Amico/Davies: NBA season predictions
Sam Amico and Spencer Davies make their picks, and throw in some analysis, on the 2016-17 NBA season.
Rookie of the Year
Sam: Jamal Murray, Nuggets. He already has an NBA niche, a dead-eye shooter in a league that's gone small. Unlike some other first-year players, he should also get lots of shots.
Spencer: Buddy Hield, Pelicans. The most pro-level ready prospect in this draft class. Injuries and unfortunate breaks in New Orleans make the former Sooner a go-to scoring option on a team that desperately needs it.
Defensive Player of the Year
Sam: Kawhi Leonard, Spurs. The only man who can cause headaches for LeBron James and Steph Curry, and everyone in between.
Spencer: Rudy Gobert, Jazz. The "Stifle Tower" will deny all comers in the paint as he usually has, but this will be the year he makes that next step to propel Utah to a playoff spot in the West.
Sixth Man of the Year
Sam: Enes Kanter, Thunder. Came close last season and will likely take on a bigger role off the bench in this one.
Spencer: Jamal Crawford, Clippers. He only gets better with age, folks. Until somebody can provide the production and minutes that he can as a non-starter, he'll keep winning this award.
Most Improved Player
Sam: Harrison Barnes, Mavericks. A good player with the Warriors will likely get more of an opportunity with the Mavs. He's gone from fifth option to second.
Spencer: D'Angelo Russell, Lakers. Byron Scott and the Ohio State product were clearly not a match for each other in his rookie year. A new coach, new teammates and a new start allows Russell to flourish with the all of a sudden up-and-coming Lakers.
Most Valuable Player
Sam: LeBron James, Cavaliers. Should've won it last year, too. But unlike some other superstars, he makes the playoffs (and not the regular season) his biggest stage.
Spencer: Russell Westbrook, Thunder. As soon as Kevin Durant decided to head west to play with the "selfless" Warriors, it became personal. Look for Westbrook to put Oklahoma City on his back with one of the most historic seasons in the NBA's history.
Sam: Kyrie Irving (Cavs), Steph Curry (Warriors), Kawhi Leonard (Spurs), LeBron James (Cavs), DeMarcus Cousins (Kings)
Spencer: Russell Westbrook (Thunder), Kyrie Irving (Cavs), Paul George (Pacers), LeBron James (Cavs), DeMarcus Cousins (Kings)
Coach of the Year
Sam: Nate McMillan, Pacers. His teams always play hard and smart, and this particular one has some underrated talent with which to work.
Spencer: Terry Stotts, Blazers. Last year's was his to win, but a record-breaking season in the Bay Area hindered those chances. With the deadly backcourt duo of Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum not even close to reaching its ceiling, Stotts finally will get what he deserved before.
Executive of the Year
Sam: David Griffin, Cavaliers. It's time for people to realize he has made all the right moves after receiving the gift of LeBron James.
Spencer: Bob Myers, Warriors. He may not be the most popular general manager around the league, but he's the man responsible for assembling "The Big Four" with the addition of Kevin Durant to a 73-win team.
Most Surprising Team
Sam: Portland Trail Blazers. These guys have lots of guts, play a determined brand of basketball, have a real star in Damian Lillard.
Combine it all with some real playoff experience, and it's time to take them very seriously.
Spencer: Utah Jazz. Quin Snyder and company should have made the playoffs last year, but they lost four out of five to close things out. With the additions of George Hill, Joe Johnson and Boris Diaw--as well as the returning Dante Exum--they've got a solid mix of veteran talent and youth.
The front court one-two punch with Rudy Gobert and Derrick Favors, if healthy, could make the Jazz the best defensive team in the league.
Most Disappointing Team
Sam: Atlanta Hawks. Building around Dwight Howard stopped being a good thing like five years ago.
Spencer: Washington Wizards. There's just something about this team that hasn't clicked for quite some time.
The backcourt of John Wall and Bradley Beal is deadly, but it hasn't worked out for some reason. Whether it's friction on the court between those two or something else, I don't see them making the playoffs.
Sam: The Thunder will make the playoffs and win a round. People seem to forget how much of a true star OKC has in Russell Westbrook.
He's Allen Iverson-like in his determination, and even without Kevin Durant, the Thunder are far from bad.
Spencer: James Harden will lead the Rockets to the Western Conference Finals. His transition to point guard under a new, heavily offensive-minded head coach in Mike D'Antoni will make Houston a contender in the West.
Harden's averaged over 28 points and seven assists per game over the last two seasons--now add Ryan Anderson and Eric Gordon waiting for the drive and kick? It's going to be raining threes from all angles in the Toyota Center.
Sam: Cleveland Cavaliers. They're deeper than the team that won it last season, mesh well with their coach and understand how to get it done when it means the most.
Spencer: Cleveland Cavaliers. The love these players have for one another off the court is just the same as it is on the floor. With Tyronn Lue especially keeping an eye on health and fatigue this season, the wine-and-gold will enter the postseason ready to defend its title.