My Unusual 2021-22 Award Predictions

Every year, people make predictions for who they think will win various NBA awards, such as the MVP Award, ROTY, DPOY, and many more. Many websites have betting odds for who will win these awards, which lots of times are accurate, but other times, not as much. In this blog post, I will make my predictions for the end of season awards, but with one catch: none of my predictions can be for the players or teams that have the best odds. I have to pick players or teams that aren’t favored, and the betting odds that I will be using are from Vegas Insider. With that, let’s get to it.

 

MVP: Stephen Curry

Credit to Kyle Terada of USA Today Sports for Picture

According to Vegas Insider, Luka Doncic has the best MVP odds for this season, followed by Joel Embiid and Kevin Durant. I can understand why Doncic would be favored, but aside from the fact that I can’t choose him, I wouldn’t have had him as my MVP pick anyway. With a coaching change in Jason Kidd, I think the Mavericks are going to take some time to figure out their identity and how they play, and if they aren’t at the top of the standings, it’ll be difficult for Doncic to claim the award. On the other hand, we saw Curry’s resurgence towards the end of last year, when he won the scoring title and averaged a career high 32 points per game. The Warriors have been off to a hot start, and Curry has been leading the charge. Plus, with reports of how Curry has been training this offseason, I think he’ll be better then ever. The Warriors will get a boost once Klay Thompson returns, and even though he has the fifth best odds, I think Curry will win MVP.

 

Rookie of the Year: Scottie Barnes

Credit to Michael Dwyer of AP Images for Picture

Cade Cunningham has the best odds to win the ROTY Award (+250), followed closely by Jalen Green (+300). While these rookies have a very good chance to become All-Stars down the road, chances are that none of these rookies are going to make a huge impact on their team immediately. It’ll come down to stats, consistency, and how quickly these players adjust to the NBA play style. Barnes, who has the fourth best odds, is averaging 17.7 points, 8.3 rebounds, and 2.2 assists, while being a nightmare matchup for me in my ESPN fantasy leagues. The Raptors are only 3-3 right now, but no one is expecting them to be contenders in such a stacked Eastern Conference. He has a positive box plus/minus, which is another good stat, and given that Cunningham has only just started his career and Green is on one of the worst teams in the NBA, I think Barnes has a very good chance to win this year.

 

6th Man of the Year: Derrick Rose

Credit to Steven Ryan of Getty Images for Picture

At the top of the odds for 6th Man of the Year are Jordan Clarkson, Kevin Huerter, and Patty Mills. I would have Mills as my 6th Man of the Year because I really like what I’ve seen from him so far, but Kyrie Irving isn’t going to be playing this season (unless he gets the COVID-19 vaccine), and Mills may be a starter for a majority of the season, disqualifying him from this contest. Rose is going to be a 6th man behind Kemba Walker, who he has a history of playing at Madison Square Garden. Rose isn’t the athletic, explosive player he once was, but he’s shown he’s a very valuable addition to have come off the bench. If the Knicks have a good enough record, I see no reason why Rose can’t win the award.

 

Defensive Player of the Year: Joel Embiid

Credit to Tim Nwachukwu of Getty Images for Picture

At the top of the DPOY odds are Rudy Gobert and… Ben Simmons????? These odds were made on October 8th, before the season, but that still sounds very wrong given Simmons’ current situation. However, I do believe that his teammate, Embiid, will win DPOY this year. Without Simmons, the team’s overall defense is going to go down, meaning Embiid will have to step up. Considering that Embiid was an MVP candidate last year (finished second in MVP voting) in large part due to his defense, I think he can win DPOY, assuming that his level of play stays the same or improves.

 

Most Improved Player: Mo Bamba

Credit to Brian Babineau of Getty Images for Picture

The players with the best odds to win MIP this year are Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (+700), Zion Williamson (+700), Michael Porter Jr (+750), Kevin Porter Jr, Zach LaVine, Collin Sexton, Christian Wood, Jarrett Jackson Jr, Jaylen Brown, John Collins, Chris Boucher, and De’Aaron Fox. Some of these I don’t understand at all, and some I do, but I think that people are sleeping on Bamba. Many people thought that Bamba was a bust only a few seasons after he came out of the University of Texas, but that is far from the truth. In his first three seasons in the NBA, Bamba started in 6 games, largely due to the fact that he was playing behind All-Star center Nikola Vucevic. Bamba also had to deal with some nagging injuries, so in his first fully healthy season as a starter, I expect Bamba to thrive, and run away with this award. The only thing that will keep him from being a clear favorite in my mind is Orlando’s record, a reason why I think everyone is sleeping on him.

 

Coach of the Year: Wes Unseld Jr

Credit to Jonathon Newton of The Washington Post for Picture

The favorites for the Coach of the Year award are Steve Nash, Erik Spolestra, and Billy Donovan. However, I don’t think any of the coaches with the best odds will win this award. I think it will be Washington Wizards Head Coach Wes Unseld, Jr. Son of Wes Unseld, this is his first year as an NBA Head Coach, and he has already led his Wizards to a 5-1 record, the team’s first since 2006. The team has gelled very well so far, and the only loss the team faced was on the road against Brooklyn, who is a title favorite. The Wizards have been horrible recently under Head Coach Scott Brooks, and if Unseld, Jr, can lead this team to a high playoff seed, he will easily become a Coach of the Year contender.

 

Championship: Golden State Warriors

Credit to Clutch Points for Picture

The Lakers and Nets are tied for the best odds to win the 2022 NBA Championship, but because of injuries, drama, and how old the Lakers are, I don’t think they will win it all. If Thompson comes back healthy and Jordan Poole continues to produce at the level he is, I don’t see any reason why Curry can’t win a championship, the MVP, and a Finals MVP this year. The Warriors also have depth with rookies Jonathon Kuminga and Moses Moody, wing players Andrew Wiggins, Otto Porter Jr, and more. They’re 4-1 to start the season, and if they can build off of that, then expect to see them playing in June.

 

Which of these predictions do you think will come true, and which won’t? Let me know in the comments below, don’t forget to follow the NBA Blog, and as always, have an awesome day!

 

 

 

 

 

Five Key Takeaways from the 76ers-Hawks Series (and a Ben Simmons Trade Scenario)

Somehow, in one of the most unpredictable matchups of the playoffs, the underdog five seed Atlanta Hawks defeated the number one seed Philadelphia 76ers to move on to the Eastern Conference Finals. The Hawks weren’t even expected to face the 76ers, as many thought that the New York Knicks’ bruising defense would contain them in the first round. However, after a five-game demolition of the Knicks, the Hawks beat the 76ers in seven painstakingly close games. While this reflection comes somewhat late, as the Hawks are playing in the Eastern Conference Finals as of the writing of this blog, hopefully it will be insightful as well. Here are five takeaways we need to learn and look for in the future:

#5: This year’s playoffs are all about the underdogs

Aside from the Hawks coming back from down big against the 76ers, many other upsets have happened in this year’s playoffs as well. On the other side of the Eastern Conference bracket, the Milwaukee Bucks upset the Brooklyn Nets in a seven-game series that saw Game Seven feature overtime, a go-ahead basket, and an incredible shot by Kevin Durant that ended up being an airball as he was tired and never rested during the game. I watched the whole game, and at the end, my conclusion was…. Why doesn’t Durant have shoes that are two sizes smaller? Smaller feet=championships. If you don’t get what I mean, look at this:

Credit to Larry Brown Sports for Picture

The Nets were the favorites to come out of the East, with former MVPs James Harden and Durant, as well as All-Star point guard Kyrie Irving. They had a good supporting cast with players such as Joe Harris, Jeff Green, Nicholas Claxton, Bruce Brown, Blake Griffin, and more. However, the Bucks played great defense (injuries to Harden and Irving helped as well), except for certain moments such as Game Six, when Kevin Durant had a 49 point triple-double which was the third greatest playoff performance ever. The Bucks played wonderfully, and I think they will defeat the Hawks to make it to the NBA Finals.

On the other side of the playoff bracket, the Suns obliterated the Denver Nuggets in a four-game sweep, which wasn’t expected. The Nuggets had MVP Nikola Jokic, and while everyone knew they weren’t going all the way this year due to an injury to Jamal Murray, people still thought the Nuggets might make the Western Conference Finals. However, Devin Booker and Chris Paul have proved to be one of the best backcourts in the NBA, gelling wonderfully while Deandre Ayton thrived in the paint and wing players blossomed into key threats under the guiding hand of head coach Monty Williams. It will be interesting to see if the Suns can make it to the NBA Finals, and personally, I’m rooting for them because I want Paul to win a championship.

The Utah Jazz, the other number one seed in the 2021 NBA playoffs, was also upset, this time by the Los Angeles Clippers. What made this upset even more spectacular is that while Utah had its three All-Stars (if you count Mike Conley being included as an injury placement), the Clippers only had one of their two stars. Kawhi Leonard was injured and did not play in Game’s Five and Six… however, Paul George put the team on his back, and with some help from Terrance Mann, delivered the team to their first conference finals in 51 years, before the team was moved to California and even called the Clippers.

One thing’s for sure… never expect the top seed to win in this year’s playoffs.

#4: Trae Young was severely underrated this season

Credit to ESPN for Picture

Despite the fact that Young statistically dropped a little bit from his 2019-20 season this year, his overall performance has been amazing. You can argue whether or not he should have made the All-NBA Third Team, but there shouldn’t have been any doubt about Young being an All-Star, or at the very least, being a better person to replace Devin Booker in the All-Star game than MIKE CONLEY! Whatever the case, Young averaged 25.3 points, 9.4 assists, and 3.9 rebounds this season as compared to last season where he averaged 29.6 points, 9.3 assists, and 4.3 rebounds. While the Hawks got off to a terrible start during the 2020-21 season, this wasn’t Young’s fault. The blame was placed on Lloyd Pierce, as after a 14-20 start, the Hawks fired Pierce, and replaced him with Nate McMillan, who had recently been fired by the Indiana Pacers. McMillan revitalized Atlanta’s offense by adding more motion into the offense, and turned the team from play-in bound to a secure berth in the NBA playoffs. However, despite the turnaround, Young still was underrated by everyone.

During the first two rounds of the 2021 NBA playoffs, Young averaged 29.1 points, 10.4 assists, 2.7 rebounds, and 1.3 steals on 41.3% shooting. Considering that this is Young’s first ever year in the playoffs, leading his team to the Eastern Conference Finals is more than impressive. It’s astounding, and it really makes you scratch your head when you realize that in one year, Young has taken his team further than Luka Doncic has in two (and Doncic has a co-All-Star in Kristaps Porzingis). In his first ever playoff game, Young had 32 points, seven rebounds, and 10 assists while hitting a game-winning floater to give the Hawks their first Game 1 victory since 2016.

Counting the first two playoff series, Young has a record of 8-4 in the playoffs, has recorded seven double-doubles, and made me realize that the last two years the Hawks did not make the playoffs were not to blame on him. As the old saying goes, “Quality over quantity.” Although some stars drag their team to the playoffs every year, they often get bounced in the first or second round. Young made up for not making the playoffs by leading the Hawks to the Eastern Conference Finals.

Trade Scenario: Ben Simmons for Kristaps Porzingis and a second round pick

#3: Kevin Huerter is the Hawks’ X-Factor

Kevin Huerter has proven to be the X-Factor for the Atlanta Hawks in the playoffs, especially during the 76ers-Hawks matchup. As the team’s starting shooting guard, Huerter makes sure that defenses don’t double Trae Young, because if they do, Young can easily find Huerter due to his incredible court vision and passing. While Huerter is nowhere near as good as Young, he has shot around 38% from three for his career, and has shot that same amount in this year’s playoffs. Huerter has averaged 11, four, and three so far, and his consistent shooting gives his team a boost when they are trying to come back from a double-digit deficit. He also gives Young room to run pick-and-rolls with John Collins and Clint Capela.

Credit to Jason Getz of USA Today for Picture

It isn’t a stretch to say that the Hawks wouldn’t have beat the 76ers without Huerter. In the first game of the series, Huerter put up a solid 15 points, but in Game Two, he had 20. His only playoff double-double so far in his career came in a losing effort in Game Six, with 17 points and 11 rebounds. However, what really made the difference was Huerter’s Game Seven performance. In the deciding battle between both teams, Huerter scored 27 points, grabbed seven rebounds, and dished out three assists, helping to lead the Hawks to a seven-point victory over the 76ers and sending the Hawks to the Eastern Conference Finals.

#2: Tyrese Maxey could be the 76ers point guard of the future

Despite the fact that Maxey’s playoff statistics don’t exactly jump off the page at you, his value on the court goes beyond stats. Despite getting inconsistent minutes, he was a helpful role player for the 76ers, averaging 6.3 points, 1.8 rebounds, and 1.3 assists for 13 minutes of playing time a game. Since he doesn’t get that much playing time, let’s look at his Per 36 Minute numbers to get a better look at what Maxey can do when given the opportunity. Per 36 minutes, Maxey is averaging 18.8 points, 4.0 rebounds, and 4.6 assists per game, which are excellent numbers.

Credit to Dale Zanine of USA Today for Picture

In 156 playoff minutes this year, Maxey only recorded five turnovers, meaning he is smart with the ball and won’t pass up open dunks or layups (yes, that was a subtle dig at Ben Simmons). He also can shoot the ball, like most point guards coming out of Kentucky (save for Rajon Rondo). Maxey shot 33% from three and 44% from the field this year, and while he isn’t jacking up threes every second he’s in the game, he shoots the ball more often than Simmons does. When Maxey gets more minutes, he will be ready to help lead Philadelphia to their future, whether it is or isn’t with Simmons. Speaking of which:

#1: Ben Simmons must be traded

While Doc Rivers has said that he and the franchise have a plan to work on Simmons’ shot and get him to shoot more often and more accurately, many are skeptical and weary of this. It seems as though every year, someone says Simmons will improve his shot, and he never does.

Although Simmons was still named an All-Star this year, it’s worth pointing out that he had a worse year than the previous season. Simmons led the league in steals in 2020 with 2.1, as well as averaging 0.6 blocks and 5.8 defensive rebounds a game. Now, in 2021, Simmons was named a Defensive Player of the Year Candidate despite putting up 0.6 blocks, 7.2 defensive rebounds, and 1.6 steals? While Simmons is making baby steps in the right direction, he is not progressing fast enough to be the second star everyone thought he would be. Against the Hawks in the 4th quarter of Game’s Four-Seven, Simmons tallied a total of six points, three assists, two turnovers, and 34 minutes! In 48 minutes of crunch-time basketball, Simmons did not even score double-digits! This looks like a stat-line from a bench warmer! In this time, Simmons also shot a dismal 6-12 from the free throw line.

This is why my perfect trade scenario for Philadelphia would be this:

76ers receive: Kristaps Porzingis

Mavericks receive: Ben Simmons, ’22 or ’23 second round pick

Credit to Sportige for Picture

Why is this a good trade?

This trade works very well for both teams. Let’s look at the 76ers’ side of things first.

The 76ers have been trying to build a championship ever since they drafted Joel Embiid in 2014 and attained the number one overall picks in 2016 and 2017. “Trust the Process” has been their motto, and the crazy Philadelphia fans have done just that. However, after a second round exit in 2018, a second round exit in 2019, a first round sweep by the Celtics in 2020, and a second round exit in 2021, things are starting to get restless. The 76ers have/had enough talent to get to the Eastern Conference Finals, but never seem to get there. Simmons’ shooting has always been a problem for him, and he doesn’t generate nearly enough offense for a point guard who could shoot over just about anybody. He’s averaging around 16 points per game for his career, well below that of a usual All-Star. The 76ers need a scoring injection and a more traditional point guard. I believe that Maxey can step up and be the 76ers Point Guard of the Future, and Kristaps Porzingis can take over at Power Forward, giving them another scoring threat. Philadelphia would get a set of twin towers, but what makes it so scary is that they are deadly from anywhere. Hakeem Olajuwon and Ralph Sampson were amazing as Twin Towers in 1986 when they made the NBA Finals… could you imagine if they could shoot the three? They would have to have been guarded by the perimeter, and the Rockets would have won so many championships.

While Al Horford and Embiid didn’t work together, I think Porzingis and Embiid could. Porzingis has been unhappy in his role with Dallas, and since the 76ers need another spark for offense, he should be getting many more scoring opportunities. Porzingis is injury prone and not terribly efficient, but his trade stock is low, and he may be one of the best players the 76ers can get for Simmons.

As for the Dallas side of things, it’s clear Luka Doncic is the alpha dog and anyone else is playing second fiddle. Porzingis could handle that to a point, but he eventually complained and wanted more shots. Simmons is a great complement to Doncic, as he doesn’t demand the ball and can play power forward or point guard beside Doncic. If Simmons is passing up open dunks and not shooting in crunch time, there’s no reason he should be complaining about not getting shots. Doncic would thrive even more on-ball, and maybe a change of scenery and playing off-ball to Doncic might do Simmons some good.

This trade works so well because both players have relatively similar salaries, were/are All-Stars, and have trade stocks that are at a current all-time low for both. Neither one of these teams has a real chance at trading their respective player for another big-time star, so unless they want a few role players and maybe a few draft picks, I think this may be as good as it gets for both teams.

What do you think of the takeaways and potential trade-scenario? Let me know in the comments below, don’t forget to follow the NBA Blog, and as always have an awesome day!

 

Report: Nikola Jokic is Your 2021 NBA MVP

Once a second round pick who no one thought would amount to anything in the NBA, Nikola Jokic has proved all of his doubters wrong by winning MVP of the 2020-2021 NBA season. Jokic is the first center to win the award since 2000, when Shaquille O’Neal took home regular season MVP, All-Star Game MVP, and Finals MVP. He is also the lowest drafted player and first second round pick to win an MVP, as the next lowest drafted MVPs were Giannis Antetokounmpo and Steve Nash, who were each picked 15th overall and have each won two MVP awards. Averaging a near triple-double with 26.4 points, 10.8 rebounds, and 8.3 assists (considered the greatest passing big man ever), Jokic also shot 56.6% from the field, 38.8% from three-point range, and 86.8% from the free throw line, proving that he did indeed deserve this award over other MVP candidates Steph Curry and Joel Embiid.

Credit to Matthew Stockman of Getty Images for Picture

While Jokic was an incredible center during the 2019-20 season, he wasn’t nearly an MVP or MVP candidate quite yet. The league had decided that LeBron James was too old to win another MVP, and had a case of deja vu when Giannis Antetokounmpo took home the award for the second straight season1. In the NBA bubble where the playoffs were held due to the coronavirus pandemic, Jokic and his Denver Nuggets came back from down 3-1 twice in the same playoffs, something that no team had done before, and has only happened a handful of times in NBA history. After making the Eastern Conference Finals that year but losing to the eventual champion Los Angeles Lakers, the Nuggets have resurged this year, despite the loss of Jamal Murray due to a season ending injury, Acquiring phenom dunker Aaron Gordon, Denver has eliminated the Portland Trail Blazers in the first round, and now looks to defeat the Phoenix Suns, led by Devin Booker and Chris Paul, both seeking a championship.

Why didn’t Curry or Embiid take home the award? Why was Jokic named MVP and not them?

To answer the Curry question, Curry’s explosion of threes and scoring did not occur until late in the season. Up until then, Curry had incredible scoring outbursts (see below), but he wasn’t consistently making the threes that he was in April and May. While his lights out shooting led him to average 32 points per game and just beat Bradley Beal for the scoring title, Curry’s Warriors still lost in the play-in to LeBron James (due in part to a Draymond Green missed floater to win the game in regulation) and the Los Angeles Lakers, as well as a young, up-and-coming Memphis Grizzlies team. The fact that even though Curry had a somewhat weaker supporting cast and couldn’t lead his team into the playoffs says a lot compared to Jokic. Despite the fact that his own second option, Jamal Murray, ended his season early due to injury, Jokic still carried on and secured his team’s playoff berth. It’s not like it’s only Curry, like last year, as the Warriors have Draymond Green, Andrew Wiggins, Kelly Oubre Jr, and James Wiseman (until he too got injured). Curry was great, but Jokic was greater.

Credit to the NBA YouTube Channel

As for Embiid, let’s look at the numbers. Embiid averaged 28.5 points, 10.6 rebounds, and 2.8 assists on 51.3% shooting from the field, 37.7% shooting from three, and 85.9% from the free throw line. Meanwhile, Jokic beats out Embiid on every stat except for points per game, in which he is slightly behind. Compared to Embiid, and as stated earlier, Jokic averaged 26.4 points, 10.8 rebounds, and 8.3 assists on 56.6% from the field, 38.8% from three-point range, and 86.8% from the free throw line.

In the 72-game season, Embiid played in only 51 games. Jokic, on the other hand, would lead the league by playing all 72 games. Despite having an All-Star point guard in Ben Simmons and a near All-Star level scorer in Tobias Harris, Embiid is also surrounded by shooters to pad his assist total and win games (Danny Green, Seth Curry, Tyrese Maxey). However, the 76ers only won two more games than the Nuggets. Jokic has a supporting cast that doesn’t stack the deck in his favor the way Embiid’s does, and yet they still barely trail the team in wins.

I rest my case.

Other NBA News:

Tom Thibodeau won his 2nd Coach of the Year award for turning around the New York Knicks, and leading them into the playoffs for the first time in what feels like a decade. They lost in the first round, but it’s a step in the right direction.

Julius Randle, the Knicks only All-Star, won the Most Improved Player award as he transformed his game from star on a bad team to All-Star on a playoff team. While Thibodeau helped the Knicks immensely, lots of their success has to do with the emergence of Randle as a superstar.

Jordan Clarkson of the number one seeded Utah Jazz won the 6th Man of the Year Award as he averaged 18.4 points, 4.0 rebounds, and 2.5 assists per game behind Donovan Mitchell, an All-Star shooting guard and leader of the franchise.

Rudy Gobert, also of the Utah Jazz, has won the Defensive Player of the Year Award over other candidates Ben Simmons and Draymond Green. He led the league in field goal percentage (67.5%), averaged 13.5 rebounds per game, and blocked 2.7 shots per game, a career high.

The Rookie of the Year race between Lamelo Ball and Anthony Edwards has not yet been revealed, but it is sure to be a close race. Read my take on the award here, but let me know who you think is going to win, don’t forget to follow the NBA Blog, and as always, have an awesome day!

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1: Jokic, who is Serbian, is one of six international players in the NBA to win the MVP award, with the others being Antetokounmpo, Dirk Nowitzki, Steve Nash, Tim Duncan, and Hakeem Olajuwon