Predicting Awards for the 2022-23 NBA Season

Published October 23, 2022

Predicting Awards for the 2022-23 NBA Season

Most Valuable Player

Luka Doncic

Luka’s inevitably going to win the Most Valuable Player award at some point, barring injury. It’s a matter of when – and this season couldn’t be a better time to assume he will.

What would it take?
Luka would need to lead the Dallas Mavericks to an elite record and top three seed at worst. They have yet to reach that level during his tenure, and coming out on top amongst a stacked Western Conference is his ticket to the award.

What’s stopping him?
His own work ethic. Luka has a tendency to enter the season out of shape, underperforming until about halfway through. He would need to become an immediate MVP favorite before narratives fall out of his favor – and considering his active start, it’s very plausible that he will.

Other Contenders

  • Jayson Tatum – Following a poor Finals performance, many have counted Tatum out. However, Boston’s state of uncertainty and drama following Ime Udoka’s suspension may double as a narrative boost. If they can get a top seed – which is likely – he’ll be a favorite.
  • Giannis Antetokounmpo – The Greek Freak has already gotten two MVP awards, but both came a few years ago. Voter fatigue won’t hurt him as much now – if Milwaukee continues to dominate, expect to see his name in conversations.
  • Joel Embiid – Embiid’s been an MVP contender for a few years now. Things won’t be as in his favor this time – the 76ers‘ improved supporting cast will be brought up a lot as a counterpoint – but he shouldn’t be counted out.
  • Nikola Jokic – Expecting somebody to win three MVPs in a row is unrealistic, but definitely not impossible – Bill Russell, Wilt Chamberlain, and Larry Bird all have in the past. The Joker would have to secure the Nuggets a first seed and average near a triple-double – difficult but feasible goals.

Defensive Player of the Year

Rudy Gobert

The three-time Defensive Player of the Year winner is already regarded as one of the greatest rim protectors. Is there a possibility he wins another, tying the all-time record held by Mutombo and Wallace?

What would it take?
Minnesota’s uber-experimental lineup would need to work, and well. Pure double big rotations are rare in today’s game, and Gobert must co-exist with Karl Anthony-Towns and anchor a strong defensive team. If it succeeds, he’ll have proven that Utah was a top ranked defense because of him and him only – that’s a powerful case.

What’s stopping him?
It’s very well possible that the Timberwolves could exist on the complete other side of history, being an amazing offense with poor defensive stats. It’s hard to believe that a squad anchored by Gobert can be that way, but you never know – they’re +-unpredictable.

Other Contenders

  • Evan Mobley – Honestly, I wanted to take the risk and shout Mobley out as my pick straight-away. His case is incredibly strong – Cleveland is likely to be a great regular season team, and that’ll put his great defense in the public’s eye. Combine that with being a sophomore? People would actively root for him.
  • Bam Adebayo – Miami is trending downward currently, which actually might help Adebayo. He needs to improve exponentially, pushing the conversation for a top three center – this correlates with boosting Miami’s defense and helping them win.
  • Draymond Green – Don’t forget Draymond was the betting favorite before injuries got to him last season. If he can stay healthy, he’ll always be a contender for the award. It’s also worth considering that Golden State lost important defensive pieces, like Gary Payton II.
  • Robert Williams III – Of these four, Timelord is the least likely. Boston has an amazing defense – largely because of his impact – but injuries leave things unsettled. He’s already on pace to miss the first couple months of the year.

Rookie of the Year

Paolo Banchero

Duke’s latest star was drafted with the first pick, landing with Orlando. Could he become their third Rookie of the Year, joining Shaquille O’Neal and Mike Miller?

What would it take?
The Magic need to cement their place as the most promising young core in the NBA. They’re full of developing, high-ceiling talent, and Banchero is no exception. If the Magic leave the lottery tier – ideally contending for the play-in or coming close – he’s a near-lock. Even if not, things are looking good.

What’s stopping him?
Rookie of the Year
is a bit difficult to predict because it’s impossible to tell how well a prospect will translate to the highest stage. Banchero doesn’t even necessarily have to have a poor outing – if one of his peers stands out enough to get attention, he could lose the favoritism right there and then. As it stands though, he looks dominant for a first-year guy.

Other Contenders

  • Keegan Murray – Part of me wants to bet on the Kings being successful enough for this, but my brain is telling me not to. Regardless, the Summer League MVP assisting Sacramento in even a decent season is enough. If that team reaches for the play-in, he’s receiving some serious consideration.
  • Jaden Ivey – It’s hard to tell how competitive the Pistons aim to be, but it’d be silly to not throw the consensus best guard of the draft in the mix. Him and Cade have the potential to be a phenomenal backcourt.
  • Bennedict Mathurin – If there’s one thing that’ll help Mathurin, it’s his relentless confidence. Indiana won’t be presented on the map too much, but if Mathurin continues to play the way he has been…let’s just say he’s a serious dark horse.
  • Jabari Smith Jr. – The Rockets are likely still in tank mode, giving Smith plenty of time to develop and showcase his talents in a low-pressure environment. He doesn’t have much leverage over the three above him, but his flashes of two-way dominance are tempting.

Sixth Man of the Year

Malcolm Brogdon

Speaking of Rookie of the Year winners, the former Pacers guard has something to prove with the Celtics this year.

What would it take?
Brogdon would need to maintain high efficiency in a less demanding role. He no longer has to be the star Indiana begged him to be, instead able to handle the ball from the second unit and close out important games. If he can return to his typical shooting splits and demonstrate the Celtics improving with him on the floor, the pieces will fall in his favor.

What’s stopping him?
Health, health, health. Brogdon unfortunately has a history of being a low-durability player, and that has only worsened with time. Reduced minutes may preserve his availability, which coincides with his case for the award. It’s all about playing well and showing up to work.

Other Contenders

  • Jordan Poole – Poole is the betting favorite, and for good reason. He is absolutely lethal in Golden State’s system, able to provide a dangerous boost in offense at any given time. This in tandem with him being a reigning champion is a powerful narrative.
  • Christian Wood – Dallas’ most exciting acquisition is primed to be an amazing backup. The offense he can provide off the bench is more lethal than people are realizing, and his chemistry with Luka is going to be unreal.
  • John Wall – It’s unknown if Wall will remain the Clippers’ backup guy, but what they’re doing with him works. For that reason, it wouldn’t be farfetched to expect him to get some serious nods, considering his veteran presence. Injuries are the only roadblock.
  • Kevin Love – Love should never be doubted as a Sixth Man contender at this point, although he doesn’t have a forceful place in the conversation. Attention will likely be on Cleveland’s young talent or even his teammate in Ricky Rubio, who could also receive mentions.

Most Improved Player

Tyrese Haliburton

The first-round pick got traded from the Kings this past season, and is looking to make an impact elsewhere in his third year.

What would it take?
After joining the Pacers, Haliburton put up ridiculous averages of 17.5/4.3/9.6. It’s very likely that he’ll be the engine behind Indiana’s offense, not committed to being the primary scorer but instead uber-efficient. Considering he’s also well on his way to join the 50/40/90 club, this projection is realistic and a good objective for him.

What’s stopping him?
If he fails to show remarkable improvement, not much else can help. The Pacers are not a good team nor a big market, so the media will not gravitate in his direction – expect guys like RJ Barrett to regularly put dents in Haliburton’s case.

Other Contenders

  • Anthony Edwards – Edwards could easily have a Ja Morant-style season where he plays phenomenal and somewhat defies the point of the award. Edwards’ status as a number one pick means he should be expected to make jumps each season, but Minnesota’s potential can get him some votes regardless.
  • Jalen Brunson – Yet another Knick has the chance to take this home, and is sort of the opposite to his teammate – the narrative won’t be in his favor as much, but Brunson has a much higher chance of noticeably stepping up. One can only imagine what he’s capable of as a possible first option.
  • De’Aaron Fox – Fox has become a tad underrated because of an underwhelming fifth season. His numbers should go up across the board now that he can return to leading Sacramento’s offense – his first couple games are an indicator of that.
  • Tyrese Maxey – Maxey had a great end to the 2021-22 season, largely thanks to James Harden. Having a top-tier playmaker by his side unlocked some of his off-ball potential, turning into a highly efficient scorer that can drop twenty on any given night.

Coach of the Year

Tyronn Lue

Surprisingly enough, the leader of the 2016 championship team has never been voted as the unanimous best coach. It may be time for that to change.

What would it take?
The Clippers would need to enjoy a high-seeded, dominant season regardless of injuries to key pieces. Their depth will be a great asset to Lue, creating opportunities for victory regardless of star power.

What’s stopping him?
If the Clippers fail to stand out with or without the likes of Kawhi Leonard or Paul George present, Lue will not have much of an advantage. This Los Angeles team is expected to finish strong in a stacked conference, so failure to do that will not be taken lightly.

Other Contenders

  • Taylor Jenkins – After nearly winning the award last season, Jenkins could easily snag it this time around. The Grizzlies are a phenomenal regular season team that has thrived under his system, and that is unlikely to change.
  • Willie Green – Green may be my favorite “dark horse” on this post – the Pelicans were sneakily good after the All-Star Break last year, and now have momentum in their favor. A deep team with good chemistry and an All-Star back on the floor will thrive barring any surprises.
  • Joe Mazzulla – Taking the place of Ime Udoka – who was the betting favorite for the award – is no easy task, but that’s the strongest facet of Mazzulla’s case. If he can keep Boston on a steady path of replicating or exceeding last year’s record, the potential to be the first rookie coach recipient since the 60’s is very much possible.
  • J.B. Bickerstaff – With tons of young talent and a new force in Donovan Mitchell, the Cavaliers will enter firing on all cylinders. Bickerstaff is a great coach – especially defensively – so don’t be surprised at any mentions of his name.

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