With the NBA preseason already underway, we got to see glimpses of familiar faces in new jerseys and highly coveted rookies begin what could become Hall of Fame careers. The amount of talent on the court makes it fun to speculate who will take home the end-of-season awards. Although the regular season has yet to commence, the questions surrounding the potential award winners for this season began arising during the NBA offseason. Here are predictions for a few of the major awards:
Rookie of the Year
Luka Doncic, Dallas Mavericks
Although Luka Doncic is coming into the NBA this season as a rookie, he is probably one of the most decorated rookies the NBA has seen since Yao Ming went first overall in the 2002 NBA Draft. Without having played a single NBA minute, Doncic already has a Euroleague MVP under his belt after leading Real Madrid to the EuroLeague Championship Title last season, where he garnered Final Four MVP in the process. At 6 feet 7 inches tall and only 19 years old, Doncic already has an NBA-ready body for the shooting guard position with great length and athleticism. The Dallas Mavericks, while they are in rebuild mode, still look to remain competitive with Dirk Nowitzki on the team and new acquisition DeAndre Jordan; Doncic will have the ball in his hands very often, as he will become a focal point in their offense. With a respectable three-point shot (33 percent for his EuroLeague career) and terrific court vision, look for Doncic to make his mark in the NBA this season as not only the Rookie of the Year but an All-Star in the making.
Defensive Player of the Year
Joel Embiid, Philadelphia 76ers
Embiid is only 94 games into his NBA career and he’s already established himself as one of the most dynamic and skilled centers in the league. After garnering his first All-Star selection last season, he ended the year earning All-NBA Second Team honors as well as All-Defensive Second Team honors. Embiid was also ranked top 10 in defensive wins shared and defensive plus-minus last season. Embiid shows no signs of slowing down and will look to take the 76ers all the way to the Eastern Conference Finals this season in the weak Eastern Conference now that LeBron James is a Laker. Look for Embiid to become one of the NBA’s most dominant defensive presences in the paint and on the perimeter if he isn’t already.
Most Valuable Player
Anthony Davis, New Orleans Pelicans
When DeMarcus Cousins went down with an Achilles injury on Jan. 26, that was supposed to be the end of New Orleans Pelicans’ playoff hopes. Without their second best player and sitting at a near .500 record at 27-21, the Pelicans were supposed to be on the outside looking in during the playoffs. Instead, they finished the year with a 21-13 record, got the sixth seed in the West and made it to the second round of the Western Conference playoffs after upsetting the third-seeded Portland Trail Blazers via a sweep. All of this was possible due to the spectacular play of Anthony Davis, who averaged 30.5 points per game on ridiculous efficiency while slashing at .55/.34/.85 during that time period. For his efforts, Davis became the seventh highest vote-getter in the MVP race last season. With Cousins a Golden State Warrior, Davis will be in the same situation as he was last season when Cousins got injured. If Davis can perform at the level he did post-Cousins injury last season and maintain that throughout the whole season, he will surely be in the MVP conversation and will likely win the highly coveted award.
A version of this article appeared in the Tuesday, Oct. 9 print edition. Email Zach Han at [email protected]