The NBA season starts tomorrow night, and with the return of professional basketball comes the return of various media sites and blogs publishing their thoughts on who will win what award and who will win the title. Grizzly Bear Blues is no different, and while I do wish that the Grizzlies were more represented on the following lists, I did enjoy talking out the various possibilities with some of my Senior Features staff.
Joining me for this roundtable are Matt Hrdlicka, Andrew Ford, and Kevin Yeung. Let’s start off with who we think will win Most Valuable Player.
MOST VALUABLE PLAYER
MULLINAX (@JoeMullinax) - LeBron James. He has brought a title to Cleveland, fulfilling his promise to make the Cavaliers champions. Now? He can destroy the NBA at will while he is still at the height of his powers. Russell Westbrook deservedly gets mentioned here, James Harden will put up video game numbers in Houston, and Chris Paul is a trendy sleeper pick, but James wants more than just one title in Cleveland. He wants to make a point that Durant, Steph, Klay, Dray...they all will bow down to The King.
YEUNG (@kevinHFY) - Russell Westbrook. I feel like it's a good year for a star from a non-contender to win MVP, since there's only one contender and they have two MVPs. Regular season LeBron James ain't what he used to be, either. But this is still going to be somewhat reliant on Russ coming pretty dang close to averaging a triple-double, which, sure, I'll play for that.
FORD (@AndrewFord22) - LeBron James. No way The King doesn't retake his individual crown after the Warriors added Kevin Durant, making another championship run by a James-led squad even more unlikely than the last.
HRDLICKA (@theRealHrdlicka) - LeBron James.
DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR
MULLINAX - Kawhi Leonard. He continues to be an absolute monster on the defensive end of the floor, capable of defending all five positions and playing passing lanes as well as every form of switching defense necessary. He is the kind of player that makes coaches look brilliant regardless of the scheme that they execute.
YEUNG - Kawhi Leonard. The Spurs lost Tim Duncan, who was easily a top-five defender last season, but I don't expect too much drop-off because you should never expect Spurs drop-off. Kawhi will do something wild.
FORD - Kawhi Leonard. I mean, when is somebody else going to win this award? Nobody else in the league possesses the ability to absolutely shut off the water like Leonard does against guards, wings, and bigs at this point in time. Maybe Karl-Anthony Towns challenges Leonard for the award in the near future, but this season is not that time.
HRDLICKA - Kawhi Leonard.
MOST IMPROVED PLAYER
MULLINAX - Derrick Favors. If the Jazz are going to take this massive leap that it seems like everyone is projecting them to do, Favors is one of the key players who must step up. He has the physical tools to dominate in the post and defend the rim at an elite level. Now is the time for him to put it all together...or else it may never happen.
YEUNG - Jonas Valanciunas. He'll have to get his assists up over one a week to make the big leap, but he's a top-tier beast in the paint and figuring out defense nicely. I guess I'm just feeling good about him.
FORD - Victor Oladipo. Finally out of the perpetual tank fest in Orlando, Oladipo should really show out under Billy Donovan's direction. He could be the perfect backcourt companion for Russell Westbrook.
HRDLICKA - Derrick Favors.
SIXTH MAN OF THE YEAR AWARD
MULLINAX - Zach Randolph. OK OK, I am a little biased, but I do believe that Z-Bo is now in the perfect role for the current state of his game and should be able to dominate most second unit bigs. He is working on expanding his range, and the faster he can become a legitimate three point threat (which is still funny to type), the more dangerous he becomes. I feel he embraces this new role and takes the NBA by storm.
YEUNG - Zach Randolph. I'm sure y'all remember how reliable he was when everyone else was hurt last season, and now he's taking that stuff to blow up other benches. Post-up guys are killer sixth men. Anyway, Jamal Crawford will actually win this.
FORD - Zach Randolph. I am so ready for Randolph to eat second units alive and make young guys wish they could be facing off against D-League on nights they have to play the Grizzlies. Look for the double-double machine to continue to feast, just under different circumstances.
HRDLICKA - Brandon Jennings.
COACH OF THE YEAR
MULLINAX - Gregg Popovich. The Spurs machine will roll on without Tim Duncan. Pop will somehow convince Pau Gasol to play defense again, LaMarcus Aldridge and Kawhi Leonard will flourish, and the Spurs will again be the two seed out West, but after a season in which they defeat the Warriors more than once. San Antonio will continue to succeed, and a major reason will be Popovich.
YEUNG - Gregg Popovich, because Spurs. Take the over.
FORD - Brad Stevens. He's the one guy who runs a team that could be at/near the top of the standings in either conference this season without a true superstar on the roster.
HRDLICKA - Mike Malone.
1st Team: Russell Westbrook, James Harden, LeBron James, Anthony Davis, Marc Gasol
2nd Team: Chris Paul, Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, Kawhi Leonard, DeMarcus Cousins
3rd Team: Damian Lillard, Kyle Lowry, Klay Thompson, Paul George, Karl-Anthony Towns
1st Team: Russell Westbrook, Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, Kawhi Leonard, DeMarcus Cousins
2nd Team: Chris Paul, Kyle Lowry, Paul George, LeBron James, Anthony Davis
3rd Team: Damian Lillard, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, LaMarcus Aldridge, Karl-Anthony Towns
1st Team: Russell Westbrook, James Harden, Kevin Durant, LeBron James, Karl-Anthony Towns
2nd Team: Stephen Curry, Damian Lillard, Kawhi Leonard, Blake Griffin, DeMarcus Cousins
3rd Team: Chris Paul, Klay Thompson, Paul George, Anthony Davis, Marc Gasol
1st Team: Stephen Curry, James Harden, Kevin Durant, LeBron James, Al Horford
2nd Team: Chris Paul, Damian Lillard, Kawhi Leonard, Paul George, Marc Gasol
3rd Team: Russell Westbrook, Jimmy Butler, Gordon Hayward, Karl-Anthony Towns, Anthony Davis
NBA FINALS PARTICIPANTS/WINNER
MULLINAX - Cleveland Cavaliers and Golden State Warriors. Warriors in 7.
YEUNG - Warriors over Cavaliers. I wish I had something more interesting to say, but it's not shaping up to be very interesting.
FORD - Golden State Warriors and the Cleveland Cavaliers. Warriors in 6.
HRDLICKA - Warriors win the trilogy over the Cavaliers.