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51 Questions: Who wins Rookie, Coach of the year, other NBA awards?

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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 HelinDan 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: Kris Dunn (Minnesota Timberwolves)
Dan: Buddy Hield (New Orleans Pelicans)
Dane: Joel Embiid (Philadelphia 76ers)

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: Enes Kanter (Oklahoma City Thunder)
Dan: Andre Iguodala (Golden State Warriors)
Dane: Evan Turner (Portland Trail Blazers)

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: Rudy Gobert (Utah Jazz)
Dan: Kawhi Leonard (San Antonio Spurs)
Dane: Kawhi Leonard (San Antonio Spurs)

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

Kurt: Clint Capela (Houston Rockets)
Dan: D'Angelo Russell (Los Angeles Lakers)
Dane: Devin Booker (Phoenix Suns)

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.

Rockets to add Spurs buyout DeMarre Carroll, free agent Jeff Green

Spurs forward DeMarre Caroll
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ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski has reported that DeMarre Carroll and the San Antonio Spurs have agreed to a buyout. Carroll will then sign with the Houston Rockets:

ESPN’s Tim McMahon added in a subsequent report that the Rockets will bring in free agent forward Jeff Green:

Green will first sign a 10-day contract with the Rockets, so he can get used to their system and see if there is a fit, Woj reported.

Carroll signed a three-year, $20.65 million contract as part of a sign and trade from the Brooklyn Nets to the Spurs this past summer. That agreement was part of a three-team trade that saw San Antonio send forward Davis Bertans to the Washington Wizards. The 10-year veteran is owed $7 million for this season, $6.65 million for 2020-21 and $1.35 million guaranteed for 2021-22. San Antonio will incur a cap hit for each of the three seasons as part of the buyout process with Carroll. How much of a cap hit will depend on how much money Carroll gave up as part of the buyout agreement.

Carroll was added via sign and trade after Marcus Morris spurned the Spurs in free agency. Morris had originally agreed to sign with San Antonio, but backed out after the New York Knicks offered him $15 million as a free agent. The Spurs moved on to Carroll as a backup plan, but he was never able to crack the rotation. He’s played only 135 minutes over 15 games with San Antonio.

Green was with the Utah Jazz earlier this season, before being waived to create a roster spot for Rayjon Tucker. The 11-year veteran Green averaged 7.7 points per game in 30 appearances with Utah. The Rockets will be the ninth different franchise Green has played for.

In Houston, Carroll and Green will join Mike D’Antoni’s small-ball crew as big man depth. Carroll and Green will likely back up P.J. Tucker and Robert Covington up front. Their experience at both forward spots will give the Rockets additional depth for their playoff run. Carroll and Green are also likely be to asked to play some center, as Houston has downsized dramatically at that position, including trading Clint Capela at the trade deadline.

NBA players’ union votes to support formation of G-League union

Kyrie Irving
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Better pay. Better working conditions. Not to be treated as disposable parts by their employers.

The players in the G-League want the same thing out of a union that auto workers, teachers, and (most obviously) NBA players do. As had been expected (talks had been going on for a while), on Monday the National Basketball Players Association (the NBA players’ union) voted to support the formation of a G-League union, a story broken by Shams Charania of The Athletic.

The G-League players are expected to support this. Sources have told NBC Sports that team and league officials will not oppose the players unionizing, they believe there will be benefits, too.

The primary issue will be pay. Most players in the G-League earn a $35,000 salary, unless they’re an elite high school prospect, or on a two-way contract (which means they are tied to an NBA team and can be called up for 45 days a season). Some players make more through an Exhibit 10 contract with a team — meaning they go to training camp with a team, then get a bonus ($50,000 or so) if they sign with that team’s G-League team.

Other issues would include freedom of player movement, work benefits, and giving the players a voice in other matters like discipline issues.

The NBA continues to push toward each of its teams having a minor-league affiliate. Right now, only the Trail Blazers and Nuggets do not. As the G-League grows, it’s understandable the players want a larger voice in how things are run.

In other news out of the players’ union meeting, Kyrie Irving was voted in as vice president, replacing Paul Gasol. Via Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

Chris Paul remains the union president.

Check out Dr. Dre’s Kobe Bryant tribute

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CHICAGO — In a weekend filled with spectacular tributes to Kobe Bryant, this one stood out.

Legendary rapper, songwriter, record producer, and businessman Dr. Dre — a guy who grew up in Los Angeles — released a tribute that stood out (and was highlighted on TNT). Dre did this with Gibson Hazard and Jackson Bannon.

Kobe’s public memorial service takes place Feb. 24 at Staples Center.

Giannis Antetokounmpo on team’s All-Star plan: Attack James Harden

Giannis Antetokounmpo and James Harden
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CHICAGO – James Harden has griped about Giannis Antetokounmpo winning Most Valuable Player last year.

After his team lost to Harden’s in the All-Star game Sunday, Antetokounmpo got in a dig at Harden.

“Offensively, we were just trying to find whoever James Harden was guarding,” Antetokounmpo said of his team’s strategy late. “That’s who we thought we’d have the opportunity to score on.”

Harden is not a good defender. But this is playing right into his hands. He’s at his best in isolation, especially in the post. He faces far more difficulty when run through actions off the ball or trying to keep up in transition.

Down the stretch, Harden defended more effectively than usual. Not great, but above his usual standard. Good enough for LeBron James‘ team to win.

At least, as Giannis previously noted, the MVP trophy is at his house.