Just a couple of months ago I thought there was a real possibility that the NBA season for 2011-2012 might be cancelled and although I’m a huge basketball fan I wasn’t all that upset about the prospect of that happening. Why? Because I found it hard to care very much about the Billionaires vs Millionaires battle that the Owners and Players were waging. If they wanted to blow away a season away I figured I’ll just watch more college hoops, which I also enjoy quite a bit.
However, I can now admit that I’m glad that the Owners and Players settled their differences and I’m looking forward to the start of the 66 game regular season on Christmas Day. Basketball is my favorite team sport and the NBA, for all its flaws, showcases the best players of the sport, by far.
I took a look at ESPN.com’s NBA page earlier today and noticed that 30 of their Basketball writers and analysts made predictions for this season’s MVP, Most Improved Player, Sixth Man, Defense POY, Coach and Rookie of the Year. Here my picks for those awards:
MVP: 12 members of the ESPN staff picked Kevin Durant, 11 picked LeBron James. I think there are a good half dozen players capable of winning the MVP, including Derek Rose, Chris Paul and even Blake Griffin. This is a very tough call, but I think Kevin Durant wins it this season.
Most Improved Player: I’m going with Tyler Hansbrough. I think the Pacers PF showed a lot improvement toward the end of last season and he will continue to get better.
Sixth Man: James Harden of the OKC Thunder. Harden received the most votes from the ESPN staff, with 11, but several others players were in the mix. I can’t disagree with the Harden pick. He’s tough on both ends of the court and is a key contributor to a team which should contend for the crown this season.
Defense POY: Dwight Howard. I also like Chicago’s Joakim Noah too, for his shot blocking ability, but Howard is still the best all around player on D in the league imo.
Coach: I have to select the coach of a team that I think will make it to the NBA Championship round and that would include the OKC Thunder. I’m going with Scott Brooks.
Rookie of the Year: The ESPN guys favor Kyrie Irving and Derrick Williams, giving them 11 votes and 8 votes, respectively. 5 other rook’s received votes, including Kemba Walker, Ricky Rubio and Jimmer Fredette. This pick is a toss-up for me. I don’t think there is one stand out favorite. I will go with Irvin, but I won’t be shocked at all if another rookie wins. I don’t think Jimmer Fredette will be the best rookie this season, but I think he will be very good and the most fun to watch. In the preseason he has already demonstrated that he has no problem hitting the NBA 3 pt shot and we will see a lot of scoring from him.
Eastern Conference Champion: The Miami Heat. Chicago and New York will push the Heat to the brink, but the Heat still maintain a slight edge with Wade, James and Bosh.
Western Conference Champion: The Oklahoma City Thunder. I probably would have picked the Dallas Mav’s if they had retained the services of center Tyson Chandler, but he was a big loss, especially on the defensive end of the court. Picking up Lamar Odom certainly helps the Mav’s, but not enough to surpass the young and talented Thunder squad in my view.
Champion: The Miami Heat. I hate making this pick, but I have to if I’m going to be honest. I don’t think this will be the beginning of a dynasty, but this “Dream Team” should be good for at least one ring. If they fail to win a championship this season then they should trade at least one member of their vaunted big three.
*If Dwight Howard is traded to a contender I may have to revise some of my picks.