NBA: Top Ten 2012-2013 MVP Picks

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NBA: Top Ten 2012-2013 MVP Picks

Nba
Derick E. Hingle-US PRESSWIRE

After a lock out last year that narrowly avoided destroying the NBA season, this year is shaping up to be much better. The players and teams had the luxury of having a full training camp and preseason, which they were not subjected to last year. A number of injuries last season, most notably to Derrick Rose of the Chicago Bulls, were due to the grind of a season where teams could play two or even three games back to back.

Several storylines have developed over the offseason. The New Jersey Nets became the Brooklyn Nets, invigorating a fan base that had been almost as dismal as their team’s record over the past couple years. Dwight Howard signed with the Los Angeles Lakers, after much debate as to where the disgruntled superstar would end up. Being added to the duo of Howard and Kobe Bryant was PG Steve Nash, who was acquired from the Phoenix Suns in a sign-and-trade. The craze known as “Linsanity,” spurred by young PG Jeremy Lin, has shifted teams. Lin went from the New York Knicks benchwarmer to superstar seemingly overnight, but was not retained by NY. Lin instead signed with the Houston Rockets, one of three teams that cut him from their roster in 2011-2012.

In 2012-2013, new players will capture the hearts of fans, rivalries will be renewed, and a (possibly new) champion will be crowned this June. Can the Miami Heat repeat as NBA Champions? That is a question for a different day.

I am here to discuss my Top Ten MVP Picks going into the 2012-2013 season. Reigning MVP LeBron James of the Heat will look to keep his coveted award, and win for the 4th time in the past 5 years.

“King” James, although he is one of my favorite players, is not my first choice to win MVP. Keep reading to find out who #1 is!

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10. Ty Lawson - Denver Nuggets

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Troy Babbitt-US PRESSWIRE

This is my dark horse candidate for the MVP of 2012-2013. Ty Lawson is definitely one of the most underrated players in the NBA, and just last year played his first full season as the starting PG of the Denver Nuggets.

Lawson is a winner. He won a National Championship at UNC. At 5’11, he is one of the shortest players in the league, but is also one of the fastest baseline-to-baseline. He is only 24 years old and could have a breakout, MVP caliber season in his second as the full time PG for Denver.

Lawson averaged 16-6-3 last season. Are those MVP numbers? No. I am not basing my pick solely on last season. I have seen a lot from Lawson, from his college to professional career, that tells me that he will let nothing stand in his way of being the best that he can be. He believes that he is one of the top PG’s in the NBA, and one could certainly make a case that he is indeed on par with the top tier ball handlers in the league. Kenneth “The Manimal” Faried and Danilo Gallinari are up and coming players that will greatly help Lawson and the Nuggets this season. They take some of the offensive burden off of him, and also run the pick-and-roll/pop exceptionally well. The addition of Olympic gold medalist Andre Iguodala will also bolster Lawson's chances.

Will Lawson win MVP in 2012-2013? It is a long shot, but certainly not out of the question.

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9. Deron Williams - Brooklyn Nets

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Anthony Gruppuso-US PRESSWIRE

The face of the Brooklyn Nets is Deron Williams. After much deliberation, he decided to stay in Brooklyn, and form arguably the best backcourt in the NBA with Joe Johnson. With a revamped fan base and the bright lights of New York on him, Williams will realize that he is no longer playing for the Utah Jazz, where he spent his first five and a half seasons in the league.

Last season, Williams averaged 21-8-3, but those numbers are sure to swell this year. He will be playing with Johnson, who will allow Williams’ assists to increase. Or, defenses will concentrate on the former Atlanta Hawks superstar, and let Williams have his way one-on-one with an unfortunate opposing PG.

After being a part of Team USA’s Gold Medal run in the London Olympics, Williams will bring back the leadership and experience that he gained to a locker room full of young, high-upside players. If you think that Nets’ fans are prematurely asserting their team as the best team in NY and as an Eastern Conference contender, imagine the craze if their star PG could put together an MVP season. It isn’t that farfetched.

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8. Kyrie Irving - Cleveland Cavaliers

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Kim Klement-US PRESSWIRE

When LeBron James left the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2010-2011, the team and city was devastated. The team was horrendous in the following season, and drafted Kryie Irving of Duke with the Number 1 pick in the NBA draft. Prior to draft night, Irving shut down the comparisons between himself and James. “I don’t think you can make comparisons to me and LeBron,’ said Irving. “One, I’m not 6'8. Two, I’m not a high flyer and three, my name isn’t LeBron James. Honestly, you can’t make those comparisons yet. I think I would bring a different feel to the Cleveland organization if they do decide to take me.”

Irving has captured the hearts of fans with his humble nature, but that doesn’t mean that he will shy away from competition. Over the summer, at an Olympic workout, he challenged Kobe Bryant to a game of 1-on-1, where the winner receives $10K to their charity. Bryant responded by saying, “easy money.” Typical Kobe.

Irving had 18-5-3 for the Cavs last season. At just 20 years old, he is still learning and developing his game, and could breakout as a full-fledged superstar in 2012-2013. Playing with young talent such as Tristan Thompson and Tyler Zeller, Irving could put together an MVP caliber season for Cleveland.

LeBron who?

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7. Carmelo Anthony - New York Knicks

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Howard Smith-US PRESSWIRE

This is it. If Carmelo Anthony can’t lead the New York Knicks to a deep playoff run, it will almost certainly be the end of the Anthony - A’mare Stoudemire pairing. In games that the two of them have played in the season and a half together, the New York Knicks have a losing record.

Anthony is an elite offensive talent. No one has ever questioned that aspect of his game. His defense, or lack thereof, has been a topic of discussion as to why Anthony isn’t mentioned with the likes of LeBron James or Kobe Bryant. Mike Woodson, in his first full year as head coach of the Knicks, will look to change that. He took over for Mike D’Antoni midway through last season, and New York’s defense did improve. But for Anthony to be in the MVP conversation in 2012-2013, it will have to be an every-single-night kind of effort, not just when the game is on ESPN.

Anthony has said that this season, he is “done trying to score 30, 35, 40 points a night,” and wants to become a better teammate. It is clear to me that Anthony wants to win, and he may not have much more time to do it. He will be 29, entering his 11th season in the NBA, this season, and I am not sure how long he will remain in his prime.

The former National Champion at Syracuse can dominate on offense at any time, but will have to learn to make his teammates better, and give a legitimate defensive effort every game, in order to have a chance to be the MVP. If he commits and sacrifices his personal goals (such as the scoring title) for the good of the Knicks, it isn’t unlikely that he could the MVP of 2012-2013.

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6. Kobe Bryant - Los Angeles Lakers

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Gary A. Vasquez-US PRESSWIRE

The Los Angeles Lakers made a lot of noise this off season. They acquired a 39 year old PG in Steve Nash in a sign-and-trade with the Phoenix Suns, and won the “sweepstakes” in signing Dwight Howard. Howard is arguably the best Center in the NBA, and Nash will surely be a Hall-of-Famer when he hangs up his sneakers. But the Lakers have another guy who’s pretty good, you may have heard of him: Kobe Bryant.

“Kobe is slowing down,” “Kobe isn’t that good anymore,” “All Kobe does is shoot;” If you are one of those people that have said similar things about the Black Mamba, you would be wrong. Kobe is not slowing down. He finished in scoring in 2011-2012 behind Kevin Durant with 27.9 PPG. Durant had 28.00 PPG.

I know that Kobe is 34 years old, and he is proof that “age is just a number.” Here are some other numbers for all of you “Kobe doesn’t pass,” thinkers. Bryant is third behind Jerry West and Magic Johnson for the Lakers All-Time Assist Leader. He is seventh for NBA Active Assist Leaders. In other words, among active players, Bryant is in the top ten in all time assists. How could he do that if he “doesn’t pass”?

I believe that the acquisition of Howard is more important than Nash in Bryant’s pursuit of the MVP. The Black Mamba is the ultimate alpha male, and although he happy that the modern day “Superman,” can help him reach his sixth NBA title, he wants to show the world that he is still the best. Remember Shaq? Kobe dropped 30 PPG in 2002-2003, his third highest in his sixteen year career, with the “Big Aristotle,” as his teammate.

The Black Mamba may not have the feud with Howard that he did with O’Neal, but he will try to show the young center, and the rest of the world, that he is the best. That mindset could push him into MVP contention at the end of the year, if he remains healthy.

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5. Kevin Durant - Oklahoma City Thunder

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Mark D. Smith-US PRESSWIRE

If watching one of his best friends celebrate on the court after Game 5 of the NBA Finals, and watching that same friend receive the Finals MVP, doesn’t motivate Kevin Durant, I don’t know what will. Durant is already an elite NBA superstar. He led the league in scoring (28.0 PPG) in 2012, which is his third scoring title in the past three years (2010,2011). Durant is 24 years old.

The Texas native has developed a bond with fellow All-Star LeBron James, the MVP of 2011-2012. The consensus was that this friendship gave James and the Miami Heat the advantage over the Oklahoma City Thunder in the Finals, because it gave the MVP a level of comfort that he didn’t have in any other play-off series. Durant scored 25+ points in four of the five games, but failed to exceed 4 assists, and just once passed 10 rebounds, in the five game series.

James is a more talented defender, rebounder, and distributor than Durant, but KD is arguably the best scorer in the world. He is pretty much in range when he steps off the bus as he arrives to the stadium. He shoots 49% from the floor and 38% from 3PT. He can drive, pull-up, dunk, spot up- anything. Durant can score like no other.

His offensive skill set is what puts him in the conversation for MVP. In 2012-2013, he could light it up just enough to take the title MVP away from his good friend, Mr. LeBron James.

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4. Chris Paul - Los Angeles Clippers

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Mark J. Rebilas-US PRESSWIRE

In his first season as a member of the Los Angeles Clippers, Chris Paul was sensational. He had 19-9-3 while playing alongside fellow All-Star Blake Griffin, who pretty much makes nightly appearances on SportsCenter. The 27 year old Paul is in his prime, and this season could be the one where he declares himself as one of the best players in the NBA.

Paul and Rajon Rondo are the top two PGs in the league, in my view, and which is #1 and #2 will be decided by their play this season. Paul is the better offensive player than the Boston Celtics’ PG, but Rondo is the better distributer. The reason that Rondo didn’t make the cut of the 2012 Olympic Team, which Paul helped win gold in London, was because of his lack of outside shot. CP3 started every game for Team USA, and added 8-5-2 in 25 MPG.

In 2012 Paul became the first Clipper to be named All NBA First Team since the team’s move to L.A. Coming into his second year for LAC, I look for Paul’s numbers to rise. The Lakers won’t be the only team from L.A. that will be atop the Western Conference standings in 2012-2013, and that has a lot to do with the play of CP3.

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3. Russell Westbrook - Oklahoma City Thunder

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Kevin Jairaj-US PRESSWIRE

Yes, Russell Westbrook is ranked higher than Kevin Durant.

While Durant is cool, calm, and collected, I just get the sense that Westbrook wants it more. He didn’t back down against the Miami Heat in the Finals, and he didn’t become invisible for spans of time like Durant did. Westbrook averaged 27 PPG in the Finals, including a 43 point outburst in Game 4, and added 6.4 RPG and 6.6 APG. Durant lit up the scoreboard, as he always does, with 30 PPG in the Finals, but had 6.0 RPG and 2.2 APG. How is it that Westbrook, who stands at 6’3, outrebounded the 6’9 Durant over a five game series?

I realize that Westbrook shoots too much for a PG, but in a sense, he isn’t a conventional PG such as Steve Nash or Jason Kidd. Durant is one of, if not the, best offensive players in the world, and opposing coaches and defenses know that, so what do they do? They swarm him with double teams, physical defenders, and do everything they can to stop him. If Westbrook didn’t shoot and look to score, the Oklahoma City Thunder would simply be the Seattle Supersonics that they were years ago.

Am I saying that Westbrook is a better, more talented player than his teammate Durant? No, not by any stretch of the imagination. But I do think that Westbrook has the drive and the hunger to dominate, not just to win. And for as good of a player as Durant is, he is the ultimate teammate; but they don’t give out MVP awards for that. Look for Russell Westbrook to have MVP numbers in 2012-2013.

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2. LeBron James - Miami Heat

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Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

LeBron James will become one of the greatest players of all time. I feel pretty confident in saying that because of what I have seen from James over the ups and downs of his illustrious career. There are very few flaws in his ability as a basketball player, with the exception of the “clutch gene,” or killer instinct, that Kobe Bryant or, his teammate, Dwyane Wade possess.

James averaged 27-6-7 in 2011-2012, and I see no reason why those numbers can’t rise this season. He also set career highs in field goal percentage, rebounds, and three point percentage in the year of his first championship. The "King" clicked well with Wade, as they are able to play off of each other, and pick their spots to take over the game. For example, Wade was the go-to guy in the series against the Indiana Pacers in the Eastern Conference Semifinals, whereas James was the Finals MVP. The duo is also renowned as the best open-court tandem in the NBA: you can’t turn on SportsCenter without seeing at least one of them throwing down a tomahawk dunk on a fast break.

Will James repeat as MVP? He did average 26-6-7 last season, and I don't see why those numbers can't go up. Or, will a fellow Eastern Conference All-Star (my #1 pick) steal it away from the "King"?

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1. Rajon Rondo - Boston Celtics

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David Butler II-US PRESSWIRE

Before you think I’m crazy, hear me out.

For a long time, I have thought that Rajon Rondo could be the best player in the NBA, if he added one facet to his game: a jump-shot. This past off season, Rondo has added muscle to his already toned frame, in order to better himself as a player and give him the ability to post up opposing PGs, which is something that he already loves to do. The new bulk will not only make him stronger, but will prevent injuries that NBA players are subjected to throughout the course of a season.

Paul Pierce told reporters at Boston Celtics training camp that Rondo has not only improved his jump-shot, but is looking to shoot from outside. The Kentucky native dominates in almost every facet of the game, except for his shooting. He averaged 11 (points)-11 (assists) in 2011-2012, and added ten triple-doubles last year, including the playoffs where had had four.

Rondo closed the season with 24 straight games with 10+ assists, a Celtics record, and is on the verge of setting an NBA record. Only John Stockton (who holds the record at 29) and Magic Johnson have more. Rondo will have the chance the resume his streak on opening night of the regular season.

In Game 2 against the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference Finals last season, Rondo dropped 44-10-8, and is the only player in NBA history with 40+ points, 10+ assists, and 8+ rebounds in a playoff game. He passed Bob Cousy for the Celtics all-time leader in assists. In Game 7, the Heat overcame a triple double from one of best PGs in the NBA, and sent Boston home.

So, why can’t Rondo win the MVP? If his jump-shot has improved like Pierce said it has, then I can’t think of a reason. Will LeBron James have a great season? Absolutely- I am not taking anything away from James by putting him at #2. I just see 2012-2013 as the season that Rajon Rondo solidifies himself as the best PG in the NBA, and one of the best players in the league.

Follow Thomas Duffy @TD_Knicks on Twitter for NBA news, updates, rumors, thoughts, and opinions.

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