I know the NBA season just started but that somehow makes it the perfect time to take a look at the NBA’s regular season awards. On this week’s Bleav in Wizards podcast, Larry Hughes and I discussed which Wizards have the potential to at least be in consideration when it comes time to give out the NBA’s regular season awards.
The episode provides a more detailed breakdown on the likelihood of these things happening but the high-level case is laid out below as a conversation starter. We want to hear from you in the comments suggestion with your predictions for these awards.
Most Valuable Player - Russell Westbrook
As a former MVP himself, Westbrook would probably have the best Vegas odds. He took a less talented Oklahoma City team to the playoffs in 2017 and earned himself an MVP by averaging a triple-double.
He was unquestionably the star and number one option for that team, circumstances which will be harder to replicate in Washington. Westbrook’s MVP has retroactively been questioned because (somehow) averaging a triple double is no longer impressive.
It seems unlikely Westbrook could improve on his 31.4 points per game or his 10.7 rebounds. His only path to MVP consideration is to lead the league in assists, which might not be outside the realm of possibility. That 2016-2017 Thunder team was devoid of shooters, especially when compared to this year’s Wizards.
Considering the noticeable impact he had in just one preseason game, I don’t think it’s insane to think he could end up in the top 10 of MVP voting. Hughes believes that if he can average around a triple-double again and the team is successful, Westbrook could find himself in the top 5 of voting.
Scoring Champion - Bradley Beal
Beal came awfully close last season and that was with defenses keying on him. James Harden seems like his major competition but if he winds up traded to Brooklyn, then the requisite shots will be harder to come by.
There’s always a chance that Westbrook eats into Beal’s touches but I think it’s equally likely he creates some easy looks for Beal. Think about how hard Beal had to work for almost every basket last year, now imagine he gets two or three freebies per game from Westbrook. If Beal averages anywhere near the 30.5 points per game he put up in 2019-2020, I think that should safely make him one of the top three scorers.
All-NBA - Bradley Beal
“Leaving Brad off again would be insane,” said Hughes.
The only thing that kept him off last year was team success and the Wizards seem poised to improve in that regard. By law of averages, Beal has to make one of these eventually. We think this is the year. Westbrook would have an outside shot at this too, assuming the things we outlined in the MVP section play out.
Defensive Player of the Year - N/A
Hughes didn’t think so but given that he is a true professional, he laid out why Thomas Bryant should aspire to be in the conversation for DPOY and how he could make major strides. My personal thoughts on which Wizards could win DPOY can be summed with: *insert laughing while crying emoji here*
Most Improved Player - Thomas Bryant
If Bubble Bryant and the one we saw in the final preseason game is here to stay, then he might have an outside chance at this. To be fair, I said this last season as well before injuries derailed his year. Hughes believed that playing next to Westbrook and Beal should simplify things for Bryant and allow him to focus on his strengths and also get him some easy baskets.
Brandon Ingram won the award in 2020 by increasing his scoring average by 5 points per game. If Bryant went from averaging 13 and 7 to 16 and 9, would that put him in the mix? Sadly, that alone likely wouldn’t be enough. Becoming an impact defender is the only path for Bryant to get the attention winning this type of award requires. And the Wizards getting some national television games in the second half of the season wouldn’t hurt either.
Sixth Man - Davis Bertans
To win this award a player needs to average close to 20 points while playing starter’s minutes. Montrezl Harrell averaged close to 19 points and 7 rebounds to win the award last season.
It seems unlikely Bertans could equal those numbers but perhaps he could replicate similar impact with his floor spacing. Shooting north of 40-percent from three on close to 10 attempts per game while closing games for a legitimate playoff team should earn him some votes.
It doesn’t hurt that Harrell and Denis Schroder (also a contender for the award last season) should be in different roles for the Lakers this season. And Lou Williams, a perennial candidate for the award, has to slow down eventually. At least I think so.
Rookie of the Year - Deni Avdija
I doubt Avdija could have a high enough usage rate to win the award but hopefully he can make it onto the All-Rookie First Team. Averaging 10 points and 5 rebounds while playing solid defense should get him on that team. It would take a lot more than that to beat out LaMelo Ball, James Wiseman, or someone else with a permanent green light.
Coach of the Year - N/A
My mother always said, “If you don’t have anything nice to say then don’t say anything at all.” That being said, I think it’s totally realistic that Ryan Richman could win G League Coach of the Year.
Executive of the Year - Tommy Sheppard
If the Wizards grossly overachieve and Westbrook, Hachimura, and Avdija all play at high levels than Sheppard might get some moderate consideration for the award. As far as I’m concerned, just not being Ernie Grunfeld should earn him a trophy.
Hachimura’s absence; had Hughes had a teammate miss time for anything like this? - 2:00
Who should start at power forward with Hachimura out - 3:00
Over / under on 33.5 wins - 5:00
Which point guards could get left out of the rotation? - 7:00
Which wings could get left out? - 9:00
Jerome Robinson’s struggles and how the team can help him work through them - 10:00
Avdija’s potential stat line - 13:00
Who will be the team’s third leading scorer? - 15:00
Westbrook will keep guys locked into their roles and how he should help Hachimura specifically - 16:30
Potential overachievers who might surprise casual fans - 19:00
How good defense can lead to improved offense - 22:00
Not allowing things on offense to impact defense - 24:00
How stars have to set the tone and be mindful of their body language - 26:00
Do players tune out vets if they can’t still contribute on the court? - 28:00
MVP - 32:00
Scoring title - 34:00
MIP - 38:00
6th Man - 40:00
DPOY - 43:00
ROY - 45:00
Coach of the year and a Scott Brooks extension - 47:00
Will Westbrook and/or Beal retire Wizards? - 50:00
Wes Unseld’s comments about players not contributing to Michael Jordan’s retirement gift - 53:00
How younger players felt about Jordan - 54:00