- Michael Porter Jr. — Denver Nuggets: I’ve got Porter pegged to be the odds on favorite to win the award. He made significant strides in bubble play and was impressively able to carry that over into the playoffs as well. Coming into “Year 2” Porter will have an even bigger role on one of the top teams in the Western Conference. Despite being offered the same deal as Detroit, I believe Jermai Grant saw the writing on the wall and furthermore Denver allowed Torrey Craig to walk due in large part that Porter will be occupying most of those minutes as well.
- DeAndre Ayton — Phoenix Suns: Yes the Chris Paul addition is a huge move for the present day, but if the Suns are going to make a serous leap and do more than just clinch a playoff berth Ayton’s play/improvement is going to be critical. While I am in the camp that feels its a little lame that a former top pick wins such an award (like former #2 overall Brandon Ingram just did), I do feel Ayton hasn’t quite received the credit his game deserves. Being overshadowed by the play of draft classmate Luka Doncic has in many ways made Ayton underrated or at the very least slept on. With both Aron Baynes and Frank Kaminsky now gone a lot rides on Ayton taking his game to the next level and he’ll absolutely benefit the most from Chris Paul being the new point guard.
3. Christian Wood — Houston Rockets: Wood’s chances of being a front runner for the award rely heavily on what happens to James Harden. While a changing of the guards from Westbrook to Wall certainly plays favorable to his chances. We still need to see what happens to Harden and if The Beard is dealt what’s the return? Roster clarity aside, Wood moving from the lowly Pistons in the East to the Rockets in the West is a great opportunity for him to shine. Once and for all he can prove last year’s success was not just a fluke on a bad team.
4. Josh Richardson — Dallas Mavericks: I’ll admit, this may be a stretch. Richardson might be too much of an established player to be considered. If I can add Richardson, I might as well add Robert Covington on the Blazers as well right? Maybe, but here’s the deal with Richardson and why I feel he may stand an outside shot. He got paid and wasn’t the greatest of fits in Philadelphia. He is going to fill a serous need in Dallas’s back court as a secondary playmaker, a much needed aid to help out Luka. He’s a career 36% 3-point shooter and averaged just over 4 assists per game in his last season as good fit in Miami. That said, if he can get his 3-point percentage up over 38% and boost his assist numbers just over 5 per game, the rest of his numbers should take care of themselves which should put him in the conversation.