They say that “in life, only two things are certain: death and taxes”.
That timeless proverb is mirrored by one empirical truth regarding the NBA: Each season, only one thing is certain. Punters predicting who will win each award at the start of the year.
Through the millennium's first decade, there was a small pool of candidates to choose from when picking who would win which award, or who would be crowned champion.
Dare I say the NBA was becoming a bit mundane?
But recently, with superstars moving cities, eras ending and trends changing, the league has become a lot less predictable and a lot more exciting.
Still, there are a few likely winners of each award each year, but given how hard the NBA has become to predict recently, it’s never bad to keep an eye on a left-field candidate for each honour.
Below I have named my predictions for the season ending awards.
ROOKIE OF THE YEAR
Usual suspects: Karl-Anthony Towns, D’Angelo Russell
Left-field pick: Jahlil Okafor
Through the early part of the season, the Rookie of the Year award looks like it’s going to be fought out between Minnesota’s Karl-Anthony Towns and Philadelphia’s Jahlil Okafor.
Right now, Okafor just may be winning that battle.
It looks like picking one over the other right now would be like splitting hairs, but Jah’s 20 points per game and 5.5 rebounds per game is just about as impressive as it gets when it comes to rookies.
If he keeps up his current pace, his 20 points per game will be as good as we have seen out of a rookie since Blake Griffin.
That is pretty impressive company.
COACH OF THE YEAR
Usual suspects: Steve Kerr, Greg Popovich
Left-field pick: Stan van Gundy
Through the first week and a half of the season, Stan van Gundy looks like he has finally gotten things to click with his Detroit Pistons.
Detroit started to look like a different team last year after releasing Josh Smith and de-cluttering the front court. Now, with Greg Monroe gone, and Marcus Morris spacing the floor, they look like a team heading towards contention.
With how shallow the Eastern Conference is, the last few spots in the Playoffs are up for grabs.
What’s more, with Andre Drummond looking like the league’s best centre, you could not want anyone else around than van Gundy, who worked with Shaquille O’Neal in Miami and Dwight Howard in Orlando.
If they manage to continue this form, SVG could be a good pick for Coach of the Year – an award he has just missed out on at his two previous clubs.
DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR
Usual suspects: Kawhi Leonard, DeAndre Jordan
Left-field pick: John Wall
Ever since his rookie season, John Wall has endeavored to take his game to the next level each year and this year has so far been no exception. Wall is defending at a phenomenal level.
So far this season, he is averaging 2.6 steals per game and 2.4 blocks per game and is the only player to appear in the top 10 per game in both categories.
However, as we have seen in the past, candidates are more heavily favoured if they're in well performing teams.
So far, Washington is defending well enough and are playing good basketball, but they may need to break into the top echelon of the league if Wall is going to win this award.
SIXTH MAN OF THE YEAR
Usual suspects: Lou Williams, Isaiah Thomas
Left-field pick: Ryan Anderson
This one is a hard one to pick considering how starting lineups can change throughout the season, but early on, it looks like Ryan Anderson is one of the front runners for this award.
The New Orleans power forward is currently going at 16 points per game and 6.5 rebounds per game, both better than his career averages, and is a key cog in Alvin Gentry’s offense.
Whilst New Orleans have so far struggled to adapt to their new coach and his unfamiliar systems, if they do pick it up and live up to expectations, ‘Ryno’ would be one of the reasons why.
The big man from UC Berkeley already has a minor award to his name, winning the most improved award in 2012.
Could he be up for another honour this year?