NBA predictions to chew on
(Sports Network) – Even though the NBA season has not started and each team will have to endure a grueling 82-game schedule when the 2005-06 campaign tips off, it’s still okay to have some fun and make some preseason predictions.
Sure it’s premature to give out awards before the 2005-06 campaign begins, but the real fun will come when the season is over and one can see how his or her predictions turn out. Here are some early thoughts on the players that will shine, the executive that made and will make the right moves to improve his club and the coach who will get the most out of his team during the upcoming season.
MVP: TIM DUNCAN (SAN ANTONIO SPURS)
Duncan, who is a seven-time All-Star and a two-time league MVP, leads by example. He has already won three rings with the defending champion San Antonio Spurs during his eight-year career and will go down as one of the best power forwards in the history of the league. He averaged 20.3 points and 11.1 rebounds per game in 66 contests in 2004-05.
The 29-year-old Duncan is ready to lead San Antonio to a fourth championship. He has a great supporting cast which is led by Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker. Duncan is in his prime and could put the best numbers of his already brilliant career in the 2005-06 campaign. Look for this superstar to win his third MVP and to lead the Spurs to back-to-back titles.
HONORABLE MENTION: Ron Artest (Indiana Pacers), LeBron James (Cleveland Cavaliers), Dirk Nowitzki (Dallas Mavericks), Shaquille O’Neal (Miami Heat), Dwyane Wade (Miami Heat).
ROOKIE OF THE YEAR: CHRIS PAUL (NEW ORLEANS/OKLAHOMA CITY HORNETS )
The 2005 draft was a huge success for the Hornets. Multi-talented guard Chris Paul was available for the Hornets to select with the fourth overall pick. The Wake Forest product, who was the second point guard selected in the draft behind Illinois Deron Williams, was arguably the best overall talent in the draft. He has great play-making ability and can score. Paul is an impact player who will help bring excitement back to the fans of the Hornets.
Paul is a dynamic player. He will bring the fans to their feet with his unbelievable skills and will help the Hornets win games because of his great ability. The 6-0 Paul will have an incredible impact on the league during his rookie campaign.
HONORABLE MENTION: Andrew Bogut (Milwaukee Bucks), Raymond Felton (Charlotte Bobcats), Marvin Williams (Atlanta Hawks).
COACH OF THE YEAR: LAWRENCE FRANK (NEW JERSEY NETS)
Frank should have the luxury of starting the season with Vince Carter, Jason Kidd and Richard Jefferson all 100 percent healthy. He will be able to pull of his tricks out of his hat, as he will have the talent to work with. Frank stresses defense, knows how to motivate and communicate with his players and is always prepared with a solid game plan.
He is the right coach for the Nets, and with the roster that he has been handed to work with he will guide New Jersey to 50 wins and a division title.
HONORABLE MENTION: Larry Brown (New York Knicks), Mike Brown (Cleveland Cavaliers), Mike Montgomery (Golden State Warriors).
DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR: BEN WALLACE (DETROIT PISTONS)
Wallace is a three-time winner (2001-02, 2002-03 and 2004-05) of this award. He is the catalyst on the defensive end of the court for the Pistons, who follow the lead of the of their powerful force in the middle. Wallace is an intimidating presence in the lane and can help change the outcome of a game with his physical play in the post.
HONORABLE MENTION: Ron Artest (Indiana Pacers), Bruce Bowen (San Antonio Spurs), Andre Iguodala (Philadelphia 76ers), Andrei Kirilenko (Utah Jazz).
MOST IMPROVED PLAYER: SHAREEF ABDUR-RAHIM (SACRAMENTO KINGS)
Abdur-Rahim, who was an unrestricted free agent, was Sacramento’s big offseason acquisition. He appeared to be headed to New Jersey in a sign-and- trade deal with Portland back on August 2nd, but the deal was rejected by the Nets when he failed to pass the club’s physical because of scar tissue in his right knee.
The 28-year-old Abdur-Rahim, who is a one-time All-Star, averaged 16.8 points and 7.3 boards in 54 games with the Trail Blazers last season and should do a solid job at power forward for the Kings. In Sacramento, he will play with talented players like Mike Bibby, Brad Miller and Peja Stojakovic. Abdur-Rahim has never played in a playoff contest during his nine-year career, but by signing with a club that has made the postseason seven straight years should motivate the 6-9 forward to raise his game to the next level. Abdur-Rahim could post 20 points and 10 rebounds per game for the Kings. Signing with the Kings is just the boost that this talented forward needs to rejuvenate his career.
HONORABLE MENTION: Rasual Butler (New Orleans/Oklahoma City Hornets), Nick Collison (Seattle SuperSonics), Eddie Griffin (Minnesota Timberwolves),
SIXTH MAN OF THE YEAR: MICHAEL FINLEY (SAN ANTONIO SPURS)
Dallas waived Finley in mid-August, as it used its one-time amnesty exception to end the eight-plus year run he had with the Mavericks. Finley, who inked a deal with San Antonio in early September, averaged 15.7 points, 4.1 rebounds and 2.6 assists in 64 games for the Mavericks during last season.
The 32-year-old Finley, who can play shooting guard or small forward, has a lot of productive basketball left in him. The Wisconsin product joins a club that already has All-Stars Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili along with point guard Tony Parker. By coming off the bench for the Spurs, Finley will be more effective and he will get plenty of open looks at the hoop. He could be headed for a surprisingly big year.
HONORABLE MENTION: Donyell Marshall (Cleveland Cavaliers), Vladimir Radmanovic (Seattle SuperSonics), Kenny Thomas (Sacramento Kings).
EXECUTIVE OF THE YEAR: DANNY FERRY (CLEVELAND CAVALIERS)
Ferry knew that he had to have a productive offseason, which would help superstar LeBron James want to stay in Cleveland when it is time for the club to try and re-sign him to a long-term contract. He hired a coach that gets along with his players in Mike Brown, re-signed All-Star center Zydrunas Ilgauskas, and inked free agents Larry Hughes, Damon Jones and Donyell Marshall to contracts.
The Cavaliers should make the playoffs in the 2005-06 campaign for the first time since 1998. Ferry has assembled a roster that should mesh well with James and make the phenom a very happy Cavalier.
HONORABLE MENTION: Pat Riley (Miami Heat), Isiah Thomas (New York Knicks).