We’ll save everyone the trouble. As the season gets underway Tuesday, here are The Washington Post’s selections for each of the league’s top individual honors this season.
Most valuable player
1. LeBron James, F, Cleveland Cavaliers
2. Kevin Durant, F, Golden State Warriors
3. Giannis Antetokounmpo, F, Milwaukee Bucks
4. James Harden, G, Houston Rockets
5. John Wall, G, Washington Wizards
It’s all set up for James to become the fourth player to win the NBA’s MVP award five times (Kareem Abdul-Jabbar won the award six times; Bill Russell and Michael Jordan won five times each). The Warriors will continue to cannibalize each other’s votes, and both the Thunder and Rockets adding stars this offseason will make it exceedingly difficult for either last year’s MVP, Russell Westbrook, or Harden, who was the runner-up, to win the award. That’s why James is the pick, with potential dark horses Giannis Antetokounmpo and John Wall also getting consideration. Kawhi Leonard would have been prominently mentioned here, but as he still has no timetable for return from tendinopathy in his right quad, we haven’t included him.
Defensive player of the year
1. Rudy Gobert, C, Utah Jazz
2. Draymond Green, F, Golden State Warriors
3. Kawhi Leonard, F, San Antonio Spurs
It feels like these three will be the top selections for this award for years to come. Since Leonard and Green have already won it, it seems fitting to give the nod to Gobert this time. The expectation here is Utah will make the playoffs even after losing Gordon Hayward in free agency — and that the Jazz will do so because of stupendous defense. If that happens, it will be hard to deny Gobert, though certainly either Green or Leonard will be a deserving choice if they win the award again.
Rookie of the year
1. Ben Simmons, F, Philadelphia 76ers
2. Dennis Smith, Jr., G, Dallas Mavericks
3. Lonzo Ball, G, Los Angeles Lakers
This year’s rookie of the year race is as anticipated as any in recent memory. Between Simmons, Ball, Smith, Markelle Fultz and DeAaron Fox, there all sorts of rookies grabbing attention during the preseason. But Simmons, last year’s No. 1 overall pick who missed the entire season with a fractured foot, is a year older than all of those other candidates, and has the combination of physical tools, an immediate path to production and potential for success that makes him the favorite to win the award. Smith seems like his biggest challenger, with a starting job guaranteed in Dallas, while Ball will get all the attention he could want as the new face of the Lakers.
Sixth man of the year
1. Eric Gordon, G, Houston Rockets
2. Marcus Smart, G, Boston Celtics
3. Tristan Thompson, C, Cleveland Cavaliers
This is always a tough award to handicap, but sometimes it’s better not to overthink things. Gordon won the award last year, and he is going to return to the same role this season. With no reason to expect Houston’s offense to slow down after adding Chris Paul, Gordon is a logical choice. Smart and Thompson will both get plenty of attention for being the first reserves on strong teams in the East, while Andre Iguodala — an annual contender for this award the past three years — isn’t likely to play enough consistent minutes to merit consideration thanks to Golden State’s absurd depth.
Most improved player
1. Myles Turner, C, Indiana Pacers
2. Aaron Gordon, F, Orlando Magic
3. Josh Richardson, G, Miami Heat
This remains the league’s most pointless award — after all, of course second-year guys are expected to make a jump every season. Still, it remains in the rotation and thus there needs to be a prediction for who will win it. The pick here is Turner, who should get all the touches he’d ever want in Indiana this season after Paul George was traded to the Oklahoma City Thunder. Gordon is a popular pick to have a breakout season, too, as he’s slated to play his natural position — power forward — from the start of the season. Richardson, who just signed a contract extension to remain in Miami, has the tools to be an impact wing; now can he produce like one?
Coach of the year
1. Scott Brooks, Washington Wizards
2. Quin Snyder, Utah Jazz
3. Erik Spoelstra, Miami Heat
Coach of the year is an award that usually comes down to one objective: Can the coach’s team exceed the media’s expectations for it coming into the season? Our thought is that the Wizards have a real shot at a top-two seed in the East and Washington’s first conference finals appearance in any sport in two decades (sorry, still hurting Nationals fans). If that happens, Brooks will win the award. Ditto for Snyder if he gets the Jazz back into the playoffs after Hayward left as a free agent. Spoelstra, meanwhile, is perpetually underrated and should be in the mix if the Heat can push 50 wins this season.
All-NBA first team
Stephen Curry, G, Golden State Warriors
James Harden, G, Houston Rockets
LeBron James, F, Cleveland Cavaliers
Kevin Durant, F, Golden State Warriors
Karl-Anthony Towns, C, Minnesota Timberwolves
All-NBA second team
Russell Westbrook, G, Oklahoma City Thunder
John Wall, G, Washington Wizards
Giannis Antetokounmpo, F, Milwaukee Bucks
Paul George, G, Oklahoma City Thunder
Rudy Gobert, C, Utah Jazz
All-NBA third team
Chris Paul, G, Houston Rockets
Klay Thompson, G, Golden State Warriors
Jimmy Butler, F, Minnesota Timberwolves
Draymond Green, F, Golden State Warriors
Nikola Jokic, C, Denver Nuggets
The first team should come as a surprise to no one, and the second likely shouldn’t either, unless some would quibble with Wall being ahead of Paul. It’s the third team that will see the heated competition for places, with Thompson competing with the likes of Damian Lillard, among others, for the final guard spot; names such as Anthony Davis, Gordon Hayward and Paul Millsap pushing for the final forward spots; and Joel Embiid, Marc Gasol, DeAndre Jordan, Al Horford and DeMarcus Cousins all possible options for the final center spot on the ballot.
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