The Winners of Every Major NBA Award in 2012-13
The 2012-2013 NBA season is just over two months away. Another NBA season means another set of major awards at season's end.
Included in my projected winners are a few surprises such as Damian Lillard and Andrei Kirilenko, plus a couple of perennials such as Dwight Howard and a guy named LeBron.
On to the list.
Sixth Man: James Harden
Despite a terrible NBA Finals performance, James Harden is still one of the best players in the league coming off the bench. This prediction assumes that Harden remains out of the starting lineup.
He has improved his game each year in the league, and that trend should continue. He spend most of the summer with Team USA practicing against some of the best players in the world and playing on another big stage. That should do wonders for Harden's confidence next season.
Manu Ginobili is another strong candidate for Sixth Man of the Year, but Harden's improvements will earn him the award.
Most Improved: Andrei Kirilenko
After leaving the NBA for the lockout-shortened season to play in Russia, Andrei Kirilenko is ready to return to the league. His return gained little interest outside of Minnesota, where he signed with the Timberwolves. Then the Olympics came, and Kirilenko made Minnesota fans happier than can be.
Kirilenko looked rejuvenated during the tournament, leading Russia to the bronze medal. If Kirilenko can maintain that same level of play, there is no reason he shouldn't be considered for Most Improved Player.
Minnesota is a great spot for him. The Timberwolves need a small forward. With Ricky Rubio running the point, Kirilenko will have a great season for the Timberwolves.
Rookie: Damian Lillard
Rookie of the Year will come down to two players: Anthony Davis and Damian Lillard. Entering the season, Davis is the favorite to win the award, but Lillard shouldn't be overlooked.
In Portland, Lillard lands with a talented team that was in dire need of a point guard.
The Oakland-raised point guard has been overlooked throughout his career. Portland picking Lillard with the sixth pick in the draft surprised many, most of whom had never seen him play at Weber State.
Playing with Nicolas Batum, LaMarcus Aldridge and Wesley Matthews will help make Lillard's transition to the NBA much easier.
While Davis has a good situation in New Orleans, he has the disadvantage of playing with massive expectations and hype. While I expect Davis to be extremely solid, I don't think he will quite live up to the outlandish hype right away.
Defensive Player: Dwight Howard
The three-time Defensive Player of the Year and newest Los Angeles Laker, Dwight Howard will earn his fourth DPOY trophy this season. The biggest question mark is Howard's back. Assuming he can come back to full strength reasonably early in the season, he has a great chance to win the award.
Playing alongside Steve Nash, Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol, Howard won't get as many touches offensively. Not having to expend much energy on that side of the court, Howard can focus solely on blocking shots and getting rebounds.
Nash and Bryant struggle with perimeter defense, so plenty of opponents should be driving right into Howard's lane. He should have ample opportunities to block shots.
Another player that should be considered is LeBron James. He is the best all-around defender in the league, with his ability to guard each position. But his winning the MVP will likely push the defensive award to somebody else.
Coach: Erik Spoelstra
Whether he will be deserving of the award or not, Erik Spoelstra is likely to take it home if the Miami Heat can put together another championship season. Spoelstra has been one of the most criticized coaches in the league during the last two seasons, often having the media call for his job.
With the "Big Three" and new signings Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis, the Miami Heat have all the ingredients to dominate the NBA. If they can do this and get decently close to the Bulls' NBA-best 72-10 regular-season mark, Spoelstra will win the Coach of the Year award, even if he isn't the best coach.
MVP: LeBron James
LeBron James has not only taken the title of best player in the world, but he's taken it with force. Prior to the NBA Finals, a common debate was whether you'd take Kevin Durant or James. The answer is easily James.
After leading Team USA to the gold medal, the only thing that can stop James this coming NBA season is an injury. He's not only the best player in the world, but it's not even close anymore.
Another solid season and a high seed in the playoffs will give James his fourth MVP title in the last five seasons.