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Looking Ahead: GameDay Squads 2021/22 NBA Player Awards Predictions

With the 2021/22 NBA season fast approaching, Gameday Squad's NBA staff have been eagerly awaiting this moment, and we are not afraid to admit that it's about damn time! We will be examining some questions for 2022's awards races including:

  • who could take over Denver Nuggets dynamic centre Nikola Jokic's title as the league's best?

  • After such a highly-touted rookie draft, who will come out on top and claim the prize as rookie of the year?

  • And of course, which team has the best chance of taking home the Larry O'Brien Championship Trophy come the end of the season?

Let's get to it!


Luka Doncic, Steph Curry, Cade Cunningham, Giannis Antetokounmpo all major players for player awards this season

First and foremost, will the Joker go back-to-back or will we crown a new Most Valuable Player at the end of this season?


Luka Doncic (Dallas Mavericks)

This question cannot be easily answered from my behalf as I believe Nikola Jokic (AKA the Joker) is the most complete offensive centre we have seen. His ability to make plays from the elbow and post either passing the ball or scoring the bucket is unmatched in the league. My pick for this NBA season's most valuable player award must go to the baby goat himself, Luka Doncic (Dallas Mavericks). His past two playoff runs in consecutive years have been nothing short of unbelievable. The way he can dominate a game offensively, and completely carry a team on his back is giving rookie LeBron at the caviller vibes. Luka magic is heading into his 4th season in the NBA and has incrementally gotten better every season and I don’t see this trend stopping any time soon, he will have his hands full in a tough western conference, but I believe that this season will be one to remember for Luka. Cal:

Luka Doncic (Dallas Mavericks)

I said the same last year but trust me, this is the year Doncic becomes the best player in the world for years to come. As a 22-year-old last year, he boosted the in assists line of 27.7 points, 8.0 rebounds, and 8.6 assists per game in a season, where he led his Mav’s team to 5th in the crowded West. Luka is already the youngest player in NBA history with a 30-point, 20-rebound triple-double, the most consecutive games with 20 points, five assists, and five rebounds (topping none other than Michael Jordan's old record) and currently averages 33.5 points in the playoffs, which just screams this guy is built for the big moments. While I don’t think the Mav's are a serious finals threat just yet, and that is Luka's sole Achilles heel in the race for MVP, there remains no other player in the league right now who will be more essential to his team's success. I can’t wait to see the level he goes to next. Padraig:

Stephen Curry (Golden State Warriors)

As a Warrior's fan, this may come across bias, but I am of the opinion that Stephen Curry (Golden State Warriors) will have his third MVP trophy by the end of this season. This is a feat that would have been accomplished already, if not for the poor supporting cast of the 2020-21 dubs, and the resulting seed placement that they were left with. Curry will put up amazing numbers regardless, it's just what he does... but with the return of Klay Thompson, and some help from emerging talent, such as Jordan Poole, the Warriors will undoubtedly be a contender in the west. A higher seeding mixed with the level of Curry dominance that we've seen from him as recently as this year is why I'm taking him as my MVP. Kerm:

Stephen Curry (Golden State Warriors)

Stephen Curry for me! Teams aren't going to be able to afford to send 4 players to guard Steph at the halfway line with his mate, Klay Thompson, expected to be fit and firing in the early stages of the season. His other mate, Draymond Green, enjoyed a career-high 8.9 assists a game last year, a big reason behind Curry winning his second scoring champion award last year. With the band back together and a good young core being assembled, I can't see how the floor won't be more spaced, allowing vintage chef curry to cook up a storm this season!


Luka Doncic (Dallas Mavericks)

The MVP award is all about narrative, hype and waiting your turn. Giannis had his back-to-back wins and his recent championship, and the Joker emerged as the late-season 'last man standing' storyline to take it home last year. Next man up is Luka Doncic (Dallas Mavericks), who is looking motivated after an impressive Olympics campaign in the off-season. It’s time for more minutes, even more usage, and hype beyond belief. Look for Luka to single-handedly drag the Mavs to a top 6 seed in the West, and collect the award as a result.

Who will take out the Defensive Player Of The Year award this season?


Myles Turner (Indiana Pacers)

The defensive player of the year award is one that consistently goes to big-time stoppers every year, such as Rudy Robert and Giannis Antetokounmpo. However, this season I see the DPOY torch being passed on to a young centre, who has a lot to prove coming off an injury-ridden 2020/2021 season. That player being Myles Turner. At the young age of 25, and in a system that maximises his ability, the sky is the limit defensively for this player. He's always been a problem in the paint and has the unique ability to alter shots without blocking or fouling them. If he can stay on the floor this year and hold it down for the Indiana Pacers, I think this stud will take out the award comfortably. Cal:

Giannis Antetokounmpo (Milwaukee Bucks)

For me, it’s going to come down to which team has the best defensive record in the league and then who is that team's best player on defence. That’s Giannis Antetokounmpo. With Jure Holiday beside him and the championship monkey off his back, there’s no reason the Greek Freak doesn’t start the season as he finished it. He can protect the rim, and he looks comfortable defending on the perimeter. When you sprinkle in some of those all-time blocks that look great on highlights, I think he will make as strong of a case for DPOY as anyone. Padraig:

Rudy Gobert (Utah Jazz)

Rudy Gobert is my pick for this award. He's already a three-time DPOY with no significant signs of ageing or injury. The Jazz debatably has the best squad they've ever had, and a real chance at a deep playoff run if Donovan Mitchell progresses in the way most people are expecting. If this team is going to make some serious noise, their defensive pedigree is going to have to be elite, and this will be centred around Rudy Gobert. Kerm:

Bam Adebayo (Miami Heat)

I'm going to lean towards Bam Adebayo to edge it over Rudy Gobert this season. As a Celtic's fan, my mind casts back to 2020, where Bam pulled off one of the clutchest overtime blocks in NBA playoffs history on Jayson Tatum to seal game 1 in the Eastern Conference Finals. Since then, I've crawled out of my cave and Adebayo has become the most versatile defender in the league, in my opinion. His massive presence in the paint, and ability to switch out to the perimeter makes him so unique. Bam himself stated that he should have won this award last year so, with a chip on his shoulder, I think it will be hard to keep the hardware away from him this time around.


Giannis Antetokounmpo (Milwaukee Bucks).

This award trends toward multiple winners. Gobert has three under his belt, and Kawhi has two. Now that Giannis has his championship, it’s time for him to focus on cementing his legacy by winning a second championship and a second DPOY award. Although the Bucks were a top 10 defense last year, there’s plenty of room for improvement and it centres around this man.

This rookie class is being lauded as one of the deepest rookie classes of all time. Which freshman will prevail to take home the Rookie Of The Year award?


Jaylen Green (Houston Rockets)

The rookie of the year award is going to be a battle this upcoming season, with so many gifted rookies entering the league into favourable situations, which can see them impact from day one. But for me, Jaylen Green is the most NBA ready player on the board and will dominate in his rookie campaign. His ability to create his own shot with no help, complemented with his athleticism and length, is going to see him drain tough buckets all year long. He took the untraditional route of skipping college and joining a G-League association to ready himself for the NBA, and I predict this is going to pay huge dividends for the young star and ultimately, see him crowned as the rookie of the year. Cal:

Cade Cunningham (Detroit Pistons)

I know this pick might seem like the obvious selection, but when the standard of talent in the draft class is this high, it comes down to the situation the top rookies find themselves in. For me, Detroit is more desperate than any other of the top 5 picks in the 2021 draft for a saviour, and they now have that in Cunningham. Jaylen Green in Houston already has me sweating on this pick, but the Pistons will be desperate to show their fans they have something to be excited about after years of irrelevance, and I believe they will do anything to make sure Cade Cunningham walks away with the rookie of the year trophy. Padraig:

Cade Cunningham (Detroit Pistons)

As safe as this answer may be, I think it is going to be hard for a rookie to have the same production as Cade Cunningham. As the new star at a franchise that doesn't have a whole lot going for them, Cade is going to have the green light to play as he sees fit. He was phenomenal to watch in college, and I see this translating to his professional career. Kerm:

Jalen Suggs (Orlando Magic)

This was the question I struggled with most. I'm going to keep it fairly vanilla and pick Jalen Suggs (Orlando Magic) to take it home in a close one. I think this will be a case of opportunity = production. He's going to have the rock in his hands for 25+ minutes a game, and we saw in college and summer league how Suggs can navigate and take control of games. I've also sneakily got Alperen Sengun down as a bit of a smokey pick... I'm excited to see how this shakes out.


Cade Cunningham (Detroit pistons)

Sometimes favourites are favourites for a reason. Cunningham is as well-rounded a prospect as the league has seen in a while, and he will be at the helm of a team that desperately needs him. Guards have a great history of winning this award, which will prove too much of a hurdle for Evan Mobley who will also be competing for minutes with Jarrett Allen, Kevin Love and Lauri Markkanen. The only way Cade doesn’t get the job done is through injury, mismanagement or blatant tanking.

The Most Improved Player Award has been a launchpad to stardom for most of its winners, which budding NBA superstar can win this year and make the leap going forward?


Kevin Porter Jr (Houston Rockets)

The NBA’s most improved player award saw Julius Randle deservingly take this honour after a stellar 2020/2021 campaign with the Knicks. His performance led them into the playoffs where, unfortunately, they were eliminated in the first round by Trae Young's Atlanta Hawks. With an abundance of young talent in the lead, the argument on who wins this award could be made for plenty of strong candidates. However, the one that stands out to me is Kevin Porter Jr. Although his playtime was inconsistent last year due to a forever changing team rotation for the Rockets when given the reigns of point guard for his team, we saw the superstar potential Kevin Porter Jr. holds and why he was so highly ranked coming out of high school and into college. He was drafted by the Cleveland Cavaliers at pick 30 in the 2019 draft. He has the talent of a first-round pick but fell so hard, due to personal reasons. If he can secure the starting role of point guard for the Houston Rockets this year and commit to the game he loves, he will be the most improved player in the 2021/2022 NBA season. Cal:

Shai Gilgeous-alexander (Oklahoma City Thunder)

Perhaps a player who slipped under the radar for casual fans since being involved in the blockbuster Paul George trade, SGA has quietly been developing into one of the NBA's elite future stars. He was so good last season that the rebuilding Thunder had to shut his season down after only 35 games to stop him hurting their chances at a number 1 pick in the lottery. Prior to that, he averaged 24 points on 51% shooting, all while averaging 6 assists and 5 rebounds in one of the most statically efficient seasons ever recorded. After signing the supermax in the offseason and having the longest offseason of any healthy player in the league, there’s no reason why this guy can't win MIP. Padraig:

De'Aaron Fox (Sacramento Kings)

Potentially a controversial pick, but I see De'Aaron Fox taking home this award. I've been a huge fan of Swipa since his Kentucky days and he continues to impress me. He doesn't always get the attention he deserves playing for a small market, but anyone paying attention can see he is an absolute killer. One of the biggest snubs that I have ever seen came at this season's all-star break where De'Aaron wasn't suiting up and I think with another season under his belt and a chip on his shoulder, De'aaron Fox is going to have an amazing breakout season into stardom. Kerm:

Jaren Jackson Jr. (Memphis Grizzlies)

I'm betting Jaren Jackson Jr. takes a significant leap this year. Fresh off the back of a gross injury-riddled 2020/21 season, there is also a certain amount of pressure on Jackson to make a significant step in his progression. Let's touch on three big reasons I think Jackson takes the leap:

  1. Ja Morant. averaging 7.4 assists last season, he proved his worth as a game manager involving others constantly.

  2. Health. Jackson should return the healthiest he's been since joining the league, that's a scary prospect.

  3. Pre-season. The final game of pre-season for the Grizzlies saw Jackson finish with 29 points, 7 rebounds and 2 assists. He also shot 58.3% from the three line.

I'm excited by what Jaren Jackson Jr can be. Let's hope he reaches it!


Kevin Porter Jr. (Houston Rockets)

This award is a total crapshoot. Anyone who says otherwise is kidding themselves. I’m going with Kevin Porter Jr, simply because he has the best opportunity and the most to gain from this award. He will get plenty of minutes and plenty of shots at the Rockets, and he is currently sitting in that 16.5 PPG 6 APG sweet spot that often seems to lead to big leaps for talented players. If he can drag the Rockets anywhere near a 10-12 seed finish, the award should be his.

Will James Harden win the Scoring Champion award for the 4th time in 5 seasons, or will we find ourselves with a new Scoring Champion at the end of the 2021/22 season?


Steph Curry (Golden State Warriors)

James Harden must be the most intimidating player to defend on the court. His knowledge of the game and how he can use your momentum against you is the best in the league. However, I see the scoring champion for the NBA going back to a former MVP who is ready to take his team to the next level - Steph Curry. With his all-star companion, Klay Thompson, coming back after two years away from the game, defences are going to have to pay attention to more than just Stephen Curry this year. His ability to create jump shots with multiple defenders guarding him went to another level last year and the greatest shooter the NBA has ever seen will not be taking any prisoners on the floor. Stephen Curry has completely restructured the way the game is played for a reason; he is the most influential player of the modern era. Cal:

Steph Curry (Golden State Warriors)

I’ll admit, this pick is not one I make with a great deal of confidence but rather a pick that I want to see happen. As a Thunder fan, I’ll always be tormented by what he did to me at the peak of his powers. However, the reality remains there is no better player to watch when he’s on, and I would love another season of him going off at 30+ppg! He has the ability and a healthy splash bother in Klay Thompson beside him. I cant wait to see him in action. Padraig:

Stephen Curry (Golden State Warriors)

I have Stephen Curry as my MVP and it shouldn't take much more justification to convince you that he'll take the scoring title as well. He puts the ball in the basket, it's what he does (sometimes from very far away). Kerm:

Bradley Beal (Washington Wizards)

The best part about this title is that there is a multitude of legitimate candidates to take the crown, but I'm gonna be in Bradley Beal's (Washington Wizards) corner this year. Beal has come close a couple of times in his career. In 2019/20 his average was 30.5ppg, where only James Harden had a higher ppg with 34.3. And in 2020/21, he just missed out trailing Steph Curry's 32.0ppg with his career-high 31.3ppg. Washington will lean on Beal heavily again in the scoring department this year, as they haven't added any heavyweight scoring ability over the off-season. I can see his attempts going up this year and because he's like... really good at basketball, that means his points go up as well.


Luke Doncic (Dallas Mavericks)

One of the big storylines going into this season is the impact of the rule changes. The crackdown by referees on ‘non-basketball moves’ will hopefully (please) stop players from getting to the line as much. While this may have some impact on Luka Doncic, it is sure to have even more impact on James Harden. Harden has to also share the ball with two other high volume scorers, leaving Luka with the inside lane for this award.

Finally, which team will walk away with the trophy this season, and which player will win Finals MVP


Milwaukee Bucks and Giannis Antetokounmpo

I am a diehard Boston fan and would love to say that we are bringing the chip back home this season (which they will). But there are some powerhouse teams that my Celtics are going to have to look out for in their quest to the promise land. The scariest team in the NBA must be the Milwaukee Bucks. Giannis Antetokounmpo Bucks are going to wreak havoc on the NBA yet again, they are a defensive masterclass of a team that have elite defenders at all positions. This complemented with their playmaker in Giannis and their spot-up shooters around the perimeter are going to give all NBA teams nightmares. If teams can find ways of slowing Giannis Antetokounmpo then it may be a different story, but no one has found the formula yet, and this will stay the same for the 2021/2022 NBA season.


The Los Angeles Lakers and Russell Westbrook

What!? Yeah, I know this won’t happen but hear me out. What we do know is that Lebron James is going to take multiple nights off during the regular season thanks to Russell Westbrook, who at age 32 still plays harder than anyone else in the entire league. This means we are going to get a rested and healthy LeBron, which history has shown will allow him to dominate the playoffs and the finals on route to claiming his 5th championship. Lebron will pick up finals MVP (and rightfully so), but it’s the rest Westbrook will be able to give to the old lakers team that will make him the real MVP. #ImissyouRuss


The Brooklyn Nets and Kevin Durant

I have the Nets holding up the Larry O'Brien by season's end. They were way too strong when the stars were playing together this season, and I cannot see a team beating them four times in a series if their core pieces are healthy. I think the Finals MVP could go to any one of their stars, depending on who heats up at the right time however, Kevin Durant is my pick. He is the best player on the planet on his day and has already picked up this award twice.


The Brooklyn Nets and Kevin Durant

Over-analysis time: Lakers beat the Warriors in the Western Conference finals, Nets beat the Hawks in the East. Nets win in 6 games v the Lakers in the Finals series. Kevin Durant with finals MVP.


Los Angeles Lakers and Anthony Davis

I’ve learned too many times not to bet against LeBron. No one is better at leading a team through the ups and downs of a very long season and managing the game in playoff situations. No one else has as much experience at navigating a team to a title, and I like the Lakers recruitment policy focussing around players who have been around the block a few times. However, if they win, that Finals MVP award is going to Anthony Davis as he keeps thriving in the prime of his career.


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