By COREY VANNThe Dartmouth Staff
Is everyone reading this column a little bit richer than they were last week? The reason I ask is this Emeka Okafor did in fact win the opening tip off of the NBA season last Tuesday night. And if you recall, I urged you guys to make that prop bet before the game!
Hopefully you were able to rake in a few Benjamins on my behalf. But if you did not, don't worry, because here are the rest of my predictions for the 2012-2013 NBA season. You have my full permission to take these to the bank.
Rookie of the Year: Damian Lillard, Portland Trail Blazers
I know the season is very young, but this rookie is playing like a man well beyond his 22 years. Through Lillard's first three games, he has averaged 21.3 points, 9.0 assists and 4.0 rebounds per game while shooting the ball at a 47 percent clip. Yes, Anthony Davis receives all the hype and it is well deserved, but the Weber State product, who was also the Summer League MVP, is about to bring home some more hardware when the season is over.
Sixth Man of the Year: J.J. Redick, Orlando Magic
The field is wide open now that James Harden has assumed a starting role in Houston, and how good must it feel for Harden to have a full-time gig with the Rockets? If Harden keeps posting the same types of numbers that he has in the early games (35.3 PPG, 6.3 APG and 6.3 RPG), he very well might be in the MVP discussion when it's all said and done. But enough about The Beard how about some love for one of the best college players of all time, J.J. Redick? I don't expect Redick to continue averaging 23 points a game, but he is really coming into his own as a player, and there are plenty of minutes to go around in Orlando without Dwight Howard, Jason Richardson and company.
Most Valuable Player: LeBron James, Miami Heat
Very unoriginal, but let's face it the guy is unstoppable. The only possible scenario I see that could stop James and result in a different MVP is if the Heat are blowing out their opponents on a consistent basis. If that happens, the King's stats will likely take a hit since he will already be clocked out by the start of the fourth quarter. So let's make believe that the situation outlined above does take place. Who would be next in line? That would be L.A.'s newest hero, Superman, Mr. Dwight Howard. Wouldn't it be ironic if the most hated player of this NBA offseason won MVP and a ring in the same season like LeBron did last year?
Most Improved Player: O.J. Mayo, Dallas Mavericks
Much like Harden, Mayo is taking full advantage of his change in scenery and a starting role. Mayo dropped 30 on the Bobcats on Saturday, and don't be surprised if you see a lot more of these kinds of efforts from him. Other candidates for this award are Glen Davis, Jeff Teague, Kawhi Leonard and Omer Asik.
Final standings, Eastern Conference: 1. Miami 2. Indiana 3. Boston 4. Chicago 5. Philadelphia 6. Brooklyn 7. New York 8. Milwaukee. Tom Thibodeau is too good a coach few are better at getting their charges to play team basketball, especially on the defensive end for the Bulls to flounder without Derrick Rose. Although the Knicks have generated a lot of buzz after starting the season off strong while missing Amar'e Stoudemire, the Brooklyn Nets are the best team in the Big Apple. Deron Williams is an MVP candidate, and the only reason I think the Knicks have a chance of keeping up their play is because of head coach Mike Woodson, who has the Knicks actually playing defense for the first time this decade.
Final standings, Western Conference: 1. San Antonio 2. L.A. Clippers 3. Oklahoma City 4. L.A. Lakers 5. Denver 6. Memphis 7. Utah 8. Golden State. Now I bet you believe me that there is a serious debate regarding who the best team in Los Angeles is. The Clippers won round one on Friday night, and things aren't getting any better for the Lakers with Steve Nash potentially out for the next month. That Clipper bench is mighty impressive, and this team is going to be scary good when veterans Chauncey Billups and Grant Hill return from injury.
Look for the Spurs and Thunder to struggle when the postseason arrives. The Spurs did not make any moves to improve their roster, and although three-point specialist Kevin Martin will fit in nicely with what the Thunder do, he's no Harden.
Playoff predictions: Eastern Conference Finals: Heat over Pacers. Western Conference Finals: Lakers over Clippers. NBA Finals: Heat over Lakers.