What separates the NBA from all other professional sports is often what transpires off the floor. It has become a narrative-driven association, despite being a fast-paced, action-packed contest. There are always a handful of interesting storylines, most of which dictate the always exciting NBA player awards races at the end of the season. With the new season just over a month away, we make our predictions for who we think will take home each illustrious award at season’s end.
2021 NBA End Of Season Player Awards Predictions
Rookie Of The Year – Cade Cunningham
Few rookies from this draft class are in a better position for immediate success such as the one that Cade Cunningham finds himself in. The former Oklahoma Sooner is one of the most physically unique point guards in the NBA, standing at 6’8 and over 220 pounds. While he is large in frame, he has an ability to put the ball in the basket at a high volume, while also being able to facilitate an offense.
With the new direction the league is taking with position-less basketball taking prevalence, Cunningham is very switchable on the floor as he can shot over 40% from beyond the arc in college. Cunningham leads a young, raw, and hungry Detroit Pistons organization as they look to rebuild the franchise with Cade at the helm. While they are nowhere near playoff contention on paper, fans have plenty to be excited for in their top overall pick. It’s by no means a hot take, but Cade Cunningham should be considered the heavy favorite for Rookie of the Year.
Sixth Man Of The Year – Jordan Clarkson
Utah Jazz guard Jordan Clarkson has the chance to etch his name amongst some of the NBA’s greatest role players, historically speaking. The Sixth Man of the Year Award, despite being one of the most prestigious NBA player awards, often goes to the same hands season after season before the next great bench player takes over. After taking home the coveted prize in 2020-21, Jordan Clarkson is looking to repeat.
Clarkson is an excellent volume scorer who could potentially start on a handful of teams around the association. Having to backup both Donovan Mitchell and Mike Conley, there’s just not enough minutes for the three to share the floor together. Clarkson can provide starter minutes off the second unit, perhaps better than any other role player in the league, and the margin looks to be stretching even wider. If Clarkson puts forth even an identical 2021-22 season, this NBA player award is his to lose.
Defensive Player of the Year – Giannis Antetokounmpo
The Greek Freak is among one of the most unique specimens to ever step foot on an NBA court. It’s amazing when a player is a nightmare to guard offensively, and can also take over games defensively on the other end. Giannis embodies that level of elite two-way prowess that comes once or twice in a generation. His combination of size, speed, strength, and athleticism is unmatched, as he continues to evolve into one of the best players of this generation.
While the MVP race typically has a handful of faces in the running, Giannis is a clear favorite to take home the Defensive Player of the Year honors. While there will be the usual suspects by his side, Giannis is the foundation of a Bucks’ defense that can lock down any of the other 29 teams on a given night. Whether it is rim protection, helping off the ball, or guarding on the perimeter, Giannis is elite across the board, and should receive yet another DPOY to his resume.
Most Improved Player – Shai Gilgeous-Alexander
Perhaps the most difficult of the NBA player awards to predict, the NBA’s Most Improved Player award is a career-altering accolade for the individual who is fortunate enough to receive it. But how do you measure it prematurely? Which players are primed for a big leap? Who can be so impactful for their team that it elevates their organization to new heights? After analyzing many candidates around the association, it is hard to ignore the potential for growth this season for Shai Gilgeous-Alexander.
The Oklahoma City Thunder are not winning an NBA Championship in the near future, sorry to spoil some of your hopes. But there is still plenty of reason to be excited about this organization, and that starts with SGA. Shai is an All-Star waiting to breakout, and turning in an undeniable All-Star season should be worthy of recognition this year. Not only if Shai receives All-Star honors, but if he can make this scrappy, raw OKC bunch even the slightest bit of a headache for opponents, then all credit to him.
Most Valuable Player – Luka Doncic
As it currently stands, Vegas Insider has Luka Doncic as the +400 favorite to take home the illustrious MVP award this season. In order for the Slovenian phenom to reach that next level, he is going to have to go above and beyond once more. Aside from Doncic, the Dallas Mavericks do not possess the most talent in the NBA, far from it to be quite honest. They experienced a steady drop off from Doncic’s running mate Kristaps Porzingis, and while there is some decent outside shooting around Doncic, there is no other star power needed to win in today’s NBA.
But do not count out Doncic’s chances. Sooner or later, he is going to start racking up MVP after MVP awards, and it could begin as soon as 2021-22. His play has been good enough to catapult Dallas to the fifth seed in a loaded Western Conference, and played like an NBA mega star in the postseason, despite the early elimination. If Doncic can build off a strong postseason and Olympic showing, he is going to look terrifying this year, and while the award will have many viable competitors, it could very well be Doncic’s to lose.
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