Most Valuable Player
Steph Curry is going to win this year's MVP. He also deserves this year's MVP. The best player on arguably the best team of all time, Steph is already the greatest shooter ever, and the rest of his game is much more well-rounded than some skeptics think. He is currently at a 51/45/90 season, and is somehow on pace for almost 400 three pointers. Before this year, nobody had even made 300 in a season. That is how ridiculous Curry has been this season. The only other player who might have an even outside case at MVP is Kawhi Leonard, who is also the best player on one of the best teams ever. However, he doesn't have to shoulder the load Steph does every night, and is numbers simply aren't as good.
Rest of ballot: 2nd- Kawhi, 3rd- Kevin Durant, 4th- Chris Paul, 5th - Russell Westbrook
Rookie of the Year:
This is maybe even more of a no-contest than the MVP race is. This year's rookie class appears to be one of the best in a long, long time, and a handful of them should be All Stars at least once. One player stands above the rest, however. That man is Karl-Anthony Towns, the center for the Minnesota Timberwolves. Towns is putting up an insane 18.3/10.3 double-double in just under 32 minutes per game, and is doing so at a great level of efficiency. He has nifty moves around the basket, a feathery touch from midrange, and can even hit three pointers. His rebounding is terrific, he is already a good passer for a big man, and he has all the tools and instincts to be a top-tier defensive player. KAT is a once in a generation prospect, and should be the best center in the NBA for the next decade plus.
Rest of ballot: 2nd- D'Angelo Russell, 3rd- Kristaps Porzingis, 4th- Devin Booker, 5th- Nikola Jokic (6th, I just have to mention him-Myles Turner)
Defensive Player of the Year:
Much like MVP, this comes down to the simple formula of best defender on best defensive team. Hence, Kawhi Leonard. While his offensive game still isn't quite unstoppable, Kawhi is the toughest perimeter defender the NBA has seen since...... prime Scottie Pippen? He is simply everywhere on the defensive side of the ball, his long arms able to track down passes and dribbles that would be safe from any other player. When Kawhi is guarding someone man to man, it takes the very finest offensive creators to get decent shots off, and even then they have to work extremely hard for it. Draymond Green is perhaps more versatile, but he isn't the defensive stalwart Kawhi is. Then again, nobody is. While the Spurs have other strong defensive players, the reason they are one of the best defensive teams in a long time is because of Kawhi.
Rest of ballot: 2nd- Draymond Green, 3rd- DeAndre Jordan, 4th- Hassan Whiteside, 5th- Ricky Rubio
Sixth Man of the Year:
This is a much tougher decision than the first three. There have been some good bench players this season, as there are every year, but none that stand far and away above the others. Jamal Crawford might be the best pure scorer amongst reserves, but his efficiency is poor and his defense simply bleeds points. Cory Joseph has been a steadying hand for the Raptors and plays terrific defense, though his scoring stats are relatively poor.
The final debate came down to three players: Enes Kanter, Dennis Schroeder, and Andre Iguodala. Iguodala has by far the worst statistics on the surface, but is the strongest defender and overall player. Schroeder continues to improve at a steady rate, and is one of the best backup point guards in the NBA. Kanter is putting up ridiculous numbers (12.4/7.9 in just 20 minutes), but the reason he plays so little is because his defense is abominable. In the end though, I think Iguodala should win it. He is probably the most important to his team, and Golden State isn't quite Golden State without him in the lineup. His ability to defend positions 1-4, make plays for others, and hit open shots would place him in the starting lineup on almost any other team. Iggy was Finals MVP last season for a reason, after all.
Rest of Ballot: 2nd- Kanter, 3rd- Schroeder, 4th- Jamal, 5th- Joseph
Most Improved Player:
This is an award which I think should be closer than it actually will be. CJ McCollum of the Portland Trailblazers is going to run away with it, and he is very deserving. But two other guys catch my eye. Giannis Antetokounmpo has stretches of play which are absurd, and speak of heights that McCollum can only dream of. Despite his lack of shooting, the Greek Freak is still able to get to the rim with ease, and his passing ability has pushed him all the way to the starting point guard role for the Bucks next year (per Jason Kidd).
The other nominee is Jae Crowder of the Celtics, who has gone from a throw-in on a trade to the best player on a 50 win team in just one year. He is the ideal wing player in the current NBA, and is one of the best ‘3 and D' guys out there. There was some idea that he could transform into this kind of piece, but the actual transition was just stunningly swift. His efficiency has risen drastically with higher usage, an impressive feat, and his offensive game has expanded with it.
In the end, it comes back to McCollum, and while he already showed flashes of what he could do off the bench last year, nobody thought he would score 21 points per game on good efficiency so quickly. His effective field goal percentage is the same as last year's despite shooting the ball over three times as much, and the Trailblazers would be nowhere near the playoffs without him. He is the obvious choice, but I think the other guys do deserve more consideration than they have perhaps received.
Rest of Ballot: 2nd- Crowder, 3rd- Giannis
Coach of the Year:
This also came down to two choices, and was the hardest award to decide. Two teams have gone above and beyond where they should be, and they are the Memphis Grizzlies and Portland Trailblazers. Terry Stotts saw 4 of his 5 starting players from last year leave as well as his 6th man. An incredible 10 new players were added to their roster over the course of this season and the off-season; most of them have paid off. Integrating all of those pieces --many of them young and none of them stars-- and somehow building a solid playoff team is nothing short of amazing. Yes, Damian Lillard has been brilliant, and McCollum has stepped up to the plate in a major way. Still, only a couple players in their rotation would start for even one or two other playoff teams, and most of the rest were complete cast offs from the rest of the NBA. Stotts has done a masterful job at getting his team to revolve around the mini Splash Brothers while doing all the dirty work for them. The result has been a competitive and fun squad that nobody wants to play against in the playoffs.
After all that, Stotts isn't even my pick for coach of the year. That would be Dave Joerger of the Grizzlies. His roster has seen a record breaking number of players suit up for his team and it hasn't mattered. He lost his best player for the season and started winning more games. He has several of the most volatile personalities in the league yet has held them all together through injury after injury. Most incredibly of all, he was rumored to be on the hot seat in the waning months of 2015, and supposedly was on his way out any day. Well, that isn't going to happen anymore. No coach has meant more to their team, and Joerger has been the one light of consistency in a season of utter chaos. He might not be the best overall coach, but he sure has been the coach of the year.
Rest of ballot: 2nd- Stotts, 3rd- Brad Stevens, 4th- Dwayne Casey, 5th- Greg Popovich