BallnRoll’s Official 2021 NBA Season Award Predictions and Breakdown
The finalist for the annual NBA Awards have been released.
After a strange and shortened NBA season, we have finally reached the playoffs and the league released it’s three finalists for six different awards ahead of the start of the first round.
Now, here is a disclaimer.
The NBA doesn’t have a set criteria for each award and often times the voters opt to shy away from using far more analytical statistics which may provide a better representation for the type of season a player has had. Surely, there will be some tight races and I fully expect some snubs based on the finicky requirements.
Alas, this is why BallnRoll is here to provide you with full predictions for each award, or in other words, a breakdown of who should win each award.
The three finalists for each annual award, based on voting results from a global panel of sportswriters and broadcasters, are listed in alphabetical order below ⬇️
— NBA Communications (@NBAPR) May 20, 2021
NBA Sixth Man of the Year
- Finalists: Jordan Clarkson (UTA), Joe Ingles (UTA), Derrick Rose (UTA)
It’s not often you get two players from the same team vying for the same award.
That being said, it’s not often you have a regular season as dominant as the one the Utah Jazz just had, being ranked in the top-5 in both offense and defense.
For the first time in what seems like forever, a non-Los Angeles Clippers player will hoist the award and deservingly, it should be a member of the Jazz. While the industry may favour Clarkson for his scoring output, it was Ingles’ all-around game that deserves all the attention.
Despite averaging less points per game of the trio, Ingles topped Clarkson and Rose in Win Shares, offensive and defensive rating, VORP, and shot at a far superior in terms of effective field goal percentage, true shooting percentage, and three-point shooting. It’s not the sexy pick, but there is no disputing that Ingles was the better player on both ends of the floor all year.
Prediction: Joe Ingles (UTA)
Coach of the Year
- Finalists: Quin Snyder (UTA), Tom Thibodeau (NYK), Monty Williams (PHO)
Both Quin Snyder and Monty Williams have helped transform their teams into two of the best in the entire league, yet I think neither of them deserves the Coach of the Year nod like Tom Thibodeau does.
Of all awards tough to evaluate, Coach of the Year is probably right up there.
The Jazz and Suns appeared destined to reach the postseason prior to the start of the season based on sheer talent and while their head coaches played a vital role in their strong play, Thibodeau was forced to bring in a culture change. He was tasked to turn a losing franchise trending downhill into playoff team in a massive market. Not only did Thibodeau help flip the Knicks’ fortunes around in one season, he helped elevate them to a top-5 defense a four-seed in the Eastern Conference.
The Knicks were ranked 23rd in defense last season before making a twenty spot jump this year. Simply incredible!
Prediction: Tom Thibodeau (NYK)
Most Improved Player
- Finalists: Jerami Grant (DET), Michael Porter Jr. (DEN), Julius Randle (NYK)
This may be the first award on the list that should unanimous.
Julius Randle has become a star under the bright lights of Madison Square Garden and has helped elevate the New York Knicks to a playoff team.
While the per game stats have improved across the board in a big way, Randle has become a legitimate threat from long range, seeing a near 15-percent spike in his three-point shooting. He’s now a far better facilitator of the basketball and while playmaking seemed to always be part of his skillset, it was finally unlocked this season.
God knows what the voters will be looking at when it comes time to vote, but I’ll leave you with the following:
Randle has always had all the tools to be a star and under Thibodeau’s watch, Randle has grown into not just a leader of a young Knicks, but a two-way force on the basketball court.
Prediction: Julius Randle (NYK)
Rookie of the Year
- Finalists: LaMelo Ball (CHA), Anthony Edwards (MIN), Tyrese Haliburton (SAC)
LaMelo Ball looked poised to win the Rookie of the Year trophy until a wrist injury side-tracked his season.
While his numbers were not flashy, Tyrese Haliburton was the steadiest of the three finalists, putting together a phenomenal season and boasting a higher win share of the three. Ball was the flashiest by a mile, but lead the trio in PER and flashed star potential on a nightly basis.
Then there was Anthony Edwards who definitely went through plenty of growing pains, but absolutely exploded offensively in the back-half of the season. Let’s take a peak at Edwards’ final three months of the year: In March, he averaged 24.2 points and 5.5 rebounds per game. He averaged 21.6 points and 5.1 rebounds per game in April, and in eight games in May, he averaged 27.0 points, 5.5 rebounds and 4.8 assists per game.
One can build a case for all three rookies, but ultimately, Edwards’ scoring ability and the way he popped as the season went on becomes the separator.
Prediction: Anthony Edwards (MIN)
Defensive Player of the Year
- Finalists: Rudy Gobert (UTA), Ben Simmons (PHI), Draymond Green (GSW)
It’s incredible how good all three are as defenders, but ultimately the crown will be worn by none other than Rudy Gobert.
The French center was the anchor of a top-5 defense in the entire league. He set a new career high averaging 2.7 blocks per game and according to FiveThirtyEights RAPTOR, Gobert was far and away the best defender with a +8.6 rating, making up the overwhelming majority of his overall 12.4 WAR on the season – which ranked him second in the entire NBA.
Hopping over to Basketball Reference, Gobert led the league in defensive win shares, defensive rating, while finishing second in defensive rebound percentage and fifth in defensive box score plus-minus.
Gobert should have this one all locked up.
Most Valuable Player
- Finalists: Nikola Jokic (DEN), Joel Embiid (PHI), Steph Curry (GSW)
Remember when I said Rudy Gobert finished second in FiveThirtyEights’ RAPTOR WAR? You know who was first – and by quite a bit might I add?
No matter where you look, Jokic’s name is at the top. There is not a doubt in my mind that Jokic is the MVP of the season, as he has almost single-handedly led the Nuggets to a three-seed in the tough Western Conference despite the season-ending loss of his co-star Jamal Murray.
According to the Hollinger ESPN’s value added and estimated wins added, Jokic is at the top by a wide margin. He has led the league in PER, win shares, win shares per 48 minutes, offensive win shares, VORP, box score plus-minus, and offensive box score plus-minus, all while averaging 26.4 points, 10.8 rebounds and 8.3 assists per game.
Jokic has had one of the best NBA seasons in recent memory and rightfully deserves MVP honours.
Prediction: Nikola Jokic (DEN)