Simply Ballin’s 2023–24 NBA Award Predictions

Simply Ballin
9 min readOct 22, 2023

It’s my favorite time of the year before the NBA season starts. And that’s because of all the predictions heading into the new season.

This is the perfect time to get everything out so that once the season is over you can see how well you were right(or wrong) on a whole bunch of things. That’s always pretty fun to me, especially when the predictions are wildly different.

So, for this week, there will be a whole bunch of predictions — conference standings, team tiers based on the playoffs, awards, and any other predictions at the end.

A big disclaimer first. Because of the 65-game eligibility criteria, it’s tough to predict who would actually qualify — Damian Lillard, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, LeBron James, Devin Booker, Ja Morant, Anthony Davis, Kawhi Leonard, and Jimmy Butler would have all been ineligible for any kind of award. That’s a lot of stars that are all going to be in the mix.

So, with these predictions, I’m assuming everyone is going to hit that mark.

Another disclaimer. There’s a difference in making a prediction on who “I” think should win versus who I think the media will select. Those can be two different things based on the history of the award. These are my predictions but will note certain discrepancies.

Rookie of the Year: Victor Wembanyama

I don’t think there are going to be any issues with this award. As long as he plays a reasonable amount of games, Victor Wembanyama is going to win this — wouldn’t be surprised if he wins this unanimously.

There’s always the danger of overhyping prospects and putting too much pressure on them when they haven’t played a single minute. But somehow, I don’t see that to be the case for him.

I know it’s just pre-season. I’ll repeat this again to myself. IT’S JUST PRE-SEASON GAMES.

But man, he was great. And it feels like despite all the praise that he’s getting, he’s still underrated. There are things that he’s been doing that don’t make sense. He may be 19-years-old but that won’t stand in his way from being the best rookie by a good margin and already one of the better players in the league.

Though as good as he’s going to be, that shouldn’t overshadow or diminish anything else that either Chet Holmgren(because he’s also a rookie) or Scoot Henderson are going to do either. They’d most likely be right in the mix if it wasn’t for Wembanyama being different.

6th Man of the Year: Norman Powell

This award is always one of the worst to predict. For the last four years, there’s been a different top-3 in votes:

  • 2023: Malcolm Brogdon, Immanuel Quickley, Bobby Portis
  • 2022: Tyler Herro, Kevin Love, Cam Johnson
  • 2021: Jordan Clarkson, Joe Ingles, Derrick Rose
  • 2020: Montrezl Harrell, Dennis Schroder, Lou Williams

There’s no continuity with this award. Each year there are a handful of different candidates who all get a first-place vote. It’s fair to assume that’s going to be the case.

This is also the type of award that in most cases, there’s no clear runaway or anything of that sort that you can easily predict a player either.

So, here is a list of players I can see be in contention:

  • Austin Reaves
  • Malik Monk
  • Norman Powell
  • Derrick White(assuming he’s on the bench)

And with these players in mind, you can make a clear case for any of these players.

But my prediction for this is going to be White(if he’s not a starter). He’s been one of the best role players in the league. He was huge in the playoffs for the Celtics. He may not fit the ideal 6MOTY role that we’re used to, but with his efficient play and elite defense, he should be in the running.

If he does end up being the starter, then the next pick is going to be Powell. He’s one of those scorers that fit the mold of a 6th man we know. He’s an efficient bucket-getter. Almost 24 points per 75 possessions on 61.2% true shooting. That’s the type of scoring off the bench that you want on a team.

Defensive Player of the Year: Anthony Davis

This award has been the most wrong in the last two years. This may be a biased take because I think Bam Adebayo deserved to win at least once in his career.

And this is one of those awards that may have a discrepancy between who I think should win versus what the media thinks.

The candidates for this award are going to be the same as always:

  • Anthony Davis
  • Brook Lopez
  • Evan Mobley
  • Bam Adebayo
  • Jaren Jackson Jr
  • Draymond Green

These are all some of the better defenders that should be in the running each year.

I don’t think an award should be given to a player because it’s their turn. It should be based on what they did in that particular season with all past seasons not being relevant at all.

And for that reason, I don’t think it’s likely for him to win, which is disappointing. To me, he’s a top-3 defender. He can do it all. He’s one of the few players that can defend 1–5, defend in any scheme, and cover up a lot on defense without much help. He makes things work for the Heat. His ability as a defender is what allows the Heat to do what they do and in turn, have an elite defense.

But at the same time, I don’t think this is going to be the year for him anymore. I don’t envision this team to be elite defensively(though that won’t be much of his fault). There might be more of an offensive load for him, which will hinder his defense. No other DPOY candidate has his offensive load. And I also think other candidates will have more of a case for this year.

For me, the DPOY will depend on health. If Davis stays healthy enough, he’s going to be my winner. The Los Angeles Lakers had the best defense post-deadline. For the season, with Davis on, they had a 111.8 defensive rating(would rank second). Post-deadline, that number went up to 110.3(which would be the best defense). Take Davis off, and they drop to 117.0 and 115.4 respectively.

Davis is one of the three players that I can see be the best defender in the world — alongside Green and Adebayo. He has everything that he needs to win the award.

Though I also wouldn’t be surprised if Mobley manages to win it for the first time. He’s already a fan favourite it seems. He’s only going to get better and he has shown that he’s capable of anchoring an elite defense in the regular-season, which is what obviously matters for this award.

Coach of the Year: Taylor Jenkins

I think this was one of the easiest awards to pick. With all of the circumstances surrounding Ja Morant, losing Dillon Brooks, and trading for Marcus Smart, Taylor Jenkins could have a strong case to win.

I am high on the Grizzlies of this season. There’s no reason for them to drop off significantly and there’s a world I see them being a top-3 seed in the West and potentially a top-5 record in the league.

This award is also one of those ones that’s tough to predict even based off looking at past winners. There’s little consistency or criteria to go through and see.

Most Improved Player: Tyrese Maxey

Speaking of an award that has no consistency or criteria or even a true definition. There are always issues with this one because no one can define what most improved actually means.

They say you can’t win it if you’re a second or a third-year winning because you were expected to make a leap. A lot of people will have someone that no one has heard of and has exceeded all expectations to put themselves on the map.

There are so many variations on the definition and it can vary significantly depending on the voter. A lot of people had issues with Morant winning. I also didn’t think Lauri Markkanen shouldn’t have won either.

If we’re going by the definition of most improved, then the leap that takes a player to All-NBA caliber is a lot bigger than whatever leap someone made from role player to All-Star.

I like that definition better. The most improved player is the player who took the biggest leap, regardless of age or expectations. The curve on improving is tougher the closer you are to the top. With each jump the closer you are to top-10 or top-15 players is bigger and bigger. That’s why these winners to me tend to be younger players who were good but turned into great ones.

And I came up with Tyrese Maxey. He has improved in so many areas in each season. He’s highly efficient, gets to the rim, and has been steadily improving his percentages in other areas. Even without James Harden, his numbers were pretty good. The only thing that he lacked was the passing. That’s something that he ranks very low compared to other guards. But if that improves, that can warrant that leap. And if there’s no Harden, that may give him the opportunities that he needs.

One surprising pick could be Desmond Bane, which could be odd seeing as he was already in the running couple of a years ago. But back then was the case of going from okay to good. Now, I can see Bane go from good to great.

Most Valuable Player: Nikola Jokic(Jayson Tatum)

Finally, we get to the biggest award and I can’t decide on this at all. This is the most likely award that there’s going to be a big difference between what the media thinks and who I think will win.

I easily have Nikola Jokic winning. He should’ve won last year. He’s the clear best player in the league — although best players don’t always mean they should win MVP, I still think he will have everything that’s needed to win.

There’s going to be stats. There’s going to be efficiency. There’s going to be team success. There’s the narrative too. And there’s a chance we’ll see an even better Jokic and that’s scary. In each MVP-caliber season he had, they got better. Who’s to say that’s going to stop now?

But I find it unlikely that the media will vote for him for the third time in four years. They already messed up last year with him not winning and I don’t see that changing.

After that, it’s tough to predict the winner. The last few years, it’s been dominated by Jokic and Joel Embiid, but I don’t think either will be anymore. It might be voter fatigue and go with something new for a change.

And for that reason, I can see them going with Jayson Tatum this year. He will have a legitimate argument. There’s going to be team success. He always puts up numbers and is a plus on both ends. He always plays the games. All that matters is him taking that step individually, and that’s very likely.

All-NBA:

1st team: Stephen Curry, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Kevin Durant, Nikola Jokic

2nd team: Luka Doncic, Damian Lillard, Jimmy Butler, Jayson Tatum, Joel Embiid

3rd team: Donovan Mitchell, Trae Young, Zion Williamson, Bam Adebayo, Anthony Davis

Playoffs

Eastern conference: Miami Heat vs Milwaukee Bucks

Western conference: Denver Nuggets vs Golden State Warriors

Finals: Denver Nuggets > Miami Heat in 6

The three teams in the East — Heat, Bucks, and Celtics. They are the favorites to make a deep playoff run to me. Some are more likely than others(the Heat are the least likely and have the most questions)

I can see an argument for any of these teams making a run to the playoffs. I pick the Heat because they’ve proven on the court that they’re capable. Everyone else is successful on paper.

The Heat have made three separate runs all in different ways. There’s just something about them that is clear that they will have a chance however unlikely it might be. It doesn’t matter what the circumstances are. It doesn’t matter what seed or what the bracket is. With Jimmy Butler, Adebayo, and Erik Spoelstra they have a chance. And for those reasons, I give them the edge despite being the worst team out of the three.

Denver is the clear best team in the league. There’s not much to say there. They’re the reigning champions and they’re going to be better with their core.

After that, there are three teams — Suns, Warriors, and Lakers. That’s the competition. I don’t think one is clearly above the other. All have some questions.

& Everything Else

Here are some random predictions:

  • Trae Young will have a career year
  • Donovan Mitchell will have a bounce-back year in the playoffs
  • The Suns won’t work out as well as people think
  • Jalen Brunson and Franz Wagner will be first-time All-Stars
  • The Bulls will blow it up at some point
  • Curry is going to be in the MVP race
  • A very good chance we’ll see a first-time MVP winner
  • The Rockets will be one a good surprise
  • Adebayo is making his first All-NBA
  • LeBron James is missing his first All-NBA since his rookie year

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