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NBA awards predictions: Who will and should win?

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Giannis vs. Harden: Who is the MVP? (1:58)

Giannis Antetokounmpo and James Harden are finalists for the NBA MVP award along with Paul George. Who takes homes the hardware? (1:58)

Who should win the major NBA awards this season? And who will win?

There's a tight race for MVP between Giannis Antetokounmpo and James Harden, and a deep list of candidates for each trophy.

With less than a week to go in the regular season, our ESPN Forecast panel offers its picks and predictions for MVP, Rookie of the Year, Coach of the Year, Defensive Player of the Year, Sixth Man and Most Improved Player.

The NBA will officially announce the winners June 24.

Note: Voters gave their top three picks for each award, with five points for first place, three points for second and one point for third.


Rookie of the Year

Trae Young's incredible finish to the season isn't enough to supplant Luka Doncic, who is an overwhelming favorite, according to our panel.

All season long, Doncic has combined usage, efficiency and scoring in rare ways for a player his age.

Others receiving votes: Marvin Bagley III, Mikal Bridges, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Jaren Jackson Jr., Mitchell Robinson, Landry Shamet and Collin Sexton

Who will win?

  • Luka Doncic: 98 percent

  • Trae Young: 2 percent

MORE: Year One: All access with the top rookiesInsider

Coach of the Year

The most challenging leap to make in the NBA is going from good to great. The Milwaukee Bucks' ascendancy to best regular-season team -- with mostly the same pieces from last season -- is driving Mike Budenholzer's candidacy here. He has developed a system around Antetokounmpo that has made the Bucks top three in both offensive and defensive rating.

Budenholzer is joined by a deep list of strong candidates, but it looks like he has pulled away.

Others receiving votes: Kenny Atkinson, Brett Brown, Steve Clifford, Gregg Popovich and Nick Nurse

Who will win?

  • Mike Budenholzer: 75 percent

  • Doc Rivers: 12 percent

  • Michael Malone: 8 percent

  • Nate McMillan: 5 percent

MORE: Four stunning stats driving the Bucks' revolution

Sixth Man of the Year

Lou Williams is on track to win his third Sixth Man award -- as long as he can hold off his own teammate. Williams and Montrezl Harrell have sparked a surprising LA Clippers' season as an unstoppable bench duo, with Williams collecting most of the first-place votes here.

Domantas Sabonis, who essentially could not miss to start the season for the Indiana Pacers, joins the Clips in the top three.

Others receiving votes: Malik Beasley, Davis Bertans, Jaylen Brown, Monte Morris, Larry Nance Jr., Derrick Rose, Dennis Schroder and Dwyane Wade

Who will win?

  • Lou Williams: 90 percent

  • Domantas Sabonis: 8 percent

  • Montrezl Harrell: 2 percent

MORE: Inside the magic of Lou and Trez, LA's freestyling bench stars

Most Improved Player

Kawhi Leonard is on pace to miss more than 20 games, yet the Toronto Raptors will likely finish with the second-best record in the NBA. Pascal Siakam is a big reason why. Once a defensive role player and promising sixth man, Siakam has flourished into a real offensive threat -- creating looks in transition and becoming a capable shooter from deep.

Breakout guards D'Angelo Russell and De'Aaron Fox are his main competition here.

Others receiving votes: Giannis Antetokounmpo, Malcolm Brogdon, Jaylen Brown, John Collins, Montrezl Harrell, Tobias Harris, Buddy Hield, Zach LaVine and Derrick Rose

Who will win?

  • Pascal Siakam: 55 percent

  • D'Angelo Russell: 23 percent

  • De'Aaron Fox: 7 percent

MORE: Inside Pascal Siakam's 6,000-mile journey to Raptors stardom

Defensive Player of the Year

Rudy Gobert is on track to win his second DPOY award in a row if he can fend off Paul George and Antetokounmpo.

Defensive impact is maybe the hardest quality to quantify. Still, Gobert has a strong case. He is comfortably No. 1 in ESPN's defensive real plus-minus (4.50), ahead of George and Antetokounmpo (tied for 19th at 2.85).

Others receiving votes: Isaiah Briscoe, Robert Covington, Draymond Green, Al Horford, Kawhi Leonard and Jusuf Nurkic

Who will win?

  • Rudy Gobert: 50 percent

  • Paul George: 25 percent

  • Giannis Antetokounmpo: 18 percent

MORE: Rudy Gobert is this season's most underrated offensive weapon, too

Most Valuable Player

In a close vote, our panel is taking Antetokounmpo over Harden. Interestingly, Antetokounmpo has a much more clear advantage in our panel's pick for who will win the awards, rather than who should.

So how is anyone really supposed to decide between these two great seasons? Five of our experts weigh in here.

Others receiving votes: Joel Embiid, Kevin Durant, Kawhi Leonard, Damian Lillard and Karl-Anthony Towns

Who will win?

  • Giannis Antetokounmpo: 68 percent

  • James Harden: 32 percent

MORE: Giannis or Harden? The MVP question that's dividing the NBA

Image credits: Scott Cunningham/NBAE via Getty Images; Tim Warner/Getty Images; AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez; Zach Beeker/NBAE/Getty Images; AP Photo/Rick Bowmer; Benny Sieu/USA TODAY Sports