One of my favorite parts of the NBA season is speculating which players will win some of the major awards. Will Kobe or LeBron take MVP home? Will Dwight Howard win yet another Defensive Player of the Year trophy?
Unfortunately, as the lockout continues, there is not much speculation that can be done. In fact, all we really can do is guess and take shots in the dark without any stats to go on. However, I have come up with a solution.
I have chosen four major NBA awards: Most Valuable Player, Defensive Player of the Year, Rookie of the Year and Sixth Man of the Year. Let's take a look at the top five contenders for each award and look at the odds of them winning it.
Though he finished fourth in voting last year, Glen Davis's impending free agency has me putting him at No. 5 here.
Though I am almost certain he will re-sign with the Boston Celtics, we have no guarantee what his future holds nor what role he will serve should he find a new team. Will he come off the bench again? Perhaps he'll crack the starting lineup as a dominating power forward.
On top of that, Davis's numbers as a sixth man last year were kind of underwhelming. He averaged 11.7 points and 5.4 rebounds and while those are respectable stats, they're still underwhelming for someone 6'9" and 289 pounds, not to mention someone of that size who played 29.5 minutes per contest.
That being said, while Davis may again contend for Sixth Man of the Year, I'm not anticipating him to win it.
Odds: 50 to 1
Thaddeus Young is a restricted free agent so like Davis, he could find himself on a new team next year and serving a new role. Still, he was decent off the bench for the Sixers last year, averaging 12.7 points and 5.3 rebounds. It was down from his previous season's work, but that can be attributed to him coming off the bench for all but one game this past year.
That being said, last season could be called a fluke for Young. He was adjusting to a new role, so of course his numbers regressed a bit. Next year, he will be better prepared for that role and as a result will improve. He won't win Sixth Man of the Year, but he'll certainly make a case for it.
Odds: 15 to 1
Though he certainly has what it takes to be a top starter in the league, Jamal Crawford has proven to be absolutely deadly off the bench.
He won Sixth Man of the Year two seasons ago with the Atlanta Hawks, averaging 18 points a game in 79 games. Ready for the crazy part? He didn't start one of them and still averaged 30 minutes.
He too is an impending free agent and we have no clue where he will end up. Still, with talent like his, chances are that teams in need of a major spark off the bench will turn to him.
Odds: 10 to 1
The reigning Sixth Man of the Year, Lamar Odom can simply do it all. He can shoot from the outside, rebound, play solid defense and is just a good man to have on the court. Last year, in a season where he primarily came off the bench, Odom averaged 14.4 points and 8.6 rebounds in 32.2 minutes per contest.
I include Odom second in this race for a couple of reasons. First, it is extremely hard to win any major award in consecutive seasons. On top of that, one's role as a sixth man on any team is very unpredictable.
That being said, while I don't wish anything but the best for Odom, I understand that he'll have some heavy competition for the award.
Odds: 5 to 1
I was surprised Jason Terry did not win this award last year, considering how he started fewer games than Odom. He actually won the award in 2009, when he averaged 19.6 points per game off the bench. He averaged just 15.8 points last year, but was still instrumental in taking his team to the postseason and the second-best record in the Western Conference.
That being said, I'm anticipating Jason Terry to play hungry once next season starts. He will want another ring, and badly. Considering how this is a man who plays with all of his heart night after night, I'm going to go out on a limb and say he has a phenomenal year off the bench.
Odds: 2.5 to 1
Considering how he was a lottery pick just two years ago, former Duke Blue Devil Gerald Henderson certainly hasn't played like one in his brief NBA career. He has yet to play a full season and has struggled to play good minutes, though that could be attributed to his former head coach Larry Brown's tendency to bench rookies. Right now, he has Paul Silas and a coaching atmosphere that favors the young.
On top of that, let's not forget that Henderson averaged 13.9 points over the final three months of last season. He's so close to breaking out of that shell and with a little patience, not to mention some work on his three-point shooting, he could be a surprise star of the new season. Yet, at the same time, he is still a project and it could take a few months for him to find his groove.
Odds: 20 to 1
Before last year's trade deadline, Marcus Thornton was essentially an unknown. He barely played at all in New Orleans, though in limited playing time showcased an excellent three-point shot. Once he was traded to Sacramento, that all changed.
Thornton's playing time more than doubled itself once he was with the Kings and he used that extra time to his advantage, averaging 21.3 points and even playing some solid defense with 1.7 steals per game. To be blunt, he was the most improved player of the season's last couple of months.
While I would love to make Thornton a lock for this award, his being a restricted free agent prevents me from doing so. There is no way to tell whether or not he will be on a new team or take some sort of discount to stay in Sacramento. Once his situation is resolved, only then will his odds for winning the award fall or rise.
Odds: 12 to 1
As much as I've blasted Andrew Bynum's attitude and work ethic in the past, he is in a prime position to silence his critics and be the NBA's Most Improved Player. After a season marred by injury, dirty play as well as rumors that he could be traded for Dwight Howard, Bynum needs to show that he can be the tough center that the Lakers drafted him to be.
The only issue here is history's tendency to repeat itself. Let's not forget that Bynum hasn't played a full 82 game season since the 2006-2007 season and isn't what one would call dominant in the middle, at least in comparison to former Lakers center Shaquille O'Neal.
That all being said, if Bynum is to win this award, it's only going to be if his attitude undergoes a complete 180. Given how Mike Brown will be his head coach, I have a feeling that may happen.
Odds: 10 to 1
Last year was a forgettable one for Ron Artest. In his second season with the Los Angeles Lakers, he averaged a career low 8.5 points and 3.2 rebounds per game. To be perfectly honest, he was the exact opposite of the intense lockdown defender and talented scorer he was with teams like the Indiana Pacers and Sacramento Kings.
Yet, the offseason has been one of change for Artest. He changed his name to Metta World Peace, a far cry from his usual intense and in-your-face attitude. If he demands the ball more and learns to be a better contributor on both ends of the court in the Lakers' offense that highlights Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol, then perhaps the Lakers could find themselves back on top as champions.
Odds: 8 to 1
If there was one player I was excited about coming out of last year's draft class, it was Evan Turner. The 6'7" guard/forward starred at Ohio State his junior year, averaging 20.4 points to go with 9.2 rebounds and six assists. Sure enough, the Philadelphia 76ers used the second overall pick to draft him.
Yet, in his rookie year, Turner struggled. In primarily a bench role, he averaged just 7.2 points and 3.9 rebounds per game as he made the adjustment from small forward to shooting guard. He showed flashes of potential here and there, but just wasn't the same incredible athlete he was in college. Yet, I'm not writing him off yet.
If you ask me, I have a feeling that Turner will break out next season now that he's had a year to adjust to the pros and learn the system of head coach Doug Collins. Like all of the guys mentioned as potential winners of this award, the chances of him winning are 50-50. Yet, in terms of odds alone, I'd say he has the best shot.
Odds: 5 to 1
Paul Westphal is not a bad coach by any means. He has just been tasked with transforming an extremely young and inexperienced squad into a perennial playoff contender. Over his first two years with the Sacramento Kings, he has won just 49 games.
Yet, the Kings are a different team this year. They have a phenomenal leader in Jimmer Fredette as well as decent veteran presence in John Salmons. If Fredette is everything the scouts say he is and builds positive relationships with all of his teammates, then the Kings could be ready for a much-improved season.
Still, the uncertainty of the franchise's future could prove to be a distraction for Westphal's team. Thus, his first task before running any drills is to let the players know that he has their back no matter where they play. This task is harder than any other that a coach must undertake and if Westphal nails it, then Sacramento could be playoff bound.
Odds: 15 to 1
Flip Saunders is easily one of the best coaches to never win a championship. In 15 years of head coaching with the Minnesota Timberwolves, Detroit Pistons and, most recently, the Washington Wizards, Saunders has been to the playoffs 11 times. If you think about it, two of the seasons he missed shouldn't even count because the first time he was just an interim coach and the second time he was fired midseason.
Saunders' lack of success with the Wizards can be attributed to a few factors. First, the Gilbert Arenas fiasco didn't do the team any favors regarding chemistry and last year's Rashard Lewis experiment was an epic fail. On top of that, he is working with a team that is one of the youngest in the NBA, with last year's roster only having three players over the age of 30.
If Saunders can utilize the talents of his top young core that includes former No. 1 pick John Wall and a dominant center in the making in Javale McGee, then the sky's the limit for the Wizards. Call me crazy, but I think this year could be the year for them to get back into contention.
Odds: 11 to 1
Dwane Casey only has a season and a half of head coaching experience under his belt, and that's OK. His brief tenure with the Minnesota Timberwolves resulted in an overall record of 53-69, and that can be blamed on questionable moves by the front office, most notably trading Sam Cassell for Marko Jaric and Lionel Chalmers. Also, let's not forget that Minnesota drafted and then traded Brandon Roy for Randy Foye.
This offseason, Casey was named head coach of the Toronto Raptors and I can safely say that this was a phenomenal decision by the Toronto front office. Casey brings a fresh face to a team struggling to get recognition in an Eastern Conference dominated by teams like Boston and Miami. On top of that, there just seems to be a general feeling of malaise in Toronto following the departure of Chris Bosh and last year's 22-win campaign.
If Casey can find a way to make his young squad into a team that communicates rather than just rely on one or two players to do all the damage, then the Raptors could find themselves back in contention fairly soon.
Odds: 11 to 1
Considering how Byron Scott has been to the NBA Finals twice as a coach, his first season in Cleveland was one to forget. The loss of LeBron James was felt deeply as the team suffered from lack of leadership and inexperience all around. Antawn Jamison just looked old and Baron Davis was a bust after being acquired at the trade deadline.
Yet, things could be different for the Cavs this year. They are in possession of two lottery draft picks in guard Kyrie Irving and forward Tristan Thompson. If Scott can find a way to get them some significant playing time and they work well together as well as with the rest of the team, then Cleveland could be back in the playoffs before the fans even know it.
It could be a long road ahead, but there is the slight chance that Scott could surprise us all this year.
Odds: 8.5 to 1
Given his 20 years of head coaching experience, the fact that Rick Adelman has never won a championship astounds me. He has been to the NBA Finals twice and lost both times, but has also made the playoffs in all but four of the full seasons he has coached. Recently, he agreed to become the head coach of the Minnesota Timberwolves and I have two words to say about that: perfect fit.
The fact is that Adelman uses a certain system and given the players on the Timberwolves, it's a match made in heaven. He has an electrifyingly offensive forward who also plays great defense in Kevin Love, a young up-and-coming point guard in Ricky Rubio and a potentially lethal shooter in Michael Beasley. If Adelman reaches this young team that has won just 32 games the past two years, then Minnesota will be the basketball powerhouse that it was back in the 1990s.
Also, let's not forget that Adelman works well with young players and has No. 2 overall pick Derrick Williams on his team. If Williams is willing to be coached and builds a strong relationship with Adelman, then this team will be a lot of fun to watch come the new season.
Odds: 5 to 1
I know this may seem like an unconventional choice to kick off this part of the list, but hear me out. New York Knicks fans may not be excited about Iman Shumpert, seeing as how many of them were hoping for a big man on draft night, but this young guard will be great should he crack the rotation.
His jump shot may not be what it should for an NBA guard, but Shumpert's defense is phenomenal. Last year, the 6'5" guard averaged 5.9 rebounds and 2.7 steals for Georgia Tech.
That being said, if his defensive skills follow him to the NBA and he adjusts to head coach Mike D'Antoni's run-and-gun system well, Shumpert could be in for a good rookie year.
Odds: 35 to 1
While I want nothing but the best to happen to reigning first overall pick Kyrie Irving, I just don't think he'll contend for Rookie of the Year next season. He's on the Cleveland Cavaliers, and as we all know, the point guard position is crowded there. The team already has seasoned veterans in Ramon Sessions and two-time All Star Baron Davis.
Now, let's look at the factors associated with those two. Davis has two years remaining on a $65 million dollar deal, so chances are, he's not going anywhere. In terms of Sessions, the team has a decent point guard option off the bench whose inconsistency will prove him hard to move.
Yet, the most important factor here is Irving's limited college experience. Last season, while a freshman at Duke, he appeared in just 11 games due to injury. While he showcased great talent in that short time, he simply just isn't ready to be a full-time NBA starter.
Odds: 30 to 1
Based off his college stats alone, I would give Rookie of the Year to Derrick Williams in a heartbeat. As a sophomore at Arizona, he simply did it all.
The 6'8" forward averaged 19.5 points, 8.3 rebounds and shot a ridiculous 57 percent from downtown. Sure enough, the Minnesota Timberwolves drafted him with the second overall pick.
Yet, herein lies the problem. Neither fans nor Timberwolves team management has any idea what kind of role Williams will play next season.
The team is already crowded at forward with Kevin Love and Michael Beasley on the team, not to mention Wesley Johnson, so Williams could be anything from an immediate starter to a bench player who gradually accumulates minutes as the season progresses.
That being said, his ROY potential is unclear at best.
Odds: 12 to 1
Shortly after being drafted 10th overall by the Milwaukee Bucks, Jimmer Fredette was traded to the Sacramento Kings. Call me crazy, but I have a feeling that he is going to become a star there and thus bring the team out of the doldrums.
While Fredette may have looked like nothing more than a shooter at BYU, his willingness to learn and be coached will only help him on a young team like the Kings. He will embrace his new role as a point guard and the fact that he'll already have talent like DeMarcus Cousins and John Salmons there to help him will do wonders.
He may take some time to break out of his shell, but just watch. Fredette will lead the Kings to a highly improved record and just barely within reach of the playoffs.
Odds: 6 to 1
Here we have another freshman player who just entered the NBA draft after just one season. Yet, unlike Irving, I'm anticipating Brandon Knight to take the Detroit Pistons by storm.
Here is a player who is a phenomenal leader and was the man in the drivers' seat as the Kentucky Wildcats went all the way to the Final Four. On top of that, it should be noted that he took sophomore-level honors courses at school last year.
In terms of numbers, Knight averaged 17.3 points and 4.2 assists in his lone college season. The assists average could be cause for concern, but let's not forget that he is extremely coachable and that his college coach, John Calipari, is known for preparing his players for the NBA extremely well.
Given how he'll have an equally motivating coach in Lawrence Frank once he starts playing in Detroit, then the sky is the limit for Knight.
Odds: 4 to 1
For a guard, Tony Allen plays great defense. Last season, he averaged 1.8 steals per game as the Grizzlies went on a miraculous run in the playoffs, competing every step of the way until being eliminated in six games in the second round. In the postseason, he upped his steals average to 1.9 a game.
Yet, as talented as he is on that end of the court, Allen just flies under the radar compared to other contenders for this award. If he wants to win it for sure next year, he's going to have to overwhelm everyone. Given his competition, the odds of that happening are slim.
Odds: 75 to 1
Though I will hate the Boston Celtics until the day I die, I cannot deny the fact that Kevin Garnett is one of the best defensive players in the NBA.
He finished second in voting for Defensive Player of the Year last season with 8.9 boards per game to go with his tough shutdown approach, only to lose to someone who shall be discussed shortly.
Still, as talented as Garnett is, we must remember that he's going to be 36 next May and has started to show general signs of slowing down. Keep in mind, Garnett hasn't played a full 82-game season since the 2004-2005 season, when he was with the Minnesota Timberwolves.
That being said, while the man definitely still has it, he just doesn't have it on the level to keep up with the competition today.
Odds: 30 to 1
Last season, former second overall pick Tyson Chandler was a savior for the Dallas Mavericks. At long last, the team had a decent center working the middle who could play shutdown defense. Chandler did this to the tune of 9.4 rebounds and 1.1 blocks per game.
While Chandler could easily repeat and even improve upon those numbers next season, his impending free agency makes it tough to determine his odds of winning this award. He'll certainly contend for it, but until his team and the system he'll be playing in are definite, it's just too hard to give him strong odds.
Odds: 25 to 1
Here we have the man who could quite possibly be the most underrated player in the NBA. For five seasons, Rajon Rondo has been one of the peskiest point guards in the league and has the defense to prove it.
For the past two seasons, the 6'1" Rondo has averaged 4.4 rebounds and 2.3 steals per game while frustrating the living hell out of the opposition.
Simply put, I have never seen a guard play with more heart nor crash the boards the way Rondo does. At one moment he'll come out of nowhere for a steal, and seconds later he'll be flying through the air going up for a rebound.
His defense is off the charts for someone his size, and if he keeps it up, he could find himself winning Defensive Player of the Year.
Odds: 5 to 1
Here we have the defending champion of Defensive Player of the Year and winner of the award for the past three years, Dwight Howard. To be blunt, the man is simply unbelievable. Last season, he averaged 14.1 rebounds and 2.4 blocks.
As long as he stays healthy, Howard is definitely the odds-on favorite to win the award again. I mean, come on. This is Dwight Howard we're talking about! Just look at his stats and you'll see what I'm talking about.
That being said, how can this award be given to anyone but him?
Odds: 1.5 to 1, just for the sake of argument and debate.
Given how amazing a player he is, I'm shocked that Kobe Bryant has only won the MVP award once, in 2008. That year, he averaged 28.3 points and 6.3 rebounds. Last season, in what was overall a very disappointing season for his Los Angeles Lakers, he averaged 25.3 points and 5.1 rebounds, finishing fourth in MVP voting.
While he is definitely still one of the top players in the NBA, the fact remains that Kobe and the Lakers are just starting to get old. He's just 33, but let's not forget that he joined the league fresh out of high school.
While he certainly will contend for the award, he won't win it unless he absolutely wows everyone next season. Given his teammates and his age, I sadly do not see that happening.
Odds: 30 to 1
Last year, Derrick Rose truly was the NBA's MVP. Without him, the Chicago Bulls would not have finished with the league's best record, nor would they have made it all the way to the Eastern Conference Finals, let alone the postseason itself. Rose averaged 25.5 points, 7.7 assists and even 4.1 rebounds during his epic year.
Yet, as talented as the former Memphis Tiger is, one must think realistically. The NBA MVP award is a difficult trophy to take home two consecutive seasons and given his competition, I'm not anticipating Rose to win again, at least not as handily as he did last year.
Odds:15 to 1
As much as I may hate LeBron James for his decision to play for the Miami Heat, I can't deny that he's easily the best overall player in the NBA. He can shoot, pass and plays great defense. He finished third in MVP voting last year, when he averaged 26.7 points, 7.5 rebounds and seven assists per game.
Yet, let's take a few factors into consideration. James' points average last year was his lowest since his rookie season and, of course, let's not forget his situation. He plays on a team with two of the best players in the league in Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh.
Were he posting numbers like that on a team where he was the top dog, then I could have more respect for James and his MVP candidacy. Yet, unless he has a great year next season and puts the team on his back like he did in Cleveland more often, I just can't give him a third MVP award. Still, his reputation makes his chances better than those of Rose and Bryant.
Odds: 12 to 1
To be honest, I'm shocked that Dwight Howard hasn't won at least two MVP awards already. For the past four seasons, he has been the savior of the Orlando Magic, even leading them to the NBA Finals in 2009. Last year, he finished second in MVP voting as he averaged 22.9 points and 14.1 rebounds.
On top of that, let's not forget that the Orlando Magic offense is basically something that can be called, "The Dwight Howard Show." Out of all the people who finished the season as a member of the Magic last year, Howard of course led the team in scoring. The man who finished second was Jason Richardson, who averaged a mere 13.9 points.
That being said, should Howard stay in Orlando, he will definitely make a strong case for MVP.
Odds: 5.5 to 1
Let the hate mail come in, folks. I know I'm going out on a limb when I say that Kevin Durant, who finished fifth in MVP voting last year, will finally win the coveted award next season. He has led the league in scoring the past two seasons, averaging 27.7 points and 6.8 rebounds last year.
On top of that, Durant plays for the Oklahoma City Thunder, a team that just continues to improve year after year. He helped lead the team to the Western Conference Finals last season, just one year after being eliminated in the first round.
Call me crazy, but I think that the Thunder will make a serious case for the NBA Finals next year as they continue to work their way up the Western Conference food chain.
Sure enough, Durant will be in the driver's seat as his team works to make that happen.
Odds: 2.5 to 1