NBA Award Predictions

With America’s complete attention focused on the MLB playoffs and the capsizing NFL regular season, the NBA off-season often goes unnoticed. For die hard ballers such as myself, today we dissect the oft-predictable personal awards of the NBA season.

Rookie of the Year:
Winner: New Orleans point guard Chris Paul comes into a city and team in disarray. From day one, he will be the biggest star, the best player, and the face of the franchise. He will take over the role of Baron Davis, which was to do everything and anything in his ability to keep the score close. Paul has similar play-making abilities and will have to adjust quickly to not always being the best athlete on the floor.

The #1 overall pick, ex-Utah center Andrew Bogut, will undoubtedly be the focal point in the Milwaukee front court from day one. Sharp-shooting Michael Redd will have a field day as Bogut finds him open all over the court. Known more as a finesse big man, Bogut will fill up the stat sheet and round out a Bucks starting five that looks better every day.

Utah point guard Deron Williams, 3rd overall pick, has legendary shoes to fill as Utah’s point guard. With a team full of finishers and a lack of playmakers, the pressure will be on Deron to distribute the ball and control last year’s stagnant offense.

Marvin Williams leaves a few more winning seasons in North Carolina behind in exchange for a few losing seasons ahead in Atlanta. Heralded as the pick with the most potential, Williams will compete for time and shots with the Hawks’ roster full of small forwards. Marvin may have to develop his rebounding skills fast in order to keep his minutes up.

Ike Diogu, Golden State’s undersized power forward, comes into a team teetering on a playoff appearance and will be asked to give a needed inside scoring punch. He could be the missing piece that takes the Warriors over the top and into the playoffs.

Honorable mention: Raymond Felton (point guard, Charlotte), Rashad McCants (shooting guard, Minnesota), Joey Graham (small forward, Toronto).

Defensive Player of the Year:
Winner: Tyson Chandler, Chicago Bulls. At 7’2 with a freakish wingspan, Tyson is also one the best athletes on the court. Coupled with a ferocious tenacity inside and the departure of Eddy Curry to New York, Chandler will see more room and more minutes inside to do his dirty work. He has the ability to lock down the leagues best post scorers as well as the persistence to come backside to throw a shot in the 7th row. Still not convinced? Think Ben Wallace with 7-8 more inches.

Speaking of the reigning king, a defensive discussion is incomplete without Ben Wallace’s name near the beginning. The re-re-emergence of Antonio McDyess and addition of Dale Davis lighten the load of Big Ben, but he will once again be counted on to lead one of the league’s best defenses.

Andrei Kirelenko’s skills are as numerous and well-rounded as any defensive player on our list, and one of the top all around players in the league. He fills up the stat sheet with pure athleticism and the ability to lock down anything in front of him. Forgotten because of injuries, AK will undoubtedly remind us how dominating he can be quickly by recording blocks and steals in numbers that most would be happy to record in points.

Another forgotten defensive superstar was forgotten for another reason. Ron Artest has been the best pure defender in the league for years. With the tendency to look at the stat sheet instead of watching the game, fans and media alike let him slip beneath bigger defenders when they cast their votes. Ron is called upon to face the top scorers in the league every night while bigger guys have the opportunity to build up their stat sheets against lesser scorers and backside help. He may not be voted defensive player of the year, but he is the best defender every year.

Honorable Mention: Tim Duncan, Allen Iverson, Tayshaun Prince, Emeka Okafur, Bruce Bowen.

Most Valuable Player:
Winner: Tim Duncan has consistently been the best player on both ends of the court for the better part of the century. Due to the lack of surprise, accomplishing just what everyone expects of him has hampered Duncan’s chances of another MVP crown in past years. As the Spurs enter the league the best team once again, Tim’s dominating defensive presence and unselfish and technically sound offensive repertoire will lead them to another championship.

Last Year’s winner, Steve Nash, will have some difficulty repeating as the 2005 MVP. With more emphasis on defense entering this year’s campaign, the Phoenix Suns will attempt to slow down the game. Steve’s stats shouldn’t see much of a drop off, but his lack of dominance on the defensive end show voters he is a step behind the rest of the pack.

Dwayne Wade is quickly becoming one of the league’s elite players. He was the best player in last year’s playoffs and proved once again that he can take over a game at any time. With Big Diesel and a newly acquired ball demanding supporting cast, there simply will not be enough balls in Miami for either Dwayne or Shaq to claim the award.

LeBron James enters the 2005-2006 season with his best supporting cast yet. LeBron’s ability to fill up the stat sheet and hog the highlight reel has been well established, but his ability to take over a game and carry the Cavs on his back to the playoffs has been unproven so far in his very young career. As he makes his first playoff appearance, King James will be in every MVP discussion ending the season.

Tracy McGrady will make his first true MVP push after several disappointing season finales. Now that Houston gave Yao Ming some athletic help inside in Stromile Swift and have acquired some young legs at point guard with Rafer Alston, they should be in the top 2 or 3 seeds in the west. Now T-Mac will have to take full advantage of this opportunity and show he is not only a great talent but a great winner.

Jermaine O’Neal leads a somewhat forgotten Indiana Pacer team that will make a strong push for an NBA championship. Suspensions and injuries slowed them down last year, but with a complete roster and the addition of rookie Danny Granger and European sharp shooter Sarunas Jasikevicious, J-O’neal and his Pacers will be there at the end.

Honorable Mention: Allen Iverson, Jason Kidd, Kobe Bryant, Ben Wallace, Chauncey Billups, Amare Staudemire, Ron Artest.

Coach of the Year:
Winner: Mike Montgomery almost brought a Golden State team, that wasn’t talented enough to be in the playoffs, to the playoffs. With a full season of Baron Davis and Jason Richardson in the backcourt, along with a healthy Troy Murphy and rookie Ike Diogu, the Warriors will be competing year round and could give a few top seeds a scare in the playoffs.

When will people start to recognize the brilliance of San Antonio coach Greg Popovich? The league’s elite defense, one of the most consistent and well-rounded offenses, and 12 players playing under the same philosophy every year equals 3 titles and no coaching recognition.

If Miami Heat coach Stan Van Gundy can sneak 2 extra balls on the court every night, he will be in the running for Coach of the Year. It isn’t about getting this team to share the ball, it’s about getting this team to do things they have never done before. Playmakers like Jason Williams, Antoine Walker and Dwayne Wade all need the ball in their hands to be effective, and its Stan’s job to find a way to make it work with just one ball on the court.

When Phil Jackson threw Kobe underneath the bus in his book last year, I doubt he realized he would be coaching him again this year. The zen-master must find a way to coach the uncoachable if he wants to return this Los Angeles Laker franchise to glory. The uncoachable isn’t just Kobe Bryant, but the 6’10 Lamar Odom is often found lurking on the perimeter too frequently and the Washington Wizards gave up on chronic cry baby Kwame Brown. Add that together with the lack of a point guard or center and its plain to see Phil has his work cut out for him. If they make the playoffs, Phil should receive very serious consideration.

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