John Wall will win MVP
I talked about this in my Wizards preview and on the podcast, but I might as well reiterate here. A combination of voter fatigue and the top tier of players all splitting votes with teammates is going to open the door to some darkhorse candidate this year. My pick is Wall. Of course, he first has to have a crazy good season, but I really don’t think that 20 points and 10 assists per game is completely out of the question. And if he does that and it helps the Wizards compete at the top of the East, it’d be pretty hard to vote for anyone else.
Derrick Rose will set career highs in FG% and assists
Current career highs: FG% – 48.9% (2009-10). Assists – 7.9 (2011-12).
With Fred Hoiberg’s spread offense I think Rose is going to have a chance to be more of a pure point guard than he has before. There was talk about him taking time to mature his game after his first injury, and if that’s the case he should be Magic Johnson by now. I want to see Rose as a little more of an offensive facilitator and a little less of a fearless mercenary. That should help both the total team offense and Rose’s efficiency.
The Bulls don’t trade anyone
On the note of the Bulls, a lot of talk has circulated about clearing some space in the frontcourt rotation. Frankly, I’m a bit baffled by this. The two biggest names there have had a lot of trouble staying on the court over the past year, and neither of them are likely to get any younger over the next year. Because that’s not how aging works. It just doesn’t make sense to move someone like Taj Gibson to make space for Bobby Portis, no matter how great his preseason was. There will be ample minutes to go around as the season flows on.
Regardless of how this season goes, Kevin Durant stays in OKC
It’s a lot easier for a superstar player to stay with a team than it is for him to leave. You can get paid more money, and you don’t have to deal with the backlash from fans. Sure, if Durant stays with the Thunder some Washington fans may be upset, but they’ll get it. OKC fans would be heartbroken. We saw the reaction that happened when LeBron left the Cavs, and while things wouldn’t be nearly that dramatic for Durant, it’d still be a better reputation situation if he stays. Plus, it’s not as if the basketball situation is broken. He gets to play with another top 10 player in the league, and barring Billy Donovan being a total disaster, he’s got a good enough coach who should defer to him when the time is right. I have the Thunder picked to win the championship, but I really don’t think that impacts Durant’s decision.
People finally stop acting like LeBron is (unquestionably) the best player in the world
LeBron gets older every year. Again, that’s the way aging works. And he’s now past his biological physical prime. While he’s an immensely talented basketball player, much of his dominance comes from his incredible physicality. I mean, look at him. He’s what the ancient Greeks were trying to sculpt. But there’s a bit lacking compared with round 1 in Cleveland and his first few years in Miami. He’s not getting chase down blocks. His dunks merely shake the rim and backboard, not the entire arena. And that hurts his game. I’m not saying that any other player deserves to take the mantle as the best player in the league, I’m just saying that it’s no longer without question LeBron.
The Mavericks still have a really good offense
There was a while last year where it looked like the Mavs were going to score 170 points per game. Then they traded for Rondo and the wheels came off. After DeAndre Jordan did his best South Carolina football recruit impression and Monta Ellis left, many are assuming the Mavs will be way out of the playoff picture. I say not so fast. They still were the third best offense last year (105.2 ppg) and they’ve added big pieces in Wesley Matthews and Deron Williams. Sure, Williams was a disaster in Brooklyn, but you can’t forget that this guy was one of the best facilitators in the game, and that doesn’t just go away. Plus, Dirk.
Tom Thibodeau is hired mid-season
A few coaches are likely to get fired this year, but I’m leaning to earlier rather than later. Thibodeau is sitting at home, devouring film, just waiting for someone to do something that he can yell himself horse about. I think he’s going to not have to wait until the offseason to be re-employed. Destinations I think are likely: Lakers, Timberwolves, Phoenix. The Lakers need someone to really help get this team to the next level, and while it won’t happen this year, Thibs should be able to get them back to winning ways sooner than whatever they’ve got going now. After the tragic passing of Flip Saunders, the Wolves will need a permanent fix. KG could get in the mix and talk Thibs into coming back to the frigid midwest. The Suns are doing their best to get stuck in mediocrity forever. Thibs would be sure to not let that happen.