The NBA off season seemed to fly by pretty quickly, but that is OK with me. I’m very much ready NBA hoops again. This post is a few days late. I normally try to put prediction posts before the season begins, but I got sidetracked with a few things this week, including watching coverage of Hurricane Sandy and the election campaign, among other things. However, I think I can honestly say my predictions have not been influenced very much by the first few games we have seen so far.
Coach of Year: This a very tough award to pick because there are usually several strong candidates. I’m going am tempted to go with Erik Spo of the Miami Heat, but I’m not sure he will get the recognition he deserves because the Heat are so loaded with talent. I’m going to pick Frank Vogel, of the Indiana Pacers. The Pacers are a young up and coming team and Vogel did a very good job with them last season. If the Pacers exceed their win total from last season and go deep into the playoffs I think Vogel will be recognized and win this award.
Rookie of Year: Anthony Davis, NO Hornets. Looks like this will be race between Forward Anthony Davis and Portland PG Damian Lillard. Both are and should be outstanding this season. Close call, but I will go with Davis because I think his all-around stat’s may be a little bit better in the long run.
Sixth Man: Jason Terry, Boston Celtics. James Harden would have been the obvious choice for this award, but his trade to Houston and new starting role take him out of consideration. I’ll go with Jason Terry, who is a proven scorer and should receive a lot of minutes with Boston this season. I think Terry will be a very important contributor to the Celtics this season. Of course, I won’t be surprised if any number of other players win. There are so many talented 6th men in this league and once Harden was elevated to be being a starter with Houston this award was put up for grabs.
Defensive POY: Roy Hibbert, Indiana Pacers. I’m going out on a limb here, but I think Hibbert has a shot because Dwight Howard may not be 100% this season, coming off his injury from last season. Look, this award usually goes to a center or power forward who racks up a lot shot blocks, fair or not, that is just the way it is. The last pure guard to win this award was Gary “The Glove” Payton in 95-96. So, it will probably be a big man who can block quite a few shots and ideally one who is on a good team that will make the playoffs and do some damage. Several good big men will likely fall into category this season and I count Hibbert among them.
MVP: Kevin Durant, OKC Thunder. Of course LeBron James is the favorite for this award and justifiably so after leading the Miami Heat to a championship. The only player that seriously challenged James for the MVP award last year was Kevin Durant. I picked Durant to win the MVP award last year and I am doing so again this year because I think Durant is once again the only player that can seriously challenge LeBron for the MVP award. It should be a two man race between them again. However, with the Thunder trading star the OKC Thunder will be more dependent on Durant then the Heat will be on James because.
Eastern Conference Champion: The Miami Heat. This was not a difficult choice. The Heat added a few new weapons, most notably SG Ray Allen from the rival Celts. The Heat’s Big Three (James, Wade & Bosh) are healthy and in their prime. LeBron James will probably have another year that merits MVP consideration. Wade and Bosh will join LeBron on the All-Star team again. Will other teams in the East push the Heat this season? Probably. I expect the Knicks, Celtics, Bulls and Pacers all to be pretty good and you can probably throw a couple of other teams in there too, but none them will have the firepower to defeat the Heat the playoffs.
Western Conference Champion: OKC Thunder. The Thunder may not win as many games during the regular season as they did last season because of the loss of star Sixth Man James Harden. I think it is very possible that one to three teams in the West may win more games in the regular season than the Thunder, but I think Thunder will emerge as the Western Champ’s in the payoffs. Why? Because by the time the playoffs roll around I think the Thunder coaching staff will have made adjustments to compensate for the loss of Harden to a large degree. Moreover, the youth of the Thunder will give them an advantage over their rivals by the time the playoffs. The Lakers and Spurs both look dangerous on paper, but I think they may be a little too reliant on older players who may fade come playoff time. Other up and coming teams, such as the LA Clippers and Memphis will be good, but not good enough to overtake the reigning Western Division Champ’s. Dallas should also be good, but I don’t think they can take the Thunder this year.
NBA Champion:I think the Heat will meet the Thunder again, in what could become the defining rivalry of this era in the NBA. Heat vs. Thunder could become like the Celtics and Lakers during the 1980’s. I reluctantly picked the Miami Heat to the win championship last year. I really wasn’t a huge fan of the Heat going into last season, but I thought that their talent, combined with the lessons they learned from losing to the Dallas Mavericks the year before, would make them very difficult to stop last season and they were. Now this Heat team has learned how to win a championship, and they want more. They are older and wiser, but not too old. The young Thunder team will also come back wiser and more experienced, but I think the loss of James Harden will put the Thunder at too much of a disadvantage to a team with as much firepower as the Heat. I think the Thunder will win championships at some point in the future, just not this season.