NBA Season Preview: Who Will Hoist The Larry O’Brien Trophy?

Justin Lovell, Sports Editor

   The King finally got his ring. In June, three-time MVP LeBron James finally won the elusive trophy that his collection of achievements was so desperately lacking. The Miami Heat were able to dominate a talented but young Oklahoma City Thunder team in five games to win the NBA Championship, as well as starting what could be the next great rivalry in the NBA. Well that was everyone’s thinking until the Los Angeles Lakers went out and had their summer of fun. The already stacked Lakers with Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol went out and added two-time MVP Steve Nash and the three-time Defensive Player of the Year winner, Dwight Howard. The Lakers just got even better this offseason and the Heat are still as talented as they were last year. The Thunder, on the other hand, have regressed following their surprising trade of all-star James Harden. But where does that leave the other 27 teams in the NBA?

   I’ll be honest, the other 27 teams, for lack of a better term, are screwed. Come June, if the Heat, Thunder or Lakers aren’t hoisting the Larry O’Brien Trophy, a miracle took place on the hardwood. Now that’s not to say the NBA doesn’t have other good teams, just none of them are as superior as the previously named three are. The Celtics, Spurs, Bulls, Clippers and Pacers are all great teams that will be sure to compete, but one of the big three will win the title this year.

   Official Predictions for the 2012-2013 Season:

   Playoff Seeding:

   Eastern Conference:
1. Miami Heat
2. Boston Celtics
3. Indiana Pacers
4. Philadelphia 76ers
5. Chicago Bulls
6. Brooklyn Nets
7. New York Knicks
8. Atlanta Hawks

   Western Conference:
1. Los Angeles Lakers
2. Oklahoma City Thunder
3. San Antonio Spurs
4. Los Angeles Clippers
5. Denver Nuggets
6. Memphis Grizzles
7. Dallas Mavericks
8. Minnesota Timberwolves

   Regular Season Awards:

   Coach of the Year: Mike Brown, L.A. Lakers – With the addition of the new players, last season’s failures and Kobe Bryant and his win or bust attitude, the expectations for Mike Brown to win have never been higher. Luckily for Brown, he will be up for them and lead the Lakers to the best record in the NBA.

   Rookie of the Year: Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Charlette Bobcats – Kidd-Gilchrist could be a star in the NBA, unfortunately he is on the Bobcats and will struggle at the beginning, but that being said the Bobcats have Kemba Walker, who will help Kidd-Gilchrist this season get the ROTY trophy over fellow Kentucky star Anthony Davis.

   Most Improved Player: DeMar DeRozan, Toranto Raptors – DeRozan is known as a pure scorer; he can dunk over anyone and shoots pretty well too, unfortunately he plays zero defense. With his athleticism he could be a defensive stud, expect DeRozan to change and develop this year with an all-star selection and a most improved player trophy.

   Sixth Man of the Year: Manu Ginobili, S.A. Spurs – This award was originally to be James Harden’s again, but following his trade to the Rockets this weekend and his starting there, he will no longer be eligible to win. Ginobili is basically Harden just older, both have won the award previously and are great scorers who helped their team with a spark off the bench each game.

   Defensive Player of the Year: Dwight Howard, L.A Lakers – As an Orlando Magic fan, I am still sour toward how Howard acted his last year in Orlando but there is no doubt he is the best defensive player in the league. He is already a three-time winner of the award and should have won it last year; the voters just didn’t vote for him because of his drama he created in the magic kingdom. Expect trophy number four to be added to his collection this upcoming year.

   Most Valuable Player: Kevin Durant, Oklahoma City Thunder – Durant finished second in MVP voting last year behind James, but expect KD to add his first of a few trophies to his collection. The departure of Harden and his experiences from last season’s finals and over the summer during the Olympics will make Durant the MVP. Expect James to be a close second and Howard to be a distant third.

   Playoff Summary:

   Conference Finals:

   Heat over Celtics, 4-1
In a rematch of last season’s Eastern Conference Finals, the Heat again defeat the Celtics, but unlike last year, the Heat easily win the series 4-1. The Heat return to their third straight finals, looking to repeat as champs.

   Lakers over Thunder, 4-3
In the west, these conference finals are one of the most amazing series the NBA has ever seen between the Lakers and Thunder. This series goes 7 games and up until this past weekend, I had the Thunder winning this series and advancing to second straight NBA finals. In light of the James Harden trade, the Lakers are now the better team. Of course with Durant and Russell Westbrook, the Thunder will be outstanding still but against the might of the Lakers’ core four, they won’t advance this year to face the Heat.

   The NBA Finals:

   Heat over Lakers, 4-3

   The NBA finally gets the match-up people have wanted for the past five years, LeBron verses Kobe. This series will be one of the best the NBA has ever seen and will go seven games. Even though this series will be billed as LeBron verses Kobe, the more important battle will be between James and Howard and who can dominate the series more. No one on the Lakers can guard James, likewise no one on the Heat can guard Howard, so what will decide this series? The simple fact that LeBron James will be the greatest player ever in NBA history, his dominance on the court will carry the Heat to a second straight NBA title. As the Heat celebrate their title, the Lakers will deal with not only the issue of losing in the finals, but the potential loss of Howard to free agency. Overall, this upcoming season will be spectacular but again, it will belong to the King as he adds a second ring.

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