With the NBA season set to begin today, it’s time for some predictions. Let’s start with awards.
The Thunder always have a good chance at bringing home many awards. Two years ago, Kevin Durant finished second in the MVP voting, Serge Ibaka second in DPOY voting and James Harden won the 6th Man of the Year Award.
This year, many Thunder players will have a good shot at winning awards.
Rookie of the Year
Victor Oladipo has been the most popular rookie to predict winning this award by most experts. After watching the preseason, the Thunder may very well have a candidate on their roster.
Steven Adams was beyond impressive in the preseason for OKC, and looks like he may have a legit shot at becoming a key role player for the Thunder this season. Adams already looks better than Perkins, which isn’t saying much. But he may look better enough so that Brooks plays him a lot. Maybe even Perkins will get hurt and give Adams more of an opportunity to play.
It might not take a ton to be the Rookie of the Year this season. Adams would probably have to get close to double-figure scoring a rebounding, which is a really long shot. But if he got the chance to do that for OKC, and helps the Thunder exceed this season’s expectations, he will get noticed and be in the running for this award.
Sixth Man of the Year
The Thunder had big time contestants for this prize the last two seasons in Harden and Kevin Martin. This year at first glance, not so much.
Reggie Jackson looked to have a shot at this until the Westbrook injury will have him starting for at least a quarter of the season. He still could qualify for the award after Westbrook comes back, and the stats he compiles as a starter could help him get this, but it’s a long shot.
If Jeremy Lamb breaks out, he may have the best shot for the Thunder winning this. A scenario where Lamb is getting close to 14 points per game would really grab the attention of voters, since it should also mean that the Thunder are winning a ton of games and near the top of the standings.
Coach of the Year
Like I mentioned in an earlier post, a lot is riding on Brooks’ coaching this season. If the Thunder look like the lost bunch in the playoffs after Westbrook went down, most of the blame will fall on Brooks’ shoulders.
But if the Thunder weather the storm without Russ and are once again competing for the top seed in the Western Conference, Brooks may finally start gaining some respect and momentum for this award.
Doing more with less is always a key ingredient in winning an award like this. Brooks at least has that opportunity this season.
Defensive Player of the Year
Serge Ibaka will always be in the running for this as long as he is at or near the top of the league in blocking shots. He blocked less shots last year than two years ago. I doubt that’s a trend and is he gets closer to swatting four shots per game this season, it’ll be hard not to pick him for this award.
Ibaka has improved as a defender overall, too. And voters are starting to notice. The Thunder will need Ibaka to step up this season in every way. If he does, he will be in the conversation in making the All-Star team. That kind of status, even if it is largely due to improved offense, will help Ibaka overall in winning this award.
The Thunder have also improved defensively as a team the last few seasons. Last year, they were in the top five in defensive efficiency in the league. If they can improve on that mark this year, with Ibaka as the defensive anchor, his candidacy will really improve.
Most Valuable Player
This year may be the best chance yet for Kevin Durant to win the MVP. LeBron is the most popular preseason pick, but it would be his fifth MVP in six seasons. That’s not easy to do.
Durant will have more responsibility this season than ever before. His numbers are already good enough to warrant an MVP. Improving on them in any way, which it looks like he’ll do when it comes to assists at least, will only improve his chances.
Not having Westbrook for the first 4-6 weeks could mean monster numbers for Durant during that time span. Jalen Rose even predicted Durant will average 38 points per game from the start of the season until January. That’s just the kind of scenario that could boost Durant past LeBron as the MVP frontrunner.
The Heat may be looking to rest more during the regular season. If they don’t lead the league in wins, that won’t help Durant, and it will open the door more for Durant.