Overtime: Head to head: Forecasting the best and worst of the 2013-14 NBA season
Thomas McIntyre and Mark Hoffman are two of the Northern Light’s sports writers — nothing more, nothing less. The duo has been pitted against each other to predict the results of the 2013-14 NBA season.
“For me, this will be exactly like in “Above The Rim” when Shep played heads up with an invisible defender,” said McIntyre.
“I’ve played basketball with God Shammgod,” Hoffman responded.
And they’re off.
Miami Heat. The field is closing in, but not enough to sway my decision. It’s even harder to move off the Heat once you consider the three giants haven’t been healthy for the last two runs.
Chris Andersen pulls his ring lead over Karl Malone to two, and Dwyane Wade changes his name to Four.
Chicago Bulls. That’s right, South Beach, no three-peat for you. This year’s champion will be decided in the East — I don’t trust anybody to win it all in the West — and the Heat, Bulls, Pacers and maybe the Nets, are the class of the league.
I like a rejuvenated Rose to lead Tom Thibodeau’s ragtag bunch of grinders past King James and the Evil Empire. And then, you know, beat some team from the West in the Finals.
LeBron James, Miami Heat. I don’t know what to say here. Durant could yield a pity/boredom win. Either way, I’m right. James will be the best and most valuable player in the NBA. Perhaps I should sticky this section for the next five years.
The Field. I’m taking the indecisive, Michael Wilbon approach to the MVP race and choosing the field. LeBron is unquestionably the best player in the world, but it feels like we’re due for a Karl Malone-in-1998 or Derrick Rose-in-2011 season from the award voters.
If all were right in the world, LeBron would be shooting for his sixth straight trophy.
I like the chances of KD earning a lifetime achievement nod or for a breakout guy, like Steph Curry in Golden State or Kyrie Irving in Cleveland, to sneak the award away from LeBron.
Coach of the Year
Kevin McHale, Houston Rockets. McHale was once handed the keys to an exotic vehicle named Kevin Garnett, and he wrapped it around a light pole going 180 miles per hour. I make this prediction cautiously.
McHale showed last year that he could craft an offense. The Rockets are a fast, high-possession team. If Howard can be convinced that the pick and roll is an effective basketball strategy, the Rockets will challenge for a two-seed. And then McHale will take home COTY for his work as maestro.
Doc Rivers, L.A. Clippers. Doc is already a former Coach of the Year and he inherits some studs in Chris Paul and Blake Griffin now that he’s in L.A. Surrounding those studs with shooters like J.J. Reddick and a defensive-minded coach like Doc and the equation is starting to add up.
Remember when the Clips won 17 games in a row last year? Yeah, that was with Vinny Del Negro as head coach. Wait to see what Doc does with these guys.
Defensive Player of the Year
Roy Hibbert, Indiana Pacers. Hibbs is a very good defensive player who’s on one of the two best defensive teams in the NBA. His post protection anchors that unit. He also comes into the season looking like a guy who plays in a league that doesn’t test for HGH. Look out.
Larry Sanders, Milwaukee Bucks. Great pick there by Thomas. Hibbert is a low-post beast in the mold of other legendary Georgetown defenders like Patrick Ewing, Dikembe Mutombo and Alonzo Mourning.
I’ll stop with the Hoyas talk now and take Larry Sanders as my pick for Defensive Player of the Year. He’s a highlight-reel block specialist and as athletic as they come. Basically, he’s the opposite of Hibbert.
Rookie of the Year
Victor Oladipo, Orlando Magic. This is a lay-up. The Magic aren’t going to ease Oladipo into the league; they’re letting him fly out of the gates. He’ll wreck havoc on both ends while also making plenty of mistakes.
Don’t for a second think I wasn’t tempted to take the Milwaukee Bucks’ Giannis Antetokounmpo. He’s already the Rookie of the Year in my heart.
Otto Porter, Washington Wizards. Okay, this is absolutely a homer pick because I’m a huge Georgetown fan, but Thomas is a Sixers fan, and we forgive him for that, right? The most common draft day superlative for Otto was “Most NBA Ready,” so he’s pretty much a lock for this award in my book.
Cody Zeller, Michael Carter-Williams, Kelly Olynyk and Oladipo all have high SRIP (Sleeper Rookie Impact Potential) projections this year. See, I can make up some saber metric statistics too.
Most Improved Player
Jonas Valanciunas, Toronto Raptors. Here’s a prediction that’s going to be wrong. I’m projecting Valanciunas to have a nice year, but he won’t have the kind of earth-shattering impact that’d make people watch and appreciate a player on the Raptors.
Tristan Thompson, Cleveland Cavaliers. In case you haven’t heard, Thompson switched his shooting hand from his left to his right and he says it has made him a whole new player. The third-year forward should be an integral part of the Cavs youth movement and playing with Kyrie would make any of us better.
And now he’s shooting with his RIGHT HAND.
Sixth Man of the Year
Harrison Barnes, Golden State Warriors. I’m a sucker for a sixth man who is far beyond sixth man talent. Barnes is going to devour this role. Unless, of course, Andrew Bogut misses extended time, in which case he will likely be plugged in as a starter. There’s a solid 15 percent chance that doesn’t happen.
Tyreke Evans, New Orleans Pelicans. Thomas alluded to the significance of injury time affecting the Sixth Man Award, which makes it particularly hard to project a winner. Could be the same case in New Orleans, because Eric Gordon can’t seem to stay put on a basketball court. But if he does, I expect Tyreke Evans to make a big impact in a new home. Sometimes a guy like him could just use a change of scenery.
Miami Heat. Or the Chicago Bulls. But no, it’ll be the Heat. Could be those Bulls, though.
L.A. Clippers. I like the Bulls call but I’m taking the Clippers to have the best regular season record.
Philadelphia 76ers. You have to think the NBA is quietly investigating the Sixers. This is the most arrogant and transparent tank job that I’ve ever seen. It is moving and more beautiful than any post-Romanticism art.
Phoenix Suns. The most anticipated run at futility in hoops history should be fun to watch, especially if you like seeing Eric Bledsoe run around with his head cut off. This roster is awful.
Best League Pass Team
Golden State Warriors. Super duper hyphy. Step one: get NBA League Pass; step two: fire up the Dubs game; step three: put on Mac Dre’s “Feelin’ Myself.” Repeat steps two and three 82 times.
Miami Heat. Don’t get it twisted: LeBron with any four guys around him is still the most entertaining basketball on League Pass. The Cavs and Clips should be fun to watch, too, but the Heat will still produce the most “wow” moments.
My Main Man Award
This is the category where we plant a flag on a player whom we are ride or die for, a la Ahmad Rashad on “NBA Inside Stuff.” My main man is Patrick Beverley — just YouTube “Patrick Beverley Jrue Holiday” for an explanation.
And since Rashad was allowed about 400 main men, here are a few more picks: Andre Drummond, Chandler Parsons, Anthony Davis and Andre Miller.
An Ahmad Rashad “NBA Inside Stuff” reference? Count me in. My main man this year is Jeff Green of the Celtics. With no one else of any particular skill healthy enough to play for Boston, my guy has the green light to break out this year.
Also keep an eye on Kawhi Leonard, Paul George, Bradley Beal and Greg Oden.