Now that the All-Star break is over and teams are locked into the playoff push, it’s time to take a look at the awards that will be given out at the end of the year. Here are my predictions for how things will play out in the final weeks of the NBA season.
Rookie of the Year: Paolo Banchero, Orlando Magic
Banchero is having a very special rookie season, averaging 19.9 points per game, 6.6 rebounds and 3.6 assists. He’s got the magic that looks ahead to brighter days, and for good measure. Banchero shows he’s the real deal in the league and will be the cornerstone for the Magic for years to come. He stood out in his rookie class and absolutely deserved this award.
Coach of the Year: Mike Brown, Sacramento Kings
I mean, who else would? Brown has the Kings in line to make the postseason for the first time since 2006, and they’re one of the best teams in the Western Conference. Sacramento is relevant in March and it all comes back to the culture Brown has been building since arriving. He’s got this team running at full steam and they’re ready to take on any team out west. This is a franchise that has struggled mightily over the past 15 years but has some direction now, with Brown leading the way.
General Manager of the Year: Koby Altman, Cleveland Cavaliers
Atlman has put together one of the better teams in the league and it’s led by his trade for star guard Donovan Mitchell. Cleveland has a top 4 seed in the Eastern Conference right now and they appear to be a playoff time. Her drafting and quality moves over the past few seasons are now culminating with success on the court and it’s a testament to Altman’s vision.
Sixth Man of the Year: Malcolm Brogdon, Boston Celtics
Brogdon has had a great season for the Celtics so far and has been a big reason they are currently at the top of the Eastern Conference table. His annual average is 14.8 points, 4.2 rebounds and 3.7 assists. Brogdon has shown his willingness to do the dirty work for the Celtics and he plays just over 25 minutes a night. He deserves this award and should rightfully claim it if his work continues.
Most Improved Player: Lauri Markkanen, Utah Jazz
While I know that Shai Gilgeous-Alexander might be a fun answer here, nobody, and I mean nobody expected Lauri Markkanen to blossom the way he has this season. We’re finally seeing Markkanen’s full potential, and he’s taken a Utah Jazz team that was considered terrible and made it somewhat relevant. He’s averaged 25.3 points and 8.6 rebounds per game and I think he should easily walk away with that honor.
Defensive Player of the Year: Jaren Jackson Jr., Memphis Grizzlies
Jackson Jr. has been particularly strong on defense this season, and I give him a slight advantage over Milwaukee Bucks center Brook Lopez here. Jackson Jr. is averaging 3.3 blocks per game and has been lethal against opposing teams all season. He not only blocks shots, but affects them at the elite level on the edge. Memphis are one of the better teams out west and Jackson Jr. is a big reason why.
NBA MVP: Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks
Yes, I know Nikola Jokic has a great chance of winning his third straight MVP award and if that happened I wouldn’t really complain. But for me the MVP this season was Giannis Antetokounmpo. Without Khris Middleton for a good part of the year, Antetokounmpo kept the Bucks afloat and now they are reaping the rewards. His averages of 31.3 points, 12.1 rebounds and 5.3 assists show what a special player he really is. This is going to be a close race between Antetokounmpo, Jokic and Joel Embiid but for now I’m giving the Star of the Bucks a slight edge.