Friday 20 October 2017 / 09:03 AM

NBA 2016-17 AWARDS PREVIEW

With the NBA season starting this week, Commentary Box Sports is giving you an in-depth preview of the season, including predictions.

This installment is the various awards given for the regular season. These are our front-runners and final predictions for each of the awards.

Most Valuable Player

1. LeBron James
2. Russell Westbrook
3. Steph Curry
4. James Harden
5. Chris Paul

Yeah, I know, the more things change, the more they stay the same. I truthfully have no idea who could win the MVP this year, as the race seems wide open. This means to go with the default – and that is LeBron James. ‘King’ James is fresh off a herculean MVP effort in the Finals, and should be the favorite to take the regular-season gong.

Among the others, Russell Westbrook will put up insane numbers, but I’m not sure the Thunder will win enough games for him to be the MVP. Same issue with Harden – I just don’t think the Rockets are going to chalk up enough Ws.

Curry and Durant will split votes, and I think Curry will get more. Also, Chris Paul will put up numbers and contend for the game’s highest individual honour. Last year, Curry became the first unanimous winner, with Kawhi Leonard second, LeBron third, and Thunder duo Westbrook and Durant fourth and fifth respectively.

Defensive Player of the Year

1. Kawhi Leonard
2. DeAndre Jordan
3. Hassan Whiteside
4. Draymond Green
5. Rudy Gobert

The Defensive POTY race should be a hotly contested one, with DeAndre Jordan and Draymond Green, who was second last year, continuing their pursuit of 2015-16 winner Leonard. Third last season, Hassan Whiteside will get tons of attention, and will be all alone for rim protection, so I think he misses out. His stats will be gaudy, however.

DeAndre will also put up solid stats, but I’m not sure the defense of the Clippers in general is going to be great. Gobert for the same reason – I’m just not sold on the team defense of the Jazz. Draymond is a solid candidate, but there are just too many solid defenders on the Warriors for him to stand out enough to win the award.

So I’m banking on Kawhi, who should see more of the same for his role in San Antonio, going back-to-back. He’ll be guarding the opposition’s best player, and his steal numbers and defensive stats should be as high as ever. If he can take the next step, it may a runaway award for him, and maybe a sneak into the MVP discussion.

Rookie of the Year

1. Buddy Hield
2. Joel Embiid
3. Brandon Ingram
4. Jamal Murray
5. Kris Dunn

Ben Simmons obviously would have been a big contender on this list if not for his injury, so with him down the field expands. Joel Embiid will technically start his rookie season this year, but may not see enough minutes to average as much as he wants. Also, for as long as he’s been in the league, he feels like a cop-out choice.

Brandon Ingram and Kris Dunn will face the same problems, as both are behind veterans who will be important to the team’s offense, and won’t see a lot of minutes except in relief. Ingram probably has a better chance of seeing more time, however.

Jamal Murray is my dark horse – he should see his minutes increase as the year goes along. And with the shooting he possesses, he may command time to play.

But my pick is Buddy Hield. Hield is the most NBA-ready rookie, and will see a lot of playing time and a lot of touches for New Orleans. He was a focus in the preseason, and should continue to be with Jrue Holiday out. He could very well be the second option to Anthony Davis on offense, which could lead to a high votes total.

Most Improved Player

1. D’Angelo Russell
2. Harrison Barnes
3. Steven Adams
4. Myles Turner
5. Jeremy Lin

This award was really difficult to pick a front runner for. Or even a list. I could legitimately see anyone on this list winning the award – which was claimed by Portland’s CJ McCollum last season – with each primed for improved seasons.

I’m putting Barnes on the list out of default, seeing as he’s immediately the second option in Dallas’ system, and will be called on to score a lot more. HE should see all his averages rise dramatically.

Steven Adams also will see a much larger focus with Kevin Durant out in OKC. He becomes a much more utilized offensive threat, and the go-to defender. Myles Turner will benefit from the offense around him, and can develop an offensive game and fine tune his defense.

Jeremy Lin will get all the shots and opportunities he wants in Brooklyn, but he already improved mightily in Charlotte last year, and he’ll get double-teamed more in Brooklyn.

D’Angelo Russell is my pick because of the promise he showed in the preseason. Luke Walton has been adamant that this is Russell’s offense, and we could see him light it up. His assists and rebounds were low a year ago, so if he becomes the focal point, it may be a totally new guy this year.

Coach of the Year

1. Quin Snyder
2. Gregg Popovich
3. Tom Thibodeau
4. Brad Stevens
5. Mike Budenholzer

The Coach of the Year race will, like always, come down to wins and losses. I don’t think Steve Kerr contends, but with the shakeups of the Spurs roster, I could see Gregg Popovich.

Brad Stevens will be leading an improved Boston team, and should they win 50 games and nab a top-three seed in the East, his stocks could rise into the award race. Tom Thibodeau making a defensive squad out of the young Timberwolves and putting them into the postseason could make some noise, as well as Mike Budenholzer managing Dwight Howard back to form.

But I think Quin Snyder heading the Jazz will get the nod, as I think the Jazz are headed to a top-four seed in the competitive West.

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About the author

Austin Albertson

Austin is CBS' senior NFL and NBA analyst, bringing you commentary on everything between the lines and inside the hashes, from the film room to the scoreboard.

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