With the start of the NBA playoffs comes the individual awards for the regular season. Some awards have already been given out, but the league is still waiting to learn the winners for MVP and Rookie of the Year.
Atlanta Hawks head coach Mike Budenholzer was named NBA Coach of the Year, leading the Atlanta Hawks to a 22-win improvement and the top mark in the Eastern Conference. Lou Williams was named the league’s Sixth Man of the Year, coming off the bench in 80 games for the Toronto Raptors and scoring 15.5 points per contest.
The MVP award will almost assuredly have a first-time winner for the second consecutive year. Before Kevin Durant was named the MVP last year, 11 players had won the award in an 18-year span.
Michael-Carter Williams was named the 2014 NBA Rookie of the Year, becoming the first player since 1988 to win the award after not being drafted in the top 10. Kyrie Irving was the last No.1 pick to win the award.
Below is a look at the potential winners for NBA MVP and Rookie of the Year, along with betting odds for the top candidates.
Stephen Curry (1/16 odds) seems to have all but wrapped up the award. As the best player on far and away the best team in the regular season, it’s hard to imagine anyone winning the award over the point guard.
Curry’s points (23.8) and assists (7.7) both rank seventh in the NBA, and his shooting numbers are some of the best in league history. While shooting more than eight three-pointers per game, he ended the regular season shooting 44.3 percent from behind the arc, 48.7 percent from the field and 91.4 percent from the free-throw line.
James Harden (21/5 odds) is Curry’s biggest competition and the likely second-place finisher. Leading the Houston Rockets to the No.2 seed with Dwight Howard injured for half the season, Harden ended the regular season ranked second in scoring (27.4) and tied for eighth in assists (7.0) per game. His 715 free throws made helped him become the league’s No.2 scorer while attempting just 18.1 field goals per contest.
Russell Westbrook (23/1 odds), Anthony Davis (28/1 odds) and Chris Paul (28/1 odds) all have a chance to finish in the top five. Davis and the New Orleans Pelicans nudged out Westbrook and the Oklahoma City Thunder for the final playoff spot in the West. Davis ranked fourth in points (24.4), eighth in rebounds (10.2) and first in blocks (2.94) per game. Westbrook led the NBA in scoring and nearly averaged a triple-double for the second half of the year. Paul is having his best year with the Clippers.
LeBron James is the best player on the team that's favored to win the Eastern Conference, but he likely won’t win the award. He’s been named the MVP four times, and the consensus opinion is that the award will go to a newcomer. James averaged 25.3 points, 6.0 rebounds and 7.4 assists this season.
Rookie of the Year
Andrew Wiggins (1/16 odds) is just as likely to win the Rookie of the Year award as Curry is to be named the MVP. The top scoring first-year player usually gets the nod, and last year’s No.1 overall pick’s 16.9 points per game is five points more than the next closest rookie.
Wiggins plays for the worst team in the league, but voters don’t view Rookie of the Year the same way they look at the MVP. Leading rookies in points, ranking fourth in rebounding, and ranking sixth in both steals and blocks will be enough for him to easily get the most first-place votes.
A few candidates like Nikola Mirotic (21/10 odds) Nerlens Noel (3/1 odds) and Elfrid Payton (24/5 odds) will compete for second place. Mirotic ranks fourth in scoring and sixth in rebounds, but he plays meaningful minutes for one of the best teams in the East, as well as averaging 20.8 points during March. Noel leads rookies in rebounds per game (8.1), while Payton is No.1 among first-year players in assists (6.5).
Dante Exum (23/5 odds) wouldn’t appear to have any shot of winning the award, having been drafted fifth overall. A host of rookies are tied with 17/2 betting odds.