a case to be made last season if the NBA had included the bubble when casting votes.
After recording a perfect 8–0 record in the bubble the Phoenix Suns showed the league that they were no longer a team to be taken lightly in this league. The Suns and Williams posted their first positive plus/minus as a team since the 2013–2014 season, winning 34 games as a unit. It was a major step that was taken for this Suns organization after being looked at as a laughing stock for over half a decade.
If last year wasn’t enough, the Suns are poised to take an even greater leap with the acquisition of Chris Paul. Paul is exactly the kind of player the Suns have needed for quite some time. With so much youth, especially the youth at the top of their depth chart, Paul is set to be that on court coach that can provide guidance on the fly.
Williams inserted confidence into a roster that had very little to be confident about at the time. He gave them the leadership needed and put them in the position to win. With Phoenix on track to return to the postseason, Monty Williams should receive a large portion of Coach of the Year votes.
Runner Up(s): Frank Vogel, Brad Stevens
Defensive Player of the Year: Giannis Antetokounmpo
Perhaps it’s a boring pick maybe, but it just seems right.
Giannis Antetokounmpo’s defensive numbers from last season were incredibly impressive and it’s hard to imagine this season being any different for the reigning Defensive Player of the Year.
Giannis Antetokounmpo’s 2020 Defensive Rankings
1st in defensive rating (97.1)
1st in defensive win shares (5.0)
1st in defensive box plus/minus (4.1)
2nd in total defensive rebound percentage (34.8%)
To Giannis’ benefit he will likely be anchoring a top defense once the regular season concludes which definitely will draw in a vast majority of votes. The last player to win Defensive Player of the Year that was not apart of a top three defense, per defensive rating, was Tyson Chandler in 2011–2012. The Bucks finished with the best defense last season, in large part because of Giannis’ switch-ability when defending the pick and roll.
His large frame and otherworldly athleticism makes Giannis a defensive threat no matter who he may be defending. If last year’s performance carries over, Giannis could very well be the sixth player to repeat as Defensive Player of the year since the turn of the century.
Runner Up(s): Anthony Davis, Bam Adebayo
Most Improved Player of the Year: Jamal Murray
If Jamal Murrays performance in the 2020 NBA Playoffs are any signs of what is to come, Denver could very well see the young guard transcend into a star.
In 19 playoff games Murray was sensational. Helping the Nuggets fight back from not one but two 3–1 deficits, Murray and company were able to reach the Western Conference Finals for the first time since 2009. Murray averaged 26.5 points, 4.8 rebounds, and 6.6 assists during this playoff run while reaching the 40-point mark on four separate occasions.
Murray is on the cusp of being an All-Star in this league. As the Nuggets have solidified themselves as a top tier team in the Western Conference, Murray’s progression could be the push that elevates them to being legitimate contenders. Murray has shown poise in big time moments especially in the postseason. Murray ranked in the top 10 in points in the clutch while only turning the ball over only three times in 39 official clutch minutes.
Denver has one perennial in Nikola Jokić. While they continue to build around the big man, there is no denying the major step Murray is prepared to take as we approach his fifth season. Murray looks ready to take the next step in his development and average north of 20 points per game while helping the Nuggets secure a top three seed in the stacked Western Conference.
Runner Up(s): Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Michael Porter Jr.
Sixth Man of the Year: Jordan Clarkson
Just thirteen months after being acquired by the Utah Jazz, Jordan Clarkson signed a multi-year contract extension worth over $50-million.
Clarkson proved his worth during his 42-game stint with the Jazz last season. In 40 games of coming off the bench — only started two games with Utah in 2020 — Clarkson averaged 15.7 points per game, ranking 7th of players off the bench. He gives Utah much needed scoring for a team that is heavily reliant on their top star in Donovan Mitchell. Utah ranked just 21st in the NBA in offensive rating prior to the Clarkson acquisition. After the trade, the Jazz had a top three offense in 43 games.
Clarkson picked it up in the bubble averaging 16.2 points per game in 15 games, including the playoffs. Clarkson is a pure scorer. In a Lou Will esque role Clarkson could excel and as the Jazz look to continue being a playoff team, his services will be needed more than ever.
Runner Up(s): Montrezl Harrell
Rookie of the Year: Killian Hayes
In a draft class where so many top prospects will be given limited opportunities to showcase their talent, the same cannot be said for Killian Hayes of Detroit.
If you look at the top five picks in this draft, every prospect is coming into a situation where they are not the “main guy”. Someone is taking the ball out of their hands majority of the time. In Detroit, Killian Hayes is the man right away. With Derrick Rose giving up the starting point guard role in order for Hayes to get the most opportunity possible, Hayes is set to be running the offense all season in Detroit.
Hayes struggled in the preseason but never seemed to lose his confidence. While adapting to the guard position is a hard thing to do in the NBA, Hayes has all the tools to be successful. His 6-foot-5 frame is good size to have on the defensive end, especially at 19 years old.
He’s got the most opportunity to not only develop but make his case for Rookie of the Year. If Hayes were to walk away with Rookie of the Year, he’d be the first Piston since Grant Hill in 1995 to win the award. As the Pistons look to turn the page and move in the right direction following a down year of basketball, they’ll look for their most recent lottery pick to provide a glimmer of hope.
Runner Up(s): James Wiseman, Patrick Williams
Most Valuable Player: Luka Dončić
In just two years Luka Dončić has taken the league by storm. And in his third season, he could very well take over. According to Vegas Insider, Dončić has the highest odds (+400) to win his first of what could be many MVPs.
It was hard to expect the young star to reach such heights so early in his career but coming into the year he is on the brink is being a superstar level player. In his second year he was knocking on the door of averaging a triple-double with 28.8 points, 9.4 rebounds, and 8.8 assists. While the numbers themselves garner the attention of MVP voters, the success itself wasn’t there.
The Mavericks finished seventh in the Western Conference last season, too low for voters to be willing to give the MVP to the 21-year-old sensation. However, the Mavs show promise on potentially breaking through the glass ceiling and finding themselves in the mix in terms of the top four seeds in the West. Luka and Porzingis are poised to lead Dallas to a top seed which will benefit Dončić’s MVP chances.
Luka will be Luka. The statistical aspect of the MVP race will not be lacking for Dončić. He has full control of the game at all time. A smooth operator in the half-court setting, Luka doesn’t have a true weakness. He’s defined excellence and come the end of the 2021 NBA season, Luka Dončić could be the youngest MVP winner since Derrick Rose in 2011.
Runner Up(s): Anthony Davis, Damian Lillard
Follow for more NBA articles!