Give And Go

In the last two weeks this space has been throwing its take on the about-to-start 2018-19 season of the National Basketball Association, which from all indications is heading to another interesting run following landscape-altering moves across varying levels in the offseason.
This writer started on how I see the teams would figure in the their respective conferences and now it is time to give my two cents’ worth on who get to take home the top individual awards and the top prize – the NBA championship.
For most valuable player I am short-listing Kevin Durant (Golden State), LeBron James (LA Lakers), Anthony Davis (New Orleans), Giannis Antetokounmpo (Milwaukee), James Harden (Houston), Kawhi Leonard (Toronto) and Kyrie Irving (Boston).
I am choosing these players for what they bring to the table and for the position of “command” they have in their respective teams.
In the end though, I see Durant taking home the top individual award.
The nearest thing to an unstoppable force offensively in The Association in my opinion, “KD” has evolved into an all-around player in the last few years, and I see that continuing this season.
Some may see him having it easy playing in such a loaded team like the Warriors but Durant in his two years in the Bay Area has hardly been a “free-loader” and instead worked his way into making himself and the team better.
With Golden State expected to continue to dominate the competition and win a lot of games helps KD’s claim to the MVP award, too.
For rookie of the year, I recognize that it is going to be wide open but still I am placing my bet on Phoenix’s Deandre Ayton.
The best big man in the 2018 Draft, I see the Arizona product figuring prominently in the attack of the Suns and having some success enough to merit him the award.
He is comfortable playing in the low block while also having the ability to take his game to the perimeter, leaving him with much upside.
I am also interested to see how the next four players drafted after Ayton play, namely Marvin Bagley III (Sacramento), Luka Doncic (Dallas), Jaren Jackson Jr. (Memphis) and Trae Young (Atlanta), as well as #7 Wendell Carter (Chicago), #8 Collin Sexton and #9 Kevin Knox (New York), who I believe have what it takes to make heads turn with their play.
Most improved player I have Ben Simmons (Philadelphia), Brandon Ingram (Lakers) and Myles Turner (Indiana) top of mind as contenders.
Simmons showed the all-around player that he is and with one year of experience under his belt and better understanding of his skills set, I believe he is poised to take it to another level while also helping the Sixers improve.
With LeBron James now with the Lakers, one of the beneficiaries I see is Ingram, whose game should complement that of “The King” on both ends.
Turner, for his part, had a pedestrian season last year but he seems healthy this season and playing for a contract which should serve as more than enough motor to take it a notch higher this time around.
In the end, I would give the award to Simmons.
For defensive player it has to be Rudy Gobert of Utah yet again for he knows his role very well with the Jazz and all too willing to do it.
In the running could well be a healthy Leonard, a more focused Hassan Whiteside (Miami), Golden State’s Draymond Green and, even, Durant.
Sixth man I have Tyreke Evans (Indiana), Lou Williams (LA Clippers), Kyle Kuzma (Lakers) and Julius Randle (New Orleans) figuring but I am giving the award to Evans.
Had a solid season with Memphis last year, former rookie of the year Evans could easily start for some of the teams in the league.
In Indiana he will come off the bench and have an impact as a reliever for Victor Oladipo while also finishing some games along the way.
As for the NBA champion, this space sees it as Golden State for the third straight year.
The Warriors are just too deep with five All-Stars in their roster, backstopped by a battle-tested bench.
They will falter here and there during the course of the season but come winning time they will be there.
Houston, Utah, Denver, San Antonio and the LA Lakers should throw some resistance in the West to Golden State but I do not see anyone of them outlasting the Warriors in a seven-game series in the conference finals.
East teams Boston, Toronto and Philadelphia are teams that could possibly meet Golden State in the NBA Finals, but like in the West they might not have enough to stop the Warriors.
The 2018-19 NBA Season begins today. Enjoy!
Michael Angelo S. Murillo has been a columnist since 2003. He is a BusinessWorld reporter covering the Sports beat.