NBA picks and predictions: From MVP to the Finals, who will win it all?

Chris Trotman

The Hook makes its official predictions on awards, the playoffs and other important things.

Why is The Hook making its full 2012-13 NBA predictions the day after the season began? Because of James Harden. Major trades like that aren't supposed to happen four days before opening night. So blame Sam Presti, Harden, Daryl Morey and the rest of them. Like I said, the only crystal clear beneficiary of the trade remains the Lakers. Dammit.

But Father Time can't stop us now. One day into the 2012-13 NBA season, here's what shall happen. According to one idiot's premonitions.

If you followed NBA Festivus this fall, you'll know how I think the standings will shake out. Here's all that in one spot with the addition of predictions for the first two rounds of the playoffs.

EASTERN CONFERENCE

1. Miami Heat
2. Philadelphia 76ers (come back soon lest I look like a fool, Andrew Bynum!)
3. Indiana Pacers
4. Chicago Bulls
5. Brooklyn Nets
6. Boston Celtics
7. New York Knicks
8. Atlanta Hawks
------------------------------
9. Toronto Raptors
10. Milwaukee Bucks
11. Detroit Pistons
12. Cleveland Cavaliers
13. Washington Wizards
14. Orlando Magic
15. Charlotte Bobcats

Playoffs, First Round:
Heat (1) defeat Hawks (8)
Sixers (2) defeat Knicks (7)
Pacers (3) defeat Celtics (6)
Nets (5) defeat Bulls (4)

Playoffs, Second Round:
Heat defeat Nets
Pacers defeat Sixers

WESTERN CONFERENCE

Note: these are updated from NBA Festivus based on the Harden trade. I previously had the Jazz No. 7 and the Rockets No. 11.

1. Oklahoma City Thunder
2. LA Lakers
3. San Antonio Spurs
4. LA Clippers
5. Denver Nuggets
6. Memphis Grizzlies
7. Houston Rockets
8. Dallas Mavericks
-----------------------------------
9. Utah Jazz
10. Minnesota Timberwolves
11. Golden State Warriors
12. Portland Trail Blazers
13. Sacramento Kings
14. New Orleans Hornets
15. Phoenix Suns

Playoffs, First Round:
Thunder (1) defeat Mavs (8)
Lakers (2) defeat Rockets (7) (The most-watched sweep ever.)
Grizzlies (6) defeat Spurs (3)
Nuggets (5) defeat Clippers (4)

Playoffs, Second Round:
Thunder defeat Nuggets (revenge of #THUNDERNUGGETS)
Lakers defeat Grizzlies (Gasol Off!)

AWARDS

MVP: LeBron James
You can pick someone other than LeBron. But if you do, it's probably because you want your pick to stand out from the crowd, even though you know it will most likely be wrong. So congratulations to you, non-LeBron MVP picker. You're different.

Defensive Player of the Year: Dwight Howard
I think that, like LeBron and Pat Riley in 2010, there will be voter backlash against Howard based on his bizarre exit from Orlando. But I also think that he has the potential to be an overwhelmingly obvious pick, especially if the Knicks struggle and Serge Ibaka's block numbers come down. (Never forget: Ibaka was darn close to winning it last year, whether deservedly or not.) I would be OK with LeBron winning MVP and DPOY if deserved, though.

Sixth Man of the Year: Marcus Thornton
This is difficult to pick -- we don't even know whether Thornton is going to come off of the bench, or exactly what a number of other teams with top candidates will do. But this award is won by scorers, and Thornton a) has no hesitation when he sees daylight, and b) will play a ton of minutes regardless. So, he's my pick. (The one problem: 6MOYs typically are great scorers on decent or good teams.)

Rookie of the Year: Damian Lillard
He can score, he looks like a leader in the making and he will be able to feed LaMarcus Aldridge some delicious dinner. Winner.

Coach of the Year: Doug Collins
If I'm predicting big things for the Sixers, I might as well acknowledge that if they do end up near the top of the East, Collins is going to get a ton of credit. As he should.

Executive of the Year: Mitch Kupchak
They should have awarded this the second that the Dwight Howard trade became official.

Most Improved Player: is an absolute joke of an award and, while its intentions are good, it should go away and never ever ever ever ever come around here no more.

All-NBA:
1st team -- LeBron, Kevin Durant, Dwight Howard, Chris Paul and Dwyane Wade
2nd team -- Carmelo Anthony, Kobe Bryant, Andrew Bynum, Chris Bosh and Rajon Rondo
3rd team -- Kyrie Irving, Blake Griffin, Kevin Love, Kevin Garnett and Russell Westbrook

All-Defense:
1st team -- LeBron, Dwight, Andre Iguodala, Serge Ibaka and Tony Allen
2nd team -- Kobe (of course), Tyson Chandler, Garnett, Rondo and Shawn Marion

FINAL FOUR

Heat vs. Pacers

I continue to believe the Pacers pose the greatest challenge to the Heat, based almost entirely on Roy Hibbert. I happen to think the Sixers could spook them, too, for a similar reason: Andrew Bynum. But the Pacers have Paul George and Danny Granger on the perimeter to worry about, so LeBron and Shane Battier will be distracted from helping on Hibbert. Unless Evan Turner turns into something, the Sixers don't have a second big wing that freaks everyone out ... just Thad Young. So the Pacers are the bigger issue for me.

But this is the Heat. Problems after problem after problems after problems. They'll be in the Finals.

Thunder vs. Lakers

I don't think we've fully grasped how bad L.A.'s bench is going to be. Maybe 2010-11 Heat bad. Maybe worse. I mean, this squad desperately misses Matt Barnes' bench presence. I mean, really. So while OKC sent James Harden off, the Lakers would kill for at least three of the Thunder's reserves, each of whom would easily be the Lakers' top bench player (Kevin Martin, Eric Maynor, Nick Collison). And that's while not even expecting anything from Jeremy Lamb.

Can Kobe-Dwight-Pau-Nash blow out Durant-Westbrook-Ibaka by enough to cushion the incredible suck of L.A.'s bench? I don't think so. Thunder.

NBA FINALS

Heat vs. Thunder

The Heat won last year and got better. The Thunder won last year and got worse. Barring injury, Miami is the favorite here. Durant, Westbrook and Ibaka could make it closer, and Wade is the least reliable star in this series health-wise. But still, it's LeBron's world, and we're just renting apartments on it.

***

The Hook is a daily NBA column by Tom Ziller. See the archives.

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