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Predicting Next Season’s NBA Awards

The end of the NBA season brings about the start of two new seasons: playoff season and awards season. However, with the awards being much more wide open this year than in years past, the argument on who’s going to win MVP, DPOY and Sixth Man have all been well documented. So, instead of trying to make a case for who should win the awards in 2014-15, here’s a list of predictions for who will win some of these awards in 2015-16.

Most Improved Player: Eric Bledsoe

This is a frustrating award to vote on in real time, but fascinating to project in the future. Which player will take a huge step forward next season?

Rudy Gobert seemed like a great candidate, but he improved so rapidly by the end of this season that his leap next year won’t seem as pronounced. Nikola Mirotic could blossom next year with an improving shot and a more prominent role in the Bulls’ offense. Giannis Antetokounmpo took a big step forward this season, and could take an enormous leap next year.

But if Bledsoe can stay healthy and fine tune his play, this award could be his. In his first season starting more than 40 games, Bledsoe took a step backwards this year in terms of efficiency. But his court vision seems to have improved steadily the last couple of seasons, and Brandon Knight, provided Phoenix re-signs him, could be a good fit next to him while still allowing Bledsoe to have the ball in his hands more often than when he played with Goran Dragic.

With a limited role in Los Angeles and an injury-filled start to his Phoenix career, Bledsoe could have much more development left in him than most 26-year-old players. There still seems to be some untapped potential in him, and if he can harness his incredible physical talents, he could easily be deemed the most improved.

Sixth Man of the Year: Kobe Bryant Ryan Anderson

Anderson’s play was down a bit this season after struggling with injuries again, but count this as a vote of confidence that he can return to form next year. It stands to reason that the Pelicans will re-sign Omer Asik, leaving Anderson to come off the bench and put up gaudy three-point numbers playing alongside Anthony Davis. The Pelicans will often need his spacing, so he should see an increased role, and if he can improve his numbers slightly from his last fully healthy campaign (2012-13), Anderson could have the best resume coming off the bench.

Defensive Player of the Year: Kawhi Leonard

It doesn’t seem like a bold prediction saying one of the best defenders in the league will take home this award, but it is to a degree. Gobert seems to be the most popular choice, and there’s also the fact that a perimeter player hasn’t won this award since Ron Artest in 2003-04.

Gobert will certainly be in contention, as he has transformed the Jazz into a nightmare matchup defensively. Going from Enes Kanter to Gobert on defense is like replacing a bicycle with a Ferrari. He makes every other player on Utah look better defensively because of the ground he covers, and opposing players seem terrified to attack the rim with him in the game. But Gobert should have some ups and downs in his first full season as a starter, as coaches in the league will try throwing more misdirection at him to get him out of the paint.

Draymond Green, the likely winner this year, will be in the conversation as well, but Leonard could have taken this award this season had he been healthy the whole year. He might be the only perimeter player in the league as exciting to watch defensively as other superstars are offensively. If players are terrified to challenge Gobert, then they’re just as fearful of dribbling near Leonard. He’s a menace against anyone, playing in a system that maximizes his potential. Leonard has the potential to be the best perimeter defenders in years, and if he lives up to that next season, he could run away with this award.

MVP: Anthony Davis

It may not be a bold choice, but it’s the right choice. Just look at this:

Davis is an MVP candidate this season even with injuries, although he almost certainly won’t win. He has improved immensely each year he has been the league and has turned into one of the hardest players to guard in the NBA. What’s really scary is that he has got another level to get to defensively (possibly offensively as well), and that seems attainable next year. If he can stay healthy, Davis has a great shot to take home the first of many MVP awards.

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