The NBA tips off its 2020-21 season this week, with action starting Tuesday night.
But of course, the fact that no one has seen a real game yet doesn’t matter when it comes to people making their projections for how the season will shape up.
In addition to predictions for how each team will fare, we’re looking at the regular season’s individual awards as well in our NBA season preview. Let’s get to it:
Most Valuable Player
Winner: Luka Don?i?
If the Dallas Mavericks win enough games this year, it’s hard to imagine Don?i? not following his trajectory and becoming a contender for the league MVP award. He’d be the youngest since Derrick Rose earned the honor in his rookie season with the Chicago Bulls. And with teammate Kristaps Porzingis set to miss time recovering from surgery, Don?i? should be able to boost his stats, which already rank up there with some of the best in the game.
Rookie of the Year
Winner: LaMelo Ball
We almost hate to admit it, but the youngest Ball brother is in a situation to make a big splash in the NBA. He’ll have an immediate opportunity to make an impact with the Charlotte Hornets, and if the preseason is any indicator, Ball is going to play hard this year grabbing rebounds and doing a lot of the little things well. So, if he can find his shot when the season begins, and couple that with his flashy ability to make plays and go viral, look out.
Defensive Player of the Year
Winner: Anthony Davis
The Los Angeles Laker finished second in Defensive Player of the Year voting last season, but could take on more responsibility as LeBron James gets older and likely tries to maintain his body for the NBA Playoffs — especially considering the team’s fast turnaround from their Finals victory last year.
Sixth Man of the Year
Winner: Lou Wililams
When rapper Drake dropped the song “6 Man” back in 2015, the backup guard had won the first of his three Sixth Man of the Year awards. He’s certainly capable of winning a fourth with the Los Angeles Clippers this year as the team is poised to go further than their disappointing playoff exit last year.
Most Improved Player
Winner: DeAndre Ayton
The Phoenix Suns center showed a ton of improvement down the stretch last season, and having a teammate like Chris Paul should to wonders for Ayton’s development and production. Paul has played with some of the biggest stars in the league and Ayton will have a lot to benefit from that.
Coach of the Year
Winner: Monty Williams
The Suns were one of the NBA bubble’s best stories, so Williams will be fresh in everyone’s memory as a candidate for the award to start the season. It’s pressure to live up to, but the Suns bringing in Paul to facilitate its offense and lead a core that includes Devin Booker, Deandre Ayton and Mikal Bridges should have a positive impact on Williams’ success.