Mentioned in the first two Association previews, I used the term “wide-open” quite a bit. The theme isn’t changing anytime soon when it comes to awards this season. MVP is more of a race this season than many may think, there are a variety of rookies who could win ROY this coming season, and keep an eye on Anthony Davis and Kawhi Leonard as they make their ascendancy to perennial All-Stars.
MVP: LeBron James, Cleveland Cavaliers
I’ve probably lost a decent amount of credibility with this pick after saying the MVP race was wide-open a few lines above. Well it still is. Kevin Durant being out for the first third of the season opens the door for Russell Westbrook who I’m big on to have a huge year, but it’s a double-edge sword. If the Thunder keep on doing well, Russ will get the praise, and vice versa. His ppg. with KD on the court the past 3 seasons: 23.6, 23.2, 21.8. He’s going to have the ball in his hands as much as he wants it without everyone yelling at him to pass it to KD, Russ will have a few 40-point outbreaks by December and will get the MVP praise just in time for the reigning MVP to come back to his team.
As far as LeBron goes, he’s the only guy that is going through a transition that he will thrive the most in. Although Derrick Rose mercilessly dominating the Cavs backcourt a few nights ago was vintage 2010-2011 MVP D-Rose and if he plays like that and stays healthy it’s not even close. But LeBron will take a 33-win team a season ago to the top of East, add that with the fact he will have one of the best all-around seasons of his career, influencing the game in every way and even having a major economic impact in downtown Cleveland, James winning his 5th is the best bet.
Rookie of the Year: Jabari Parker, Milwaukee Bucks
The Milwaukee Bucks will be Must See TV for anyone who has as much interest in the NBA as I do. Yes, this team is still a lottery team, but everyone thought Phoenix was a lottery team at this time last year, they ended up with 50-wins. So yes, I am anointing the Bucks as this season’s Suns (Big-time power move) and Jabari Parker is the main reason why.
The most NBA ready rookie, he could have legitimately come out of Simeon (his high school) and started for a NBA team last season, playing at Duke under Coach K only made him better. His mid-range game will translate well, his athleticism is sneaky good, he won’t display it all the time, but then just when you think that, he’ll dunk all over you. Playing alongside the ‘Greek Freak’ Giannis Antetokounmpo will make this team a lot of fun to watch. Jabari will avg. 15-19 ppg. 6 rpg. and 5 apg. and improve this Bucks team to a respectable lottery team.
Coach of the Year: Jeff Hornacek, Phoenix Suns
He honestly should have won it last season, but they missed the playoffs despite winning 49 games and Pop was getting all the praise he deserved in San Antonio. As I mentioned in the Western Conference preview, this team will make the playoffs and will make every game a living hell for the team they end up playing. Scratch that, all 30 teams are in for a treat when the Suns come to town.
The Suns like to run, a lot. They like it so much they went out and signed PG Isaiah Thomas and resigned guard Eric Bledsoe and drafted PG Tyler Ennis from Syracuse. Oh, and they also have Goran Dragic. Moral of the story, your team better be in shape when they play the Suns, or else the Suns will run them into shape. Their breakneck pace orchestrated by Hornacek runs teams into the ground over the course of the game and makes up for their lack rim protection and defense overall. The possible Dragic, Thomas, Bledsoe lineup will disrupt opponents defensive schemes, and ultimately land themselves in the playoffs. Mr. Hornacek will be the man pulling all the strings.
Defensive Player of the Year: Anthony Davis, NO Pelicans / Kawhi Leonard, San Antonio Spurs
Kawhi at 23, and Davis at 21, both still young, yet by no means are inexperienced. Davis won Gold with the 2012 Mens Olympic Basketball squad and played relatively important minutes on the team. He also won gold as the lead anchor in the paint for Team USA in the FIBA Championships this past summer. He continues to get better and better on both ends, and can easily emerge as a Top-3 big man in the league this coming season. I wouldn’t be surprised if he led the league in blocks and was top-5 in rebounds by seasons end, then again he was true 20-10 guy in only his second year.
Kawhi on the other hand is a lesser known commodity, still. You know, because he was the Finals MVP, made LeBron over work for easy points, and significantly changed games with his offense, on top of the production of Duncan, Parker and Manu. He averaged 17.8 ppg. on 61% FG% and 57% from behind the arc and switched off guarding LeBron and Wade (completely blanking Wade) and yet no one talks about him. It is too early, but he is potentially the next Scottie Pippen, and Pip never won a Finals MVP. Maybe we won’t realize it until the Big 3 in San Antonio finally retire to understand how valuable he is, but he guards and usually shuts down opponents best wing player and scores anywhere between 14-18 ppg. within the Spurs offense. His ground potential is DPOY.
6th Man: Taj Gibson, Chicago Bulls
Robbed a season ago by Jamaal Crawford, Taj should have won it last year. But something tells me that Doc Rivers is going to put Crawford in the Clippers starting lineup more often, mainly because losing Caron Butler to free agency leaves no offense outside of Chris Paul and Blake Griffin P&R which can be stagnant at times. This opens up the door for Taj who once again will lead one of the best benches in the NBA.
He won’t score a bunch, but he averaged career highs in all categories last season (13.0 ppg. 6.8 rpg. 1.4 bpg.) and continues to get better each year. Similar to the Boozer years, Gibson will be utilized the same way in the 4th by Thibs, providing athleticism that can switch between big guys and guards and has a reliable 15-18 foot jumper. A beast on the boards and on the low post defensively, he’ll even provide a poster similar to the one below to strengthen his resume.
Most Improved: DeMarcus (Boogie) Cousins, Sacramento Kings
Not sure how you improve from 22.7 PPG. and 11.7 RPG. and 17 and 10 for your career, but it is scary knowing that he actually can get better. A season ago he looked as if he had begun to care about defense and over the summer playing for Team USA provided big time minutes in a game regardless that USA was going to win against Serbia, but nonetheless Boogie turned into a monster on both ends.
Cousins is regarded as the most talented big man in the league, I concur, he is. He will make his first All-star team and a possible all NBA selection. Sure his attitude is a bit of a problem, he shows up his teammates at times and gets the occasional bonehead technical, but he has shown signs of maturation over the years as well. If I had to choose between Dwight Howard or DeMarcus Cousins, I’m taking Boogie every time, expect big things to come.
All-NBA First Team: F Anthony Davis, F LeBron James, F Carmelo Anthony, G Chris Paul, G Russell Westbrook
All-NBA Second Team: C DeMarcus Cousins, F Kevin Durant, F Blake Griffin, G James Harden, G Derrick Rose
All-NBA Third Team: C Dwight Howard, F LaMarcus Aldridge, F Kawhi Leonard, G DeMar DeRozan, G Steph Curry