NBA Awards Predictions

Our NBA expert, Gregory Shepherd gives his pre-season predictions on which players will take home the biggest individual honors in the 2018-2019 season.


Photo Credit: Jaime Valdez, USA TODAY Sports

Gregory Shepherd, Staff Writer

The 2018-2019 NBA season is upon us as all 32 teams will be in action on Tuesday and Wednesday evening. With that, comes the daunting task of predicting who will take home the hardware for each of the major individual awards: Rookie of the Year, Most Improved Player, Sixth Man of the Year, Defensive Player of the Year, Coach of the Year, and of course the holy grail–the league’s Most Valuable Player award.

Rookie of the Year: Trae Young, Atlanta Hawks

Trae Young, the 20 year-old rookie out of the University of Oklahoma, is destined to win the NBA’s Rookie of the Year award. Prior to the draft, the Atlanta Hawks roster consisted of many role players such as John Collins, Kent Bazemore, Taurean Prince and no significant scorer or ball handler after dealing Dennis Schroder to the Oklahoma City Thunder. Atlanta’s decision to trade european star Luka Doncic for Young during the draft signified the Hawks planned on making the Oklahoma native the centerpiece of the franchise. Throughout his freshman campaign at Oklahoma Young displayed great upside with his crafty ball handling, vision and the confidence to shoot–and make shots from 30 feet out, en route to leading the NCAA in points (27.4 ppg) and assists (8.8 apg). His gunner-like playstyle seasoned with 82 games of NBA experience is key in attaining the award.  

Most Improved Player: Jamal Murray, Denver Nuggets

The NBA’s trend of versatile guards that can shoot the three-pointer accurately has steadily increased over the decade, evident by through the likes of James Harden, Kyrie Irving, Damian Lillard and Stephen Curry. With that being said, Denver Nuggets guard Jamal Murray seems to contain the tools to be on that list. Murray’s solid stature–listed at 6’4″–204 lbs, shows he has the natural capabilities to be exceptional while having the skill equipped with it. After averaging 16.7 points while shooting 45% from the field a breakout, second NBA season, the 21 year-old is due to elevate his game to the next level given the progression shown in his first two seasons. Even with star center Nikola Jokic, Denver’s roster does not consist of a dominant scorer from the perimeter. With Murray showing flashes to be the perfect receiver of Jokic’s passing and playmaking abilities, a Most Improved Player Award is on the horizon for this season.

Sixth Man of the Year: Julius Randle, New Orleans Pelicans

Embracing his new role on his new team, forward Julius Randle is the leading candidate to win the Sixth Man of the Year Award After being caged in his postion on the Los Angeles Lakers and being perceived as the most expendable Laker during last summer’s free agency, this upcoming season Randle has something to prove on the New Orleans Pelicans. Playing behind Nikola Mirotic, Randle has the freedom of playing his best with the bench while potentially securing crunch time with the starting lineup.  

Defensive Player of the Year: Anthony Davis, New Orleans Pelicans

After averaging 2.6 blocks and 1.5 steals per game a year ago, New Orleans’ superstar big man Anthony Davis has shown he is dominant on the defensive end. While an increased workload due to the departure of  key players DeMarcus Cousins and Rajon Rondo, will be something to monitor throughout the season, the void on the defensive side of the ball of the Pelicans will leave more opportunities for Davis to be more impactful. Standing at 6’ 10” with a wingspan of 7’ 6” and equipped with substantial, defensive minded basketball IQ, Davis has all the chance to win.

Coach of the Year: Brad Stevens, Boston Celtics

Boston Celtics head coach, Brad Stevens, a man with the distinction of being the best inbounds play-caller in the league, is a lock for Coach of the Year. Following the narrative of previous seasons, in order to win Coach of the Year it is a necessity that the team coached is one of the top teams in the conference and the Boston Celtics fit that description. Boston is arguably the most talented team in the Eastern Conference and are the favorites to reach the NBA Finals. Amidst the predicted success of the Celtics, Stevens’ has been recognized by basketball royalty such as retired legend Kevin Garnett and the King himself, LeBron James for his coaching abilities, making it density that the sixth year coach will be recognized by the NBA’s voting committee as the best coach in the league.

Most Valuable Player: LeBron James, Los Angeles Lakers

The MVP award is more profound than selecting who is deemed the best player. The player’s effect on the team’s record is a major factor when considering who attains the coveted award. Having said that, Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James will be the recipient of this award. James’s impact will be on display taking the second worst team in the Western Conference and leading them to be considerable contenders to win an NBA championship. Having such an important role on a young and inexperienced Lakers team will guarantee show statistically. The significance of James’s presence will not be overlooked again during MVP considerations and he will take home his well deserved and long overdue, fifth MVP trophy.

BONUS: All NBA First Team

Guard: James Harden, Houston Rockets

Guard: Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors

Forward: Lebron James, Los Angeles Lakers

Forward: Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks

Center:  Anthony Davis, New Orleans Pelicans