The NBA is about to start and at The VideoScope we are ready to cast some predictions, starting with who ends up with the individual awards at the end of the year. On top of that, I’ll mention a dark horse candidate according to the odds, who might have a shot at winning an award (15/1 or higher on MVP, DPOY, ROTY, 25/1 or higher on COTY, 6th Man, MIP). Enjoy!
Most Valuable Player:
Winner: Giannis Antetokounmpo (7/2)
Dark Horse: Joel Embiid (15/1)
Not the most imaginative pick, but I, like many others, think that Mike Budenholzer can unlock the potential of both the Milwaukee Bucks and “The Greek Freak” Giannis Antetokounmpo (7/2). Without LeBron James, the Eastern Conference is there for the taking and the next “best player in the NBA” after LeBron, will also be the king of the east after LeBron.
Giannis got some MVP buzz early on last season, and finished juuuust outside the Top 5 in the voting. He had comparable stats to LeBron James who finished 2nd and played much better defense than the coasting King, but was let down by his team’s poor performance, mostly hindered by poor coaching.
By acquiring the 14/15 Coach of The Year in Budenholzer, the Bucks are in great position to earn home court advantage, and get close to the 1st or 2nd seed that is usually required to win the MVP. Toppling the Celtics and Raptors might be a tall order, but there is a good chance the Bucks can pip the 76ers for the 3rd spot.
If they don’t, it’s most likely down to Joel Embiid (15/1) having a monster year, playing more games and minutes than ever before. There is a scenario where Embiid plays close to 70 games, takes another step offensively and continues to dominate defensively as the 76ers take yet another step. 15/1 odds are pretty good for someone as talented as Embiid.
Out of the other MVP candidates, you can’t look away from LeBron James (4/1), who needs to safely take his new Lakers team to the playoffs if he wants any shot at a 5th MVP. However, like he did with the Heat and the Cavaliers, I expect LeBron’s new team to struggle out of the gate and disqualify him from MVP contention. Even if he likely has a late surge at the MVP like he did last season.
My 2nd favorite to win this year’s MVP is my pick from last season, Kawhi Leonard (9/1). Injuries and awkwardness led to Kawhi sitting out most of last season, and many have forgotten just how good The Claw can be when he steps out on the court. He is the best defensive player in the NBA (more on that later..) and developed into a fantastic #1 option on offense before Zaza Pachulia made sure he took an awkward step down. Now with the Toronto Raptors, Kawhi will find plenty more to laugh about.
Anthony Davis (4/1) and James Harden (11/2) round out the 5 favorites to win this year, as Steph Curry and Kevin Durant continue to cancel each other out while complaining how tough it is to stay motivated for a three-peat. Harden’s Rockets came close to taking down the Warriors, but will by all accounts take a step back this season without some key contributors from last season and Chris Paul getting a year older. Harden just won the MVP and a similar season on a worse team than last year won’t cut it for winning MVP honors back to back.
Davis is an intriguing option, but I just don’t think the New Orleans Pelicans will be good enough to make The Brow into The MVP. He’ll win one with the Lakers in the future, don’t worry.
Predicted Top 5 MVP Voting:
- Giannis Antetokounmpo
- Kawhi Leonard
- LeBron James
- James Harden
- Anthony Davis
Rookie of the Year:
Winner: Luka Dončić (5/2)
Dark Horse: Wendell Carter Jr (18/1)
Last year I put money on Donovan Mitchell as my dark horse candidate for this award, but ultimately picked the 17/18 Rookie(?) of the Year winner Ben Simmons as my prediction. Hopefully I’m just as accurate this year.
The Euroleague MVP Luka Dončić (5/2) might be the most NBA ready rookie this season and the Dallas Mavericks are lucky to have him after having the #5 pick going into the 2018 NBA Draft. They ended up with the guy I had as the biggest boom of the 2018 NBA Draft. The Mavericks are trying to get into the playoffs again in Dirk Nowitzky’s likely final season, but Dončić will step right into the starting lineup and get the required minutes to comfortably win the ROTY this season.
His biggest competition according to the bookmakers will be the #1 pick DeAndre Ayton (2/1), but while I think Ayton is a solid player who’ll have a good season, he won’t be the game changer Luka projects to be. I expect the Dallas Mavericks to be quite a bit better than the Phoenix Suns this season also, making it harder for Ayton to win ROTY.
There are only a handful of worthwhile candidates outside of Dončić and Ayton, but one of them is Wendell Carter Jr (17/1), who looked like a re-imagined player in Summer League. Lighter on his feet, while still keeping his strength and skills, Carter Jr is close to being a complete player who will be a borderline all-star for most of his career. If he can help a young Bulls squad make the final Eastern Conference playoffs spot, he has a good chance of becoming the rookie of the year, even at 18/1 odds.
Kevin Knox (15/2) garnered a ton of hype after a promising Summer League, but is still raw and plays for a hapless New York Knicks team without Kristaps Porzingis. Collin Sexton (15/2) is the new point guard for a LeBron-less Cavaliers and the drop in wins alone will make sure Sexton isn’t a candidate either, through no fault of his own. He’ll have a tough year even if he’ll shed the “bust” label I put on him in my annual boom or bust article.
I had Mo Bamba (20/1) and Jaren Jackson Jr. (20/1) as booms, but they are not quite NBA ready yet and play on too weak teams to win this award also. As for other dark horse candidates, keep an eye on Miles Bridges (30/1) and Harry Giles (50/1).
Coach of the Year:
Winner: Brad Stevens (6/4)
Dark Horse: Rick Carlisle (100/1)
Brad Stevens HAS to win it at some point, right? He is the bookmakers favorite to win, but they usually don’t end up with the award at the end of the season. This award is all about winning a surprising amount of games, which has lead to Mike Brown, Byron Scott and Sam Mitchell combining for the same amount of COTY awards as Gregg Popovich. With the Celtic’s over/under set at 59.5 wins, it’s hard to see Stevens and company surprise us.
I just don’t think any other team will surprise us that much. The Celtics will be joined by Toronto, Philly and Milwaukee in the East, while the Warriors and Rockets will continue to be separated from the pack in the West. The way to beat Stevens for this award might be to snatch the #1 seed in the East away from him. If that’s the case, the most likely candidate is new Toronto Raptors coach Nick Nurse (11/1). It will be hard to win back to back Coach of The Year honors for Toronto, but getting the #1 seed might do it.
As a dark horse candidate, I like Rick Carlisle, who has been given a ludicrous 100/1 odds. The Mavericks will be competitive and if they manage to get into the playoffs with ROTY Luka Dončić and legend Dirk Nowitzky, you can make a lot of money betting on one of the best coaches in the NBA.
Defensive Player of the Year:
Winner: Kawhi Leonard (7/2)
Dark Horse: Giannis Antetokounmpo (17/1)
Like I said, Kawhi Leonard (7/2) is the best defensive player in the NBA. He was a shoe-in for this award only 2 years ago, but voter fatigue and injuries has taken that mantle away from him 2 years running. Kawhi will make the Toronto Raptors defence take a leap and go from good to elite. Lowry-Green-Kawhi-OG-Siakam… Try scoring on that!
Last year’s winner Rudy Gobert (7/4) is the favorite, but he didn’t look like a defensive player of the year candidate when the Utah Jazz got eliminated from the playoffs last season. Besides, his biggest competition for the award, Joel Embiid (11/1), is still learning how to maximize his unlimited potential and will take another step up this year.
Fellow MVP contenders Anthony Davis (4/1) and Giannis Antetokounmpo (17/1) have a shot at winning DPOY as well, both sporting freakishly long arms while being super agile. Davis came 3rd in last year’s voting and will be up there yet again. But just like in the MVP voting, I can’t see the Pelicans making a push towards getting home court advantage and I don’t think they will be good enough defensively for AD to challenge for DPOY either, even with the previously overlooked Jrue Holiday also being a defensive beast. They still project to be a better defensive team than the Bucks, hence the unfavorable odds for Giannis.
Draymond Green (7/1) and Kevin Durant (25/1) will cancel each other out and will be too busy complaining about how tough is it to stay motivated for a three-peat.
Most Improved Player:
Winner: Zach LaVine (10/1)
Dark Horse: Myles Turner (22/1)
In recent years, this award has gone to a young, up and coming ball handler and scorer ready to take a step up, a description that seems to fit Zach LaVine (10/1).
This award has been settled fairly early in the year the last few years as well and I think that might be the case yet again. That would certainly favor Zach LaVine, as the leading storyline going into the season is how screwed the Minnesota Timberwolves are after trading for Jimmy Butler. The main player in that deal, was Zach LaVine who will be fully back from an ACL injury which usually lingers for a year after fully healed.
The Chicago Bulls will score A LOT of points. Not just because they are super talented offensively, but because they really struggle defensively. They will look to Zach LaVine as their primary scorer, flanked by floor spacers and the homecoming Jabari Parker.
The award is one of the toughest to predict, with so many potential names to choose from. Jabari Parker (12/1) himself is a good candidate, with a similar situation and backstory as his teammate LaVine, coming off a return from an ACL injury. He won’t have the same eye-catching highlights as dunk master LaVine however.
Brandon Ingram (6/1), Aaron Gordon (11/1) and Jamal Murray (14/1) are other enticing favorites, but the forgotten man Myles Turner (22/1) was close to being my pick for this award. Inspired by last year’s winner and teammate Victor Oladipo, Turner has made an effort to change his body this summer and the results are showing.
Turner looked like a future franchise player in his first two seasons, but regressed last year. If he becomes better than ever, truly establishing Indiana Pacers as a contender in the East, this award might be his.
6th Man of the Year:
Winner: Fred Van Vleet (25/1)
Dark Horse: Fred Van Vleet (25/1)
Gonna go with my “Dark Horse” on this one with Toronto Raptors spark plug, Fred Van Vleet (25/1). The previously undrafted Van Vleet had somewhat of a breakout year last season, establishing himself as a major part of Toronto Raptors’ team. I expect him to continue to develop, get more minutes throughout the season and slowly start to show signs of being Kyle Lowry’s long term replacement at PG for the Raptors.
Considering the 3rd place finish for this award last year, the 25/1 odds baffles me, especially for a young guy on a team with as much potential as the Toronto Raptors. Van Vleet can score in bunches, often a prerequisite for this award, as a 43% 3PT shooter, jacking up 6.2 long range shots per 36 minutes. He has also shown a capability of taking care of the ball, with an assist to turnover ratio of 3.28, to go along with his pesky defense.
There are other good candidates, including the two who finished above Van Vleet last year, in Lou Williams (3/1) and Eric Gordon (4/1). Sweet Lou could join Jamal Crawford as a 3 time winner, but winning this award back to back hasn’t happened since Detlef Schrempf did it at the start of the 1990’s. Eric Gordon might end up starting for Minnesota if the Rockets manage to trade for Jimmy Butler.
JJ Redick (14/1) will get a taste of being a 6th man this year, with Markelle Fultz the likely starter ahead of him. Redick started off his NBA career as an effective 6th man for the Orlando Magic, and could end it the same way with the 76ers.
Executive of the Year:
Winner: Masai Ujiri, Toronto Raptors
Dark Horse: Gar Forman, Chicago Bulls
I don’t know if you noticed, but I’m intrigued by both the Toronto Raptors and the Chicago Bulls this year. I think the trade to acquire Kawhi Leonard gives the Toronto Raptors a higher ceiling and possibly a #1 seed in the East. It was the most prominent trade in the summer and if it pays off, Ujiri will be a favorite to win this award.
For the Bulls I like the draft pick of Wendell Carter Jr, as well as how the Chicago Bulls have formed a good young core. If Zach LaVine and Jabari Parker contends for MIP and Wendell Carter Jr. makes a run for ROTY, this off-season looks really good for Gar Forman’s team.
The Lakers with Rob Pelinka and Magic Johnson will be a candidate as well, seeing as they did get the best player in the world this summer. Wanting LeBron is something everyone did however, so for the Lakers to get my vote, their collection of misfits will have to be a perfect fit around LeBron. I love Lance Stephenson (and Rondo.. and Beasley…), but I don’t foresee a breakout year for any of the newly acquired LA Lakers.