I mean I kind of cheated by putting in some predictions after the season started, but it’s still early. I’ve decided to skip the playoff predictions for another time because I already put all my playoff seedings down and I can do those whenever I want. I’ll focus on some of the individual awards and the All-Whatever teams in this one.
MVP – LeBron James
Ask me before the season started, I would have put my money on Kevin Durant. 4 games in the season (Yes I know it is 4 games and the season is
82 66 games long) LeBron is putting up MONSTER numbers. He leads the league in scoring, and shoots 60% from the field. Obviously he will not keep up this performance but I am really expecting a season where LeBron James averages somewhere in the ballpark of 33 points, 8 rebounds, 8 assists, 2 steals, and 2 blocks a game, while shooting close to 55% from the field, around 35% from 3 (With the way the season has been so far it seems like he will be taking far less 3s) and a little north of 80% from the charity stripe. He’ll have a near miss quintuple double, set a new career high in scoring, and have a career low in turnovers per game. You know how most NBA legends season-to-season stats are reasonably close to their career averages, then you look at one season and you go holy shit? This is LeBron’s “holy shit” year. I can’t recall the PER formula off the top of my head (joke…) but I’m thinking this will be one of the highest PERs in the league’s history. This will be a season for the ages for LeBron, but there will always be a little footnote next to this season which will say “Lockout shortened season” in small font. I am 0 for 1 on bets on LeBron so I’m not going to wager anything for this.
Rookie of the Year – Kyrie Irving
Now this is a toughie. I think in 5 to 10 years, the top five players of this draft class will be (in a rough order): Derrick Williams, Jonas Valanciunas, Klay Thompson, Kyrie Irving, and someone else. Five is a nicer number than four. Do you guys ever think about how people say “I’ll be there in 5 minutes” or “It’ll take me 10 minutes?” It probably takes you 4 minutes or 8 minutes, but it’s just awkward to say 4 or 8. Think of how much time is lost in this world when people round up the time consumed in their task to the nearest 5 or 10! I’d actually put Rubio as the 5th best player in this draft class.
It won’t be clear who the winner is until midseason but for now I’m going to put my figurative money on Kyrie Irving because it is inevitable that he takes the starting point guard position in Cleveland, and he will be one of the few rookies to have consistent starter minutes. Barring a giant marijuana-related arrest to Michael Beasley (not that unlikely) that opens up significant minutes for Derrick Williams, I’d say Kyrie Irving takes Rookie of the Year. Rubio will finish second or third in voting. His season averages will probably end up being something like 8.7 points per game to go with 8.9 assists a game with like 2 steals a game for good measure. I don’t think there’s ever been a rookie of the year who hasn’t had double digits in scoring.
Defensive Player of the Year – LeBron James
Remember how I said this would be LeBron’s “holy shit” year? LeBron joins elite company in Jordan and Olajuwon as the only players to take MVP and DPoY the same year, and in some wicked twist, Dwyane Wade may end up with the Finals MVP. From the really shallow and useless point of view, LeBron’s defensive numbers are there. 8+ boards, and 2 blocks and 2 steals. He’ll make noise in March by shutting out Kobe and Durant, and will strengthen his case for the award with lock down games near the end of the season against Carmelo, Derrick Rose, and Paul Pierce. Look at that. Calling out games in March and April when it’s the end of December.
Most Improved Player – Kyle Lowry
Can Kobe win this thing? After a boo boo postseason Kobe should bounce back hard and become a top 4 MVP candidate (notice the 4). It’s much too early to call these things, but that’s why they’re called predictions. I’m going with Kyle Lowry, one of my favorite players in the league. This will be one of those years where they make the call based on statistics because Kyle will play a similar amount of minutes but average a lot more statistics. I’d be surprised if at least one of Martin or Scola isn’t gone by midseason. Lowry will take over even more of the offensive responsibilities and as weird as it sounds, Kyle Lowry will be the best player in a Rockets uniform. He will have a strong case for being one of the top 10 point guards in the league as you watch guys like Kidd, Parker and Billups fall off. The Rockets will have a respectable record and either finish 9th or 10th in the West. The other person I was thinking about is Ty Lawson. Some players I would like to see better are Javale McGee and Roy Hibbert. Homer in me says Brandon Rush… Another part of me is rooting for Kwame Brown.
6th Man of the Year – OJ Mayo
There’s often some overlap between 6th Man of the Year and Most Improved, because sometimes players find out they really fit the role of the sixth man and it’s through that role that they excel in the league. I expect Harden to eventually take the starting role in Oklahoma City, which is why I’m going Mayo on this pick.
What’s interesting about this award is that pretty much all the winners of this award with the exception of Ginobili and to a certain degree, Mike Miller, are all tweeners. Mike Miller switches between the two wing positions which isn’t bad, but you look a lot of the recent winners: Jamal Crawford, Jason Terry, Leandro Barbosa, Ben Gordon… All shooting guards in point guard bodies. We also have Antawn Jamison and Lamar Odom, some of the more successful combo forwards in the league. It makes sense why a talented tweener would be a successul 6th man, but it’s just interesting.
Grizzlies can be a strong contender in the West this year. Mayo has been stinking it up early on, but the season isn’t 3 games long. Mayo will add himself to the long line of combo guards to have won the award.
G – Chris Paul
G – Kobe Bryant
F – LeBron James
F – Kevin Durant
C – Dwight Howard
Wade’s numbers take a dip from LeBron’s god season. Paul puts up excellent numbers, and so does Kobe. Dwight is first team by default.
G – Derrick Rose
G – Dwyane Wade
F – Dirk Nowitzki
F – Blake Griffin
C – Marc Gasol
The guards of the 2012 All-NBA teams can compete with the rest of them. Strong case for the forwards too, but there is a giant drop off at the Center. I’ve had Marc Gasol as the 3rd best center in the league after Dwight and Bogut, but Gasol could very well be the second best by the end of the year. There is also a possibility he makes the All-Star Game? Who the hell is going to start at Center for the West? Also it’s pretty scary how Blake Griffin is a complete baller.
G – Rajon Rondo
G – Monta Ellis
F – Carmelo Anthony
F – Amar’e Stoudemire
C – Al Horford
If Bynum gets injured again I think Pau Gasol could take the spot for third team Center. Rondo is awesome. Monta is a bit of a homer pick but if the Warriors make the playoffs, he could make a push for an All-NBA team. The New York duo are a safe choice… I don’t really know what else to say. Al Horford better get his act together because I thought he was due for a breakout season but he’s been stinking it up so far.
Are not worth predicting because it’s based way too much on reputation, and for the non-stars that don’t make it, it’s based on who is kind of popular at that time, and who has been getting a lot of press for their ‘Synergy’ numbers. Voting is done by coaches which kind of make sense, because defense is one of the more intricate parts of the game not reflected on the boxscores… But imagine if you’re Erik Spoelstra. Who do you vote for? “Oh Luol Deng is a pretty good defender… Except LeBron dropped 50 on him when we played Chicago. Sefolosha is pretty good too, except Wade scored 42 on him on 15 for 17 shooting.”
Chuck Hayes absolutely deserves to make one of these teams though. He’s been doing the same thing since day one. Hustling hard, rebounding, and playing lockdown defense. He’s a great fit for the Kings next to Cousins.
G – Kyrie Irving
G – Ricky Rubio
G – Kemba Walker
G – Marshon Brooks
F – Derrick Williams
A very guard heavy class, and we’re not even including our boy Norris Cole.
G – Brandon Knight
G – Klay Thompson
F – Kawhi Leonard
F – Marcus Morris
F – Jon Leuer
Leuer is the fun pick. He had one good game… Good for him. I see this draft class producing a lot of quality role player/starters. Leonard has been solid for San Antonio so far, and I think Marcus Morris will see an increase in minutes because Budinger has been stinking it up and also because I see Scola on the move. Shout out to Brandon Knight who associates with my birth city, and of course Klay Thompson will be one of the best players of this draft class.
There are some other not so serious awards that I don’t care about too much (including Coach of the Year)… Maybe I’ll cover them in a Part 3?
This is my last post of 2011, so Smoke Rafer would like to wish you all a Happy New Year.