Preseason pick: LeBron James, Cavaliers.
Current Front-runner: James. MVP buzz early in the season can snowball and carry throughout the season. Thanks to his suberb stats and the Cavs' standing as one of the best teams in the league, it's hard to see someone unseating the King from his pole position in the MVP race.
The Best of the Rest: Chris Paul, Kobe Bryant, Dwight Howard, Dwyane Wade
Rookie of the Year
Preseason pick: Michael Beasley, Heat
Current Front-runner: Derrick Rose, Bulls
The Best of the Rest: O.J. Mayo, Russell Westbrook
Defensive Player of the Year
Preseason pick: Ron Artest, Rockets
The Best of the Rest: I've seen a few names thrown out by espn.com's awards man, such as Kevin Garnett, Wade, Bryant, James, Paul and Marcus Camby.
6th Man of the Year
Preseason pick: Lamar Odom, Lakers
Current Front-runner: Jason Terry, Mavericks. Manu Ginobili may have a better all-around game, but his limited minutes and early-season injury -- combined with Terry's scoring average at around 20 per game -- will help Terry's cause.
The Best of the Rest: Ginobili, Andrei Kirilenko
Most Improved Player
Preseason pick: Rodney Stuckey, Pistons
Current Front-runner: Beats me. How about Danny Granger, Pacers. It's interesting to note that many of the top candidates are All-Stars or All-Star candidates this year.
The Best of the Rest: Jameer Nelson, Devin Harris, Jeff Green, Paul Millsap, Kevin Durant, Stuckey
Coach of the Year
Preseason pick: Rick Adelman, Rockets
Current Front-runner: Stan Van Gundy, Magic. Or Mike Brown, Cavaliers. It's almost a toss-up. The Best of the Rest: Nate McMillan, Phil Jackson, Gregg Popovich, George Karl, Doc Rivers, Erik Spoelstra
So far, things have shaken out similarly to what I expected. Some examples:
- A Celtics-Lakers Finals rematch certainly doesn't appear to be out of the question.
- Ditto for my prediction of a Cavs-Celtics ECF, and maybe a Lakers-Hornets WCF.
- 13 of my 16 playoff picks are in position to make the postseason; the three I didn't choose were among my most difficult playoff omissions.
On the other hand...
I had the Washington Wizards returning for a fifth-consecutive playoff appearance. That obviously will not happen; the only things the Wiz are contending for may be a high draft pick and potentially the worst record in the league this season. I guess the injury to Gilbert Arenas (and Brendan Haywood) had a bigger impact than I expected.