It's the most wonderful time of the year. NBA season makes it's long awaited return, and the world is in anticipation for what looks to be one of the better years the league has seen since Jordan's retirement.
There are so many dominate story lines and questions heading into the season:
Can Chris Paul lead the Clippers to a title?
Will Dwight Howard win the NBA championship he has long desired?
With a new team, will Deron Williams return to top 5 point guard status?
The Return of Derrick Rose.
Can Kobe Bryant come back to be the player he was?
Who will be unfortunately fortunate enough to draft Wiggins?
How will the new look Pistons fair?
Can Tyreke Evans get back to being productive?
Can the Pacers get over the hump?
We do not know the answers to any of these questions as we continue to speculate. One can only watch and wait as the season unfolds. I have made a few (yet somewhat bold) predictions.
I know many are already about to stop reading because I have no place LeBron James on this accolade, but for those that have continued to read, let me explain. LeBron has won the MVP award four out of the past five years. While this is a monumental accomplishment, the MVP award voters panels will eventually grow tired of voting for the same player. This is not to say Lebron won't deserve the award, however people will grow suspicious of this. Kevin Durant will be starting this season without his right hand man Russell Westbrook this season so more of the responsibilities will be thrust upon him. Last season Durant shot 50/40/90 in percentages last year (for those that don't know: 50% in field goals, 40% from 3, and 90% from the free throw line). I expect him to do this again all while leading the NBA in scoring while averaging a career high in assists. Durant will have a much better season than the one he had last year and sans LeBron leading Miami to 70 wins and shooting 60% from the field, I think this will be Durant's year.
Sixth Man of the Year:
Last season we saw JR Smith take home the award and while it is possible he could win it again, it is HIGHLY unlikely. I'm gonna take Evans here because I feel he will find his groove in the Pelicans offense. Evans will lead the second unit as their primary ball handler and scorer. He won't put up 20ppg off the bench, but expect him to have a better year than the past few he has had.
Rookie of the Year:
This prediction isn't as far fetched as many believe. Look at the situation Oladipo has been put in. The Orlando Magic virtually have no shooting guard and are in need if a point guard for the next decade. I believe Oladipo can fill that role for them. He will get touches early and often and I think he will impress Coach Vaughn. Nerlens Noel was drafted lower than expected and immediately traded to a point guard less Philadelphia 76ers. Noel is also coming from injury so we shall see what he can do.
Most Improved Player:
I like this guy's game. Harris was traded from Milwaukee to the Orlando Magic and instantly made an impact. With more playing time and more chances he should thrive this year and produce one of the better years of his career.
Coach of the Year:
This one is bold but I will explain why I stand behind this. Mike Brown is a good coach (despite what Laker fans may think) and he will inherit a young but talented roster. The player I feel will benefit the most from this is Andrew Bynum (assuming he plays) because the familiarity is there (Bynum had the best season of his career with Brown as his head coach). Young Kyrie Irving will learn more about defensive principles under Mike Brown and with Jarrett Jack, Earl Clark and a returning Anderson Varejao, the Cavs will have their best season and first playoff berth since the post LeBron era began.
These are the 8 teams I have making the playoffs in the Eastern Conference:
My heart wanted to put the Wizards, but their history of health isn't so good. Okafor is already out and there's no telling how he will do when he returns. The Bucks could sneak in the playoffs but with their roster making major changes the chemistry has to be there and we do not know if it will.
These are the 8 teams I have making the playoffs in the Western Conference:
7. T' Wolves
This is a tricky race. In my honest opinion, there are really only two teams that I feel have no shot at the playoffs (Suns and Kings) but everyone else is fair game. The Wolves have a playoff team as long as they don't end up in the hospital. The Mavericks and Blazers have very talented cores that can do damage. The Jazz may be rebuilding but the talent is there and so is the veteran leadership. Brian Shaw will have the Nuggets looking sharp as they await the return of Galinari. The Lakers (despite what many think) have a young group led by a returning Kobe Bryant, who's never say die attitude coasted the Lakers to the postseason after a 17-25 start.
Now the moment everyone is waiting for.....
The NBA champions will be....
The San Antonio Spurs
With Tony Parker leading the way, added depth, more three point shooting, and Duncan drinking from the fountain of youth. I can't deny these guys. Poppovich is a master coach who knows what he is doing and the Spurs will remain competitive. Expect another 50 win season and Poppovich to learn from his mistakes from last season.
Why I feel the Miami Heat will NOT 3-peat.
This is not to say they don't have the talent to do so, however this team relies HEAVILY on Lebron James who has been to 3 straight NBA finals, played in the Olympics, averages well over 30 minutes per game and who just got married. Although he is a physical specimen Lebron is still a human being who gets fatigued. With Wade not willing to sit on back to back games to rest his injured legs and Bosh continually being phased out I'm not sure Miami can accomplish this task. It will not be from lack of trying or talent, but the Eastern Conference had VASTLY improved over the off-season. The road to a three peat is not a cakewalk for any team and the Heat are no exception.
Courtney Yates is the NBA Correspondent for Mo' SportsTalk. Also a blogger for pickandroll.com.au To contact him and check out his work. Go to his site:http://phranchizeplayersite.wordpress.com/
Follow him on Twitter: http://twitter.com/Phranchize19
Add him on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/courtney.yates.735?fref=ts
To acquire him for writings/blogging and other NBA related tasks. Email him at email@example.com
The "Bench Mob" are articles that are posted from some of the best writers around. Giving you an all access tour of their opinions of sports.