Every year, the NBA hands out a series of awards on the regular season. In a vacuum, it’s based on the player’s individual performance but their contribution to winning also factors in. Based on that, the better the Wizards do, the more realistic their chances will be to factor into the awards conversation at the end of the season.
Other executives vote for the Executive of the Year but, otherwise, the awards are voted on by a panel of national sportswriters and media members. Accordingly, national relevancy is a key factor in having a chance at being recognized for these awards. That has been hard to come by for the Wizards unless it’s for the wrong reasons. But hey, all publicity is good publicity, right?
Speaking of, we broke down these awards on this week’s Bleav in Wizards podcast and provided a more in-depth explanation of who else on the Wizards might be in the conversation.
Most Valuable Player - No one
I don’t think there’s any realistic scenario that could play out that could give Bradley Beal a chance at winning this award. No matter how well the Wizards do, there will be some reason to discredit Beal’s efforts, whether it be his defense or even his vaccine stance alienating him with the voting media. I do think there is some best-case situation where Beal could play his way into finishing like fifth.
Sixth Man of the Year - Kyle Kuzma
Montrezl Harrell is probably the obvious choice here as a previous winner of the award. And Kuzma may find his way into the starting lineup this year, which would hurt his chances (a player must come off the bench in more games than he starts).
In my opinion, Kuzma is best suited to come in and exploit mismatches against second units. That’s not saying he’s not talented enough to start, but that’s the typical recipe for someone winning this award. Past winners like Harrell, Lou Williams, and Jordan Clarkson are all starting-caliber players who were able to dominate against reserves.
Disclaimer: this was originally drafted prior to his less-than-stellar preseason performances. However, I don't put much stock in preseason and still expect him to settle in sooner rather than later. Fingers crossed!
Most Improved Player - Daniel Gafford (dark horse: Rui Hachimura)
This is an interesting one as it feels like several Wizards have the potential to take a big leap forward. Kyle Kuzma seems like he could take a big step forward based on having more opportunity to showcase his talents in Washington than he did playing next to LeBron James. However, he averaged almost 19 points per game in his second season and it seems unlikely he can improve on that.
Daniel Gafford is another player who should look even better with a full season in Washington. He was an impact defender after being traded but was limited by conditioning issues. By all accounts, he’s in much better shape this season and poised to start the year as the Wizards’ starting center. But he may find himself in a timeshare or platoon situation with Harrell and Thomas Bryant (who I actually suggested for this award the last two seasons).
Spencer Dinwiddie seems unlikely to improve on his 2019-2020 statistics when he averaged 20.6 points and 6.8 assists, but he could still have a breakout season. While I don’t expect him to do better than almost 21 points and nearly 7 assists, I don’t think it’s totally unrealistic to think he could match that production, while playing crucial point of attack defense. His injury history is a concern as it could cause the Wizards to be conservative with this playing time.
Rui Hachimura has continued to show flashes of being an efficient scorer and gritty on-ball defender so perhaps he could put it all together. Hachimura is entering his third season and that’s typically when players start to develop into the player they’ll be long-term. Given the organization’s willingness to showcase Hachimura from day one, you can’t rule him out as a candidate here.
I would put the Vegas odds at Gafford being the best candidate for this award given his opportunity and potential for improvement.
Defensive Player of the Year - No one
No one on the Wizards is winning DPOY. However, Daniel Gafford could potentially find his way onto an All-Defensive team if he can replicate what he did for the Wizards last season. Typically, big defense-anchoring centers get a lot of love in this department so Gafford seems like the de facto best candidate on this roster.
Teammate of the Year - Bradley Beal
According to the NBA, this award goes to the “ideal teammate” who exemplifies “selfless play and commitment and dedication to his team” as voted by NBA players. Damian Lillard won this award last season, to give you some perspective.
This award seems like the “you’re really good but not good enough to win a major award” award and that seems fitting for Beal. If Beal plays nearly 36 minutes per game again, nearly leads the league in scoring, makes a respectable effort on defense, and the Wizards get a top-six seed in the playoffs, Beal could have a chance.
Rookie of the Year - No one
I just don’t see Corey Kispert having enough of a role to have any shot at this award. Typically, it goes to a player on a bad team who gets the green light from day one. That won’t be Kispert. Although, if he competes for a spot on the All-Rookie First Team, I think that would be a legitimate success for both Kispert and the Wizards.
Coach of the Year - Wes Unseld, Jr. (Yes! Really!)
If the Wizards are really good and the defense looks amazing, Wes Unseld Jr. could at least get some votes. And if the Wizards are a Top-6 seed, he could be in the conversation for Coach of the Year.
Tom Thibodeau won the award last year (even though Monty Williams should have) by helping the Knicks overachieve and rebrand themselves as a gritty defensive team. I doubt a first-year head coach will win it but even being in the conversation would be a high honor for Unseld.
Executive of the Year - Tommy Sheppard
Once again, if the Wizards are really good it would make this considerably more realistic. If Russell Westbrook shows continued signs of decline and the players the Wizards received for him look good, Sheppard may look like a genius. Even if they don’t, I still think he did the best he could with that trade. But the former Lakers helping the Wizards earn a top six or seven seed might be enough to get Sheppard some love from his peers.