It's never too early to look ahead to next season. With the conclusion of Summer League in Las Vegas, there is no more NBA basketball until training camp begins in the fall.
As we twiddle our thumbs and feign interest in baseball this summer, here are some predictions for NBA awards next season. These predictions are based on what we've seen in the past year or two, as well as a little bit of gut feeling. Some decisions are more obvious than others.
For example, not many people would bet against LeBron James retaining his MVP crown. Yet, no one can really say for sure who will breakout this year and earn the Most Improved Player award.
For the more difficult categories, I paid attention to players who showed potential in the past and are now in a better situation to capitalize on that potential.
Enough of the explanations. Without further ado, your 2013-2014 NBA award predictions presentation.
LeBron has won MVP four of the past five seasons, and no one should bet against him to win it again.
If I haven't already made it clear, LeBron James will win the MVP. Unless he gets injured or some other NBA star plays out of his mind, LeBron should be the clear front-runner for this award.
LeBron James is the best basketball player on the planet. Period.
Whether you like him or not, he is an exceptional athlete and a proven winner, coming off of two straight championships with the Miami Heat. He has led the Heat to three straight Finals appearances and a 27-game winning-streak.
LeBron can drive, shoot, and defend: he can do it all. He has won the past two MVP awards, and four of the past five. I would never bet against this guy, and you shouldn't either.
This was an easy choice.
Oladipo has the motor and determination to help Orlando win games and to win himself the Rookie of the Year award.
In this year's draft, there was not a consensus No. 1 overall pick, which explains Bill Simmons' reaction to the Cavs' pick. There are a handful of promising rooks, but none stand tall among the rest.
Last season, Anthony Davis was the unanimous choice for first overall pick, but he didn't even win the award. Damian Lillard stole the show and walked away with the trophy instead of Davis. No one could have seen that coming.
This year, there is no Anthony Davis. So the question becomes, who is the Damian Lillard of this year? My pick is Victor Oladipo, the second overall pick for the Orlando Magic.
Oladipo was a great player at Indiana University. He now has a great opportunity to get a lot of playing time down in Orlando, where the expectations are low for the Magic this season.
Oladipo's best attributes are his motor and his desire to win. The Magic aren't going to make the playoffs this year, but he will help them win more games.
He is a strong, explosive athlete with finishing ability around the rim. He is an above average defender, and can rebound well for his size. Oladipo looks like the early favorite to be the rookie with the biggest impact on his team this season.
Dwight Howard won this award three straight times back in Orlando. He played last season in L.A. despite suffering from nagging shoulder and back injuries. Assuming he's back to full strength physically and mentally in Houston, he can return to his dominant self on D.
The Rockets were a below average team on defense last season. They are hoping that will change now that they have Howard to clog up the paint.
Howard, when healthy, is a blocking and rebounding machine. Even when he doesn't block a shot, he changes it in mid-air or the shot never even happens because players have to account for him when attacking the rim.
If Howard can get back to his dominant ways from the Orlando era, he should be able to win this award. He is a domineering force in the paint and has unmatched athleticism for a guy his size.
Bledsoe has been backing up Chris Paul in L.A., but now he has his chance to shine in Phoenix.
Eric Bledsoe has always had the potential, but he's never had a great opportunity to show off his skills. He has been stuck on the Clippers' bench behind Chris Paul for a couple of years, but not anymore.
Bledsoe was involved in a three-team trade and wound up in Phoenix, where he will play for the Suns. The Suns aren't nearly as good as the Clippers, but Bledsoe has been given a wonderful opportunity.
In Phoenix, Bledsoe will now be a top scoring option and can truly fulfill his potential. Bledsoe will see an increase in minutes, which should result in a drastic increase in his statistics across the board, similar to James Harden last year for the Rockets after coming off the bench for Oklahoma City.
It is difficult to predict this award because we can't be certain who will have a breakout year. Last year, it was Paul George of the Indiana Pacers, as he carried the Pacers to the Eastern Conference Finals and nearly the Finals.
The Suns won't make it to the Western Conference Finals, but Bledsoe has as good a shot as anyone to take away the Most Improved Player award.
Jarrett Jack was a viable candidate for this award last season in Golden State, and has a great chance to win this season with Cleveland.
Jarrett Jack was a key contributor to Golden State's playoff run last season. He helped the team win a ton of games coming off the bench as a part of that exciting Warrior's second unit.
Jack averaged 12.9 points and 5.6 assists per game during the regular season. In the playoffs, his numbers were even better.
As a free agent, Jack took his talents to Cleveland, an up-and-coming team in the East. Jack will still be coming off the bench, this time behind Kyrie Irving instead of Steph Curry.
Jack has embraced his role as a bench player. He ignites a spark into the second unit and helps his team win ball games. Even when the starters come out, Jack makes sure that the team doesn't lose any ground.
Jack received third place in the voting for Sixth Man of the Year last season. J.R. Smith, the winner of this award last season, has a severe knee injury and could be out for up to four months. Jamal Crawford was the other guy ahead of Jack in the voting, but the bench for the Clippers seems awfully crowded at this point, and it may result in fewer minutes for Crawford.
Jack has proven himself to be among the league's most valuable bench players, and this year he could win an award for it.
Doc Rivers is a proven championship coach, and he has a terrific roster at his disposal in L.A.
Doc Rivers has established himself as one of the best coaches in the league. He won a championship with the Boston Celtics with Ray Allen, Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce on his team.
Nowadays, the roster is less star-studded in Boston. Rivers and Celtics' GM Danny Ainge were not on the same page, and Rivers was not willing to coach the Celtics through a period of rebuilding. Instead, Rivers decided to head out west to the L.A. Clippers, a team that is already in contention.
The Clippers decided to part ways with coach Vinny Del Negro, even after a franchise-best record last season. Del Negro is a good coach and should be able to find work, but perhaps he wasn't the best fit in L.A.
Rivers is a championship-proven coach, and is a big reason why All-Star point guard Chris Paul decided to stay aboard.
The Clippers have one of the deepest rosters in the league. With tremendous depth and two stars in Paul and Blake Griffin, Rivers has the assets to coach this team to new heights. The Clippers may go the distance this year, and a lot of the credit would go to the guy at the helm.
If the Clippers can make a deep run in the playoffs this season, Rivers can win his second Coach of the Year award, but his first since 2000 with the Orlando Magic.
Daryl Morey has done some creative moves in order to make the Rockets legitimate contenders.
The NBA should just give Daryl Morey the Executive of the Year award right now. Regardless of where the Rockets end up this season, they are primed to contend for the next several years and it's all thanks to Dork Elvis.
Since Yao Ming's retirement, Morey spent two years compiling assets in hope of landing a superstar. Now, he has two of them. Morey snatched James Harden from Oklahoma City last year, and this offseason he signed Dwight Howard away from the Lakers.
Morey is an MIT Sloan School of Management grad, and he has applied his knowledge of analytics to the basketball world. Similar to Billy Beane and the Oakland Athletics, Morey has been a pioneer in the revolution of advanced statistics in the NBA.
The season hasn't even started yet, but Morey is already the favorite to land this award. He already brought in his superstar. At this point in time, Morey needs to do his best at surrounding his core with the right role players to help the Rockets make a run at the championship.
Morey has made many deals this summer besides the Dwight Howard signing. He re-signed guards Francisco Garcia and Aaron Brooks as key three-point shooters to surround Howard. He also brought in Reggie Williams and Omri Casspi, among others, to help add to the Rockets' depth.
The Rockets are legitimate contenders this year, and they are also set for the future. Morey has done a terrific job with this team and is very deserving of this award.