Monday, October 31, 2005

NBA Awards Predictions

LeBron James - Cleveland Cavaliers
Alright, now for my much awaited NBA Preview. I'll start out with my awards picks.

MVP-Wow. This is tough. Who could have seen Steve Nash coming last year? This year appears to be as much of a crapshoot as last. Most league obsrevers are picking Tim Duncan. Why? Because their bandwagon hopping bastards and they have no brain of their own. History has shown that unless a player is spectacularly successful both individually and team-wise, most players win the award once and the media feels like they've given them their due and don't need to praise the player further. The case of Shaquille O'neal proves this theory best. For a five or six year stretch between 1997-2003, Shaquille O'neal was by far the absolute best player in the entire league. He was better than Jordan in 1998 (although Jordan's win was understandable), better than Karl Malone in the lockout year, then he finally won in 2000, was better than Iverson in 2001, and better than Tim Duncan in 2002. And it's not as if O'neal was putting up monster numbers on bad teams, either. The Lakers won 61 games in 1998, and tied for the best record in the league in '99. Then, of course, he won the title three straight years. But due to the bizzare and entirely untrue rationalization that Shaq was good just because he's big, the media refused to give him his proper respect. This is a guy who should have at least three MVPs and is in my opinion the second greatest player of all time, and if it weren't for injuries, might be considered the greatest of all time because he would have about 5-6 championships (last year with Miami included). So back to my point, I highly doubt that Tim Duncan will win the MVP again because once the Spurs finish off yet another 55-60 win season and lose in the Playoffs, the media will realize just how overrated the Spurs offseason was and not give Duncan his due. Therefore, I have to go with the best player on what will be the most improved team in the league, LeBron James. James could have made a legitimate case for the award last year, had it not been for his team's unfortunate collapse, and front-office blunders. The Cavs might just be the best team in the East and maybe the entire league, although I don't have the balls to just come flat-out and say it.

Rookie of the Year-Awards rarely have anything to do with who actually deserves the award, but rather who most outplayed expectations. This is why Amare Stoudemire won in 2003 (although he is now clearly the best player), and this is why Emeka Okafor won last year. This is also why Steve Nash won MVP last year. It should have been clear to anyone who even took a cursory look at the statistics that LeBron James, Kevin Garnett, and even Amare Stoudemireoutplayed Nash, but no one expected the team to improve that greatly with him on it. So this year I'm going to go with Charlie Villanueva. The Raptors were roundly blasted for taking Villanueva because he played the same position as the "franchise player" Chris Bosh, and because of supposed "attitude" problems. Never mind that no one had any evidence to back up that claim, but the fact that he didn't live up to the media's expectations of him during college was held against him, and not against the people who had unreasonable expectations in the first place. The reason he had such high expectations is because he was considered one of the best if not the best player in his high school class. This is part of the reason I'm picking him: In college he had to play behind Emeka Okafor and then next to Josh Boone, who is widely considered to be top-5 draft pick next June. The other reason, and the most important, is because of the awesome preseason he had. I know the games don't count, but he had everyone buzzing and recently popped up in articles in SLAM and on after proving everyone wrong. Talent doesn't necessarily need a postion, and I expect Villanueva to play wll no matter wher he fits in on Toronto's frontline. I'm rooting for him.

Defensive POY-If the media doesn't buy the Kool-Aid on Ron Artest's comeback, and as long as Andrei Kirilenko stays healthy, Kirilenko should win. He is an unbelievable athlete but has played for a largely anonymous team, doesn't put up amazing numbers in the glamour statistics (points, assists) and was frequently injured last year. That didn't stop him from leading the league in blocks per game, and also putting up a ton of steals with his freakishly long arms. There's not much else to say except that he's an execllent help defender and is a team player. Jerry Sloan is reportedly unhappy with his effort during preseason but he can't possibly be stupid enough to limit this guy's minutes. His defense alone makes him one of the top 15 players in the league, and that's no joke. He is one of the most unique players of all time.

Most Improved Player-This one is almost impossible to predict. You can kind of tell which players played well last season in limited minutes, but you never know if it's just a tease because of a small sample size. If I had to guess, I'd go with Stromile Swift. Unfortunately for him, he didn't develop fast enough to keep Pau Gasol from taking the starter's job from him in his second season, but for the last few years has been the best backup power forward in the league. He had an off-year shooting-wise, but with Tracy McGrady and Yao Ming taking most of the attention away from him in Houston and with a solid 35-40 minutes a night, his shooting percentage should improve greatly and he will likely average a double-double, leading to the inevitable story line about how "Stromile Swift has made all the difference" in the Rockets rise to a western power.

Sixth Man-Coming in a close second for best backup power forward in the league, Donyell Marshall might have the distinction of being the most underrated player in the NBA. He got to start a little last year, but will definitely be coming off the bench in Cleveland behind Drew Gooden, and Cleveland's "surprise" ascension to Eastern elite, will bring him long overdue acclaim, with the combination of his threes and superb rebounding being essential to Cleveland's success.

Coach of the Year-This award often goes hand-in-hand with the MVP, so I'll go with Mike Brown in Cleveland. I don't know much about him except that he used to be an assistant with San Antonio and is defense-oriented (I'm really sick of that cliche. Sorry) Cleveland will be the first team since the 2001 Sixers to pull of the MVP, Sixth-Man, Coach of the Year trifecta

Scoring-LeBron James-The time is now
Rebounding-Kevin Garnett-It's not like Minnesota has any other rebounders.
Assists-Steve Nash-No one else even touches the ball unless they're shooting
Blocks-Andrei Kirilenko-No reason to think otherwise
Steals-LeBron James-GOAT at 20?!?!