Sonny’s Side Note: 2016-17 NBA award predictions (part two)
Editor’s note: This is part two of a two-part opinion piece on the NBA 2016-17 awards. Digital editor Sonny Mulpuri offers ranked predictions for each award, and backs his rankings with reasoned arguments. Have your own opinions on the awards? Write a Letter to the Editor or leave a comment below.
Sixth Man of the Year
1) Andre Iguodala
2) Jamal Crawford
3) Zach Randolph
4) Stanley Johnson
5) Brandon Knight
This award accounts for the sixth starter on a team. The man that comes off the bench and contributes to his team in a way that helps them win.
Iguodala is the most versatile out of all these players as he’s had experience as a starter in the league, but also contributed for the Warriors off the bench more. The Warriors’ bench is thinner this year and Iguodala’s minutes will be more valuable and he will see for time than other players as a result. He could put up close to double digit points a night if he takes smarter shots and see more assists if he looks for the superstars on his team.
Crawford could also take home his third sixth man of the year award in the past four years if he claims it this season. He’s the primary scorer on the bench for the Clippers this season, but he’s getting older and the starters may look to keep the balls in their hands this season. However, I still think that Crawford will put up 12-14 points a night and if he increases that to 14.5-15.5, he will bring home another sixth man of year award to go along with his other three.
This will be Zach Randolph’s first season as a veteran to come off the bench and that transition might prove tough for him at the beginning. Although I don’t see him finishing first for this award, if he still still puts up 13 PPG and 7 RPG, he could make a strong case to not only win the award, but put himself in a position to win it in the next few years.
Most Improved Player
1) D’Angelo Russell
2) Myles Turner
3) Victor Oladipo
4) Devin Booker
5) Jabari Parker
This award is one that is really up in the air. It depends more on the type of work the player has put in in the offseason and how that work translates onto the floor.
Russell is my pick this year because in his rookie year he averaged 13.2 PPG, 3.3 APG, and 3.4 RPG. With that one year of experience in the league and a younger team to gel with, I believe that Russell can bump his PPG up three or four points and his APG to seven or eight. He’s a point guard first and with Jordan Clarkson and Brandon Ingram on the floor with him, he should be distributing the ball a lot more often.
Turner has also shown significant improvement and will have more time on the floor this season. Like Russell, he has another year of experience under his belt and should increase his PPG from 10.3 to close to 12.5-14 this season and his RPG from 5.5 to 7-9. He could thrive in an increased role and if new point guard, Jeff Teague and him can run the pick and roll successfully he will see that increase in points.
Victor Oladipo’s case depends on how well he fits in with OKC’s system. In an Orlando Magic uniform, Oladipo showed the league that he had talent, but in the dysfunction in that organization, he never really stood out. However, he has a fresh start in a backcourt that boasts a top-five player in Russell Westbrook. Both have incredible athleticism, speed and the drive to win. If Oladipo fits in better in OKC’s Westbrook-reliant offense than I think, a case could be made where he leaps up to number one in this award race.
Coach of the Year
1) Steve Kerr
2) Gregg Popovich
3) Tyronn Lue
4) Tom Thibodeau
5) Brad Stevens
Steve Kerr brought home the award last season along with the best record in NBA history of 73-9. He has an even better roster this season and anything less than a championship would be deemed as failure. The Warriors will have the best record in the NBA this season, but I don’t believe they will break their own record.
Popovich is one of the greatest coaches of all time and has had success with the Spurs for 2o years and the Spurs team he has assembled this year doesn’t look to break that streak. Even though they won’t have a record as good as the Warriors, the Spurs will contend for the one seed, but most likely ending up with the two seed in the Western Conference.
Tryonn Lue and his Cavaliers team come into the season as the reigning champs and are clear favorite to win the Eastern Conference Finals. Their success won’t match that of the Warriors or even the Spurs for that matter. However, they will still be the best team in the Eastern Conference.
Tom Thibodeau might be the only coach in this group that doesn’t make the playoffs, but the progress that he made with this team over the season is the reason why I put him in here. The Timberwolves are a team on the come up and with the expected stellar play of Karl-Anthony Towns and contributions of Andrew Wiggins, Kris Dunn, and Zach Lavine, they could squeak out an eight seed. I don’t expect that to happen though, but what I do expect is that they improve their record by 10 games. As a defensive-minded coach, Thibodeau will lessen some of the woes they had last season and keep that up for the next few seasons, where the Timberwolves will be expected to make the playoffs.
Although these are the awards that aren’t the most anticipated or noteworthy, for the underdog or extreme basketball fan they are something that they can keep up to date on.