By: Louis Prejean
The NBA preseason is drawing to a close and the regular season is around the corner. Every NBA fan loves whatever kind of basketball they can get their hands on. The preseason is a good way to give fans their fix of basketball action. For the NBA teams, it is a chance to shake off the rust after a long offseason of practices, drills, and scrimmages. They finally play an actual game against other various teams eager to see how much they’ve improved.
The preseason means different things to players and coaches. The coaches still have to make roster cuts, thus players trying to make it in the league face the pressure of playing good enough to do so. Veteran players probably wish they could skip straight to the regular season. Rookies are looking to impress the fans of their team and mainly the organization that drafted them. They want to show that they belong in the NBA.
The NBA preseason has plenty of meaning to the players and coaches. That is why we compiled our own list of 2015-16 regular season award predictions based off the play in the preseason.
Best Rookie: Emmanuel Mudiay
The one rookie that has showed he can not only handle the NBA action, but perform at a high level is Emmanuel Mudiay. The 7th overall pick for the Denver Nuggets in this year’s draft was viewed as the most NBA ready player. At 6’5 and only 19 years-old, Mudiay is a good-sized point guard that has great athleticism, can easily get to the basket, and make plays in transition.
In the NBA preseason for the Nuggets, Mudiay is first in scoring among rookies at 15 points per game. He is also showing his overall game by adding 5.4 assists and 3.0 rebounds per game. Emmanuel Mudiay is also proving he can play some defense by averaging 1 steal per game. His size and speed allows him to generate turnovers for the Nuggets then sprint out to create scoring opportunities. His impressive performance is the preseason earns Emmanuel Mudiay the “Best Rookie” award. He could also steal the “Rookie of the Year” award from the likes of Karl-Anthony Towns.
Most Improved Player: John Jenkins
Whether it be more minutes or better play, John Jenkins seems to have popped out of nowhere with his improved game. Jenkins has shown that in this preseason that he can score the ball just as well as starting-caliber players. Jenkins has averaged 20.6 points per game, which ranks second behind Anthony Davis. The other names on the top preseason scorers list are Paul George, Stephen Curry, and Kevin Durant. That is the company John Jenkins is in right now.
Jenkins only averaged 9.2 points per game in the NBA preseason last year and to boost that average by 11 points deserves a lot of credit. He also averaged just 5 shots per game last year compared to 13.8 this year. He is shooting at a respectable 49% from the field, too. Hopefully John Jenkins can carry this new found aggressiveness in his 4th season as a pro because he has played just as good as anyone this preseason. Not many players have played as well as Jenkins has, so with more playing time in Dallas he could win the “Most Improved Player” award in the regular season.
Best Defensive Player: DeAndre Jordan
This should be no surprise to anyone that watches the NBA. DeAndre Jordan put up great numbers on the defensive side of the ball for the Los Angeles Clippers last season. Jordan averaged 2.2 blocks and 1 steal per game and was the anchor for the Clippers defense. Returning for Los Angeles, expect nothing to change for this big man. In his first five games in the 2015-16 preseason, DeAndre Jordan is averaging 1.8 steals and 1.8 blocks per game. This averages put him 9th in steals and 11th in blocks per game.
DeAndre Jordan has proven he can defend the rim with his unmatched athleticism at the center position. Doc Rivers has truly given him a role for the Clippers and it is proving to be successful. Jordan has been the best defensive player throughout the NBA preseason, by the numbers and his play. At this rate, the “Defensive Player of the Year” award might be DeAndre Jordan’s to lose.
Best Coach: Steve Clifford
The head coach for the Charlotte Hornets needs to run things around after a disappointing performance by his team last year. In Clifford’s first year as the Hornets’ coach he led them to the postseason. However, injuries and lack of team chemistry played a role in not making the playoffs for a second straight year for Charlotte.
So far in the 2015-2016 NBA preseason, this team is playing different. They stand undefeated at 6-0 and not only have they won, but they are kind of destroying their opponents. The point differential is the Hornets’ six games is plus 14.2. That is highest margin of victory by any team in the NBA this preseason. Clifford is inspiring his players to make up for last season. The Charlotte Hornets have a good coach with Steve Clifford and expect the Hornets to make some noise in the regular season. Based off the preseason, Clifford can surprise the league by turning the Charlotte Hornets around and be a serious contender for “Coach of the Year”.
Most Valuable Player: Anthony Davis
This one was actually tough. A lot of players have performed at a high level for their respective teams this preseason, but one player edges out the rest. Anthony Davis of the New Orleans Pelicans has played the best basketball in the 2015-16 preseason. The other candidates were Russell Westbrook and Kyle Lowry but there is something special about Davis. This preseason he has averaged 20.8 points, 7.3 rebounds, 1 block per game on 52% shooting from the field and 62.5% from the three-point line. Yes, Anthony Davis is shooting threes now. Scary.
Anthony is the most valuable player to his team and he is putting up outstanding numbers in only 24.5 minutes per game. He leads the preseason in scoring while being the number one defender for New Orleans. “AD” officially made a name for himself last season as the world noticed what he is capable of. Anthony Davis will have a greater impact in the regular season as his minutes will increase. If he can lead the Pelicans to the playoffs last season, Davis can do it again with another year under his belt. Right now, Anthony Davis is putting his name in as an early MVP candidate by playing the best basketball in the preseason.