Beeline: NBA Individual Predictions

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Now, ready not, the NBA preseason is set to start Oct. 3, with a pair of international games when the New York Knicks travel to Milan, Italy and Maccabi Haifa come to the states to play the New Jersey Nets. So as teams gear up for the upcoming season, let’s take a look at who I believe will take home the individual hardware in 2010-11.

Rookie of the Year
Here is a little sleeper pick for Rookie of the Year that might ring a bell for some UNF basketball fans. Look for the sixth pick overall, Ekpe Udoh, out of Baylor University to make a big impact for the Golden State Warriors. Osprey’s head coach Matt Driscoll coached Udoh during his time at Baylor. This kid is a defensive beast. He averaged 3.7 blocks and 9.8 rebounds per game last season at Baylor. He fills a huge need for the Warriors, which is why I think he could make a run for Rookie of the Year. While Udoh will be amongst the rookie leaders in rebounding and blocked shots, the NBA is a scoring league. He is more likely to take home Defensive Rookie of the Year.

Give me Even Turner out of Ohio State University to take home Rookie of the Year. Turner, who was made the second pick of the draft by the Philadelphia 76ers, can do it all. He might be the most versatile player to come out of the draft this year. He averaged 20.4 points and six assists for the Buckeyes last season. However maybe the most impressive stat was that he led his team in rebounds with 9.2 per game and he was their point guard. His versatility makes me take Turner as my preseason Rookie of the Year prediction.

Scoring Champion
Now that we’ve got the toddlers taken care of, let’s see who’s going to be filling the basket more than any other player this year. While Miami’s duo of Dwayne Wade and Lebron James have each won scoring titles while playing for separate teams, I think both of their scoring averages will drop with them playing together. They each will take shots away from each other.

With Wade and James essentially canceling each other out, I’m looking for Oklahoma City’s Kevin Durant to repeat as the scoring champ. Durant was the only player to average more than 30 points per game in 2009. However, I think he can improve on his 30.1 points per game in 2010. He has the dynamic combination of size, speed and athleticism that makes him the perfect scorer. He has range to hit the three and can drive past almost anyone in the league to get to the basket. He can also post up defenders because he is such a mismatch with his size. Durant shoots his way to the top of the scoring charts again in 2010.

Defensive Player of the Year
“Don’t fix it if it ain’t broken.” That is the phrase that comes to mind when I think about the Defensive Player of the Year. I’ll take Dwight Howard of the Orlando Magic to win his third consecutive award. No other player in the NBA affects a game defensively like Howard does. Howard is what the previously mentioned Udoh should strive to be. He is the first player to lead the league in rebounds and blocked shots two years in a row. Howard finished 2010 with 13.2 rebounds and 2.78 blocks per game. He is the reason Orlando led the league in defensive efficiency. The scary thing about Howard is he is only getting better. At the ripe age of 24, the sky is literally the limit for the man they call Superman.

Most Valuable Player
While many in the sports world would disagree with me I do not think Lebron James will be taking home his third consecutive Most Valuable Player award. In my opinion, when James “took his talents to South Beach” he gave up the individual awards to team up with Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh. The MVP should go to a player who literally is so valuable to a team they would be trash without him. That is why James won the last two seasons because he alone won 60 plus games for Cleveland in those seasons. This year if you took him off the Heat, they would still be a decent team. The talent they have around them takes both James and Wade out of the equation in my opinion.

That being said, I’m taking my predicted scoring champ to also take home the 2010-11 MVP award. Durant finished second in last season’s MVP voting. Aside from the scoring, Durant has become a great leader. He led Team USA this summer in the FIBA World Championships. Playing overseas looks like it took Durant’s game to a whole new level. He is the best player on an up-and-coming team in the Thunder, who Durant took to the playoffs last year. The Thunder will go as far as Durant can take them, which I think will be a long way in 2010. Watch out for Durant to have a huge year.