Tuesday, October 30, 2012

2012-2013 NBA Preview Part 3: Awards and Predictions

Greetings! After nearly 20,000 words (not a misprint) in the two conference previews, we've arrived at the final installment and my picks for the playoffs, awards, etc. Let's get it going!

  • Most Improved Player - Tristan Thompson, PF Cleveland Cavaliers - The worst-kept secret of the most improved player award is that it is directly tied to an opportunity increase, and is not really indicative of actual improvement. The thing about Thompson is that I believe he is actually going to improve AND have an opportunity increase. Last season, Thompson averaged 8 points and 7 rebounds a game with a PER of 13.37 in Cleveland as a 20 year old. This season? I'm calling my shot and saying he jumps up to 14 and 10 with a PER of between 17 and 18 and becomes the full-fledged running mate for Kyrie Irving. Boom.
  • 6th Man of the Year - Kevin Martin, SG Oklahoma City Thunder - We were on the verge of renaming this the Harden/Ginobili trophy... until now! In fairness, I would've picked Harden (as anyone should've) until Saturday night when he was dealt, but I'm sticking with OKC 2-guards and going with Martin. I wrote in the preview post that he was absolutely born to be a 6th man, and I meant it. I think Martin averages 17-18 points a game on a 50+ win team, and that's usually a good recipe for votes in this category.
  • Rookie of the Year - Anthony Davis, C/PF New Orleans Hornets - This is the only answer unless you're trying to get cute, and I won't do it. Davis should average in the neighborhood of 10 boards a game and 2 blocks a game while being an impact defender immediately. One of the easiest picks on the board.
  • Coach of the Year - Erik Spoelstra, Miami Heat - This is really going to be in response to what he did in last year's playoffs, but if Miami rattles off 65+ wins this season and does so with Lebron at the power forward spot? Give it to "coach Spo".
  • Defensive Player of the Year - Dwight Howard, C Los Angeles Lakers - After a hiatus, Dwight returns to lead the league in blocks this season on the Lakers. He'll have plenty of chances when guys blow by Kobe and Nash, and Dwight is ready for the challenge. He's easily the best defensive player in the league, and he'll show it this season. If you want a sleeper? Go with Tony Allen.
  • MVP - Lebron James, SF Miami Heat - Easy formula. Best player in the world. Weight off his shoulders. Full 82-game season to show his mastery. Formulated role now as the power forward. I think Lebron goes for 29/9/8 this season and cements his dominance from the jump.

  1. Miami (65-17)
  2. Indiana (51-31)
  3. Boston (50-32)
  4. Brooklyn (49-33)
  5. Philadelphia (45-37)
  6. New York (44-38)
  7. Chicago (42-40)
  8. Atlanta (41-41)
  9. Cleveland (38-44)
  10. Milwaukee (36-46)
  11. Toronto (35-47)
  12. Washington (33-49)
  13. Detroit (25-57)
  14. Orlando (17-65)
  15. Charlotte (14-68)
The East is a bit of a mess this year. While I think the middle/mediocre portion of the East actually improved, it's tough to peg a 2nd elite team after Miami. I think Boston is unquestionably the 2nd-best team in the conference, but with their pension (and rightly so, mind you) to coast through the season to save Pierce and Garnett, I don't see more than 50 wins. From 2 through 8 in the East, I honestly don't see a big gap between any of the teams, and I've seen the Hawks picked as highly as #2 in some previews. Charlotte is the only team that would absolutely shock me to reach 30 wins, and the bottom of the conference should be wide-open as well.

  1. San Antonio (60-22)
  2. Los Angeles Lakers (57-25)
  3. Oklahoma City (54-28)
  4. Denver (53-29)
  5. Los Angeles Clippers (50-32)
  6. Utah (47-35)
  7. Memphis (46-36)
  8. Dallas (42-40)
  9. Minnesota (40-42)
  10. Golden State (40-42)
  11. Houston (35-47)
  12. Portland (34-48)
  13. Sacramento (31-51)
  14. Phoenix (26-56)
  15. New Orleans (24-58)
The West is more top-heavy than usual and the depth of contenders isn't there. I only see 4 teams with a legit chance to win the conference in the regular season and they are the top 4. Oklahoma City would've been my pick pre-Harden trade, but they settle at the 3 spot. The bottom of the West isn't as bad as Charlotte/Orlando, but New Orleans could bottom out in a big way if Eric Gordon misses a lot of time. There are a lot of injury questions in the middle (Dirk in Dallas, Love/Rubio in Minnesota, Randolph in Memphis, etc.) and the Houston pick is ambitious based on the acquisition of Harden, but there it is.

  • 1st Round - Miami over Atlanta, Chicago (with Rose) over Indiana, Boston over NY, Brooklyn over Philly, San Antonio over Dallas, LA over Memphis, OKC over Utah, Denver over LAC
  • Conference Semis - Miami over Brooklyn, Boston over Chicago, San Antonio over Denver, LA over OKC
  • Conference Finals - Miami over Boston in 7, San Antonio over LA in 7
  • Finals - Miami over San Antonio in 6
Enjoy it, everyone!

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