With the regular season tip off date of October 28th fast approaching, the NBA landscape is looking vastly different with so many moves occurring this past off season. With that said we take a look at who appear to be early candidates for the major end of season awards and name a few dark horses for each award as well.

Keep in mind that this is taking into account injuries as well as playing situations for some (such as playing time for rookies) so these are still fluid estimations.
Most Valuable Player
Front Runners: LeBron James, Chris Paul
Dark Horse: Anthony Davis

Yes I know, I know what about Kevin Durant? Well the reigning MVP will be out of commission with a broken foot for at least 15-20 games and he will likely need a few games to get back into the groove of things. Does that mean he doesn’t make the all-star team? Of course not but MVP seasons typically require playing the majority of the games and this will likely hurt Durant. Therefore, we’re left with LeBron who needs no real justification and Chris Paul. Paul missed about a month and a half last season with a shoulder injury that really bothered him the remainder of the year. Before that, CP3 had been playing very strong and leading his Clippers team in a tough conference to a high playoff seed. Expect more of the same from arguably the best point guard in the game this season and to hear his name in MVP talks. Lastly we have Davis who, at 21, seems poised to be collecting the MVP’s in a few more years, and if the players in front of him slip in production, just might have a chance this year.
Rookie of the Year
Front Runners: Jabari Parker, Nerlens Noel
Dark Horse: Andrew Wiggins

It may seem strange to call the number one overall pick a dark horse for rookie of the year but in this scenario it’s very appropriate. Wiggins was with Cleveland (the team that drafted him) for all but 2 months until he was shipped to Minnesota in the Kevin Love trade. He will have some growing pains and likely not even start on his new team so he will come along very slowly, especially statistically at first. Parker however, has always been labeled more NBA ready than any of his other fellow rookies and getting 30-35 minutes a night for a bad Bucks team shouldn’t be hard. Meanwhile, Nerlens Noel will be labeled a rookie this year despite being drafted in 2013 due to him sitting out all of last season with an injury. So far in preseason he looks every bit the part of being a dominant force in the paint. Barring injury, he should put up some pretty decent numbers for his first year.
Defensive Player of the Year
Front Runners: LeBron James, Joakim Noah
Dark Horse: Serge Ibaka

This award is always tricky to forecast. However, it seems odd that LeBron, who has long been regarded as one of the best defenders on the planet, has never been recognized by the league. With James moving back home, look for him to set an example on the defensive end with his new teammates and put up good numbers from that side of the floor. Noah will continue to show why he was worthy of the award last year anchoring a strong Chicago defense while Ibaka can possibly get the award based on his blocks alone.
Most Improved Player:
Front Runners: Anthony Davis, Chandler Parsons
Dark Horse: Giannis Antetokounmpo

Another tough award to predict is this one. Davis looks to be a front runner simply because he seems poised to break out into a legitimate super star this year. This could realistically be the season that Davis’ name will start to be mentioned and has household as the LeBron’s and Durant’s of the world. Parsons is interesting has he could see a huge uptick In production now that he will be paired with Dirk Nowitzki to help lead a Mavericks team that looks like it could be an offensive juggernaut. Antetokounmpo also known as the “Greek Freak” also has caught the eye of many scouts this summer. The 6”10 guard/forward is uniquely versatile and can literally cover the length of the court in 2 dribbles. If he breaks out like many are projecting, this award will have his name written all over it.
The NBA season tips off Tuesday night with the Mavs and Spurs followed by Lakers and Rockets.