Just like that, week one (abbreviated though it was) of the NBA season is in the books. All teams in the league still have somewhere between 79 and 82 games to play, but we have to start somewhere, right? Every week we’ll be sounding off on who we think the frontrunners for the various NBA awards are. For week one, here’s who we should be watching.
One week into the season and Giannis Antetokounmpo is already getting major buzz around the league. After two games the Greek Freak is averaging 38.3 points, 9.7 rebounds and 5 assists. All of this shooting 63.6% from the field. Those numbers are bonkers even for NBA 2K. His performance against the Portland Trailblazers on Saturday night almost certainly cements him as a frontrunner. If Giannis keeps this up it will be more than an MVP season, it will be an all time year. Oh and just remember, Giannis is 22 years old.
Thought folks needed to learn how to spell/pronounce Antetokounmpo for Giannis to be a huge star. First name will do pic.twitter.com/5S2unPGWNn— Michael Lee (@MrMichaelLee) October 22, 2017
An MVP award watch list that doesn’t start with Lebron James is not a correct list. On opening night, with the game on the line against the Boston Celtics, Lebron turned it up and willed his team to a victory. With an incredible performance from Giannis, Lebron showed why he’s still king overcoming a very good Milwaukee Bucks team. Oh and when you compare this season’s averages for Lebron (26.5 points, 10.5 rebounds, 8.5 assists) to his career (27.1 points, 7.3 rebounds, 7.0 assists) it appears he’s getting better. Lebron might be the closest thing we have to a superhero on this planet.
Defensive Player of the Year
Another season, another elite defense for the Utah Jazz led by Rudy Gobert. After two games, Rudy has shown his ability to guard the paint in his regular Gobzilla fashion. Some under the radar help for Rudy this year will come from the savvy Epke Udoh who will help the Jazz defensive rating while Rudy is off the court. Last season, with Rudy off the court, the defense dipped substantially but having Udoh will help that defensive rating remain high.
With Kawhi Leonard injured, this may be a two horse race for much of the year. So much of the Warriors success can be traced back to Draymond Green playing or not. After Draymond left their game against the Houston Rockets, the Warriors went on to lose. And none of us will forget his suspension in the Finals that may have cost the Warriors the entire series.
Where Rudy Gobert is the shutdown corner that keeps opponents from his side of the field, Draymond Green is the roaming free safety feasting on errant passes and coming from the weakside for a block. This DPOY race is going to be a blast.
Sixth Man of the Year
If Chris Paul is out for two long, Eric Gordon may not be eligible for this award but in two games Gordon has been dazzling. His bounce is obviously back after his baptism by fire of Jordan Bell in their opening night win against the Golden State Warriors. A steady sharpshooter that will be able to play off of both James Harden and Chris Paul, this may be easy for Gordon as he will be asked to finish plays from two of the best passers in the NBA.
The Denver Nuggets showed flashes of real offense in their opening game against the Utah Jazz and Will Barton was a big part of it. Bringing in Paul Millsap and running the offense through Nikola Jokic is going to give Barton a lot of opportunities. Small sample as it is, scoring 23 points on one of the best defenses in the league will get you noticed.
Coach of the Year
This award tends to go to one of two things, the coach of the best team in the league or the coach who won more games than you expected. Jason Kidd is going to benefit from having Giannis Antetokounmpo in the Eastern Conference. If Kidd can coach them even relatively well, Giannis is going to dunk all over the “leastern” Conference every game. And if they win over 50 games, this is a real possibility.
In all honestly, you could pencil in a Warrior for each one of these categories, and no one would second guess you. And that’s why Kerr should be commended. There’s a lot of ego and personality on the reigning champions and Kerr has held them together and kept their focus. It’s very likely that Steve Kerr’s time playing under Phil Jackson taught him ways to keep a superstar team together. Luckily he hasn’t taken any punches from his players this time around. If the Warriors stay dominant, and without any internal drama, this award will likely go to Ker.