The 2012-13 NBA season is upon us. Finally, the season will officially be back Tuesday night with three games: Heat-Celtics, Lakers-Mavericks and Wizards-Cavaliers.
With the season so close, that means it’s time for predictions, for everything. Predicting end of year awards is one of the most fun things to do.
So without further ado, here you go:
Most Improved Player
This award is a tough one to predict. We all have our lists of players we think will breakout before the season starts. This year, guys like DeMarcus Cousins, Kyrie Irving and Serge Ibaka may come to mind.
I am leaning towards Cousins this year because I think he has a monster season. Last year, he averaged 21.4 points and 13.0 rebounds per 36 minutes. He shot only 44.8 percent from the field though and averaged 30.5 minutes per game.
If he sees an increase in minutes to around 34-36, the numbers will go up to and they will be huge. There are not a lot of 20 and 10 guys in the league anymore and that will catch the eye of the voters.
Prediction: DeMarcus Cousins
Rookie of the Year
Anthony Davis was the consensus No. 1 overall pick in the 2012 NBA Draft. It was an easy choice for the New Orleans Hornets and they should be happy with their selection.
Many think Davis will be a shoo-in for the Rookie of the Year Award but he will have some competition. I think Davis will end up pulling it out though.
Davis really is a special player and the impact he has especially on the defensive end of the floor will make him the easy choice by the end of the season. He has a good chance to finish the year in the top 10 in blocks per game and possibly even average 10 rebounds per game.
He is a very efficient and smart player too. He’s not going to shoot a low percentage and will probably be well above 50 percent from the field. He also might be averaging a few assists per game.
Davis is the kind of No. 1 overall pick that comes around every five years. His talent will be overwhelmingly superior to any other rookie this season and that’s why he is my pick now.
Prediction: Anthony Davis
Sixth Man of the Year
Last year James Harden was a very easy choice for this hardware. He was nearly an All-Star averaging 16.8 points per game and finishing second in the league in true shooting percentage at 66 percent.
Only three players (Kevin McHale, Ricky Pierce and Detlef Schrempf) have won the Sixth Man of the Year Award twice. Harden will still be the favorite this season as he is expected to keep improving and probably even make the All-Star team.
The other part of this award is where Harden’s competition will come from. He had basically no competition last year outside of Lou Williams who really wasn’t even that close. It’s hard to tell who else this coming season could challenge Harden.
Prediction: James Harden
Defensive Player of the Year
Tyson Chandler won the award last year. He came to the Knicks who immediately became a much better defensive team because of his presence.
Dwight Howard has a chance to make the same kind of impact this year with the Lakers and that’s why I’m picking him. Howard has won the award three times before from 2009-2011 and deservedly so. The impact he has on the defensive end of the floor is really unmatched and it’s also why he will be an MVP candidate.
The Lakers had the 13th most efficient defense last season. If Howard can lead the Lakers into the top five, the award should be his.
Chandler will again compete with Howard for the award as will Serge Ibaka, who led the league averaging 3.65 blocks per game last season. LeBron James and Andre Iguodala should be considered for the award too although likely will not win it.
Prediction: Dwight Howard
LeBron James won his third MVP in four years last season as he put together the best season of his career. He separated himself from the pack so much that he will come into this season as the overwhelming favorite to win his fourth MVP, despite the fact that voters often look for fresh faces.
Kevin Durant finished second in the MVP voting last season and is considered LeBron’s greatest challenger for this hardware. As I’ve written before, Durant will need a lot of things to go his way if he is to beat out LeBron for the MVP this season.
But there are other candidates too like Chris Paul, Dwight Howard, Kevin Love and Rajon Rondo. If Paul can lead the Clippers to a huge regular season and vastly improved record from last season, he will surely be in the mix.
Howard has the chance to prove his worth on a new team, the Lakers, who could very well be at the top of the standings by the end of the year. The Lakers are still Kobe’s team but Howard should be able to produce enough that his numbers are acceptable in the MVP discussion.
Love put up some of the most impressive numbers in the league last season but on a bad team that missed the playoffs. If he can repeat that while Minnesota improves and makes the playoffs, he could be in the hunt.
Rondo seems poised for a breakout, career year this season. The East is so weak that if he is there leading Boston to one of the best records in the league, he will receive some votes a la Steve Nash in 2005 and 2006.
I think it will come down to LeBron and Durant though. The narrative leading up to the vote will be that whoever’s team ends up with the best record, might be enough to decide the winner. Despite this, I think LeBron gets his fourth MVP as Durant just has too much ground to make up statistically to convince the voters otherwise.
Prediction: LeBron James