With the 2011-12 season starting on Sunday, the ThunderObsessed team thought we should throw out our season predictions.
Rookie of the Year
Jason’s Pick — Kemba Walker, Charlotte Bobcats
I think Walker is a very talented player. We all saw what he was able to do at UConn throughout the Big East tournament and carry his team to a National Championship. There is not a ton of talent on the Bobcats roster, so Kemba will be forced to be a primary scoring option. Walker wil be sharing a lot of minutes with former Thunder great, D.J. White, who looked pretty good in the preseason games.
Chuck’s Pick — Jimmer Fredette, Sacaramento Kings
Jimmer Fredette is someone who can score and score in bunches. He reminds me of Tim Tebow. The guy just wins. He was outstanding in college. I expect him to be able to score a lot while in Sacramento. His defense needs a lot of work, but I think his offense will be enough to carry him onto the the award.
Defensive Player of the Year
Jason’s Pick — Dwight Howard, Orlando Magic
I personally think that Howard should win the defensive player of the year every year for as long as he is in the league. Howard is the most dominate defensive player in the entire league. You could place Howard on any team in the league and its defensive numbers would skyrocket. Howard’s ability to protect the lane masks other defensive shortcomings the teams possesses. Although, Serge Ibaka has a chance to give Howard a run for his money. Ibaka lead the league in total block shots last season (and he was not even a starter for a full season). I am anxious to see how well Ibaka does with a full season next to Perkins. Serge is definitely a sleeper pick
Chuck’s Pick — Dwight Howard, Orlando Magic
It seems Jason and I have simliar thoughts here. Howard is hands down the best defender in the league. Yeah, some think Lebron or Dwayne Wade. I’m going to say Dwight Howard. Howard is the only player in the past FOUR years to have a defensive rating under 100 points. Lebron at times has defensive lapses and can be beat by a smaller small foward and is known to give up 20-30 points at time (see Kevin Durant). Not Dwight Howard. Howard had over 104 defensive rating in only 20 games. Lebron James? 33 games. Enough said.
Sixth Man Award
Jason’s Pick — James Harden, Oklahoma City Thunder
I am going to throw in a caveat pick. If James Harden get inserted into the starting lineup (and isn’t eligible for this award), my pick would be Lamar Odom of the Dallas Mavericks. Harden should run away with this award. If his role continues from last year, he will be getting starters minutes and an enhanced offensive role. The bearded one should increase his production in almost every offensive category. His defense has improved to where he can guard any player in the league at the 2 spot.
Chuck’s Pick — James Harden, Oklahoma City Thunder
I’m going to do as Jason did, I’ll have a caveat pick as well. I think it will be Lamar Odom as well. Harden though, hands down favorite to win the award. He plays the most minutes out of all the possible candidates and will continue to grow. So much, he may not even be eligible for this award by season’s end. Lamar Odom will have plenty of time behind Shawn Marion and Dirk Nowtizki to win this award if Harden was to ever crack the starting line up.
Coach of the Year
Jason’s Pick — Mike D’Antoni, New York Knicks
The Knicks, in my opinion, had the best free agent acquisition in the league. Tyson Chandler, very similarly to Dwight Howard, can make a bad defensive team look good. His ability to protect the rim and clog the paint will hide some of the deficiencies of the Knicks defense. The Knicks will be very dangerous offensively, but I think their improvement on the defensive side of the ball will thrust them into postseason contention this season. As a result, D’Antoni will be given much of the credit and win this award.
Chuck’s Pick — George Karl, Denver Nuggets
Nuggets have three of their best players working in China right now. They’ll miss 31 games. I think Karl will do his best to get the most out of his players. Did you know George Karl hasn’t finished under .500 since the 1987-1988 season? It’s been 14 years since he’s had a real losing season. He has a really deep team and I don’t think they’ll fade away as some would like to think.
Most Improved Player
Jason’s Pick — Derrick Favors, Utah Jazz
Favors’ first year in the league was not ideal. He was drafted by the New Jersey Nets and immediately began hearing speculation that he would be shipped off to Denver in a blockbuster Carmelo Anthony trade. This hung over his head throughout preseason and training camp on into the regular season. Then, after it seemed like he would remain a Net, the team traded him in the dark of the night to Utah in the Deron Williams trade. This wasn’t exactly the perfect situation for a talented rookie to shine. Therefore, I think he comes out this year with a sense of stability in his future and really showcases his talent. However, if James Harden does in fact get put into the starting lineup this year (and isn’t eligible for the sixth man award), I think Harden will win Most Improved.
Chuck’s Pick — DeAndre Jordan, LA Clippers
Clippers will have Blake Griffin. However, because of that reason. Jordan will have the most room to grow. I think he’ll have a Serge Ibaka type of growth. Coming around, blocking shots. He’ll improve defensively. Jordan already improved defensively with Griffin on the floor. This time, the Clippers will be helped to be improved in the interior with Jordan. He was a hot commodity in the off season, the Clippers paid him 43 million dollars to come play with Griffin. I think it was a great move for the Clippers and turn them into one of the better defensive teams in the league.
Most Valuable Player
Jason’s Pick — LeBron James, Miami Heat
Trust me. This is not who I want to win this award, but I think it is who will win it. Rose won the award last season after having an almost statistically identical season to Russell Westbrook. In my opinion Rose was a very undeserving MVP award winner. Before last season, Lebron had won the award two years in a row, so the voters were a little “fatigued” with Lebron. The Heat have largely been out of the spot light during training camp. There is not a lot of hype for him to win it, which I think helps his chances. I think the Heat will have the best record in the NBA this season and Lebron will win his 3rd MVP award in 4 years.
Chuck’s Pick — Kevin Durant, Oklahoma City Thunder
Call me a homer, I don’t care. I believe Durant can take that next step into NBA greatness. I think Kevin Durant will lead the league in scoring for 10 years. It’s going to be tough to stop him getting to the rim. Now he’s developed the Dirk shot? He’s going to be almost unstoppable offensively. His defense still needs work. However, his offensive stats will be enough to win this award.