Michael De Leon
(previously posted at NBA Outsider)
Most Valuable Player - Chris Paul
Chris Paul led his Hornets to the Western Conference semifinals last year and went 7 games with the San Antonio Spurs. I think this year New Orleans has the potential to be number one in the West, and as a team they are aiming for nothing short of a finals appearance. Last season, Paul raised his points, assists and steals numbers and was a stud in the playoffs. He made Jason Kidd look old and he had one of the best positional matchups with Tony Parker. I expect Paul to have a phenomenal fourth year. Whereas in seasons past, Paul was considered a top 5 point guard, he'll sit at the top of any of those lists this year.
Defensive Player of the Year - Shane Battier
We all saw what he did to Kobe last year and that's just one matchup. Like Bruce Bowen, he take son the opponents best player every night. Also like Bowen, what he does for the Rockets will not show up on a box score. You can throw rebound and blocking numbers of any big at me, but numbers don't impress me as much as seeing what Battier does on a regular basis.
Coach of the Year - Nate McMillan
McMillan enters the season with a team full of potential, but also full of youth. Blazers GM Kevin Pritchard has done a great job of putting together a roster that includes such young talent as Brandon Roy, Greg Oden, La Marcus Aldridge, Martell Webster, Jerryd Bayliss, Rudy Fernandez, Sergio Rodriguez and Nicolas Batum.Now it's McMillan's turn to mold them into a winner. Many experts have predicted that the Blazers will finish at around 4th in the West this season. If only talent and youth alone were enough to secure a top seed in the conference. McMillan has a tough task of uniting this young bunch, getting them to believe in his system and in each other. But if there's a coach who can get it done, my money's on McMillan. Maurice Cheeks and Rick Adelman also have a good chance at winning the award.
Rookie of the Year - Greg Oden
Oden may have a ways to go in the maturity department, but the guy can flat out ball. After a season-ending injury last year, you can bet Oden is hungry to get on the hardwood and show the league what he can do. He's one of the rare centers we see about every decade and he could probably be an impact player based on size and athleticism alone. I wouldn't put it past him to average a double double and maybe 2 blocks per game. O.J. Mayo and Russell Westbrook should also contend for the award.
Sixth Man Award - Rodney Stuckey
Stuckey was huge off the bench for the Pistons last season. He was able to come off the bench for Chauncey Billups and run the offense. Now coming into his second season, Stuckey will likely be given more minutes this season, especially at the end of games. As we saw late last season and into the playoffs, Stuckey is more than capable of scoring in double figures and getting 4-5 assists when he gets the playing time.
Most Improved Player - Ramon Sessions
Sessions was the first rookie last season to be sent down to the D-League, but Sessions made the most of it. He was named D-League Performer of the Week twice. In 24 games with the Tulsa 66ers, Sessions averaged 21 points, 7.6 assists and 6.5 rebounds per game. Towards the end of last season, with the Bucks not having a chance at making the playoffs, they decided to give Sessions some playing time and it paid dividends. Over the last five games of the season, he averaged 14 points, 15 assists, 5.5 rebounds and over one steal per game. In one game against the Bulls, his line read 20 points, 24 assists, 8 rebounds, a steal and a block. If you don't know who Sessions is now, you'll be formally introduced soon.
Spurs 08-09 record: 50-32, fourth in the West
Finals: Hornets vs. Celtics
MVP: Chris Paul.
Paul is still young in his NBA career but if the Hornet's playoff run last year is any indication, he could quite possibly lead his team to the Finals. He is dominant on both sides of the floor. Can score, play D, and gets other involved. Everything you want from an NBA point guard.
ROY: Greg Oden.
After taking last year off for surgery, this will officially be Oden's rookie year. He has put on size and developed back to the basket skills. He will be a dominant force in the paint for the Blazers. However can all he do is dunk? If he can develop a jump shot he will be a force in the NBA for years to come. A close second will be Westbrook.
DPOY: Dwight Howard.
This guy can block shots, rebound and intimidate anyone daring enough to enter the paint when he is on patrol.
Coach of the Year: Mike D'Antoni.
If he gets the Knicks into the playoffs this year he get this award. It's quite possible he does.
Most Improved Player -- Wilson Chandler
Now that Mike D'Antonie is running the Knicks, Chandler will flourish in this system. He added more size to his frame and will be given the minutes to showcase his skills. In pre-season he been showing the NBA he can play.
6th Man -- Kyle Korver
Now that he will get a full season with the Jazz, expect Korver to be more familiar with the Jazz system and contribute off the bench.
Spurs record: 50-32
Finals: Hornets v Celtics
MVP: Tony Parker
Yes, I am biased. However, with an injured Ginobili, Parker will grab hold of the reigns, put the pedal to the floor, and never let up. He'll win a slug of games for them through the all star break, and once Ginobili is back in the groove of things, taking some of the pressure off, Parker will make it look easy.
Rookie of the Year: Derrick Rose
Yes, I am bucking the popular pick of Oden. Rose will provide a spark to a Bulls team that needs it. With a rejuvenated attack under his leadership, there will be no question who the starting guard is in Chicago.
Most Improved Player: Rajon Rondo
Confident after winning a championship, great defender, improved offense every year, and 3 stars to play with. These are ingredients to a career year for Rondo, as Doc Rivers gives him even more control to make things happen.
Sixth Man of the Year: Brandon Bass
With all the talent on the Maverick's roster, and the hoopla over Carlisle taking over the reigns, it's easy to forget the spark that Bass provides. Whether offense or defense, this guy can bring it, and I'm sure Carlisle was salivating at the things he could use him for from the moment he was told he had the job.
Defensive Player of the Year: Samuel Dalembert
With Brand on the other side of the lane, often times taking on a difficult power forward matchup, Dalembert will be more free than he has in years to block shots and provide weak side help. He will be like Ben Wallace was in Detroit, or Okafor was at UConn, seemingly appearing from nowhere to reject you.
Coach of the Year: Jerry Sloan, Utah Jazz
He should've won this years ago, and he now has a team, again, capable of dismantling anyone in the league.
Finals Matchup: Spurs over the 76ers in 5
It's an odd year, the silver lining to Ginobili's injury is that he'll have an extra 20 games to rest, leaving him fresher for the playoffs, and we still have Duncan. Meanwhile, the upstart 76ers will continue on in what they've been doing, only with a heavily bolstered post from the Brand addition.
MVP- Lebron James
DPOY- Bruce Bowen
6th Man- Ben Gordon
Coach of the Year- Mike D'Antoni
Most Improved- Andrea Bargnani
Rookie of the Year- OJ Mayo
Spurs go 56-26, finish 3rd in West behind Lakers and Hornets.. I believe they will win the championship because they are hungry and because its an odd year! They will beat the Celtics in the finals 4 games to 2 and Tim Duncan will claim Finals MVP for the 4th time.