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Gavel Sports Predicts the 2021/22 NBA Season Awards

As the 2021-22 NBA season comes to an end, some members of the Gavel Sports staff give their predictions for some of the end of season awards and the eventual champion. 


Corbin Bernal

MVP: Giannis Antetokounmpo 

This is a difficult pick. While Jokic has statistically had a stellar season, the Nuggets still don’t have the cohesion that makes them a top five team in the west, and there’s still an apparent gap between them and the likes of Phoenix, Golden State, Memphis, and Dallas. Embiid has also been one of the league’s best again, but the fact that Embiid would not be in the top-10 of scoring leaders if he averaged the same number of free-throw attempts per game as the league average makes me hesitant to give him the MVP. Giannis has only improved from last year, with a more balanced offensive game. He is still one of the league’s best shot blockers and led his team to a top-3 finish in the east. While I would understand if any of these three are crowned MVP, I think Giannis deserves it again. 


Defensive Player of the Year: Mikal Bridges

It is time we get away from big men as perennial defensive player of the year winners. Bridges has not missed a single game in his four year NBA career (you read that right) and takes the opponent’s toughest defensive assignment every single game. Bridges has committed 148 fouls in total this season, averaging less than 2 per game. This stat is even more impressive because he leads the league in total minutes played this season and guards the best offensive player on every team each night. His 7’1” wingspan as a 6’6” wing gives him the ability to clog passing lanes, block shots, and make unbelievable recoveries.


Coach of the Year: Monty Williams 

Monty Williams, now in his third season as head coach of the Suns, has a record of 114-37 in the regular season the past 2 years and wrongfully lost to Tom Thibedau for coach of the year last year. 3 years ago, the Suns finished last in the western conference with a record of 19-63. Fast forward to today, and they sit at 63-16 comfortably as the league’s best. He has changed the culture of the entire organization and deserves all the credit for his leadership. 


Rookie of the Year: Evan Mobley 

The rookies this year have been absolutely stellar, as this class has the potential to be one of the best draft classes we have seen in a while. While Cade Cunningham, Scottie Barnes, and Josh Giddey all deserve plaudits, Cavaliers' center Evan Mobley should walk away with this award. He has been stellar all season, already proving to be one of the best rim protectors in the league and being an athletic, versatile big man. On a team with other top centers, Mobley still made a name for himself, and it will be exciting to see him grow into an All-NBA center in the future. 


6th Man of the Year: Tyler Herro

Arguably one of the best players on the #1 seed in the Eastern Conference. Averages 20 points per game off the bench. One of the league’s best three-point shooters. This one shouldn’t even be a debate. 


Champ: Phoenix Suns

Being the Suns fan that I am makes this choice easy, of course. After the heart-breaking finals loss last year, the Suns improved in the 2 weaknesses that the Bucks were able to exploit. A solid backup center and depth. Phoenix has far and away been the best team this season, with multiple offensive threats at every position and two of the best closers in Devin Booker and Chris Paul. They have dealt with plenty of injuries this season, as their big three of Booker, Paul, and Ayton have played together in only roughly half of their games this season. They have the best plus-minus in clutch minutes and they are 47-0 when leading after the third quarter, which is what makes or breaks a deep playoff run every year. With the motivation from how last season ended, and recognizing Chris Paul’s age, Phoenix has all of the motivation they need to win the first title in Suns’ history. I do not see any team in the league beating them in a seven game series. 


Neal Bold

MVP: Nikola Jokic

His team has a similar record to those of Antetokounmpo and Embiid, his two main challengers for the award, but the Nuggets are winning with arguably the least talented roster of the three. It’s close, but I’ll pick the reigning MVP to win it again.


Defensive Player of the Year: Marcus Smart

Even if he doesn’t win it this year, Smart deserves to be the defensive player of the year at some point. He has arguably been the best defensive guard in the NBA over the last several seasons, and this year he’s leading the league’s top defensive team.


Coach of the Year: Monty Williams

The Suns have the best record in the league, but one player isn’t responsible for their success, which is an indication that Williams is this team’s driving force.


Rookie of the Year: Evan Mobley

Mobley and Scottie Barnes have incredibly similar cases for the award, but Mobley has the better defensive numbers, and he has been able to excel even with the competition for minutes with the Cavaliers’ other big-men, Jarrett Allen, Lauri Markkanen, and Kevin Love.


6th Man of the Year: Tyler Herro

He’s putting up 20 points a game on the current one-seed in the East. Easy call.


Most Improved Player: Ja Morant

Morant’s scoring numbers have skyrocketed this season, he’s shooting more efficiently, and he’s also effectively leading a winning team, not all of which can be said about Miles Bridges and Darius Garland.


Champ: Celtics

Do I think that the Celtics will come out on top? No, but I think they’re the best team by a narrow margin if Robert Williams III returns, and I also want them to win with all my heart. Defense wins championships, right?


Noah Shabahang

MVP: Giannis Antetokounmpo 

While it is a very close race between Giannis, Embiid and Jokic, Giannis has been more dominant than the others and has arguably emerged as the best player in the game. Not to mention, defending a title and continuing to play at an elite level with no noticeable drop-off is another reason to put Giannis above the rest of the pack. 


Defensive Player of the Year: Rudy Gobert

The Utah Jazz are once again one of the best teams in the west, and Gobert has been a big part of the team's success on the defensive side of the ball. Gobert has won the award three times and is having another great defensive season, so it would not be a surprise to see him win again. 


Coach of the Year: Monty Williams 

The Suns have come a long way in getting to where they are now as one of the best teams in the NBA. An underrated part of that success is head coach Monty Williams, who has once again coached his team to be one of the top teams in the west with the best regular season record in the league this season.


Finals Prediction: Suns 

The Suns have had an absolutely dominant regular season and should easily be considered the front runners in the west. The addition of James Harden will be the missing piece to put the Sixers in the NBA finals, but at the end of the day the Suns will not lose two straight NBA finals. 


Jack McNeill

MVP: Nikola Jokic

As great as Joel Embiid and Giannis Antetokounmpo have played this year, Jokic has absolutely run away with the award. Despite losing Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr., Jokic’s play has not only kept the Nuggets in the playoffs, but past the play-in game as well. He’s the most efficient of the candidates, the best at facilitating an offense (and maybe the best ever for a big man), and his defense has improved to the point that it’s no longer enough of a liability to poke holes in his candidacy. 


Defensive Player of the Year: Marcus Smart

If you asked me a few weeks ago, I would have said Robert Williams III was the Defensive Player of the Year, but his injury has hurt his candidacy, so I’ll stick with my Celtics bias and vote for Marcus Smart. While he is frustrating to watch—especially as someone who hates taking charges; it is just not basketball—his annoying personality on the court is crucial to getting in the heads of other team’s stars. While this isn’t a category where guards generally get due praise, Smart’s ability to guard big men despite his small stature should overcome this typical limitation. 


Rookie of the Year: Cade Cunningham

Scottie Barnes, Evan Mobley, and Cade Cunningham are all neck-and-neck, but when it’s close like this, I want the guy that’s shown flashes of superstardom. Here, that’s Cade Cunningham. He started off slow, but Cade is averaging 21 points on 46% from the field with 5 boards and 6 assists since the All-Star Break. At this rate, he won’t be taking a break at next year's All-Star Game. 


Coach of the Year: Ime Udoka

A coach is best judged by their ability to help their team improve. Going from 11th in the East in January to contending for the top seed with just a few games to play is the epitome of coaching up your players. Ime Udoka should run away with this award for the Celtics. 


6th Man of the Year: Tyler Herro

As someone who was a Tyler Herro hater in the preseason, his play off the bench is phenomenal this year.  The only argument I’ve heard against him is that he plays starter minutes, but it doesn’t really hold water when he doesn’t play significantly more than pst winners such as Lou Williams or JR Smith who have done the same. Again, this award should be a lock. 


Most Improved Player of the Year: Dejounte Murray

I’ve been on the Dejounte Murray bandwagon for a few years now, so I have bias, but he’s absolutely my most improved player, with all due respect to Ja Morant. In the span of a year, he went from a niche player who made an all-defensive team to an All-Star who carried a Spurs team with a dearth of talent into the play-in game over the big 3 Lakers. 


Champion: Suns

As much as I would like to continue pushing my pro-Celtics agenda, I just can’t see them pushing past the Sixers, Bucks, or maybe even the Nets. I’m envisioning a Sixers-Suns finals, and see the CP3 get himself and his team a well-deserved first ring due to their dominance on both ends of the floor. 


Devin Klein

MVP: Nikola Jokic. 

Without the second and third best players on his team, Jokic has still managed to carry the Nuggets to a great season. He has to do everything for this team, so he is the most important player in the league this season.  


DPOY: Jaren Jackson Jr. 

As the leader of one of the best defenses in the NBA, Jackson Jr. has greatly improved to give Memphis one of the best defenses. Thanks to his great defense, the Grizzlies are one of the best fast break teams because they cause a lot of turnovers. 


COTY: Monty Williams. 

After missing out on this award last year, Williams and the Suns have improved. Despite having some of their best players miss significant time, they never missed a beat thanks to Williams’ leadership. 


ROTY: Evan Mobley. 

Even though Scottie Barnes and Cade Cunningham have had impressive seasons, Mobley has been the most consistent throughout the entire season. He has helped create an exciting team in Cleveland despite the very low expectations coming into the year. His defense has been amazing and his offense has been just what the Cavs have needed this season.


6MOTY: Tyler Herro. 

As the award that goes to the person that scores the most off the bench, Herro gets that easily. He has been great for the Heat this season, giving them a great boost off the bench night in and night out. 


MIP: Ja Morant. 

Nobody has improved as much this season as Morant has. His improvement has shown up in the standings as the Grizzlies are second in the West thanks to his incredible play this year. Even though he was good last year, the jump that he has had this year makes him worthy of this award. 

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