The NBA season may or may not be starting in about a month depending on the length of the lockout. As labor talks continue, I will still prepare as if the season is starting on the first night of November.
With that said, here are my "pre-predictions" for the awards in the NBA.
I threw in the prefix because no transactions have been made yet. Once teams have made moves, my picks on the award winners may be different.
But for now, here's my take.
Last offseason, Kevin Durant emerged as one of the favorites to win the Most Valuable Player award. He remains that this year, and he is my choice for 2012.
He lead the league in scoring for the second straight season last year, was fifth in MVP voting, and made the All-NBA first team.
That momentum has been continuing during the summer, as he has been scorching summer leagues across the country and putting up ridiculous scoring digits in those outings.
Last year, he took his experience from the six-game series against the Los Angeles Lakers in 2010 round, as well as the World Championships and turned it into a great season.
This season, he'll probably turn the three playoff rounds of experience from 2011 and the summer league games, into an even better season.
Just enough to elevate the Oklahoma City Thunder to greater regular season success and snag MVP honors along the way.
For the last three seasons, Dwight Howard has ran away with this award, whether right or wrong.
Howard isn't the best defender in the league, but he just may have the biggest defensive impact. His defensive rebounding and blocks are pretty palpable. Palpable enough to persuade voters into surrendering the award to him annually.
In his three times winning the honor, it was only in 2010 where I though it was falsely received. Gerald Wallace was my choice then.
But the other two seasons, no one really had the same effect on that side of the ball. Sure, there are better lockdown, man-to-man defenders in the league, but more often than not, they do not leave the same overall impact Howard has. His destruction in the paint cleaning the boards and protecting the rim, stand out much more than individual defense does.
I can't really see anyone else stepping up and making the same kind of noise on defense. I hope someone does for the sake if diversity, but Howard is my pick for now.
The three main candidates for Rookie of the Year are Charlotte Bobcats guard Kemba Walker, Minnesota Timberwolves forward Derrick Williams and Cleveland guard Kyrie Irving.
Irving was the No. 1 pick in the draft back in June, so this may seem like just a copout answer. But it seems kind of logical when you consider the following:
- Williams will have to fight with Michael Beasley, who plays the same position, for time on the court. With Beasley being the established (enough) player, he will probably get the better end of the minutes in Minnesota. Williams will probably not have enough playing time to produce Rookie of the Year-esque numbers.
- Walker is entering a wasteland when it comes to NBA talent in Charlotte. Their roster is pretty dry right now. He will probably be called on to carry a lot of the load during a game, since he is pretty much one of the more gifted players in the team. Irving has slightly more quality players around him (I'd take Anderson Varejao and Antawn Jamison or Boris Diaw and D.J. Augustin) and can lean on them more as he learns. Walker having more responsibility may hurt his chances of playing well enough to win the award.
Irving has the right combination of things going for him. He has a good shot at becoming a starter, only person in his way is a 32-year-old Baron Davis who happens to be on his way out of NBA relevancy and has respectable teammates. When you factor those things in along with his short but impressive college career, the top rookie honor looks like his to lose.
I didn't realize how good of a coach Lionel Hollins was until the playoffs came around. The way he led his Memphis Grizzlies to almost two upsets was pretty impressive. Hearing him speak for the first time during postseason press conferences opened my eyes to his coaching mind as well.
I should have realized his genius once Memphis lost Rudy Gay to a shoulder injury in March but still rallied into the playoffs.
He kept his team motivated then and really got the best out of them in April into May. His rotations and substitutions were on point. He had just the right feel of what kind of combination to use.
He got the most out of players as well. To see the likes of Sam Young and Darrell Arthur play highly productive was amazing. He knows just how to squeeze the best out of them.
Hollins elevated into the upper echelon of coaches last season in my opinion. I expect an improvement from the Grizzlies this year and make the transition to a contender status under his watch. With great displays of in game coaching and an impressive entire season, the Coach of the Year title could be on his horizon.
This award just may be the toughest to predict. It's hard to foresee someone taking a big jump in production from one season to the next. The purpose of the award is to recognize a player who surprised people with the season he had. If you can guess a who's going to have a good, out of character season than it's not that much of a surprise.
But instead of continuing to think too deep with this, here is my pick.
Just as the Atlanta Hawks were finishing off the Orlando Magic in the first round, Kirk Hinrich was lost to a hamstring injury late in Game 6. Jeff Teauge was called on to start for the Hawks the next round. He averaged 14.8 points, 4.2 assists, 1.2 turnovers and one steal on 53 percent shooting in the six-game series versus the Chicago Bulls.
That is pretty impressive coming from a guy who averaged very minimal regular season stats in 1,682 minutes in two seasons.
Hinrich will probably return to the backup role he had previously played behind Derrick Rose and John Wall, while Teauge becomes permanent starter. I can definitely see him continuing his development into a legit starting point guard in this league this season and earn Most Improved Player along the way.
O.J. Mayo had a tough outing last season. He got into a publicly documented fight with Tony Allen on the Memphis Grizzlies' team flight over a card game in January. Later in that month, he got busted for steroids which was followed by a 10-game suspension. In February, the Grizzlies had agreed to send him to Indiana, only for the deal to fall thorough as Mayo had to stay with a team the obviously wanted him gone.
Mayo never got into a rhythm playing wise on top of all of that. Averaged only 11 points after putting up about 18 a game in his first two seasons combined. He also came off the bench quite frequently. His first two seasons featured him starting all 164.
If he continues to come off the bench this season, he could relish and make the most of it instead of falling victim to this role that was unusual to him. He has as much talent as, if not more than, any backup in the league.
With the help of his crafty head coach Lionel Hollins, he can become the acme of bench players and help out the Grizzlies achieve their potentially huge season. There is no reason that he can't become the top reserve in the league.
G: Derrick Rose*
G: Dwyane Wade**
C: Dwight Howard**
F: LeBron James**
F: Kevin Durant*
*These guys will probably be making this team frequently from here on out.
**Usual suspects here. I don't expect anyone at their positions to outperform them this season.
G: Deron Williams*
G: Kobe Bryant
C: Amar'e Stoudemire**
F: Dirk Nowitzki
*I think Williams will have a big second year under Avery Johnson. It's his contract year too.
**I guess Amar'e will play center again, even though he's not a real one. He'll once again be the second best "center" in the league if that is the case.
G: Chris Paul
G: Russell Westbrook
F: Blake Griffin*
F: Zach Randolph
F: LaMarcus Aldridge**
*He can only get better right?
**Went with three forwards. The center position just isn't dominate enough.
G: Rajon Rondo
G: Tony Allen*
C: Dwight Howard**
F: Andre Iguodala*
F: LeBron James**
*Two guys who got snubbed for bigger names last year. I would like to believe that won't happen this year.
G: Chris Paul
G: Thabo Sefolosha
C: Tyson Chandler
F/C: Joakim Noah
F: Gerald Wallace
G: Kyrie Irving
G: Kemba Walker
C: Enes Kanter
F: Derrick Williams
F: Marcus Morris
G: Brandon Knight
G: Jimmer Fredette
G: Alec Burks
F: Jan Vesely
F: Kawhi Leonard