The NBA is in the final week of the 2012-13 regular season, and voting will soon begin for the annual awards.
Two of the races have practically been decided (MVP and Rookie of the Year), while the others could go either way.
Defensive Player of the Year won’t go to Dwight Howard or Tyson Chandler, with most of the Lakers troubles based on injuries and poor defense, and Chandler missed stretches of the season with various injuries.
While Sixth Man of the Year could go to a number of deserving candidates, who put together solid seasons for playoff-bound teams.
Below are predictions for who will win and should win.
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Candidates: LeBron James, Miami Heat; Kevin Durant, Oklahoma City Thunder; Carmelo Anthony, New York Knicks; Kobe Bryant, Los Angeles Lakers
Predicted Winner: The winning streak and the fantastic run by James in February, along with leading Miami in points, rebounds, assists clinched it. James has put together his most consistent season to date, shooting 56.5 percent overall and 40.2 percent from three, both career highs.
Durant has been nearly as efficient, joining the 50-40-90 shooting club. The Thunder didn’t put together long, dominate stretches like the Heat were able to do, and Durant may still need to improve his defense. Anthony was an early favorite after New York came out of the blocks blazing, and his recent outburst helped strengthen his case. However, Anthony’s rather one-dimensional play, compared to James’s all-around performance, hurts him.
In many years, Bryant would have been a clear favorite for the award. He was the main scoring threat for the Lakers offense for the last month, and only missed two games all year when Pau Gasol, Steve Nash, and Dwight Howard were out for long stretches. Bryant rejuvenated his career, and this season will be compared to some of his younger days. With the Lakers under-achieving this season, Bryant has no chance to win the MVP award, despite the loud chants at Staples Center.
Should Win: James. The Heat have enjoyed a memorable and outstanding season, and there is no chance that could have happened without James.
Rookie Of The Year
Candidates: Anthony Davis, New Orleans Hornets; Damian Lillard, Portland Trailblazers; Bradley Beal, Washington Wizards; Dion Waiters, Cleveland Cavaliers
Predicted Winner: Lillard won every Western Conference Rookie Of the Month award so far, and is a shoe-in for April's. And while the Blazers have lost 10 straight, the 22-year-old has been one of the biggest and best surprises in Portland in quite some time.
In his first two months, Lillard hovered around 18 points and just over six assists a game, and only got better as the season progressed. In February and March, a time when rookies hit a wall in the grueling NBA season, Lillard increased his scoring load.
It was Davis’s honor to lose to start the season, but injuries and his lack of strength compared to NBA bigs became a factor. The No. 1 overall pick should bulk up over the season, and come back strong. His 13.5 points and 8.2 rebounds per game are encouraging statistics to build on.
Beal and Waiters both proved themselves as excellent backcourt teammates with two of the young premier point guards in the league, but also struggled to adjust, and need to improve their shooting.
Should Win: Like MVP, everyone knows who will get the award. Lillard hands down, and the faithful Blazer fans can rejoice.
Defensive Player Of The Year
Candidates: Joakim Noah, Chicago Bulls; Serge Ibaka, Oklahoma City Thunder; Tony Allen, Memphis Grizzlies; Marc Gasol, Memphis Grizzlies
Should Win: Gasol anchored the league’s best defense, allowing 89.4 points per game, and third overall in opponent field goal percentage. What he lacks in blocks and block metrics he makes up in disrupting shots, and help defense. Allen made sure very few perimeter players got past him, but Gasol has been a key figure in the paint.
Ibaka is once again deserving, but his on-the-ball and post defense still leave something to be desired. Noah is on the list after hitting career highs in defensive rebounds and nearly doubling his blocks in a single season, helping Chicago quell the loss of Derrick Rose.
Will Win: It’s either Allen or Gasol, but only five guards have ever won the award. The last being Gary Payton in 1995-96, giving Gasol a decided advantage.
Sixth Man Of The Year
Candidates: Jamal Crawford, Los Angeles Clippers; J.R. Smith, New York Knicks; Nate Robinson, Chicago Bulls; Jarrett Jack, Golden State Warriors
Should Win: Smith has averaged career-highs in points and rebounds, and has shown up in the Knicks most important games even when Anthony went down. Crawford is still the Clippers primary scorer off the bench, but hasn’t been as helpful on the defensive end like Smith.
Robinson was the first Bulls guard off the bench and, averaging 13.3 points, has found the shooting that has eluded him since his stint with New York.
Jack helped Golden State reach the playoffs with his veteran leadership and defense, and helping Stephen Curry develop. His numbers from last season actually look better, but his three-point shooting has jumped to 40.6 percent, a mark he hasn't reached in three years.
Will Win: The toughest race to call. The fact that Crawford is the only one in the group to win kind of hurts him. Smith has been a revelation to New York, and the potential everyone saw in him when he came out high school, finally bloomed. Smith takes it in a very, very close vote.