(Editor’s note: Last NBA season, R&WIFDP began a weekly progress report of the Los Angeles Lakers – written by Phlip – that, by mid-season, expanded to cover the entire league. Just as the column began to gain momentum & popularity, the season was cut off at the knees. Phlip has been in limbo since. Season (& David Stern) be damned, Phlip is back & he’s ready to talk basketball. Let’s go!)
Words by Phlip
First thing’s first, and let me get it out of the way… When the season commences, the Orlando Magic will TRADE Dwight Howard instead of letting him skate with nothing returned like Shaquille did in 96. And since his name is on our minds, I will go ahead and scribble him in as a repeat for defensive player of the year, and if he can get his scoring average up–… wait, we’ll discuss that last part later on.
Speaking of things that might change whenever we are playing again, we can be rest assured that parity will NOT be coming back to the league. With that in mind, we can readily assume that the same teams that made the playoffs last year will be back for more this year, with the exception being that the NBA owning controlling interest in the New Orleans Hornets damning them out. I will pencil in the
Cripples Clippers into that spot instead. I know mentioning the Clippers as a playoffs team is about as bold as one can pretend to be, but I said it last year and I am sticking to it this year. In the East, though, we can expect the same teams to place into the playoffs, with the Knicks improving their seed to a 2 or 3 based upon their moves at the end of last year. Don’t be shocked to see them trade positions with Boston, who are in decline.
On the whole, in a league that has had or will have little time to make major changes before a game is played, don’t be surprised if next season looks a lot like last season, with the exception of San Antonio looking more like they did LATE in the season than earlier in it. I am calling it way too early to opine on who might take it all this year, as we know not what moves are to be made and which players actually took the time to work on themselves via rehabbing injuries or honest attempts to get better over the course of their extended vacation, so I will spare us any further predictions on that front.
Then there is what I DO have a pretty good beat on…
Derrick Rose will repeat as MVP
Kobe is aging and in decline, Dwight Howard is offensively unsophisticated (second promise, it is coming in the next paragraph), Dwyane Wade and LeBron James will continue to keep one another out of the conversation and Kevin Durant is a superstar but not MVP yet – even if the league wants him to be with his clean face and non-visible tattoos.
As the winner of the award last year, we know Rose has it in him, and HE knows what it takes to win one.
Dwight Howard will repeat as defensive player of the year
And there is no competition on the horizon except for Kevin Love, but until Love links with a contender or his current team wins some games, he will be on the outside of this one looking in. Furthermore, if D12 has paid attention to his footwork, hands, court vision and most importantly committal to shooting at least 70% from the free throw line, he will be a hi-20s/lo-30s scorer and WILL be in the MVP conversation more seriously as well.
The rookie of the year award will be shared
Quick, name 5 players taken in last year’s draft without searching…
I find it difficult to name a draft class this weak ever in my life. This will be one of the one where there are no breakout performers and the award will be split between whichever rookie has the highest scoring average and the one with the best defensive statistics.
Writing this, it became painfully obvious how necessary having an actual offseason is. Instead of the moves teams made to get better and actually properly assess things as they are, we were fed a steady stream of divisive stories forcing us to choose sides between owners and players when all we really wanted as fans was to watch basketball.
Either way, I will be here weekly reporting SOMETHING in the realm of NBA basketball, season or no.