51 Questions: Who wins Rookie, Coach of Year, other NBA awards

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PBT is previewing the 2015-16 NBA season by tackling 51 big questions that we can’t wait to see answered once play tips off. We will answer one a day right up to the start of the season Oct. 27. Today’s question:

Who will with the big NBA end-of-season awards?

Yesterday we talked MVP picks, and the entire PBT staff was on the same page — LeBron James.

Today we fan out into the other NBA end-of-season awards and the unanimity goes away. Here are our picks.

Rookie of the Year

Kurt: Emmanuel Mudiay (Nuggets)
Dan: Emmanuel Mudiay (Nuggets)
Sean: Jahlil Okafor (Sixers)

Comments:
Kurt: Not only is he going to be the starting point guard for the Nuggets with the ball in his hands, but Mudiay also has good players around him that will keep the double-teams off him and give him options. With that he’ll rack up numbers.
Sean: Very often, this is a numbers award, and Okafor will likely average 20 and 10 on this Sixers roster.

Defensive Player of the Year

Los Angeles Clippers v San Antonio Spurs - Game Three

Kurt: Kawhi Leonard (Spurs)
Dan: Kawhi Leonard (Spurs)
Sean: Rudy Gobert (Jazz)

Comments:
Dan: Draymond Green deserved the award last season, because he contributed more defensively by playing 15 more games than Leonard. But Leonard was the better defender, and health shouldn’t limit him this season.
Sean: Gobert put the league on notice in the second half of last season and has quickly become a media darling. With the Jazz expected to make the leap into playoff contention, Gobert will be the frontrunner here.

Coach of the Year

Kurt: Erik Spoelstra (Miami Heat)
Dan: Terry Stotts (Trail Blazers)
Sean: Brad Stevens (Celtics)

Comments:
Kurt: I think the Miami Heat make a big leap back to relevant — and dangerous — playing an entertaining, up-tempo style. Spoelstra will get credit for that, just beating out Jason Kidd for the award.
Dan: Most expect the Trail Blazers to fall sharply after losing LaMarcus Aldridge, Wesley Matthews, Robin Lopez, Nicolas Batum and Arron Afflalo. If Stotts keeps Portland in the playoff race, that could get him this award.
Sean: Stevens checked all the narrative boxes — he got the Celtics competitive long before they were supposed to be, and is beloved by his players. If the Celtics stay in the playoff picture, he’ll get the votes.

Sixth Man of the YearIsaiah Thomas

Kurt: Isaiah Thomas (Celtics)
Dan: Isaiah Thomas (Celtics)
Sean: Isaiah Thomas (Celtics)

Comments:
Dan: Thomas’ offensive aggressiveness transforms the Celtics. He’ll get plenty of chances to earn this award and accumulate scoring numbers that impress voters.

Most Improved Player

Kurt: Giannis Antetokounmpo (Bucks)
Dan: Meyers Leonard (Trail Blazers)
Sean: Giannis Antetokounmpo (Bucks)

Comments:
Kurt: The Greek Freak has impressed with moments of his play and his potential the past two seasons, but this is the year he breaks out more in the public consciousness, and in the eyes of many voters.
Dan: Recipe for predicting this award: Find a player who’s quietly already good, in line for a bigger role and maybe also on the verge of real improvement.