2013-2014 NBA Preview: Awards, Playoffs, and More

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Oct 23, 2013; New Orleans, LA, USA; Miami Heat small forward LeBron James (6) passes asNew Orleans Pelicans power forward Ryan Anderson (33) defends during the second half of a preseason game at New Orleans Arena. The Heat defeated the Pelicans 108-95. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports


Coach of the Year – Gregg Popovich, San Antonio Spurs

It’s almost “cheating” to anoint Gregg Popovich as the Coach of the Year, but I don’t mind giving this award to the best coach on the planet. Normally, this award is almost reserved for coaches who make “the leap” with their teams from “bad” to “pretty good”, but if Pop keeps the Spurs in the 60-win range (and I think he will), he will get the much-deserved credit of the C.O.Y. award.

“Pop” has been an elite coach in the league for the entirety of his 17-year run with the Spurs, but he only has 2 of these awards on his mantle despite 15 seasons with 50+ wins (and another at that pace in a lockout-shortened campaign). Add to that the backlash that he received during and after San Antonio’s NBA Finals loss to Miami, and you’ll see a motivated Popovich with an uber-talented (and experienced) roster that is poisted to make another run at the West crown.

Give the award to the best of the best.

Runners-up: Doc Rivers (LA Clippers), Monty Williams (New Orleans)

Sixth Man of the Year – Ryan Anderson, Forward, New Orleans Pelicans

This is always an impossible award to predict, and this year is no different in that regard. Full-scale candidates will emerge as the season goes on (and their 6th man roles are defined), but there are a few names that we know will come off the bench to start the season, and we’ll highlight the cream of the crop with one of my personal favorites, New Orleans forward Ryan Anderson.

Anderson finished last season at 5th in the voting for this award, and to be honest, if the award was based on pure performance instead of team success, he probably would have finished higher. The former Cal Bear averaged 16.2 points and 6.4 rebounds per game last year, but he did so in just 30.9 minutes per game, placing himself among the game’s very best with regard to efficient scoring. Anderson’s calling card is his stretch shooting from the power forward spot, and he rained threes (6.9 attempts per game) at a 38.2% clip last season to finish 2nd to Stephen Curry in both 3-pointers made and attempted.

This year, New Orleans should be a much better on-court product, and with that, Anderson’s market value will rise. I’d expect a very similar role for him this year, as he’ll be deployed next to Anthony Davis most of the time, and his main objective will be go out and get points for what many (including me) believe is a potential playoff team in the Western Conference. That should be enough to squeeze past an ever-emerging crop of guys.

Runner-up: Jarrett Jack (Cleveland)

Defensive Player of the Year – Lebron James, Forward, Miami Heat

Wait, Lebron James as the Defensive Player of the Year? Yes, you read that right. Lebron is the 2-time reigning league MVP, but he has never won this particular honor despite being the league’s best all-court defender.

The case against James actually winning the award is that he won’t have the statistical accomplishment (read: blocks) to command the immediate attention of the casual fan on this end. Normally, the league’s best statistical big man is the front-runner for the award, and no wing player has won the award since Ron Artest (now Metta World Peace) in 2003-2004. However, if there was ever a wing defender that gets enough attention, it’s Lebron, and if you ask anyone in the league to name their top defenders, he’s on every list.

Runners-up: Joakim Noah (Chicago), Marc Gasol (Memphis)

Rookie of the Year – Victor Oladipo, Guard, Orlando Magic

This is a relatively easy choice, simply due to a lack of options. Oladipo combines the most NBA-ready game in the draft (in my opinion) with the most opportunity to succeed right away in Orlando. He’s been given the “keys to the kingdom” with the Magic from day one, and the fact that Orlando is giving him a chance to play point guard as a rookie only enhances his opportunity to wrap up this award.

The argument against the 21-year-old guard from Indiana winning this award is that he’s a defense-first player, and that isn’t without merit. However, the other major contenders simply won’t get the “volume” statistics that Oladipo will amass this season, and that is usually the basis (see Damian Lillard) for winning the ROY award, especially for a household name like Oladipo.

I would expect something in the range of 13-15 points per game with solid assist numbers (4-5 per game), and while his jump shot will likely fail him at times, the shear regularity of his touches will push him over the top.

Runner-up: Kelly Olynyk (Boston)

Most Valuable Player – Lebron James, Forward, Miami Heat

With apologies to Kevin Durant, this is a slam dunk pick. The only things standing in the way of Lebron and a 3-peat for the MVP award would be if he were to sustain a serious injury (knock on wood) or if the NBA voting electorate simply got tired of giving him the award. That famously happened with voting in the case of Michael Jordan in the 90’s, but with Lebron having won 4 of the last 5 awards, I don’t think it’s an issue in the current NBA.

No one can match the combination of defensive presence (and acumen) with electric offense like Lebron can provide, and his averages of 26.8 points, 7.3 assists, and 8.0 rebounds per game stand out even among the game’s elite. Even if we were to call “Lebron vs. Durant” a wash on the offensive end (and that’s not crazy), the difference between the two players is marked on the defensive end, and even with a large bump from Durant, he won’t be the disruptive all-court force that “King James” has been.

When “predicting” awards, it is sometimes fashionable to get cute and go with the fancy choice, but it would be borderline irresponsible to suggest that James (knowing what we know at this particular point in time) wouldn’t be the most valuable NBA player this season.

Runners-up: Kevin Durant (Oklahoma City), Chris Paul (LA Clippers), Dwight Howard (Houston), Derrick Rose (Chicago)