Philadelphia, PA (SportsNetwork.com) - Predicting NBA awards a week before the
season starts may seem like a silly exercise.
Unless you're good at it.
Not to toot my own horn, but before last season, I successfully predicted Paul
George winning the Most Improved Player and correctly tabbed George Karl
as Coach of the Year.
Those two might be the hardest two awards to prognosticate. Nailed them.
So let's give it a whirl again, although some modifications will be made.
ROOKIE OF THE YEAR - CODY ZELLER, CHARLOTTE BOBCATS
By now, you heard that this past draft class was a little lackluster. With
that in mind, it was difficult choosing one of these guys to be the Rookie of
Last season, Damian Lillard was a trendy pick and it came to fruition.
If there is a fashionable pick this season, it's Victor Oladipo, the No. 2
overall pick by the Orlando Magic.
Sounds fine because Oladipo should see plenty of run at both guard spots, but
this award might boil down to the rookie who gets the most minutes.
Trey Burke of the Utah Jazz made sense until a broken finger will cause him to
miss some time.
Other than Burke, the most logical rookie to get big minutes is Zeller. He
should become the starting power forward alongside Al Jefferson in Charlotte.
Summer league performance generally doesn't mean a lick of spit, but Zeller
was solid and somebody has to win, right?
Don't underestimate the low expectations factor for Zeller. Most thought he
went way too high at No. 4, but we should never be surprised by anything
Michael Jordan does. He could draft a leopard in the first round next year and
most immediate thoughts would be, "not as bad as Adam Morrison."
With few thinking highly of Zeller's work, which is a shame because he showed
great range and athleticism, the wow factor will work in his favor with
(Here's how weak the class might just be, Zeller has yet to wrestle the
starting job away from Josh McRoberts. It's that kind of year.)
Also in the Mix: OLADIPO, ORLANDO MAGIC; BURKE, UTAH JAZZ; Dark Horse: KELLY
OLYNYK, BOSTON CELTICS
COACH OF THE YEAR - RICK ADELMAN, MINNESOTA TIMBERWOLVES
Adelman fits a similar profile to Karl. Both won over 1,000 games and neither
received this accolade. Karl took care of his end last season ... then got
Adelman was on the fence about returning to Minnesota this season. His wife
Mary Kay had serious medical issues last season, but her seizure condition is
now in a relatively normal state.
With everything safe at home, Adelman decided to give it one more go with the
Timberwolves. Last season was almost unfair for the Timberwolves. They lost
341 man games to injury, which would make me check the water in Minneapolis.
If everyone was healthy, Minny was probably a playoff contender.
"Everything just went backwards when we thought we were moving in the right
direction," Adelman said at T'wolves media day. "But I think we've added some
pieces this year and I'm looking forward to us making some strides ... I think
we have the potential to be so much better offensively."
The Wolves will make the playoffs this season and Adelman will reap the
benefits. Generally this award goes to a coach whose team wins significant
more games than the season prior. Minnesota will show the biggest improvement.
Adelman will get his first, and probably only, Coach of the Year award.
Also in the Mix: FRANK VOGEL, INDIANA PACERS; DOC RIVERS, LOS ANGELES
CLIPPERS; MARK JACKSON, GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS. Dark Horse: MIKE MALONE,
DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR - ROY HIBBERT, INDIANA PACERS
After head coach Frank Vogel kept Hibbert out in the closing moments of Game 1
of the Eastern Conference Finals, and the Pacers lost to the Heat, you can bet
Hibbert will be standing in the paint from now on, matchups be damned.
And, this award will almost certainly go to a big man. It's been 10 years
since a perimeter-based defender won the award. Some guy named Ron Artest,
can't find anything about him anymore.
Hibbert finished fourth in the league last season in blocked shots and Indiana
and Memphis were clearly the two best defensive teams in the league. The same
should be the case with the Chicago Bulls in the mix as well.
That should help someone from one of those teams to win the honor.
Also in the Mix: JOAKIM NOAH, CHICAGO BULLS; MARC GASOL, MEMPHIS GRIZZLIES;
DWIGHT HOWARD, HOUSTON ROCKETS. Dark Horse: PAUL GEORGE, INDIANA PACERS
SIXTH MAN OF THE YEAR - ANDREI KIRILENKO, BROOKLYN NETS
This was the unsung move of the offseason. Brooklyn brought in three Hall of
Famers, two to play and one to coach, but the Kirilenko signing might prove
the most important.
And controversial considering some in the biz believe Kirilenko took some sort
of off-the-books deal to help his comrade, Mikhail Prokhorov, the owner of the
At 32, Kirilenko is still one of the most versatile players in the league.
Last season with the Minnesota Timberwolves, AK-47 averaged 12.4 points, 5.7
rebounds, 2.8 assists, 1.5 steals and 1.0 blocked shots per game. That's
sensational overall production.
Are the minutes there for Kirilenko with a starting five that has all been to
an All-Star game? Yes, because new head coach Jason Kidd will need to limit
minutes for Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce.
Plus, Kidd can play Kirilenko at the end of games if Joe Johnson is
ineffective or hurt.
Also in the Mix: RAY ALLEN, MIAMI HEAT; HARRISON BARNES, GOLDEN STATE
WARRIORS; JARRETT JACK, CLEVELAND CAVALIERS. Dark Horse: VINCE CARTER, DALLAS
MOST IMPROVED PLAYER - ANTHONY DAVIS, NEW ORLEANS PELICANS
This took one month to select. There are eight names still written on the
board in my office. All are legitimate candidates and it came down to two.
The unlucky six were Bradley Beal, Jonas Valanciunas, Derrick Favors, Jimmy
Butler, Ricky Rubio and Tobias Harris. Fellas, it wasn't you, it was me.
It came down to Davis and Kawhi Leonard. Seconds before typing this, Leonard
was the choice based largely on the following quote:
"I think Kawhi is the new Parker, Ginobili, Duncan kind of guy. He's going to
take over as the star of the show as time goes on."
The author of that quote was Gregg Popovich at Spurs media day. That's about
as high praise as one can get in the NBA.
Leonard's Finals performance cemented Pop's prophesy. He averaged 14.5 ppg
and 11.1 rpg and had the task of trying to stop LeBron James. Leonard
registered four double-doubles, including big games in the final two.
But what swayed me to Davis is the room for growth.
Davis was good last season (13.5 ppg, 8.2 rpg and 1.8 bpg). He played
alongside Robin Lopez, but the Pelicans shipped him to Portland, so Davis is
the primary big man.
New Orleans improved in the offseason and that will help Davis tremendously.
Jrue Holiday is an All-Star point guard and there was once a point in time
when Tyreke Evans was a good playmaker.
Davis has dazzled in the preseason and is a superstar in waiting. That leap
has to come at some point, so let's bank on it coming this season.
ALSO IN THE MIX - EVERYONE LISTED ABOVE.
MVP - LEBRON JAMES
Clearly, James is the favorite to win the MVP and it's well-earned. Last
season, I tabbed Kevin Durant for the honor, thinking voters might tire of
voting for James.
That's one of the platonic things you have to love about James' game. He
forces the writers to make him the MVP.
So, that should be the case again for 2013-14.
But that bores me. After 12 years as a golf writer, during Tiger Woods' prime,
penning columns of superlatives about elite athletes makes me sleepy.
With that in mind, let's give the runner-up his due.
The Los Angeles Clippers are going to be very good this season. They should
win the Pacific Division and finish with one of the top three records in the
Paul is someone who may not get his due for how good he truly is. Like
everyone, I believed Paul to be the best point guard in the league, but it
wasn't until I saw him in person that I was taken by how much of an impact he
has on the game and his team.
Paul is an excellent defensive player who can cause havoc with his pressure.
He's always in the top five in assists and, most importantly, he's brought a
winning culture to the Los Angeles Clippers.
He will have to be better than he's ever been to supplant LeBron, but if
anyone has a chance, it's Paul.
The Sports Network