Combing over the NBA awards this season finds more no-brainers than nail-biters.
Most Valuable Player, Defensive Player of the Year, Rookie of the Year — there’s about as much suspense in those awards as a Scooby-Doo episode.
But there is plenty of intrigue surrounding the Coach of the Year and Sixth Man, with no wrong answer in either race.
AP Basketball Writers Brian Mahoney, Tim Reynolds and Jon Krawczynski share their picks for several end-of-season awards. They also take a stab at predicting the NBA Finals, which seem destined for a rematch.
One certainty about awards season: even in the categories that seem unanimous, there’s always a way to generate heated debate.
The final week of the regular season is highlighted by the Golden State Warriors going for their record-setting 73rd victory against Memphis on Wednesday night, the same night Kobe Bryant will play his final game when the Los Angeles Lakers wrap up the season at home against the Utah Jazz.
But why wait until the regular season is over to get the debate started?
Mahoney — Stephen Curry, Warriors. Best shooter in the game? Easily. Now he’s in the running for best player, period.
Reynolds — Stephen Curry, Warriors. The face of the league. The scary thing is that he keeps getting better.
Krawczynski — Stephen Curry, Warriors. The only thing that has gone wrong for the reigning MVP is that 60-footer being released after the third-quarter buzzer on Sunday night.
Most Improved Player
Mahoney — Draymond Green, Warriors. His growth into a dominant two-way player helped turn the Warriors from a great team to potentially the best one ever.
Reynolds — Stephen Curry, Warriors. C.J. McCollum will win it, but did he “improve” or just finally get big minutes?
Krawczynski — Giannis Antetokounmpo, Bucks. Love McCollum’s emergence. But I give the Greek Freak the nod for evolving into a 7-foot point guard and a triple-double machine.
Rookie of the Year
Mahoney — Karl-Anthony Towns, Timberwolves. Turned what once appeared to be a close race with Kristaps Porzingis into a rout.
Reynolds — Karl-Anthony Towns, Timberwolves. Should be unanimous. Minnesota may be very intriguing around ‘18.
Krawczynski — Karl-Anthony Towns, Timberwolves. Best rookie season for a big man since a guy named Tim Duncan.
Defensive Player of the Year
Mahoney — Kawhi Leonard, Spurs. No reason not to stick with last year’s winner.
Reynolds — Kawhi Leonard, Spurs. Draymond Green and Hassan Whiteside are worthy, but Leonard remains the pick.
Krawczynski — Kawhi Leonard, Spurs. He is relentless, suffocating, a human straitjacket.
Sixth Man of the Year
Mahoney — Jamal Crawford, Clippers. One of the best the NBA has ever seen in this role remains the best now.
Reynolds — Jamal Crawford, Clippers. Another difficult selection to make, but he remains so vital to his team in this role.
Krawczynski — Andre Iguodala, Warriors. The Finals MVP doesn’t put up huge numbers, but does so much to keep the Warriors on their record pace.
Coach of the Year
Mahoney — Terry Stotts, Portland. The Blazers lost a ton in the summer and then won plenty in the regular season, and Stotts deserves credit for that.
Reynolds — Steve Clifford, Hornets. Clifford, Terry Stotts, Erik Spoelstra, Brad Stevens, Steve Kerr, Gregg Popovich … pick one, can’t go wrong this year.
Krawczynski — Dave Joerger, Grizzlies. So many good candidates, but Joerger’s work with a MASH unit in Memphis has been remarkable.
NBA Finals Prediction
Mahoney — Warriors over Cavaliers. Cavs could provide a tougher test this year if they stay healthy, but Warriors are good enough to win again either way.
Reynolds — Warriors over Spurs. The league will then make the Warriors play Cleveland in the next round, and Golden State wins that rematch.
Krawczynski — Warriors over Cavaliers. The best teams always win. And these are the two best teams. Again.