NBA Predictions

After the first week of the NBA season, I have developed some bold predictions about the season. Here we go!

Rookie Of The Year:

Report: Iman Shumpert made a speedy recovery and is expected to make his return tonight at MSG. Could be a tight race between these two guys.

I had Iman Shumpert as the surprise rookie of the year this season, based on his sheer confidence in the games he played. He is extremely athletic and plays very good defense, unfortunately he sprained his MCL on Christmas Day and will miss 2-4 weeks. In this compressed season 2-4 weeks could be everything. He will miss potentially 8-16 games in a 66 game season. Therefore, I think that will effect his case for rookie of the year. So, I will go with Kemba Walker. I was shocked to see him go so late in the draft. He may be a bit short, but he can do everything at the point guard position. In my opinion, he showed the most leadership for a college level player. He also proved he can be the go-to-guy in late game situations. Like this play right here….

Not only did he hit that buzzer beater but he completely crossed up Gary Mcgee. He can score, he is a leader already at such a young age. And he can defend. Not only in college, but he translated his whole game to the NBA style and is doing nothing differently in the NBA. He’ll win rookie of the year. There is no doubt in my mind.

MVP:

The candidate is Kevin Durant. The young scoring champion playing on the best team in the West. He has waisted no time this year putting up unbelievable numbers and carrying his team. Take a look….

His stats are as follows: 27 points, 7 rebounds and 4 assists. He obviously scores but his rebounding numbers are up from last year as well, proof of a developing overall game. Kevin Durant is that rare superstar besides Derrick Rose that is naturally modest. He includes his teammates in all of his success and while Lebron participated in the Decision, Kevin Durant signed a quiet deal and announced on twitter. He works incredibly hard, and is the best scorer we’ve seen in years. When people guard him the question they ask is not how do I stop him, but how do I make it hard for him to score. This may be the year that he takes that giant step from scorer to MVP.

Coach Of The Year:

I will go with Mike Brown. He has the hardest job for a coach out of everyone in the league. Since he’s replacing arguably the best coach in the world, the amount of pressure riding on his shoulders is not measurable in comparison to any other coach. The expectations are high. I mean very high. However, I think he’ll be able to do it. He’s transformed the way the Lakers play basketball and his emphasis on defense is visible in the games. They’ve held the Nuggets to 89. (their first game below 100 points), they’ve held the Knicks to 82 points (without Bynum), and they’ve held the Jazz to 71 points. Not only has he rubbed off his defensive strategies but he’s turned Metta World Peace from a declining veteran last year to one of this years best 6th men by giving him the freedom and confidence to play his game. The way he is coaching the Lakers will pay off, he’s stressing an outside in game, which could let Bynum develop as a player and give Kobe the rest he needs. I think he’ll rise to the challenge.

Most Improved Player:

I think I’ll have to have two picks for the Most Improved Player. First, I’ll go with Ryan Anderson on the Magic. He’s helped Dwight Howard a lot during this season carry the load. His numbers have improved from last year to this. 10 points to 19, and 5 rebounds to 6. He’s also shooting 91% from the stripe and 44% from long range. That’s a big improvement and could persuade Dwight to stay if keeps consistent. His play is important for his own game, but especially important considering he plays for the Magic who have been waiting for one of the role players to step up and help Dwight carry the load.

If not him, then Kyle Lowry from Houston. His scoring hasn’t improved much, but who needs scoring when you’re playing alongside Kevin Martin and Luis Scola. He is transforming into a point guard that every team would want. He’s still putting up solid scoring numbers with 13 a game, but he’s improved his assists per game from around 7 last year to lead the league with around 12 this year. He is distributing and is one of those players who can see the floor from every angle.  He’s also improved his defense on a team that otherwise doesn’t emphasize defense too much. He’s grabbing around 2 and a half steals per game. Tied for first place in that category as well. Then there is his rebounding. He leads the league in rebounding for guards with about 6 per game. This is a 6’0 ft guy grabbing 6 rebounds per game. That’s almost unheard of.

Defensive Player of the Year:

This one’s kind of obvious. Dwight Howard’s going to win this one again. Without any dominant centers in the league Dwight kind of has this one in the bag for years to come. He protects the paint like it’s his house. He’s got about 3 blocks per game as well as around 2 steals per game.

NBA Champion:

For me, this one is easy. The Miami Heat will win the NBA championship. I’ll tell you why. Last year the Heat didn’t have a bench since Udonis Haslem was gone, and they didn’t have any rookies to step up. This year, Udonis Haslem is healthier then ever, they added a gritty defender and a knockdown shooter in Shane Battier and they got lucky with Norris Cole a rookie point guard flaring with confidence. They lack a true center but when you have one of the best defenses in the league a center becomes less and less essential. Last year they also struggled with continuity and gelling on the court. After a year of playing together, they know their roles. Especially the Big three who understand how to play alongside one another. This season should be easy for them. 5-1 in the first 6 games is a sneak peak of their future domination. And finally they have determined who their go to guy is. They made the right choice when they decided Dwyane Wade would take the last shot. Take a look….

Oh, and don’t forget this one. 
. With roles determined, some dependent role players and the two of the best three players in the NBA, the Heat should steamroll through the season and win the championship with ease. I predict this will be the year where their 1st ring of not two, not three, not four, not five and so on rings will arrive.

The Finals

In July the BIG 3 were formed in Miami. Lebron, Wade, and Bosh joined forces with a mission to get themselves a title, the easy way. There were the celebrations, the interviews, the arrogant dancing around on stage. They all said that they were going to win many championships with this team.

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No matter how much the NBA fans hated Lebron and the Heat, we all knew deep down inside that they would make it to the finals. I mean how couldn’t they. Lebron, Wade and Bosh.

It seems like a fantasy team on a video game.

Then there is the modest, and somewhat soft Dallas team. They’ve had an injury riddled season. They really hoped this season would be different than all of the

other early playoff exits. Losing in the first or second round had become a habit for this Mavs team, and frankly Dirk was sick of it. He has done too much in this league to go down without a ring. 2006 was supposed to be the year, but after D-Wade’s amazing playoff series, they were cut short.

This year seemed like the year for them. After a bit of a struggle in the first round of the playoff, they went on to sweep the Lakers with defense, and beat up on the Thunder with effort and hustle. Definitely things you’d like to see from a championship hungry team.

Will they be able to get past the Heat though?

It’s certainly going to be a heated series. With one of the most respected players in the league playing one of the most hated around the league, tempers seem like they’re going to flare. They have to, the immense  pressure mounting on Lebron’s back must be too hard to handle. He has the whole country watching, either waiting for him to fail, or waiting for him to become one of the best players in history.

This series means a lot of things. If Miami wins, it will give Lebron a chance to become one of the greatest players to ever play. And silence the year long critics. Of course him winning, might start some out of control riots in Cleveland and other cities across America. But hey, that’s basketball.

For Dirk, this could be his last legit chance of winning a championship. His age is clearly not effecting his game in a negative way. In fact the best games of his career have been played throughout these playoffs. He’ll turn 33 next year, his team may break up. Younger teams are getting better and more respected. If Dirk were to win this ring, then his career could finally be complete. He has successfully changed the power forward position, won MVP, and carried his team to an NBA Championship. Never mind the same team he was drafted by.

The Finals this year are about much more than the game of basketball. For Dirk Nowitzki- one of the greatest players of his era- he could seal his legacy by winning the ring he rightfully deserves. For Lebron James- who’s still inking his elite status- a win could open the door to establishing him as possibly one of the greatest players of all time.

Rose or Lebron?

Who would you rather take? If you were starting an NBA team who would you rather take Lebron or Rose. They’ve both been MVP’s. Let’s compare.

I think there is an upside to Rose and Lebron. We’ll start with Rose.

He’s definitely a leader, he’s taken the Bulls all the way to the conference finals this year with a team most people expected to be first round exits. He took them to the #1 seed in the NBA and in the process he managed to just win the MVP.With Rose you get a lot of things. He’s the fastest player in the league. He blows by a whole team on a fast break and when he gets to the rim he’s one of the best. He could throw it down with sheer force or lay it in with agile grace. His leadership abilities are unfathomable for a player of his age and with his experience. He’s only in his third season, I think people forget that. He’s 22 years old and is being compared to all time greats. His leadership abilities are what make him one of a kind. In every interview he’s had all year he’s never mentioned himself in the Bulls success but his teammates and coaching staff. He often apologizes for mistakes publicly and privately after games. Whether it be too many turnovers or too many shots, he calls himself out whenever he makes mistakes. He holds his teammates accountable and himself accountable for all mistakes made. He’s only 22 but it looks like he’s been leading an NBA team for 10 years. His passing is an underrated aspect of his game. People usually mention D-Rose in the context of amazing athlete, MVP, scorer. Passer doesn’t usually come up. Maybe it’s because he only averages 8 assists per game. It’s not the assists that define his passing skills but his eye for the game. He sees holes in the defense, he can anticipate movement, he can spot the open man. He isn’t flashy like Steve Nash or CP3 but simple and basic and that gets the job done. Coaches like Tom Thibodeau stress keeping it simple. Even if he’s not getting the assist he is getting it to a teammate who can get the assist. He often passes to players who need to get warmed up. Then there is his scoring. When he came into the league people doubted his shot. They said he couldn’t shoot the three or shoot the mid range jumper consistently. This season he kicked dirt in the haters mouths and proved them wrong. He’s been knocking down open shots like it’s natural.

Then there are his flaws. Every player has flaws, they’re human, D-Rose has very little. One is his turnovers. On many occasions D-Rose gave the ball up around 5-6 times. Much more than is usual for a point guard in the NBA. It’s not sloppy dribbling or careless passes that can be the blame. It’s his speed and his movement. He’s always moving, very rarely do we see Rose standing around except for if he’s on the bench. He’s so fast that sometimes the ball can’t keep up with him which is when the ball goes out of control and it results in 2 points for the other team. Another flaw is his jump-shooting. It’s a strength when he’s on, but when he’s off it’s not pretty to watch. He’ll brick shot after shot and teams often take advantage of it. Helping them play off D-Rose more. One of his flaws that some people haven’t picked up on is his inability to be effective against very tough defenses. If he can’t be effective enough he kind of shuts down almost. He doesn’t produce in many other ways and he starts turning the ball over. That may be a sign of his youth but against the Heat he surely hasn’t put up MVP type numbers. He hasn’t helped them doing the small things even though he’s been ineffective. This isn’t the time to choke, Derrick. He needs to play like he has all season in the next few games.

Lebron: He’s the two time MVP at the age of 26. He was second in MVP voting this year, some of it I think was the hate from the media from his decision this summer. If the MVP was measured in stats then Lebron would win by a mile. His strengths are too many to list. He’s almost the perfect type player. He’s a team player while being a dominant scorer whenever he wants to be. He’s a tough defender, a persistent rebounder and artist on the break. He could play 4 positions and could be the best at each position in the league if he wanted to be. The strengths start at his passing. He will be in the top 5 in most assists once it’s all said and done. He averaged 7 assists in almost every season in the league, he finds every teammate on the team. In so many different ways. Maybe it’s an entry pass to the post. An alley hoop pass to D-Wade on the break. A dish out from penetration to Mike MIller on the perimeter. He’s a silky passer while being aggressive in getting his teammates involved in what he does. If he took less shots he could have a great chance of averaging a triple-double. Then his defense. A lot of superstars put more effort on the offensive end then the defensive end. He puts more in on defense. I don’t know how many times I’ve seen him chase down players for a monster block. Or cut off someones lane to the basket,  or steals a pass that nobody saw coming. He sees the whole game in slow motion and he uses that skill to his advantage to excell on defense. Then there is his biggest strength. He is such a talented scorer it seems like his was born to be one. He has the strongest penetration in the league and he gets to the line almost every time or he will just forget about the 7 footers in front of the hoop and dunk on them. Or he’ll take you off the dribble. Go through both legs, behind the back, gather dribble back, fake a shot, get you in the air and drain the mid range jumper. Or he’ll recieve it in the post. Look back, fake left, and drain a fade away to the right. Or his specialty. He’ll steal it on defense and jolt up court for an agile finish or a monster dunk. There really is no way to guard him, if you pressure him too much then he’ll drive by you. If you give him too much room then he’ll drain the jumper.

Then the flaws. His three point jump shot is below average. This is a big hole in his game. He’ll maybe make 4 out of 10 three pointers. Teams are afraid to give it to him because his offense is good enough to surprise everybody but his three point jumper is inconsistent and teams should give it to him. Another flaw is his rare choke at the end of games. I don’t believe all this stuff about him giving up in tough games. It’s not true, it’s just some dumb critique to stir up some argument. He does get nervous in clutch situations some times. Like the 5 game losing streak the Heat faced in the middle of the season. Lebron had clutch moments against New York and Chicago but was unable to take the game.

So who would I rather take. Lebron. No question. He has the passing skills of Steve Nash, the shooting touch of Ray Allen the drives of Derrick Rose with the rebounding ability of Charles Barkley. His IQ is unbelievable for a 26 year old. D-Rose is up and coming but he was called the King for a reason.

Changes Needed: Magic

They were considered title contenders. Dwight Howard was in the running for the MVP. They were prepared, they thought the Hawks would be a piece of cake. Then they lost in 6. Dwight Howard may be a top 5 player in the league but he can’t win the NBA finals by himself. He can win the defensive player of the year 3 times in a row but he can’t defend a whole team. He needs help, if the Magic want to keep him in 2012 then they have to provide a roster around him that can win a championship.

They need perimeter defenders. Honestly their perimeter defense is horrible, the only reason their a good defensive team is because when the players blow by the perimeter defenders, they have Dwight Howard to block the shots. They need to change their identity. They can become the best defensive team in the league if they get some gritty perimeter defenders. Think about this defensive lineup for a second. Tony Allen, Shane Battier, Thabo Sefolosha, Brandon Bass and Dwight Howard. Good luck scoring on them. They just need some players who pride themselves in defense, they have none of those players playing the perimeter. They need to change their mindset. Just tweak it from a gunning offensive game to a lockdown defensive game. Their already a good defensive team but if they think about it more they can be much more successful. Then they need a clutch scorer. Jason Richardson isn’t a clutch scorer, he may have had one or two game winning shots but that’s inconsistency. Hedo Turkoglu isn’t good under pressure. Dwight Howard is too easy to stop in a clutch situation because they can double him in the post. They need a scorer, someone they can depend on, someone they know can bail them out in sticky situations.

The biggest necessity for the Magic is a backup point guard. Gilbert Arenas is a washed up player with a limited offensive game and not enough speed on defense. Jameer Nelson isn’t even that good of a starter and they don’t even have a solid backup. The point guard is the most important position in the game. They’re the closest version of the coach on the court. They call the plays, and generate the offense. They need fresh legs to operate the offense when Jameer is tired. What about a back up power forward. I guess they have Ryan Anderson but his game is from midrange and behind the three point line. They need a backup power forward who will play in the post and help Dwight protect the rim. Dwight Howard received 18 technical fouls this season. They need him, he is their best player, he can’t get into that trouble next season. Itgets him angry and isn’t good leadership for his teammates who look up to him to lead the way. His maturity has to improve. We all know he gets hit 8-10 times a game, but he’s 6’11, he is the most ripped guy in the NBA and he is playing a physical sport for a career. He can’t get so mad about guys hitting you, he should think of it as being unstoppable. His maturity must improve as well as his way of handling his anger.

They were the biggest disappointment of the whole season. The 4th seed losing in 6 games in the first round was hard to watch. They need to change, and fast. This team might need changes the most because they’re already elite so if they don’t adjust they could be kicked right out of the elite status. If they want Superman to stay in Orlando then they have to get it together. This is a must win season for the Magic.