The 2018-2019 NBA season is about a week away and fans are eager for play to return. With the season approaching, it is prime time for NBA award predictions. Here’s one take for the NBA awards that’ll be handed out in June 2019.
Most Valuable Player: Joel Embiid – 76ers
Contrary to popular belief, LeBron James will not be awarded his fifth NBA MVP. James will continue his dominance over the league, but Joel Embiid’s continued emergence on a powerhouse Philadelphia squad will steal the MVP crown from the King.
Embiid put up All-NBA numbers last year in just his second healthy season. He finished last season with an average of 22.9 points and 11 rebounds per game on 48 percent shooting from the field. In addition, he made his first all-star appearance and was a member of the All-Defensive second team.
In each of his two seasons in the NBA, Embiid has positively progressed his skillset and increased the amount of games he played. Injuries have plagued “The Process” even prior to being drafted, but it hasn’t stopped him from seriously developing into an MVP caliber player. Embiid has the superior defensive skillset that most MVP candidates lack. He is a dynamic two-way player that has yet to show the world his full potential.
With James leaving for the Western Conference, Embiid and the 76ers will look to emerge as NBA Finals contenders alongside the Boston Celtics. A top-two seed is in sights for the city of Philadelphia, and they will be looking for their MVP candidate, Embiid, to lead them back to the promised land.
Rookie of the Year: Luka Doncic – Mavericks
Luka Doncic will start off his NBA career in a great situation with the Dallas Mavericks. He will be paired with Dennis Smith in the backcourt and have a great option in DeAndre Jordan in the pick-and-roll. Doncic should step in and make a positive impact from day one.
The European sensation has been touted as the most decorated and talented international prospect ever. He began playing in the Euroleague at the age of 16 in 2015-2016, and he earned his first of two EuroLeague Rising Star awards in the 2016-2017 season. He followed that season with another EuroLeague Rising Star award, the EuroLeague MVP, EuroLeague Final Four MVP, and a EuroLeague championship.
With all the overseas experience, Doncic enters the NBA with a head start on most rookies. He won’t have the most impressive stat line of all rookies, but his positive impact on the Mavericks will earn him the Rookie of the Year.
Coach of the Year: Brad Stevens – Celtics
Although the Coach of the Year doesn’t always go to the best head coach in the NBA, this year it will. Gregg Popovich’s reign as the NBA’s best head coach is over. Brad Stevens of the Boston Celtics owns this title.
Stevens’ season began tragically as forward Gordon Hayward was ruled out for the year five minutes into the season. The Celtics still had a solid core of players with superstar Kyrie Irving leading the pack, but his injury later in the season left the team without a star player as they entered the playoffs.
Stevens was left with young and inexperienced players and veteran Al Horford. This handicap was only a mere obstacle in the Celtics’ road to landing the first seed and home court advantage through the Eastern Conference playoffs. The core of Horford, Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Marcus Smart, and Terry Rozier led the Celtics to a game-7 matchup with LeBron James and the Cavaliers.
The Celtics lost, but it was vastly impressive for the youthful Celtics and Stevens to reach the heights they did without their two star players. Stevens has the rare ability of developing players to their fullest potential. Popovich possesses this trait, too, as we have seen for the past two decades.
With Irving and Hayward returning to an already stacked lineup, Stevens will have more than enough weapons and will look to stamp his name as the NBA’s best head coach.
Most Improved Player: Jamal Murray – Nuggets
Jamal Murray took a leap last year as he upped his points per game from 9.9 to 16.7. He also became a more efficient player as he shot 45 percent from the field, 38 percent from deep, and 91 percent from the charity stripe.
The former Kentucky point guard expects to be the third scoring option behind center Nikola Jokic and shooting guard Gary Harris. With a fast and high-powered offense, Murray will get the touches he needs to break out and become the second option on a playoff team in the deep Western Conference.
Murray’s biggest challenge is to become the second option on the Nuggets. Harris is a top-50 player and is more efficient than Murray, but his ceiling is not as high as Murray’s. Murray has the potential to be an efficient 20-point scorer in just third NBA season. His break out will likely push Gary Harris to the third offensive option and will put him into the top-10 point guard conversation.
Defensive Player of the Year: Joel Embiid – 76ers
June will be a great month for the All-NBA center. Embiid will not only be coming home with the MVP trophy, but the DPOY award as well.
Embiid was a member of the NBA All-Defensive Second Team last year. He missed out on the first team because Jazz center Rudy Gobert took the sole center spot on the first team. Still, Embiid finished second in Defensive Player of the Year voting behind none other than Gobert.
The competition will be stiff with Gobert looking to win back-to-back, Kawhi Leonard returning from injury, and Anthony Davis continuing his dominance. Embiid will overcome these obstacles and help the 76ers become one of the best defensive teams in the East.
His paint protection is his best defensive skill, but he outdoes other defensive big men with the ability to keep up with smaller and quicker players on the perimeter. His defensive prowess all over the court will be on display in both strong fundamental defensive stops and flashy blocks that’ll make social media explode.
Sixth Man of the Year: Lou Williams – Clippers
Since winning the Sixth Man of the Year Award in the 2014-2015 season with the Toronto Raptors, Lou Williams has stapled his name into the discussion for this honor. Outside of two rare years, Williams has never started more than 30 games in a season. He is the picture-perfect bench player and is valuable to any team he is on.
The two-time Sixth Man of the Year sparks the offense by providing high-tempo scoring from all levels of the court. With a crowded backcourt in Los Angeles, Williams will have some competition, but his scoring prowess will keep him on the floor for the majority of the game.
Williams is a top-two scorer on the Clippers with forward Tobias Harris joining him in the pairing. Another season of 20 or more points per game is expected out of Williams. The team will rely on his scoring to keep them in games, so expect him to be on the court for long periods at a time.