2023-24 NBA awards predictions
Opening Night is nearly here and we’re putting our awards picks out in the open before the season kicks off.
If there’s one thing we love here at The Deep Two Podcast Network, it’s accountability. So we’ve again decided to upload our (sometimes embarrassing) awards predictions for all the world to see.
Will Bones Hyland impress and finally win a Sixth Man of the Year award? Will an Indiana Pacer win an award (after being picked for seemingly four years)? And is this year’s Rookie of the Year race closer than last year?
Who will win the MVP?
Dante Boffa – Devin Booker
Wishcasting! Devin Booker is the best shooting guard in the game and has been an apex predator of the Leftern Conference for years. That he has an MVP-type gear is undeniable, and in his last healthy season he slotted in nicely between Luka Doncic and Jayson Tatum on the All-NBA First Team.
With Chris Paul gone, Kevin Durant another year older and Bradley Beal a natural sidekick, this, now more than ever, is Booker’s team. A jaunt to the top seed is within reach.
Point Book is about to become a reality again, and this team will rise and fall on the strength of his right hand cross-court flings and drippy layup package.
Health will be a factor, as it always is with Book, but here’s the thing: when he plays he’s just awesome every single time. In a season of uncertainty for last year’s MVP, Joel Embiid, a transition year for Giannis Antetokounmpo in Milwaukee and a murky scenario for Luka in Dallas, this award could be ripe for the taking. Unless, that is, we’ve forgotten about the looming presence of a man with a very large shadow…
Marco Holden – Nikola Jokic
We saw the most incredible case of flip-flopping from the conclusion of the last regular season to the Denver Nuggets’ cruise to victory in the 2023 NBA Finals. “Omg!! Turns out Joel Embiid ain’t all that!! How could we be so silly!!” Yeah, how could you be so silly?
Nikola Jokic reminded everyone why he is so clearly the greatest player in the world right now, and every indication we’ve had from his career so far says he’ll get better this year, if that’s even possible.
On one hand, we could see a much healthier Jamal Murray shoulder more of the scoring and playmaking load this season. On the other, Denver lost a crucial piece in Bruce Brown and a solid playoff rotation guy in Jeff Green without really making like-for-like replacements (unless you believe Calvin Booth’s ramblings about Peyton Watson), so we’ll have to either see some internal growth from their younger players or Jokic will have to do more of his thang-thang.
Either way, the 2023 playoffs flushed out any indications of voter fatigue so if Denver top the West again it’ll be a third MVP (and first Michael Jordan) for Nikola.
Alessio Conte – Nikola Jokic
After last year’s blunder of a pick, I just pray that the NBA cognoscenti have it in their hearts, minds and souls to redeem themselves. The Jokic MVP miss was one of the clearest examples of “God, I’m sick of voting for the GOAT” ever.
Frankly, I’m sick of hearing it. The MVP has become a blend of ‘the most valuable player to their team’ and ‘the best player in the league’ award, and Jokic will continue to exemplify this combination.
The Nuggets look like they will require more from Jokic this season due to the disappointing loss of de facto backup point guard Bruce Brown. Due to this loss, I’m predicting the highest on/off statistics of his career this upcoming season, especially factoring in Jamal Murray’s ever-present health issues. The best and most valuable player will strike again in Denver, with his trademark nonchalant attitude to boot.
Sean Carroll – Shai Gilgeous-Alexander
This is too easy. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander was arguably at an All-NBA level two seasons ago but the OKC Thunder were deep in the tank. This past season, he made the First-Team All-NBA and even played a couple of nice games in the Play-In Tournament for the “national guys” to notice.
Another year has passed for the Thunder core, they’re adding Chet Holmgren who’s the male version of Breanna Stewart and all signs are pointing towards a Playoff, not Play-In, berth in the 2023-24 season.
If the Thunder are the fifth seed, hitting mid-40s in wins and Shai is leading the team with an absurd 30-plus points per game, why shouldn’t he win?
Also working for SGA is the fact that there are legitimate reasons not to vote for everyone else:
- Nikola Jokic: We’re used to his excellence by now and voters love rewarding someone new (read: voter fatigue).
- Joel Embiid: Shouldn’t have been the MVP last season, the playoffs showed us that.
- Jayson Tatum: Hard to really improve on what he has done and there are more mouths to feed in Boston this year.
- Stephen Curry/Kevin Durant: Another year older, crowded team.
- Temetrius Morant: Gun.
One name I’ve omitted from that list is Luka Doncic. It’s kind of strange that he hasn’t won an MVP award yet and I project him to be in a seeding battle with SGA’s Thunder. I would just rather the up-and-coming scorer with seemingly great team chemistry over a borderline train wreck of a franchise in Dallas.
Lukas Petridis – LeBron James
If you Google ‘anthony davis injury’ the most recent report is from May 2023. I genuinely don’t remember the last time we had a five-month stretch with no injury updates about AD. Hopefully, that health can stay with him for the 2023-24 season and we can see the guy with one eyebrow for around 70 games.
Combine that with peripheral improvements to a roster that made the Conference Finals last season and this team should surely have a record that nets them home court in the upcoming playoffs.
I have faith that LeBron can replicate some iteration of his 29-8-7 from a season ago and I recently learned that the media actually kinda thinks favourably about the guy (just a smidge). The soon-to-be 39-year-old (CAN YOU BELIEVE HE’S DOING THIS AT 39) is fitting the criteria and the narrative.
Who will be the Most Improved Player?
Dante Boffa – Tyrese Maxey
I picked Tyrese Maxey last year, and he didn’t win, but if at first you don’t succeed… With James Harden’s prolonged preseason absence all but confirming his departure from the City of Brotherly Love, and Daryl Morey’s asset chest emptier than he’d like, Maxey is going to get the keys to the car (Joel Embiid has the limo). He’s ready to be an All-Star. The Sixers’ success will be tied to his own, and he’s already an electric scorer, zippy playmaker and scrappy defender.
Marco Holden – Mikal Bridges
I’m finding it hard to make an argument against Mikal Bridges winning this award. He is the only candidate I can think of who is almost guaranteed to make the first-time All-Star jump that is the hallmark of most MIP winners, and I believe voters will be counting his jump as starting with his trade to the Brooklyn Nets in February.
Bridges was thrust into an unfamiliar role in Brooklyn and immediately thrived in it, boosting his scoring on blistering efficiency and running an offence full of misfit wings and new arrivals.
He’s now had an off-season with the team, time for a good coach in Jacque Vaughn to think about how best to utilise him, and recognition from the franchise that he is their All-Star calibre primary option. Imagine how he will thrive then.
Alessio Conte – Evan Mobley
Here is my “I don’t think it will but I bloody hope it does” pick. As we hear year after year, Evan Mobley has all the tools, he just never puts it together. An elite defender with some slick guard skills that are held back by a mediocre scoring game. All Mobley would need to reach the next level is to finally put the ball in the basket the way we prayed that he would.
Some rumours about Donovan Mitchell not committing to Cleveland Cavaliers basketball have created room for a potential trade or some turmoil, opening the door for some serious looks for the young seven-footer. Time to put it together.
Sean Carroll – Caleb Martin
This award is one of the hardest because it’s nearly always awarded to someone who fans weren’t even thinking of before it happened. The occasional Giannis Antetokounmpo, Jimmy Butler and Ja Morant win it after leaping into superstar status from ‘good’ but the fun ones are always weirdos.
Enter, Caleb Martin.
Remember the Eastern Conference playoffs? Yes, Jimmy was doing his best dog impression and Bam Adebayo always proves why he’s a DPoY snub but the team doesn’t make the NBA Finals without Caleb Martin.
And he wasn’t just a role player who hit the shots the defence gave him, he was creating off the dribble, creating for others and in 30.2 minutes (23 games), he averaged 12.7 points on 53-42-83 shooting splits. He did all that while guarding the other team’s best wing option.
The Miami Heat are going to find their way into the playoffs, they always do. Also, they didn’t fucking trade for Damian Lillard. This team is dangerously thin and when Jimmy rests his usual 20-odd games (resting rules be damned), Caleb is starting on the wings and someone has to put the ball in the basket.
Lukas Petridis – Mikal Bridges
Gotta be, right? He averaged 20 points on the season last year and 26 with the Brooklyn Nets, that’s a most improved jump. He doesn’t even need to improve on his Nets career to win it, but with a training camp and the first 5/8 of a season as the number one option for a (I think it’s fair to assume) roughly .500 team, that should slot him an All-Star selection. Then it’ll be easy coasting the rest of the season with the award all but won.
Who will be the Coach of the Year?
Dante Boffa – Rick Carl– Ime Udoka
Yeah, I won’t be making the mistake of loading my picks up with Indiana Pacers this year, although this year might finally be the year to do it. No, I’m going with everyone’s favourite coach with deeply troubling behaviour in his dealings with women (sorry, Jason Kidd, Joe Mazzulla and Chauncey Billups!). Yikes.
Ime Udoka gets my nod here for two reasons: the NBA community is very happy to overlook the above when you’re successful, and Udoka is a good coach on a young team with a playoff mandate, savvy veterans and young players with untapped potential.
This team finishing over .500 is entirely possible, and if that happens, Udoka will have the inside track for this award, provided Mark Daigneault’s OKC Thunder don’t steal the mantle as bad-team-gone-good du jour in this year’s Western Conference.
Marco Holden – Mark Daigneault
Weird this is the one we can all agree on (Wemby withstanding). There was already huge buzz around Mark Daigneault as Oklahoma City closed in on a Play-In berth last season (unbelievable that the NBA has us talking like this) and he finished second in last year’s poll behind Mike Brown who had one of the strongest CotY narratives in recent memory.
As well as having a knack for recognising and developing young talent, Daggers’ teams play a very “coached” style of basketball – undersized, switchy, schematic – that makes it easy for the Neanderthal awards voters to recognise good coaching. With another year of a tight core, no other clear-cut candidates, the addition of Chet Holmgren and a new impetus to win, he should be shoo-in.
Alessio Conte – Michael Malone
The Denver Nuggets roster is slightly weaker than the year prior, giving the NBA cognoscenti an opportunity to finally put some respect on Michael Malone’s name.
With a should-be three-time MVP, a potentially healthy Jamal Murray and an ever-changing league landscape that promotes mediocrity as competency, Malone’s Nuggets have the consistency necessary to get the one-seed that will win him this award.
Sean Carroll – Mark Daigneault
If I’m correct about why Shai Gilgeous-Alexander will win the MVP (and why Jalen Williams is a smoky for Most Improved), the Thunder are making the leap this season.
Daigneault has done an impeccable job at growing young talent while also putting the team in a position to win games. In his first two seasons, he started the season well, getting something out of the team defensively before hitting the tank button. Now he’ll have Chet Holmgren, a legitimate centre in the middle and arguably seven real rotation pieces with the possibility of young guys hitting to grow that figure.
Lukas Petridis – Mark Daigneault
Makes the most amount of sense. Young, up-and-coming team realised they were no longer rebuilding during last season because they were ready to start playing well.
Now they have another year of chemistry, development and hopefully a healthy red shirt Chet Holmgren. They also go into training camp with an identity that’s focused on building and competing, as well as goodwill built from their 2022-23 pivot and the likability of their roster and organisation.
Daigneault showed he was a good coach last year, I trust that he’ll do a bang-up job when considering the position and direction of the franchise. I’m not trying to refuck the atom here, you asked me who was gonna win CotY.
Who’s winning Defensive Player of the Year?
Dante Boffa – Giannis Antetokounmpo
I’ve voted for Giannis Antetokounmpo three years in a row, and I might just bloody vote for him next year, too. I am the captain and I will go down with this ship, no matter how many seasons removed we are from Giannis’ last true DPoY-worthy campaign.
This season, though, with Jrue Holiday gone, Lillard in his place and Brook Lopez (ostensibly) ageing, Giannis’ role in rookie head coach Adrian Griffin’s defence might be changing. At his best as a rover, Giannis hasn’t had to be a primary rim-protector when Lopez is on the floor. But if, for performance, injury or tactical reasons, Giannis spends more time locking down the paint, and less time noodling his octopus arms into passing lanes, we might see a statistical case that puts Giannis alongside the best shot-blockers in the league.
Not to mention the narrative that comes with a stripped-back defensive cast: if the Bucks’ defence is elite again, it’ll be because they’re standing on the shoulders of a Greek giant.
Marco Holden – Giannis Antetokounmpo
Usually, I protest vote for Jrue Holiday in this category (go ahead, throw your vote away!) and this year he might clearly be the best defender on his team and actually poised to “contend” for this award. But I’m of the opinion Boston’s defence could actually be marginally worse this year, given the relatively small difference in defensive impact between a 33-year-old Holiday and Marcus Smart and their loss of Robert Williams.
In much the same way, Giannis’s defence will shine more without Jrue on the team, and whereas Jrue shouldered more of the defensive load so Giannis could shine on offence, Damian Lillard will make offence so much easier for the Greek Freak and unlock his best defensive instincts and abilities.
Alessio Conte – Giannis Antetokounmpo
Losing the best defender in the league as your primary point-of-attack defender is tough enough. However, replacing him with an ageing and average-at-best defender may be even tougher. Some additional minor losses in the team’s supporting cast and the continued ageing of veteran defender Brook Lopez will mean that the Bucks’ defensive prowess rests solely on the broad shoulders of Giannis.
His stats should be through the roof, the team should continue to win games and the system should continue to be built around the immense impact he can make on all facets of the defensive end.
Sean Carroll – Nic Claxton
My pick for the Hakeem Olajuwon Trophy is Nic Claxton, the lanky big man for the Brooklyn Nets who went from a cheap second-round pick on a stacked Nets team to a modern-day DeAndre Jordan seemingly overnight.
The argument for Claxton is similar to most Defensive Player of the Year award arguments, he’s the best defensive big man on a great defensive team. When we were debating ‘Rudy Gobert vs the field’ all those years ago (it was only two years ago), the knock on him was his lack of versatility and that he had solid defensive teammates.
Well Claxton is all you’d want in a traditional big man role and at only 24 years old, he has plenty of experience in high-level settings (big man next to Kyrie/KD, playoff series against Joel Embiid) and the teammates to help him win the award.
Claxton isn’t plugging holes in this defence, he’s being funnelled into by Mikal Bridges, Cam Johnson and Dorian Finney-Smith, some excellent defensive players.
Jaren Jackson Jr. looks promising for a repeat for the same reasons (Desmond Bane, Marcus Smart).
Lukas Petridis – Jrue Holiday
I was juggling between Jrue and his old teammate Johnny A from Milwaukee but I ultimately decided on Jrue. Being a good defender has been a prerequisite for winning the DPoY award over the past two seasons (I mean seriously, Rudy Gobert has four. FOUR!) and Jrue isn’t bested by anyone when it comes to defending.
He’s also in a system that Marcus Smart won the award in and everyone likes Jrue. I don’t know a single person who doesn’t wanna recognise Jrue at any juncture of his career (it’s not like Gobert won one or two, it was four. FOURRRR!) and this year’s DPoY is the next stop.
Who will be the Rookie of the Year (not named Victor Wembanyama)?
If we’re all being serious, we’re picking Victor Wembanyama. He looks like a runaway favourite and might even be in the MVP discussion if all breaks right.
Yes, Zion Williamson was a lock to win the Rookie of the Year in 2020 before he went down with the first of many injuries but this might even be a clearer favourite.
In this section, we’re all guessing who we think will come second/will win if Wemby has a major injury.
Dante Boffa – Chet Holmgren
Blake Griffin and then Joel Embiid got hurt before playing a second of NBA basketball, sat out their first seasons and then dominated as rookies. Embiid didn’t win RoY (that honour went to NBA hot potato, Malcolm Brogdon), but both he and Griffin were scintillating as rookies, and Holmgren might be the next cab off the rank after missing his first season with an injury.
He’ll be playing for a team with genuine playoff ambitions, oozing with prospects and quality role players and held together by a genuine star in Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. Holmgren might have a chance to amass some impressive counting stats whilst his impact stats and team wins could be eye-popping too. That’s a potent mix for a RoY candidate.
Ultimately, Wemby is going to cruise to this award, but if there’s one player who can unite the warring tribes of counting stats and advanced analytics as a rookie, Chet is the man, and that will give him the best chance of anyone to unseat That French Kid.
Marco Holden – Chet Holmgren
Coming into the 2022 NBA draft Chet could be seen as a bit of a Wemby warm-up: a potential game-breaking unicorn thanks to his freakish and inhuman frame who carried potential injury and longevity concerns thanks to his freakish and inhuman frame.
This season Chet will undoubtedly be in the French kid’s shadow as the other giant rim protector who can take players off the dribble and shoot threes, but a season with the Oklahoma City Thunder, even if not playing for them, seems to have done him wonders. In the Thunder’s preseason outings, he looked NBA-ready from the word go, confidently taking on veteran players and not afraid to show everything he has in his offensive and defensive bags.
The Thunder will be competing this season, led by an MVP candidate in Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and full of exciting young talent, which means Chet is the rookie most likely to be in a winning situation. It’s never been the be-all and end-all of RoY discussions (you can put up counting stats on the worst team in the league and win) but it will certainly help. Finally, you know every single match-up with the San Antonio Spurs will be billed as a clash of titans – judging from their preseason meeting, Chet looks up to the task of going at it with the French kid.
Alessio Conte – Malcolm Brogdon (Scoot Henderson)
The only reason Brogdon won this award in 2017 was due to the disappointing injury of should-be winner, Joel Embiid, and the votes he stole from the real deserving winner Dario Saric. The cynic (hater) in me foresees two niggling injuries to the seven-foot behemoths Wemby and Chet, gifting this award to Scoot who slides in third place.
As long as the Portland Trail Blazers don’t hand Scoot the keys like the House Rockets did for Jalen Green, he will put up solid numbers, start every game of the season and rack up enough stats that we don’t look back and think “woof, that was a mistake”.
I’m looking at you, LaMelo.
Sean Carroll – Scoot Henderson
When listening to some pre-draft podcasts ahead of the 2023 NBA Draft, Nate Duncan sang Scoot ‘Hendo’ Henderson’s praises on Dunc’d On Prime before finishing his spiel with “congratulations Scoot, you’d be the first overall pick in nearly every single draft ever. Just not this one.”
We saw Scoot step into his future role in Summer League and just like his time with the G League Ignite, he’s ready to play against grown men. The growing pains will be minimal if not trivial (rookie point guards have to struggle a bit).
Most importantly, the Portland Trail Blazers are ready to pass the team over to the new face of the franchise who wears at least one number zero.
The only cause for concern I have here is that Anfernee Simons will be playing a lot of minutes for this team. Saying he likes the ball in his hands is an understatement and I can imagine a future where Blazers fans start calling for a Simons trade just to spread his usage across the team’s prospects.
Sneaky little shoutout to Keyonte George who came into Summer League and looked excellent for the Utah Jazz. Also, I wouldn’t put it past the Jazz to find an excellent on-ball scorer in the teens (drafted 16th), they’ve done it before.
Lukas Petridis – Wemby
Who will win the Sixth Man of the Year award?
Dante Boffa – Jonathan Kuminga
This award is a crapshoot every single season, and combo forwards almost never win it, let alone combo forwards whose value to his own team remains unclear. But hey, I’m feeling lucky! And wouldn’t it be great for my good friend and colleague, Sean Carroll, to see his Golden State Warriors finally get a win after all these years of pain..?
Jonathan Kuminga has a path to big minutes if he can just be both good and sensible, although it’s worth stating that he has rarely been both at the same time as a Warrior. I’ll probably be wrong here, but at least it’ll be fun being wrong!
Marco Holden – Malik Monk
There are two great candidates here that might be sixth men in vibe but I’m counting on won’t be in practice – Steve Kerr has indicated Chris Paul will start for the Warriors even if his minutes are limited and I trust Joe Mazzulla to fuck around with his lineups enough to disqualify Derrick White.
Malik Monk excelled in the classic Lou Williams/Jamal Crawford mould last season and elevated his game in the Kings’ seven-game series against the Warriors. He’ll come into this season more confident and accomplished than ever (what being a rookie in Charlotte does to a mfer) and will close out enough games to impress voters.
Alessio Conte – Immanuel Quickley
At 24 years of age, Quickley has officially passed coach Tom Thibodeau’s threshold for a player being ‘too young’. The Knicks look to be in for another competitive season, meaning Quickley will have plenty of opportunities to put up big numbers as he did in the back end of last season.
With Boston’s shallow roster, Derrick White may start too many games to get the Sixth Man of the Year bump like Malcolm Brogdon did last season. The rest of the league’s sixth men pose as many questions as they do answers, so I’ll go with arguably the most proven commodity in this space.
Sean Carroll – Chris Paul
Imagine going a full awards ballot without putting on a player from your favourite team, couldn’t be me.
If you had asked me before preseason, I wouldn’t be putting Chris Paul down for this award but fuck man, he’s good at basketball. He’s everything we wanted Jordan Poole to do and he might be the best one at doing it in NBA history.
Additionally, State Farm’s CP3 looks like he’s buying into his role and it’s working (in preseason). Steve Kerr 3.1 is using Christopher as a screener for the Splash Brothers and even deploying him as a super-duper charged Gary Payton II in dribble-hand-offs.
Jonathan Kuminga looks extremely comfortable coming off the bench and it’s easy to score 20-plus points when all you need to do is find the open spot around a CP3 pick-and-roll.
Dario Saric is a sneaky brilliant acquisition by the Golden State Warriors as the Croatian has built lovely pick-and-roll chemistry with the nonce in the past few seasons. Two playmakers at the one and five slots surrounded by athletic finishers and shooters… Maybe my best-case scenario of “small Shaun Livingston” is coming true.
Lukas Petridis – Malik Monk
The vibes are far too high with the Sacramento Kings for them to not get an award. It’s good for the fans when a franchise that was the league’s laughing stock for so, so long, has had a resurgence with homegrown talent and other teams’ unwanted pieces. They’ve found value in every player and maximised what they have which resulted in 48 wins and a competitive series against the reigning champs at the time.
Sure, Mike Brown won Coach of the Year, but fans wanna award players. Monk has thrived in a role off the bench, scoring consistently while also contributing to wins. He’s forging his own path in a pre-defined role while showing his personality on the court. His acceptance of his role sees his value exceed the D’Angelo Russell’s and Jalen Green’s of the world. Your mould is best suited to entering the game off the bench, realising that results in Monk’s production and value to the team. Light the beam baby.