NBA basketball is a team sport, but it's rare in that one individual can make an incredible difference. Aaron Judge can only come to the plate four or five times per game. Patrick Mahomes has nobody to throw to if his receivers can't get open. (And he doesn't play defense.) But in the NBA, one player can dominate stretches of the game by himself, which is why superstars have such power and are rewarded with such lucrative salaries.
Heading into the 2022-23 season, all of the awards races have multiple reasonable candidates, including MVP. Most expect that Nikola Jokic won't win for the third-straight season due to voter fatigue, but that could easily change if he leads the Denver Nuggets to the No. 1 seed in a stacked Western Conference. The Philadelphia 76ers' Joel Embiid has been the bridesmaid in each of the past two seasons, so he's a logical candidate to win the award this year, but he'll face stiff competition from both players we expect, and at least a couple of dark horses who come out of nowhere.
Rookie of the Year generally comes down to which talented young players get the most opportunity, but that could be any number of first-year players this season -- especially since winning isn't exactly a priority for most of their teams. It would have been really interesting to see whether the season would have produced a battle between No. 1 draft pick Paolo Banchero and second selection Chet Holmgren, but Holmgren's foot injury has shelved that debate.
The award with the fewest number of realistic options is probably Defensive Player of the Year. If Rudy Gobert can get the Minnesota Timberwolves into the top five in defensive efficiency, he just might take home the award for the fourth time. And then there's Bam Adebayo, whom the Miami Heat have advocated for relentlessly in past seasons, and Phoenix Suns' wing Mikal Bridges, one of the few perimeter players with a strong chance to win DPOY.
Bucket-getters generally take home the Sixth Man of the Year award, which puts the Golden State Warriors' Jordan Poole and Miami Heat's Tyler Herro at the top of any list. There's also another candidate who doesn't exactly fit the pure-scorer role, however, and that's Malcolm Brogdon with the Boston Celtics. Sure, he can score, but if he wins the award it will be more for his ability to command the second unit on both ends of the floor.
Most Improved Player is always a difficult award to predict, mostly because none of us really understand the criteria. Memphis Grizzlies point guard Ja Morant won it last season when he was already expected to be an All-Star, whereas a player like Poole went from the G League to averaging 18.5 points per game for a championship team and finished a disappointing fourth. This season's candidates generally involve talented players who will get more opportunity, like Philadelphia 76ers guard Tyrese Maxey, New York Knicks guard Jalen Brunson and Indiana Pacers guard Tyrese Haliburton.
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Coach of the Year tends to go to the coach whose team most greatly exceeds expectations, so that's another difficult one to predict. A solid jump in the standings from last season could land a coach like Willie Green of the New Orleans Pelicans the award, while known innovators like Nick Nurse of the Toronto Raptors and the Minnesota Timberwolves' Chris Finch might also be rewarded for their acumen.
Finally, there's Executive of the Year, which is a seriously competitive race this season thanks to blockbuster offseason moves by the Cleveland Cavaliers, Atlanta Hawks and Minnesota Timberwolves. But the big splashes don't always earn home the hardware. Tweaking around the edges, like Daryl Morey has done with the 76ers or Brad Stevens has done with the Celtics, can prove to be just as important.
Our CBS Sports NBA staff has taken a crack at predicting all of these awards for the 2022-23 season, and it speaks to the open nature of the races that none of the selections were unanimous. Awards are a snapshot for any given season, so it's a fun exercise to examine the candidates entering the year, and then look back to see who surprised us when all's said and done.