2013-14 NBA Individual Awards Predictions
Most Valuable Player: LeBron James (MIA): LeBron has taken his game to a new level at the age of 28 and is now unquestionably the best player in the league. By focusing less on scoring and more on other aspects of the game, he is completely dominating in every area. The proof is in the stats - LeBron posted a career-low in field goal attempts per game last year, and his 26.8 points per contest were his lowest since his rookie year. Meanwhile, his field goal percentage shot up to an outrageous career-high of 56.5%. He also posted a career-high in rebounding (8.0 per game), and his career-second-best mark in assists (7.3 per game). To top it all off, his three-point shooting (40.6% on 3.3 attempts per game) was miles ahead of where it was just a few years ago. LeBron is the best player on the best team in the NBA, which is a great formula for an MVP season. Add in LeBron's dominating ability in every facet of the game, and you have a near lock. I'd consider Kevin Durant (OKC) the next most likely MVP, and anyone else winning would be a huge shock to me.
Defensive Player of the Year: Dwight Howard (HOU): It was clear that Howard was a shell of himself last year due to injuries, and he still managed a league-best 12.4 rebounds per game with 1.1 steals and 2.4 blocked shots. There are several reasons to believe that Howard has a great chance of improving on those numbers this season. The first is simply that he is healthy. The second is that his easily rattled confidence will get much less abuse in Houston than it did in the bright lights of Los Angeles last season. Third, he is now playing for the team that led the NBA in pace a year ago, which can inflate numbers. With the offense being run through James Harden, Howard can exhaust plenty of energy on the defensive end, and I expect the three-time Defensive Player of the Year to win a fourth.
Sixth Man of the Year: Harrison Barnes (GSW): Barnes was very much up and down throughout the course of his rookie season, but he pulled it all together in the playoffs, averaging 16.1 points while scoring double-digits in nine of his 12 games. Barnes will be relegated to the bench due to the acquisition of Andre Iguodala, but I believe Barnes will ultimately benefit from Iggy's presence. Barnes is a pure scorer who struggles when asked to create for others or lock someone down on defense, but Iguodala does those things very well, which will allow Barnes to focus primarily on what he is best at - scoring. Barnes has a shot at being one of the top scorers off the bench this year, and he should be able to chip in some solid rebounding numbers as well.