NBA

2018-19 NBA Season Predictions: Most Valuable Player, Defensive Player of the Year, Rookie of the Year and more

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Luka Doncic, LeBron James, Kawhi Leonard (NBA Getty Images)

Who will be named Most Valuable Player of the 2018-19 NBA season? What about Defensive Player of the Year or Rookie of the Year?

You'll find the answer to those questions and more in the table below as the NBA Canada crew shares their award predictions for the upcoming season...

Most Valuable Player Rookie of the Year Defensive Player of the Year Sixth Man of the Year Most Improved Player Coach of the Year
Scott Rafferty (@crabdribbles) Giannis Antetokounmpo Luka Doncic Joel Embiid Dennis Schröder Pascal Siakam Brad Stevens
Gilbert McGregor (@GMcGregor21) LeBron James Luka Doncic Anthony Davis Tyreke Evans D'Angelo Russell Mike Budenholzer
Kyle Irving (@KyleIrv_) LeBron James Collin Sexton Kawhi Leonard Terry Rozier Aaron Gordon Brad Stevens
Micah Adams (@MicahAdams13) Kawhi Leonard Luka Doncic Rudy Gobert Jonas Valanciunas Kris Dunn Quin Snyder
Carlan Gay (@TheCarlanGay) Stephen Curry Shai Gilgeous-Alexander Joel Embiid Fred Van Vleet Pascal Siakam Quin Snyder

Most Valuable Player

Micah Adams (@MicahAdams13): I'm all in on Kawhi Leonard.

Not only do I think Leonard will have a career year offensively, he's playing with a team that's tailor-made to take advantage of his incredible defensive versatility. Simply by virtue of the Raptors playing much faster than the Spurs, Leonard should have a few extra possessions per game which may not seem like much but could be enough to bump up his scoring average, especially if he sees an increase in free throw attempts as we've seen in the preseason.

Leonard is getting to the line more than anyone this preseason and it's not even close. Sure, it's a laughably small sample but given the success that DeMar DeRozan had in manufacturing trips to the free throw line in Toronto, it's not out of the question to expect a massive leap in that area from Leonard.

With all of the interchangeable wings in Toronto, the Raptors have all the makings of once again finishing with an elite defence after finishing fifth in defensive rating last season. Given the lack of a traditional post anchor, Leonard will almost assuredly get credit for even a slight uptick on that end which could make him the top two-way candidate.

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Rookie of the Year

Kyle Irving (@KyleIrv_): I'm giving the nod to Collin Sexton.

Sexton was dominant in his one year at Alabama and I'm not just talking about when he scored 40, nearly defeating a ranked team playing 3-on-5. We got to see "Bull Mode" again when he scored 27 in the Summer League semi-finals trying to carry the Cavs past the Lakers. I'm sure that it won't be the last.

Sexton inherits a roster that, despite losing its best player, has still reached four consecutive NBA Finals. He'll be surrounded by better talent that he has ever played with in his life and he has done a lot more with a lot less.

He has a similar play style to John Wall, which will fit well with the Cavaliers' supporting cast of shooters. He has the ability to take over games and when he and Kevin Love are leading the way for the Cavaliers when they're fighting for a playoff spot in the East, it will be tough to give the award to another rookie who might not be playing in meaningful games.

He's truly the Rookie of the Year candidate that no one is talking about

MORE: 2018-19 NBA Season Predictions: Who will be named Rookie of the Year?

Defensive Player of the Year

Carlan Gay (@TheCarlanGay): I rarely agree with Scott on anything but he's right: Joel Embiid will walk away with the 2018-19 DPOY.

He'll play enough game this year to eliminate the "he hasn't played enough" argument and the 76ers should be a top-five defensive team again this season. Embiid finished fourth in blocks per game and seventh in block percentage last season, and I expect him to be in the top three in both this season.

A motivated and healthy Embiid is going to run wild on the defensive end for Brett Brown and the 76ers this season - especially since he got robbed of the award last year.

MORE: 2018-19 NBA Season Predictions: Who will be named Defensive Player of the Year?

Sixth Man of the Year

Scott Rafferty (@crabdribbles ): I would've said Terry Rozier had you asked me this a week ago, but the more I think about it, the more I'm convinced that Dennis Schröder will win Sixth Man of the Year this season.

Working against Rozier is that he's not the only player on the Boston Celtics' second unit who could receive votes for this award. (If he can stay healthy, Marcus Smart might also work his way onto the ballot this season). Schröder, on the other hand, is clearly the best player the Oklahoma City Thunder have coming off their bench.

Plus, based on how desperate the Thunder have been for someone who can keep the offence afloat when Russell Westbrook takes a seat on the bench, there's a clear path for Schröder to establish himself as a huge difference-maker on a team that should fight for homecourt advantage in the Western Conference this season.

There's no denying that the Schröder experiment might not pan out as the Thunder expect it to, but he's in a great situation to prove himself as the best sixth man in the league.

MORE: 2018-19 NBA Season Predictions: Who will be named Sixth Man of the Year?

Most Improved Player

Scott Rafferty (@crabdribbles ): I'm all in on Pascal Siakam being the league's Most Improved Player this season.

I thought Siakam's best bet of being in this discussion after what he saw last season was by becoming a more reliable 3-point shooter, but I was blown away by how comfortable he looked pushing the ball and making plays for others in the preseason. If he can continue to do that in the regular season, he'll bring a new element to a second unit that was already one of the best in the league.

It would also give Siakam the versatility to play alongside Kyle Lowry and Kawhi Leonard at the end of games. We already know he's a versatile defender who is comfortable guarding multiple positions. If he can develop into a clear positive on offence, he could be a huge reason why the Toronto Raptors meet and exceed expectations this season, paving the way for him to win this award.

MORE: 2018-19 NBA Season Predictions: Who will be named Most Improved Player?

Coach of the Year

Gilbert McGregor (@GMcGregor21): My vote goes to Mike Budenholzer.

Much of what goes into winning Coach of the Year is based on expectations and how well a team meets - or exceeds - them, and Milwaukee is a team on the fringe of being very special. While they are projected to finish fourth in the East with fewer than 47 wins, Budenholzer's coaching should get the Bucks over 50 wins.

Milwaukee has surrounded superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo with excellent complementary pieces and it is Budenholzer's new system that will allow Giannis to make even more strides as a player. Coach Bud will reach the team's complementary pieces in a manner similar to the way in which he brought the best out of the 2014-15 Hawks, winning 60 games and Coach of the Year in the process.

MORE: 2018-19 NBA Season Predictions: Who will be named Coach of the Year?

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