5 on 5: Award Predictions
Anthony Davis might not be just the division MVP but the MVP of the entire NBA. Many believed after DeMarcus Cousins went down, that the Pelicans season was over. Davis was having none of that. He went on to have one of the best 30-game stretches in NBA history averaging 30.7 points, 11.9 rebounds, two assists, two steals, and 3.1 blocks per game.
This season Davis will be the man. There will be no figuring out how he and Boogie can coexist. Yes, he has a new back court mate in Julius Randle but The Brow will not be competing for touches. He IS the primary option for this team.
Here’s whats crazy, Davis is only 25 years old. It seems as if he should be hitting his thirty year old season, but he is just now entering in to his prime which is terrifying for opponents. He only continues to improve. If he carries the New Orleans Pelicans into the playoffs again this season in a stacked Western Conference, he should be the no doubt MVP of the division, if not the league.
Runner up: Chris Paul
DIVISION Rookie of the Year
Luka Doncic gets the nod over Jaren Jackson Jr. for one reason: minutes. If Jackson Jr. was a starter from day one like Doncic is going to be, he would probably run away with best rookie in the division honors. With Marc Gasol still patrolling the paint inside the FedEx Forum, minutes will have to be earned by the young big man.
Doncic won’t have much push from any other rookies for this honor as the only other one that will push for significant playing time will be Lonnie Walker IV with the San Antonio Spurs. He will be seeing less minutes that JJJ, so Doncic is the odds on favorite.
The EuroLeague MVP is going to be a fun weapon for coach Rick Carlisle to unleash this season. The Dallas Mavericks, with the addition of DeAndre Jordan, have gone from a team no one paid much attention to, to a team people want to see. I foresee a lot of lobs to DJ in Dallas and honestly would not be surprised if (hot take coming) Doncic averaged a double-double (points and assists) in his rookie season.
Runner up: Jaren Jackson Jr.
Division Defensive POY
Did you know that Kyle Anderson had the sixth best defensive rating in the NBA? He filled in admirably for Kawi Leonard defensively last season. The Spurs kept their playoff streak alive last year primarily because they had 3 of the top 10 defenders in the league.
Anderson has moved within the division from San Antonio to Memphis, a team that hangs their hats on defense. Anderson will have one of the best guard defenders in Mike Conley in front of him and perhaps the most cerebral defender in the NBA in Marc Gasol behind him. Don’t forget Jaren Jackson Jr. coming off the bench as well sending shots to Beale Street.
Anthony Davis could be a candidate here as well because he stuffs the stat sheet on a nightly basis, but he already won Division MVP. DeAndre Jordan could be another name mentioned here because defense is about all he can do other than dunk. Anderson is the sleeper pick here and will be a cornerstone of what the Memphis Grizzlies do defensively.
Runner up: DeAndre Jordan
Division Most Improved
It is finally Dejounte Murray’s show to run in San Antonio. Shockingly, Tony Parker will be wearing threads other than a Spurs jersey this season. He signed a two-year deal with the Charlotte Hornets this offseason.
The third-year point guard started 48 games in his sophomore campaign and ended the season with the fifth best defensive rating in the NBA. Murray will be a ripe 22 years old when he takes the keys to the Spurs system.
A huge benefit for Murray this season is that he won’t have the pressure of being a primary or secondary scorer playing with DeMar DeRozan and LaMarcus Aldridge. The other advantage of being on the floor with those two players is that opposing defenses will have to game plan for them, leaving opportunities for Murray to contribute at a high level.
Murray ended last season at 8.1 points, 2.9 assists and 5.7 rebounds per game. Look for Murray to improve his shooting touch and be around the 12-15 points and 7-8 assists per game range.
Runner up: Chandler Parsons
Division Coach Of the Year
Honestly, this was the biggest toss up out of the awards. Mike D’Antoni will probably lead the Houston Rockets to another division title. Alvin Gentry will most likely lead the Pelicans back to the playoffs. Popovich is well, the best coach in the game. Rick Carlisle has a great chance to make some noise with his revamped roster.
In the end, with a healthy Mike Conley, Bickerstaff might lead the charge to the biggest record turn around in the league. JB took over this team in the middle of the season last year and was handed the keys to a tank job. With the respect of his veteran players and young guys, plus an entire offseason to implement his system, this team has the potential to be a sleeping giant.
If the Grizzlies get a healthy Conley, a Rockets-like Chandler Parsons, and a 2016-17 Marc Gasol, Bickerstaff will be leading the start of a new playoff run in Memphis.