The 2012-2013 NBA season gets underway very soon, which means that it is time to make predictions for the upcoming season. This season starts after a lockout-shortened season in 2012 where only 66 games were played per team.
Despite the short season, LeBron James managed to lead Miami to his first ever NBA Championship, and the second in Miami history. There is no question that the Heat are ready to try and retain that title.
This offseason, however, Dwight Howard and Steve Nash joined the Lakers, the Nets moved to Brooklyn and the Hornets drafted the next defensive superstar. All of these things go into making the 2012-13 season one of the most anticipated in history.
That said, here are my predictions for the awards race.
3. Harrison Barnes, Golden State Warriors
Harrison Barnes was a player who actually disappointed when he arrived at North Carolina. He was heralded as a future superstar, but did not live up to those aspirations in college. While I think superstar might be a bit of a stretch, I believe he can develop into an All-Star level player. I think Barnes can be a player who helps the Warriors get to the playoffs for the first time in years, and that will get him votes.
2. Damian Lillard, Portland Trailblazers
Damian Lillard came from a small school in Weber State, but took the NBA Summer League by storm, sharing MVP honors. Of course success in Summer League means virtually nothing, but it shows that he is a player with many skills. In addition, he is being placed next to a star power forward in LaMarcus Aldridge and no other true perimeter scoring threats. Lillard should step in and become one of the great NBA point guards of this generation.
1. Anthony Davis, New Orleans Hornets
Coming into the season, the race for this award comes down to one man. Anthony Davis was the consensus National Player of the Year last season, and was the consensus top overall prospect coming into this year's draft. He is one of the highest rated defensive rookies in years, and has plenty of room to grow as a player. While I think that he will struggle mightily at times, I believe he will take home Rookie of the Year.
3. Joakim Noah, Chicago Bulls
The Chicago Bulls have had one of the top three defenses in the league for the last two seasons, ever since Tom Thibodeau became coach. While Thibodeau's scheme has a lot to do with the team's success, Joakim Noah is the defensive leader on the floor. If the Bulls can maintain an elite defense, despite losing Ronnie Brewer, Omer Asik and C.J Watson, then Noah may get the recognition he deserves.
2. LeBron James, Miami Heat
The Miami Heat are one of the most unique teams in the NBA, but even more so on the defensive end. They are an elite defensive team, but have no true defensive big man to facilitate that defense. Indeed, the Heat are one of the few successful teams in NBA history centered around perimeter defenders. LeBron James and Dwyane Wade are the driving forces behind this defense, but LeBron will get the lion's share of the credit.
1. Dwight Howard, Los Angeles Lakers
Last season, Dwight Howard missed out on winning the Defensive Player of the Year award for the first time in four seasons. Dwight expressed his frustrations this week, saying "I thought I should have won it last year, to be honest with you, I was a little bit upset about that." Well I concur with Dwight, he likely deserved DPOY last season. And this season, with a new start and new exposure in Los Angeles, I think he will win the award once again.
3. Avery Johnson, Brooklyn Nets
Last year, the Nets finished with a pro-rated record of 27-55, good enough for last in the Atlantic Division. This season, I predict that the Nets will be the most improved team in the NBA, and will make the playoffs. This season, the Nets add an All-Star shooting guard in Joe Johnson. They also should have full healthy seasons from both Gerald Wallace and Brook Lopez. If the Nets can be a factor in the playoffs, then Avery may get his due.
2. Tom Thibodeau, Chicago Bulls
Last season, it could be argued that Chicago Bulls' coach Tom Thibodeau got robbed of Coach of the Year after a successful run that included finishing with the best record in the league despite missing Derrick Rose for a big chunk of the season. This season, Thibodeau will be tested like never before as Derrick Rose misses the first half of the season—at least. If the Bulls can be a middling playoff team, then Thibodeau could be poised for his second Coach of the Year win.
1. Erik Spoelstra, Miami Heat
Erik Spoelstra has been one of the most controversial coaches in the league for the past two seasons, ever since the formation of the "Big Three." Many claimed that Spoelstra was not a championship-level coach, in the same way that they claimed LeBron James was a choke artist in the fourth quarter. However, both LeBron and Spoelstra should head into this season with a renewed sense of confidence and commitment. Along with the fall of the Bulls and Spurs, the Heat should finish with the best record in the NBA and Spoelstra will get the lion's share of the credit.
3. Javale McGee, Denver Nuggets
Javale McGee has been one of the most criticized players in the NBA the past few seasons. He came in and outplayed his expectations as a late first round draft pick. However, Javale has always been questioned due to his focus, basketball IQ, and maturity. With a full season as a Nugget, improvement under George Karl and security with a new contract, I expect Javale to take a big step forward.
2. Evan Turner, Philadelphia 76ers
Evan Turner was a superstar in college at Ohio State, but has thus far disappointed ever since being taken second overall by the 76ers. This year, the Sixers are a team heavily in need of a primary scorer, and it may be time that Turner steps to the plate. In addition, Turner should be able to play his more natural position with the departure of the far too similar Andre Iguodala. With the increased role and increased opportunity, I think Turner will turn some heads.
1. Goran Dragic, Phoenix Suns
Goran Dragic returns to Phoenix this season—the team where he started his career. Last season, Dragic was stuck behind Kyle Lowry in Houston, but now has the opportunity to be the starting point guard on a team that needs a presence. Last season for Houston, Dragic started 28 games. In those games, he averaged 18 points, 8.4 assists, 49% from the field and 38% from three. If Dragic can put up anywhere near these numbers in Phoenix, he may get some looks for the All-Star team.
3. Nick Young, Philadelphia 76ers
As a Chicago Bulls fan, I was sad that the Bulls did not take a stab at Nick Young, even after his crazy Washington Wizards days. Young is a player who can just flat out put the ball in the basket. For years, Young's scoring prowess only benefited his stat line and not his team's winning percentage. Last season, however, Young joined the Clippers and turned heads by scoring 19 points and leading a 27-point Clipper comeback in the playoffs. Especially on a team that struggled to score last year in Philadelphia, Young will be welcome.
2. Jason Terry, Boston Celtics
Jason Terry goes from being a sixth man of the year candidate in Dallas to being a candidate for the Boston Celtics. Terry becomes perhaps even more important this season in Boston on a team that had all kinds of problems scoring the ball last season. At times, he will even be relied on to be the primary scoring option, even while playing with starters. If he can respond, then he'll be in the race.
1. James Harden, Oklahoma City Thunder
Harden is exactly what a sixth man is supposed to be: He comes off the bench and runs the offense, changing the dynamic of the game. To be completely honest, James Harden will be the correct answer to this question as long as he comes off the bench and continues to be an All-Star candidate on a championship level team.
3. Kobe Bryant, Los Angeles Lakers
Let me get things straight—Kobe Bryant is not the third best player in the league and does not deserve to be the third favorite for Most Valuable Player. I don't believe he's even the best player on his team, I think that title belongs to Dwight Howard. I think that Kobe will shoot the Lakers out of more games than he wins them. But at the end of the day, the Lakers will be a hugely successful team, and Kobe is the face of the franchise.
2. Kevin Durant, Oklahoma City Thunder
We don't know how Kevin Durant will respond this season after coming up short to LeBron last season, both for MVP and in the NBA Finals. There have been players better than Durant who have cracked and fallen after losing heartbreaking series in the NBA Finals. I don't think Durant is one of those types of players. Durant has been working hard all summer, and I'm sure is ready to come back and win another scoring title, and potentially lead his team to a title.
1. LeBron James, Miami Heat
As I mentioned earlier in the article, I am personally a Chicago Bulls fan. The Heat are likely my least favorite team in the entire NBA, and that is very much based on LeBron. However, anyone who claims that LeBron James is not the best player in the NBA is just fooling themselves. Coming off of this NBA Championship, LeBron will be the favorite, and will do nothing to relinquish his titles: both of MVP and NBA Champ.