Yesterday we made team predictions in the NBA. Today it’s time for the players:
MVP: Kobe Bryant. Last year Kobe got a taste of what it’s like winning a title on his own. His team has the potential to be even better this year, and he knows that he’s not going to get a lot of better chances than he has this year to add another one. That’s a serious motivation, and nobody responds to motivation better than Kobe. As an added bonus, Bryant doesn’t have the distraction of looming free agency hanging over him like some of the other contenders for this award have.
Rest of the MVP top five: No real surprises here – LeBron Howard, and Duncan. The on minor surprise is Chris Bosh. If he can keep his contract situation out of his mind I think he has the chance to have the best year of his career. He has good personnel around him, and a coaching staff and system that will allow him to be at his best.
Most improved player: Derrick Rose. Last year he was rookie of the year, so he is already starting from a good place. I think he has the potential to establish himself as one of the best two or three point guards in the league this year, though.
Best free agent acquisition – West: I’m high on the Ron Artest move, but no team got better with one move in the West than Richard Jefferson did. The situation couldn’t be better for Jefferson, and I expect him to shine and to make the West a real dog fight (is it to soon to use that phrase in pro sports?)
Best free agent acquisition – East: Hedo Turkoglu. Vince Carter will be right up there as well, but Carter is basically replacing something they already had. Turkoglu brings an entirely different feel to the Raptors, and has the chance to make everyone around him better.
Biggest free agent disappointment: Shaq. Cleveland comes out and loses their first two games of the year, Shaq isn’t a real factor either time, and his only response so far has been to announce that he wants to become a Sheriff’s deputy in the Cleveland era. The guy isn’t ready, isn’t motivated, and isn’t going to do what he is supposed to do.
Rookie of the year: Stephen Curry. I’d like to be original and pick someone other than Curry or Griffin, but they have such a lead in public opinion that they have an edge. Curry is a pure scorer, and he’ll get lots of chance to do that in Golden State. It might not convert to a bunch of wins, but it should lead to some gaudy numbers. There will be other rookies who make a big impact with their team – DeRozan, Evans, maybe Flynn, and so on, but none like Curry can.