Monte Poole

Forecasting who should and will win 2017 NBA awards

Forecasting who should and will win 2017 NBA awards

The private jets have arrived, most of the swank parties are on and the red carpet has been laid. The NBA is set to announce from New York the winners of its individual awards Monday night at 6 p.m. on TNT.

Rapper Drake, a very public fan of the NBA, will serve as the host. Among the presenters are actors Nick Cannon, Jada Pinkett-Smith and Jesse Williams, as well as athletes Kevin Garnett, Dirk Nowitzki and Paul Pierce. In addition, Nicki Minaj is scheduled as the music guest.

The NBA clearly wants to make a splash in its inaugural show.

Here is our forecast for the six major awards to be presented:

MOST IMPROVED PLAYER:
Giannis Antetokounmpo, Bucks: Rare combination of defensive skill, offensive tools and superior athleticism. Began the season as a Top-50 player, ended it in Top 15.

Rudy Gobert, Jazz: Still raw offensively, arguably the best rim protector in the NBA made appreciable improvement on defense. He’s what Dwight Howard used to be.

Nikola Jokic, Nuggets: Improved enough to be mentioned among best European centers ever to reach the NBA. He’s only 22 and bound to get even better.

Should win: Antetokounmpo.

Will win: Antetokounmpo.

SIXTH MAN OF THE YEAR:
Eric Gordon, Rockets: Improved conditioning and revived his career after offseason trade from Pelicans. He finished No. 2 among NBA bench scorers.

Andre Iguodala, Warriors: WD-40 for whatever the league’s best team needs, whether it’s offense or defense or leadership. Not among the top 15 bench scorers.

Lou Williams, Rockets: Ace shooter split season between woeful Lakers and playoff-bound Rockets. Led all bench scorers in scoring. Plays no defense.

Should win: Iguodala.

Will win: Gordon.

DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR
Rudy Gobert, Jazz: See above.

Draymond Green, Warriors: Best team defender in the league, finished second in the balloting the past two seasons. Got better, making several game-saving defensive plays.

Kawhi Leonard, Spurs: Best on-ball defender in the league. Won the award in each of the past two seasons. Defensive numbers dropped a bit this season.

Should win: Green.

Will win: Green.

ROOKIE OF THE YEAR:
Malcolm Brogdon, Bucks: Second-round draft pick evolved to become starting PG on playoff team. Showed respectable two-way ability and the savvy of a veteran.

Joel Embiid, Sixers: Hands down, most impressive rookie in the league and future franchise player. Played only 31 of 82 games, though. Does that constitute a season?

Dario Saric, Sixers: Impressive, multi-skilled forward with a smooth touch and a nice feel for the game. Two-time Rookie of the month. Played 81 games.

Should win: Saric.

Will win: Saric.

COACH OF THE YEAR:
Mike D’Antoni, Rockets: Took over a dramatically revamped team, implemented his style and far exceeded reasonable expectations. Co-winner in a vote of coaches.

Gregg Popovich, Spurs: Still the league’s gold standard and once again got the most of his team while simultaneously phasing out the old and installing the new.

Erik Spoelstra, Heat: 30-11 second half among best recoveries in NBA history, pulling bottom-five team into the playoff race until final day. Co-winner in vote of coaches.

Should win: D’Antoni.

Will win: D’Antoni.

MOST VALUABLE PLAYER:
James Harden, Rockets: Officially became PG for the first time and led league in assists while operating a new offense without sacrificing scoring. Improved on defense, from abysmal to almost satisfactory.

Kawhi Leonard, Spurs: Probably the best two-way player in the league moved into leadership role and hardly skipped a beat. Does it all without flash, practically undercover. A treasure.

Russell Westbrook, Thunder: Most scintillating player in the league, constantly in overdrive. Set record for most triple-double in a season, while averaging a triple-double for the season.

Should win: Harden.

Will win: Westbrook.

Does Draymond still care about DPOY after another ring? 'At this point...'

Does Draymond still care about DPOY after another ring? 'At this point...'

OAKLAND -- Even though Draymond Green still would like to win the NBA Defensive Player of the Year award, winning a championship with the Warriors has quenched much of thirst for the honor.

“I don’t really care that much anymore,” Green said after participating in the JaVale McGee Celebrity softball game Saturday at the Oakland Coliseum benefitting the Jug Life Foundation, promoting a healthy lifestyle around water consumption.

“I cared before,” Green added. “But we won the NBA championship now. I don’t care about what happened in the regular season any more at this point. I think I would have cared if I found out in Round 1 or Round 2 (of the playoffs).

“But at this point . . . I don’t even care any more.”

This is in marked contrast to what Green expressed early in the regular season, when he acknowledged the DPOY award is the only individual award he actively cared to win.

As recently as two months ago, in discussing his defensive performance in a season during which he made numerous memorable plays, including some game-saving defensive stands, Green let his words speak on his behalf.

“It is the best defensive season I’ve had, because I’ve continued to grow,” he said at the end of the regular season. “When I look at the last couple years, I think each year I got better defensively. And I think this year I’ve gotten better. So I do think it’s my best season, defensively -- but just not numbers-wise. The numbers are up a little bit more. But I actually feel better about what I’ve done on the defensive end than I have in any other year.”

Winning a championship apparently has an impact on the significance of individual awards.

A finalist for the award for which he finished second in each of the past two seasons, Green said Saturday that his plan is to leave for New York on Sunday and be in attendance when the awards are presented Monday night.

The other finalists for the award are Jazz center Rudy Gobert and Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard, who won it the last two seasons.

All three players will be among those at Basketball City at Pier 36 in New York for the inaugural telecast of the NBA Awards on TNT.

Jordan Bell is not Draymond Green but parallels are impossible to miss

Jordan Bell is not Draymond Green but parallels are impossible to miss

OAKLAND -- He’s listed at 6-foot-9 but is closer to 6-7.

He grew up in a place where youngsters often must “man up” prematurely.

He is quick to blame himself, even if it’s not warranted.

He’d probably be chasing a career in football, if it weren’t for basketball.

He was annoyed when the first round of the NBA Draft unfolded without him.

And he very likely will inherit a few minutes at center for the Warriors.

Jordan Bell is not Draymond Green, but the parallels are impossible to miss -- particularly regarding an aptitude and affinity for defense. And get this: Bell’s athleticism exceeds that of Green.

The Warriors on Friday introduced Bell, the 22-year-old University Oregon product for which they arranged to pay the Bulls the maximum $3.5 million to buy his rights after Chicago drafted him in the second round, 38th overall.

That Bell’s new employers have assigned his locker, which is right next to that of Green at the team facility, suggests they expect him to be around for a while and also that they believe he is equipped to handle what sometimes will be a boisterous brand of mentorship coming from the veteran.

“Draymond will be a fun challenge for you,” president/general manager Bob Myers said, glancing over at Bell.

Bell made a name for himself in three seasons with the Ducks before jumping off TV screens across the country during the 2017 NCAA Tournament. There was the eight-block game against Kansas that sent the Ducks to the Final Four. His averages over five tournament games: 12.6 points, 13.2 rebounds, 3.2 blocks

Bell also was named the Most Outstanding Player in the Midwest Regional of the tournament.

Yet he is haunted by the two rebounds that got away. With North Carolina leading 77-76 and six seconds remaining in the tournament semifinal, Bell was twice beaten by Tar Heels players grabbing offensive rebounds off missed free throws, securing the win and sending Oregon home.

Bell blamed himself.

“If I had just boxed out . . . I had two opportunities,” he said after the game. “People can tell me whatever they want, but I lost the game for us.”

More than two months later, the kid who grew up in Long Beach -- where he had a few rough moments -- and attended athletic powerhouse Long Beach Poly High still feels the sting. And wants to feel it, hoping it never goes away.

“I definitely want to keep that with me at all times,” Bell said Friday. “I remember things from high school where I missed the block out, or I missed the shot, or some kind of thing that still motivates me to this day. It’s definitely going to stay with me, definitely going to push me to become a better basketball player.”

Based largely on scouting reports -- Myers saw him personally in the Maui Tournament -- the Warriors concluded Bell was worth the money. He fits so much of what they do, especially on defense, where he has the ability guard multiple positions, switching out on most any opponent.

Yet Myers does not wish to label Bell strictly as a “defensive guy” simply because his offense is not as developed.

“I could see games where he scores a lot of points for us,” Myers said. “At his position, because of the other guys we have out there, there’s going to be some nights where he’s got some easy opportunities.

“But mostly what we saw, what we think, is that if you're out on the basketball court and you’re playing against Jordan Bell, that’s going to be a problem.”

Which is what NBA teams have been saying about Green ever since he moved into the starting lineup in 2015. He was runner-up in the Defensive Player of the Year voting in each of the past two seasons and is considered the favorite for the award to be announced Monday night.

Green, listed at 6-7 but closer to 6-5, often plays center in the Warriors small lineup. The team believes Bell has the potential to do the same, and he sees himself as someone cut from the same cloth as the man he seeks to emulate.

“People said he was too small, they don’t know what position he plays, not athletic enough, he can’t shoot,” Bell said of Green. “People say those things about me.

“Draymond plays with a chip on his shoulder, and I just love his aggressiveness: anchoring the defense, guarding every position, switching, talking, being the heart and soul on defense.”