NBA Season Predictions
The 2009-10 NBA season begins tonight, so InsideHoops.com presents this league-wide NBA season predictions page.
We're quoting NBA predictions from various media members around the league who have been around for a while.
NBA SEASON PREDICTIONS
By Ken Berger of CBS Sports
MVP: LeBron James, Cavaliers. It will once again be a duel between good pals LeBron and Dwyane Wade, with some Kobe Bryant thrown in and a legitimate push by Dwight Howard.
Rookie of the Year: Tyreke Evans, Kings. Even my original pick, the Clippers’ Blake Griffin, came with the caveat that Evans would present a formidable challenge. The broken left knee cap that will keep Griffin out for at least the first six weeks (20 games) of the season tilts the race in Evans’ favor.
Coach of the Year: Rick Carlisle, Mavericks. The Celtics' anticipated dominance of the East and the egos that go along with it will create plenty of buzz for Rivers, who will certainly be a deserving candidate if he can control Wallace and make him happy in a reserve role.
Executive of the Year: Kevin Pritchard, Trail Blazers. Several worthy candidates have made excellent cases for themselves, starting with R.C. Buford in San Antonio, who will deserve all the praise he gets for stealing Jefferson from the Bucks, drafting rebounding machine DeJuan Blair and grabbing big men McDyess and Ratliff, who can let Duncan rest his weary knees during the regular season.
Defensive Player of the Year: Rajon Rondo, Celtics. This will be wide open for a few reasons that I'll explain. I would give the nod to Garnett, except I'm not convinced his knee is 100 percent yet, meaning that Rivers will dial back his minutes along the way. Dwight Howard won it last year, so voters will exercise human nature and look for reasons to vote for someone else.
Sixth Man of the Year: Rasheed Wallace, Celtics. This is by far the most interesting race, with mainstays Ginobili, Jason Terry and Lamar Odom in the mix. Jamal Crawford, envisioned as a Terry clone off the bench in Atlanta, will get noticed, as will Ben Gordon in Detroit.
Most Improved Player: Greg Oden, Trail Blazers. There is no shortage of outstanding candidates here, starting with Golden State's Anthony Randolph, the Lakers' Andrew Bynum and the Raptors' Andrea Bargnani.
NBA PREDICTIONS: MVP
By Randy Hill of Fox Sports
This distinction won't be attached to Kobe Bryant. Kobe has enough high-profile playmates in L.A. — and enough postseason focus — to keep his numbers from reaching an MVP level.
Miami Heat guard Dwyane Wade should be statistically crazy, but his team won't rise high enough in the Eastern Conference for him to achieve an honor usually bestowed upon a player working for a squad with a gaudy record. Orlando's Dwight Howard is working with Vince Carter and probably won't touch the ball enough.
Boston's Kevin Garnett may be the most valuable at both ends, but doesn't score enough to wake up voters.
That leaves us with LeBron James, who should be able to dodge Shaquille O'Neal's vast ego enough times on rim journeys to post fabulous numbers and win lots of games.
I'm betting that LeBron even shakes David Stern's hand.
NBA SEASON PREDICTIONS: ALTERNATIVES
By Randy Hill of Fox Sports
Free Agent Bust of the Year: With Elton Brand ineligible to defend his title, this award goes to Hedo Turkoglu of the Toronto Raptors. Sure, Hedo is a very good player, but at superstar prices, his performance could be more bust than boom.
Rookie Steal of the Year: While DeJuan Blair and his cartilage-free knees may be a revelation in San Antonio, look for second-round pal Marcus Thornton to seize available minutes in New Orleans and furnish the Hornets (who acquired him from Miami) with a solid weapon.
NBA SEASON TOP PREDICTIONS
By Chris Colston of USA today
Chris Colston predicts Celtics over Cavaliers in the East, Spurs over Lakers in the West, Celtics over Spurs in the NBA Finals, LeBron James winning MVP, Tyreke Evans winning Rookie of the Year, and Doc Rivers winning Coach of the Year
Toronto Sun NBA PREDICTIONS
NBA champions: Spurs, Celtics or Lakers
MVP: Dwight Howard, Kobe Bryant, Dirk Nowitzki or LeBron James
CONFERENCE FINALS NBA PREDICTIONS
By various Sports Illustrated writers
Thomsen: East -- Celtics over Cavaliers. West -- Lakers over Spurs
Ballard: East -- Cavs over Celtics. West -- Lakers over Spurs
Mannix: East -- Celtics over Cavs. West -- Spurs over Lakers
McCallum: East -- Cavs over the Celtics. West -- Spurs over the Lakers
Markazi: East -- Celtics over Cavaliers. West -- Lakers over Spurs
A FEW NBA SEASON AWARD PREDICTIONS
By Sean Deveney, Sporting News
Coach of the Year: Flip Saunders, Wizards -- If the Wizards can avoid further injury setbacks, they'll have the biggest turnaround in the NBA, and Saunders will get his fair share of credit.
Defensive Player of the Year: LeBron James, Cavaliers -- He was the runner-up last year, and the Cavs figure to be among the best defensive teams in the league.
Executive of the Year: Bryan Colangelo, Raptors -- Toronto overhauled its roster and will be one of the most improved teams in the league.
NBA FINALS NBA PREDICTIONS
By various Sports Illustrated writers
Thomsen: The Celtics. Their team defense, driven by Kevin Garnett and aided by backup Rasheed Wallace, will be the biggest factor in what will be a classic Finals.
Ballard: Cavs over Lakers. It's the season of LeBron. Shaq will do just enough on the court -- and perhaps just as important, deflect some of the media attention off it -- to put the Cavs over the top, and with Anthony Parker they now have another spot-up shooter to go with Mo Williams. It'll be a fun series: Shaq tweeting insults about L.A., Artest trying to sumo wrestle James on D and Kobe wondering where, oh where Trevor Ariza is.
Mannix: Celtics over Spurs. It won't be easy, as second-seeded Boston will have to go through Orlando in the second round and Cleveland in the conference finals. But a healthy superstar (Garnett), a revamped bench (Wallace, Marquis Daniels) and a renewed hunger will power the Celtics to their second title in three years.
McCallum: Spurs over Cavaliers. Wait a minute, isn't that San Antonio franchise ancient history? Didn't it fail to get beyond the first round last year, and didn't the Spurs fail to land the one offseason piece (screwy as he might be) they wanted when Rasheed Wallace went to the Celtics? And isn't it just LeBron James' time? Well, maybe. But doesn't a rotation of Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili, Roger Mason, new acquisitions Richard Jefferson and Antonio McDyess and rookie DeJuan Blair sound pretty solid? It won't be a replay of the 2007 championship series when the not-ready-for-prime-time Cavs were swept by the formidable San Antonio defense. But I see the Spurs in seven.
Markazi: Lakers over Celtics. Artest has many interesting stories but one of the more bizarre ones was told by Kobe last year. He said that after the Lakers lost Game 6 of the 2008 NBA Finals in Boston he was alone in the shower when Artest, who had apparently talked his way into the Lakers locker room, walked up to him and said, "I want to come help you. If I can, I'm going to find a way to come to L.A. and give you the help you need to win a title." (You can just imagine Kobe saying, "Um, yeah, let me just dry off and we can talk.") Well, it may have taken longer than both would have liked, but Artest is finally a Laker and Bryant finally has his enforcer. The Lakers were exposed as a soft team by the Celtics in their last Finals meeting but two years later, the Lakers, with the toughness of Artest and a healthy Andrew Bynum, return the favor.
RANKING THE EAST AND WEST
By Darryl Matsuda (San Jose Mercury News)
West: 1. Los Angeles Lakers: For a championship team, the Lakers displayed a surprising lack of focus at times last season — even during the playoffs. They won't get away with that this season. One of the keys to repeating will be the continued improvement of Andrew Bynum... 2. San Antonio Spurs: After limping out of the playoffs in the first round last season, the Spurs reloaded by acquiring Richard Jefferson, Antonio McDyess and Theo Ratliff. Just like that, they have become NBA title contenders again... 3. Portland Trail Blazers: The best young team in the league added a veteran presence in point guard Andre Miller, who will come off the bench after being beaten out by incumbent Steve Blake. Greg Oden has dropped 15 pounds and picked up some quickness.
East: 1. Boston Celtics: All title hopes rest on Kevin Garnett's right knee. But the Celtics do have a suitable backup in Rasheed Wallace. And they also picked up Marquis Daniels. Add in Ray Allen and Paul Pierce, plus improving young players Rajon Rondo and Glen Davis, and you have the team to beat in the East... 2. Cleveland Cavaliers: Shaquille O'Neal is the big addition, but his presence inside might make MVP LeBron James more of a jump shooter and less of a driver. Don't discount the impacts of new role players Anthony Parker, Jamario Moon and Leon Powe (when he returns from his knee surgery in February)... 3. Orlando Magic: Point guard Jameer Nelson needs to pick up where he left off before last season's shoulder injury if the Magic is going to challenge in the East. Dwight Howard needs to develop a real offensive game and learn to make free throws if the Magic is going to be a true championship contender.
NBA ROOKIE PREDICTIONS
By Jeff Lenchiner, InsideHoops.com
The all-Rookie first team will likely be Blake Griffin (Los Angeles Clippers), Tyreke Evans (Sacramento Kings), Stephen Curry (Golden State Warriors), Jonny Flynn (Minnesota Timberwolves) and James Harden (Oklahoma City Thunder).
The league-wide favorite to win rookie of the year is Blake Griffin, though yesterday we learned he'll miss up to six opening season weeks with a broken kneecap. Which means if another rookie puts up stats anywhere even close to his while staying healthy in the process, Blake won't win it. But I still go with Griffin.
For runner-up, I want to pick Curry, but Don Nelson's Warriors are crazy and unpredictable, so I'm learning towards Evans.