The days until opening night can now be counted on our hands so it’s only right to tie our name to some soon-to-be embarrassing awards predictions.
When we all made our predictions this time last year, we all felt pretty confident. For some, it took a few days in the NBA season to realise that we had made a mistake, while others took a bit longer.
Regardless, if there’s one thing we love here at The Deep Two, it’s accountability. We’re etching our award predictions into the stone that is our beautiful website for all to see.
Who will win the MVP?
Dante Boffa – Giannis Antetokounmpo
By any metric, Giannis is one of the five best players on earth. He was also my pick last season. He’s also the only active player with four straight All-NBA First Team appearances. He’s also one of five players in NBA history with an MVP (he has two) and a DPOY. And he’s also one of three players in NBA history to win both awards in the same season.
So, I’m picking Giannis again, and I’m feeling good about it, and to be honest, you’ll probably see me here next year picking Giannis and feeling good about it.
Marco Holden – Luka Dončić
There’s no way the voters will let Nikola Jokic run away with a third consecutive MVP, and with an improved roster he might not need to dominate in the regular season the way he has the past two years. Joel Embiid should be rolling up his sleeves to snatch this one, but an improved Harden could, again, lighten his load. Giannis Antetokounmpo will be without Khris Middleton for some time and could be dragging the ageing bodies of Brook Lopez and Jrue Holiday behind him.
But it’s Luka’s year. Mssr. Donkey was without a doubt the best player in the world for a stretch last year, and without Brunson (and with some suss off-season moves by the Mavs) he’ll be asked to do more than ever. This season Lukie’s narrative feels less like “one day he could” and more like “this time for sure”.
Alessio Conte – Luka Dončić
It’s the second time in three years that I’m taking this young man, but this is his best chance yet. The loss of Jalen Brunson will only increase Luka’s load and importance, let alone his continued dominance of the international game and new-and-improved physique.
If he manages to carry this ‘meh’ Mavericks roster into the promised land with a top-six seeding, we all know it will be due to Luka himself more than ever.
Sean Carroll – Joel Embiid
This should be the season for the Philadelphia 76ers. There’s no Ben Simmons drama, no question about James Harden’s fit, no injury concerns and the bench is deep.
This should lead to a stellar regular season by the 76ers, led by the two-time runner-up in MVP voting, Joel Embiid.
If I had to say who deserves it, I’d say Nikola Jokic or Luka Dončić, but this is going to be a hard storyline to overcome. The perennial runner-up finally takes the cake as he leads his team to a one seed in the East.
Who will win the Most Improved Player award?
Dante – Tyrese Maxey
Maxey was in the running for this award last season, bumping his points per game up from eight to 17.5 and shooting nearly 50 percent from the field, plus over 40 percent from three. That’s pretty nice, but this season, he has the opportunity to cement his status as a fringe All-Star (maybe even an East (!) All-Star). If he can do that, he’s going to be squarely in the running for this, and what makes you think he can’t? Is it his lightning-quick first step? Or his pretty, pretty floater?
Nah, Maxey has MIP in his sights.
Marco – Tyrese Haliburton
After moving to Indiana at the deadline in the Tristan Thompson trade, Hali saw an uptick in scoring and assists on some sexy efficiency. The Pacers have signalled he is the man to run their offence of the future, and with Malcolm Brogdon off the squad he is practically the only capable ballhandler in the building (try me T.J. McConnell! You won’t!)
Carrying over that form from the last 26 games of last season could be enough to win him the award, but he should see further improvement whichever way the Pacers cast the die this season. If they shed their best players for picks and cap space, then Tyrese will take more shots and spend more time with the ball. If they hang on to veterans like Myles Turner and Buddy Hield then he’ll have semi-capable teammates to pass the ball to.
Alessio – Tyrese Haliburton
Much like Sean’s pick, this award has become about a young player taking a significant leap forward in his ability. Unlike Sean’s pick, however, my player is actually a likeable guy.
Tyrese should see an uptick in all of his statistics as he commands a poor Pacers roster attempting to toe the line between winning and tanking (stupid, I know). There is a low chance of this pick actually coming off, but if we can’t root for players that we stan, then why root at all?
Sean – Anthony Edwards
This is the hardest award to pick because the winner is either a young player with more responsibility or a star becoming a super, duper star.
While I have some qualms with the Rudy Gobert trade as a whole, he’s a regular season machine and not only have I hit the over on their over/under, I think they’ll be in the mid-50s in terms of wins next season. That figure is partly led by the Gobert trade and partly by the growth of Ant Edwards.
Oh, and he’s the favourite in some places so I’m not going to muck around.
Lukas – Anthony Edwards
I hear you Sean, but I’mma do you one better. Anthony Ed will finish top three in MVP voting. Hold that. Next!
Nah but fr, this Wolves team is built for the regular season. 48 minutes of either Gobert or KAT in the middle is a really good place to start if you wanna win a game while coasting through the 82 and Ant will be the first option any time KAT’s on the pine. I’m predicting their win column to be in the mid to high 50s, and Kermit Wilts is a guy you wanna get behind.
Who will be the Coach of the Year?
Dante – Willie Green
Willie Green’s job down the back end of last season would’ve had him in COY contention had that run lasted a touch longer. But the vibes in NOLA are high, with Zion Williamson returning to bolster a team that took the reigning Western Conference champion and 64-win juggernaut (yeah, I said it) Phoenix Suns to a tough six-game conclusion in the playoffs.
In less than a year, Green has taken this team from twiddling their thumbs whilst Zion wantaway rumours swirled, to looking like a tough beat for one of the last playoff spots in the West.
This team has a ceiling that would vault Green into the COY conversation, and considering the NBA media’s proclivity for awarding this gong to the coach of a team that vaulted from average/bad to good/great, rather than the coach of a good team that got to greatness or a bad team that achieved mediocrity, a successful Pelicans season could end in silverware for Green.
Marco – Willie Green
I’m adopting a new philosophy as a member of the basketball commentariat, and that is to make hay while the sun is shining. The Pelicans are going to be a good team this year, so I need a dash of homerism, and as much as my loins are girding for it, I can’t say Herbert Jones for DPOY (but All-Defensive Team? Eyeball emoji, stroking chin emoji).
Willie Green turned a very sad-looking roster and a 3-16 start into a hot outfit with a flowing offence and a hard-nosed defence (whose two best members were rookies) that took the one seed, however fraudulent they were, to six games. I’m convinced his personnel coaching is one of the best in the league; he knows when to get in there and coach as much as he knows when to let the players lead, and he proved against Phoenix he can switch up tactics on the fly and win games.
This year our young squad is a year older and wiser, and we’ve got Zion fucking Williamson (not gonna jinx it!) coming back into the fold. I think there will be five to ten games of growing pains as Zion meshes with the offence and figures out his role on defence, but beyond that, we’re looking at a formidable Pelicans side unrecognisable from the cellar-dwellers of yore.
Alessio – Tyronn Lue
I’d argue Ty Lue is a top-three coach in the league at the moment, but his regular season teams are constantly capped by the injuries to, and load management of, his best players.
This looks to be the season where Lue and his Clippers can stack regular season wins as much as they should in the playoffs. With healthy stars and a roster 15 players deep, the Clippers will be a force to be reckoned with no matter the circumstance.
Sean – Michael Malone
Malone is one of the guys who should always be in the conversation, but a fully healthy regular season from the Denver Nuggets should thrust him into the spotlight.
On top of winning nearly every game they play (a Nikola Jokic-ism), Malone always finds value at the end of his bench. He takes his time before trusting young players but the general rule is, if they’re good, he’ll find out (see Hyland, Nah’Shon).
This upcoming season, the Nuggets should cruise to a 50-plus win season, but if Michael (not Mike) can find value in any of their rookies or Zeke Nnaji, he should be in the conversation for Coach of the Year.
Lukas – Taylor Jenkins
Lemme just start by saying, we have a lot of good options for COTY (and I ain’t talkin’ ‘bout Zeller) this season. The top end of each conference boasts incredible candidates, but it has to be Jenkins.
The Grizzlies have been ‘overperforming’ for a few seasons now and it’s finally time to put the cherry on top. With another year of experience and continuity, their game should be even tighter and more connected than in seasons past. Jenkins (and I ain’t talkin’ ‘bout Leroy) has been hovering around the award for a few seasons now and this season he should be the first 38-year-old to win the award since the ashy-voiced Doc Rivers did it at the turn of the millennium.
Who’s winning Defensive Player of the Year?
Dante – Giannis Antetokounmpo
Giannis won his first DPOY playing a free safety role whilst Brook Lopez protected the rim. Giannis could roam free, using his instincts to jump passing lanes and slide over to swat shots as a help defender. But his primary rim protection has always been incredible: he’s been in the 90th percentile or higher in five of the last six seasons as a rim protector, according to Cleaning the Glass.
Lopez is no longer the athlete he was, and has trouble staying on the court, so we’re about to see a reorientation towards Giannis as a primary rim protector, which is gonna mean a lot of swats, a lot of no-hope opponent shots and a hell of a chance to steal this award.
Marco – Rudy Gobert
I’m pissed about this award again, but too jaded to demand Jrue Holiday get a Lifetime Achievement nod. There were two guys coming into the season who really fit my mould for DPOY, but I’m doubtful Timelord will spend enough time on the floor this regular season to qualify and I’m convinced Draymond has punched his way out of contention.
You can find me shitting on Gobert on dozens of episodes of The Deep Two and the JVG NBA Tribute Show, but whichever way you spin it the paint belongs to Rudy during the regular season. I think the trade to Minnesota will completely revise how we see him and do away with any voter fatigue.
When the Frenchman steps into the Target Centre with his fresh bleach job in Minny’s sexy new city edition jerseys and cleans up the first of Karl-Anthony Towns‘ many hot messes, the media commentariat will forget the Rudy Gobert of old and crown him once again.
Alessio – Giannis Antetokounmpo
This award sucks. Rudy Gobert will probably deserve it by season’s end if he manages to drastically improve a sorry Timberwolves defence single-handedly, but voter fatigue and general disliking towards the Frenchman will cost him.
Giannis is probably the best player in the world, carrying a solid roster that will likely have key defensive piece, Brook Lopez, limited in health and ability. If so, Giannis will shoulder the load and dominate the league both offensively and defensively as he always does.
Sean – Draymond Green
There’s a non-zero percent chance that 2021-22 NBA Champion Draymond Green will see a downturn in his play or trust following ‘The Punch’ but I’ll be lacto-fermented apple in a jar if I’m picking anyone other than the greatest defensive player of our generation.
After winning a title and leading the Warriors to an elite defensive mark last season, voters should look to reward the most versatile defender the league has ever seen. If not, what are they going to do? Give it to Rudy Gobert again before he’s embarrassed in the playoffs? Give it to Robert Williams after he plays 25 games?
Lukas – Draymond Green
Dray is not a one-time DPOY. He’s anchored the defensive side of the court for the greatest team of all time from inside out. Whether it’s guarding the part-time point forward, part-time GOAT, LeBron, at the point of attack, being backed up by Bogut and guarding on the wings or starring as the centre, Draymond is the best defender of his generation and has a case to be on the All-NBA Defensive team of all time. Voters will be aware of this in their award voting, and after all of the goodwill from the Dubs’ 2022 ring, it’ll only help Dray’s case more.
Okay so after slumpin’ up Jordan Poole I would like to select Jrue Holiday as my backup prediction. I think Marcus Smart’s DPOY selection last year will be a catalyst for the next few years, especially considering how perimeter-oriented the Association is these days. The Bucks should surely bounce back with a healthier roster and being back in the spotlight will only help Jrue’s case.
Who will be the Rookie of the Year?
Dante – Paolo Banchero
Don’t overthink it.
Marco – Paolo Banchero
Sign da ting! It was going to be a toss-up between him and Chet, before the Oklahoma big man went down. Paolo is the only rookie already the best player on his team, so it’ll be opportunities galore in Central Florida.
Alessio – Paolo Banchero
Paolo accumulerà il maggior numero di statistiche, di cui avrà bisogno per vincere questo premio.
Sarà il punto focale di Orlando in attacco e avrà tutte le opportunità al mondo per mostrare i suoi muscoli da basket.
Sean – Paolo Banchero
He’s a grown man who can do it all on offence and as we know, this is a box score award. And what Aless said.
Lukas – Pablo Ban-che-ro
Chet’s out, Jabari’s value isn’t predicated on numbers, and what Sean said in his last sentence.
Who will be the Sixth Man of the Year?
Dante – Jordan Poole
I don’t like any of the other candidates; Jordan Clarkson is going to be irrelevant for at least part of the season in Utah, I’m wary of a Tyler Herro decline, Cam Johnson is going to start for the Suns once Jae Crowder is traded. So I’m going with the only realistic guy to have a big role and guaranteed bench spot locked up.
Marco – Malcolm Brogdon
I don’t mind back-to-backing Tyler Herro here. Still, I have a sneaky suspicion that he’ll spend more time in the starting lineup than usual after Lowry and Strus’s playoff runs, and a sneakier suspicion my Tyler Herro 12-month-cycle might be more accurate after netting a fat ol’ extension.
Brogdon has all the tools to be a Sixth Man of the Year, injecting playmaking and scoring off the bench, and honestly, I think he will look so good in a more limited role. If you watched the 2022 NBA Finals it is so easy to imagine the daylight’s difference if Humble Moses was the first man off the bench instead of Payton Pritchard.
Alessio – Jordan Poole
It has to be the Poole party this year after last year’s robbery.
Okay, maybe not robbery, but Poole was damn good and is looking for a fat contract to accompany his world championship ring.
The Warriors will likely lean on Poole throughout the regular season to provide a scoring spark off the bench. Factoring this in with his charismatic personality and the media attention the Warriors will be receiving, this is his year.
Sean – Bones Hyland
Bones Hyland was really good after the All-Star break. He perfectly fits the Jamal Crawford/Jordan Clarkson/Lou Williams mould of isolation scorer off the bench and the media loves giving it to those guys.
But not only is he good, he’s going to have plenty of opportunities to rack up some stats. He’s going to be the first guard off the bench, spelling either Jamal Murray or Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (he’s an excellent off-the-catch shooter, so he can stand behind the line when he’s with the starters) and Jamal’s going to miss games due to rest, meaning Bones is playing starter-level minutes for at least a quarter of the season.
His regular season numbers are going to look fantastic and Denver will be fighting for a one seed again in the Western Conference, a recipe for award success.
Lukas – Malcolm Brogdon
As a 6’5” combo who can playmake and score, Brogdon has the build for your archetypal sixth man. Whereas other SMOY winners in the past have had the capacity to go off for 40 every once in a while, Brogdon should provide a steady 18-6-6 most nights. Combine that with a likely 50-win season for the Celtics and he’ll have a stunning case. Christian Wood could be a bit of a smokey here, depending on how many minutes he shares with Dončić.