With the NBA regular season tip-off about a week away, it is time for some early predictions. In this article, we are going to discuss league MVP, Most Improved and Rookie Of The Year award hopefuls.
It’s pretty easy to narrow down the candidates for this year’s Most Valuable Player award to a few players. The top two prospects for the 2017 MVP are Lebron James and Russell Westbrook. I left Stephen Curry off the short list because the Warriors roster has become too crowded for one player to truly dominate. With the addition of Kevin Durant this summer, they now have three all-stars who all want to run the offense. Because of this, it becomes difficult for one individual player to make a profound impact on his team or around the league. Curry will still have a productive season, but Durant will surely eat into his statistics, hurting his chances
Between Lebron and Westbrook, I think Lebron is the clear favorite, but I want to make the case for why it could be Westbrook. We saw just how dominant Westbrook has been playing alongside Durant. Now, imagine how much more creativity and freedom he will have as the lone all-star. While it will be more difficult to win basketball games, the spotlight will be entirely on Westbrook, which will allow him to lead his team any direction he chooses.
At the same time, Lebron James continues to be the most dominant physical player in the league, and betting against him rarely ends up being a good decision (except in the finals). This will end up being a close MVP race, but I believe it will come down to Westbrook vs. Lebron when the season comes to a close a few months from now.
I like D’Angelo Russell for the Kia Most Improved Player for the 2017 season. The main reasons are the hiring of Luke Walton as the head coach and the retirement of Kobe Bryant. Last season was all about Kobe’s final season in the league and, as such, he wanted to make the most of it by shooting all the time and running the offense through himself. That type of mentality did not give Russell the ability to find his groove in the NBA playing under the shadow of Kobe. Now that he is gone, Russell can take back control of the team and work with Walton to turn the Lakers franchise around after an abysmal season last year.
Rookie of the Year
Selecting a rookie of the year this early is difficult because none of these players have any regular season experience to base my predictions off of for this category, but I am going with Buddy Hield on the New Orleans Pelicans for the award. Hield is a fantastic shooter from anywhere on the floor and can take over a game at any moment. Combine his offensive prowess with players like Anthony Davis and we could see a prolific scoring duo bring the Pelicans back to the playoffs. Hield had four years of experience playing at Oklahoma and comes to the NBA as a mature athlete ready to make an impact.