We are in the home stretch of PBT’s 2016-17 NBA preview series, 51 Questions. For more than a month (and continuing through the start of the NBA season) we tackle 51 questions we cannot wait to see answered during the upcoming NBA season. We are entering the prediction portion of the preview season, today the PBT staff is tackling:
Who wins Rookie, Coach of the year, other NBA awards?
Yesterday we talked MVP picks — and the entire PBT staff disagreed. Today, Kurt Helin, Dan Feldman, and Dane Carbaugh branch out into the other NBA end-of-season awards and the unanimity goes away. Here are our picks.
Rookie of the Year
Kurt: This was Ben Simmons’ award to lose, but his injury means he’s not going to play enough games. Joel Embiid could well win the award with enough run and stays healthy, but I’m going to go with Dunn. He played well in Summer League, will get increasing opportunity and trust as the year goes on in Minnesota, and is on an increasingly high-profile team. Dunn is going to be good.
Dan: The race is wide open with Ben Simmons injured. Hield is playing well in the preseason, in line for a decently sized role and relatively polished coming out of Oklahoma. I’d take the field in a landslide, but Hield gets a slight nod over Joel Embiid here.
Dane: It’s going to be a question whether Joel Embiid plays enough minutes to garner him consideration, especially when a minutes restriction can be damaging for rookies when they inevitably hit a wall during some point of the season. Still, Embiid has looked impressive and if he stays on the floor he might have a huge impact for a team where just about any increase in wins will look like a huge improvement over seasons prior.
Sixth Man of the Year
Kurt: I like Sixth Man candidates who are given the mandate to come in and fire away against second units (and not worry so much about the defense). Kanter will put up points, plus is a beast on the offensive glass as well, something seen too rarely today.
Dan: I’m hedging a little. Iguodala could just wind up deserving this award. He has also proven himself an elite backup. Unless someone puts together an excellent season off the bench, Iguodala also has a path through a career-achievement award.
Dane: There are a lot of good candidates for Sixth Man in 2016-17, but the most likely player to remain a bench player while having the biggest impact for a playoff team appears to be Evan Turner. He signed a 4-year, $70 million in the offseason, and Trail Blazers brass has been explicit that Turner was brought in to relieve pressure from Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum. Moe Harkless looks like the better fit for Portland’s starting unit, but expect Turner to play more minutes off the bench than some of the Blazers starters. If Portland finishes in the middle of the Western Conference this season Turner will be a big reason why.
Coach of the Year
Kurt: Brad Stevens (Boston Celtics)
Dan: Mike D’Antoni (Houston Rockets)
Dane: Brad Stevens (Boston Celtics)
Dan: D’Antoni takes over a team that under-performed last year and installs a system clearly attributed to him. That’s a setup for recognition.
Dane: If Brad Stevens can beat the Vegas over/under of 51.5 wins and take the No. 2 spot in the Eastern Conference behind Cleveland he has a strong chance to win the award. No team has won fewer than 50 games and had their coach win COY since 2006-07, but playoff position for winners has been all over the place. If Stevens gets his team to a Top 3 finish in the East I’d consider him a strong contender.
Defensive Player of the Year
Kurt: Leonard may well win a third straight DPOY (and he deserves the honor), but watch out for Gobert. Utah should have a top three defense and Gobert in the paint is the anchor of it. As people figure out just how good Utah is this season, Gobert will get a lot of credit for the defense.
Dan: Leonard has been the NBA’s best defender the last two seasons. I don’t see why this year will be any different.
Most Improved Player
Dan: Russell came a long way last season, and he’s uber-talented. With better coaching and one fewer over-the-hill ball hog around him, Russell has all the right conditions to make a leap.
Dane: I’m extremely tempted to take Andrew Wiggins here, but Karl-Anthony Towns’ second year might overshadow some of the steps Wiggins takes in 2016-17. Meanwhile, Devin Booker looks like an absolute nightmare in Phoenix and he still isn’t even legally allowed to drink. The young Suns guard has something about his swagger — not to mention his constant, sneaky talking — that makes you believe in him. It also helps that Phoenix is pledged again to be at the bottom of the Western Conference and Booker’s scoring ability will help him shine among the darkness of the Suns.