NBA Caucus: preseason award predictions
by USA Today Sports Network, USA TODAY
Once a week, USA TODAY Sports will ask its many NBA experts to analyze hot topics around the NBA. This week’s theme is projecting the major awards
1. MOST VALUABLE PLAYER:
Jeff Zillgitt,USA TODAY Sports: Miami Heat forward LeBron James is the best player, yet the odds of him winning a third consecutive MVP are against him for that simple reason that voters ultimately get tired of giving the award to the same guy year after year after year. Boston Celtics Hall of Famer Larry Bird was the last player to win three consecutive MVPs – 1983-84 to 1985-86. Every player who has won two consecutive since then has failed to win in the third season: Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan, Tim Duncan, Steve Nash and James all fell short in their bid to win three consecutive titles.
Plus, if James’ statistics decline in the slightest, that will be used against him, especially if Oklahoma City Thunder forward Kevin Durant’s stats — namely shooting percentage, offensive efficiency and assists — increase.
Los Angeles Clippers guard Chris Paul and Chicago Bulls guard Derrick Rose will also have a say.
Even with that info in support of someone else winning MVP, I’m going with James.
Ian Levy, Hickory High: Barring catastrophic injury, it’s hard to imagine anyone having a stronger statistical résumé than James. When you factor in the likely team success the Heat will have during the regular season, that case becomes even stronger. However, in winning MVP the last two seasons LeBron has also set a well-defined precedent for himself. If his numbers or the Heat’s regular season record drop at all compared to what they did last year it would definitely give voters a reasonable out to hand the award to someone else.
Of course that scenario would require someone else making a compelling case for themselves, through individual excellence, team success and a powerful narrative. Durant redefining offensive efficiency and carrying the Thunder through a difficult start to the season without Russell Westbrook or Rose buoying the Bulls offense and pushing them to the top of the East would both seem … [For more on NBA Caucus: NBA preseason award predictions, click here.]