The NBA is finally back! With that being the case, here are my final awards predictions all in one place. If you missed the one for Rookie of the Year, Sixth Man of the Year, or MVP, you can find those here, here, and here.
COACH OF THE YEAR: RANDY WITTMAN, WASHINGTON WIZARDS
I have been bashing Randy Wittman’s coaching for the last three years. A team led by John Wall and Bradley Beal shouldn’t rank 15th, 18th, and 18th in pace over a three-year span. And a team led by those two shouldn’t operate in an offensive system that’s so bland and predictable that I could tweet this during a last-shot situation in a playoff game and be spot-on:
Despite that example, Playoff Wittman seems to get more creative once the postseason hits, and the Wizards have success when he does so. Apparently, something clicked with Wittman and Washington management overall because their moves this offseason were tailored towards getting faster, “smaller”, rangier (regarding shooting), and more versatile.
Wittman has already decided to bring Nene off the bench in favor of Kris Humphries, who has been looking to extend his range to the three-point line. Paul Pierce was “replaced” by Otto Porter, who played well last postseason. Those moves alone should help the Wizards spread the floor, and also allow them to get up the floor faster.
A coach’s job is to build a system that best maximizes the talent on the roster. It seems like Wittman is finally ready to speed up the attack to fully complement his talented backcourt. Barring health issues, that should lead to 50+ wins for Washington.
Other Candidates: Billy Donovan (OKC), Quin Synder (UTA), Fred Hoiberg (CHI), Alvin Gentry (NOP)
DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR WINNER: DRAYMOND GREEN, GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS
With all due respect to Kawhi Leonard, Green should’ve won this award last season. Although he wasn’t the only talented defender in Golden State’s lineup and certainly benefited from the guys around him, Green was still the most important defender on the team. His ability to guard down low, in isolation situations, and take virtually anyone off switches made him the NBA’s most versatile defender last year:
That flexibility was a major reason he was awarded a five-year, $82 million extension this summer. Between losing out on the award last year (despite having the most first-place votes) and feeling like the Warriors are being disrespected and undersold by others, Green has plenty of motivation heading into this year to put together a dominant defensive campaign.
Other Candidates: Rudy Gobert (UTA), Kawhi Leonard (SA), Dwight Howard (HOU), DeAndre Jordan (LAC)
MOST IMPROVED PLAYER: VICTOR OLADIPO, ORLANDO MAGIC
It’s hard not to like Victor Oladipo as a player or a person. He’s an explosive athlete that gets to the basket just about whenever he wants. Once he gets to the basket, nobody’s surprised when stuff like this happens:
As a person, Oladipo is the rare humble-showman hybrid. As hard of a worker as he is, and as down-to-earth as he is by all accounts, he’s still so much fun:
Oladipo has tremendous upside as a two-way star and showed plenty of flashes of that last year. For one, he improved in virtually every area last year:
In addition to that, he took off after the All-Star Break last year. In his final 26 games, Oladipo averaged 20.3 points, 4.5 assists, 4.3 rebounds, and 1.8 steals
Oladipo still has room to grow as a shooter and as a playmaker, but he’s not bad in either area, and his shooting stroke and decision making did improve from year one to year two. There’s no reason to believe he’ll stop improving in those two areas this year. He already competes his tail off defensively; playing under Scott Skiles can only help his development on that end.
This should be the Year of the Oladipo: the year he becomes a top tier shooting guard in the NBA.
Other Candidates: Giannis Antetokounmpo (MIL), Nikola Mirotic (CHI), C.J McCollum (POR), Kent Bazemore (ATL)