NBA predictions for the 2021-22 season: MVP, ROY, champions and more

MOST Valuable PLAYER

Kevin Durant and Giannis Antetokounmpo might have a legitimate debate on who is the best talent in the NBA right now, and both are legitimate MVP candidates — again. Don’t rule out Steph Curry with a possible resurgence by the Warriors. The pick here goes to a young player who is just beginning to reach new heights and will be guided by Antetokounmpo’s coach. Jason Kidd will be the host in Dallas and expect Luka Doncic and his coaching to take the next steps and earn the title. The pick: Luka Doncic, Dallas Mavericks.

ROOKIE DU YER

The college players who have shown that in college could be the ones who will have the most impact on winning – Jalen Sugs and Cade Cunningham. Jalen Green from Houston will be the highlight show player, putting up huge numbers. It may not be the right choice, but he’s the likely choice. The pick: Jalen Green, Houston Rockets.

MOST IMPROVED PLAYER

Julius Randle was the winner of this award last year as he went from good to second team All-NBA. RJ Barrett could also be considered. It is more likely that the players who put up big numbers this season will be considered. Consider Kevin Porter Jr. in Houston, but let’s go with the player who will put up the numbers in a key role on a contending team. The pick: Michael Porter Jr., Denver Nuggets.

SIXTH MAN

Jordan Clarkson will get consideration as a repeat winner and Jordan Poole is expected to emerge with Golden State, although he’ll likely start until Klay Thompson is ready. New York’s one-year veteran is expected to play significant minutes and contribute to the Knicks’ success this season. The pick: Derrick Rose, New York Knicks.

DEFENSIVE PLAYER of the YEAR

Anthony Davis has been the subject of a lot media attention, but what about LeBron James? After a disappointing season last year, LeBron will be going full-throttle. Each of Giannis Antetokounmpo and Rudy Gobert could win this award (if he plays). Matisse Thybulle might win the award if Simmons is not there. Still, it’s in the voter’s hands in the end, so who will get those? The pick: Anthony Davis, Los Angeles Lakers.

COACH OF YEAR

Expectations and exceeding them are often what matters (see Tom Thibodeau who earned the award deservedly). The frontrunner this year might be a coach that saw his team struggle last year and should return it to its former success – Erik Spoelstra, Miami. Jason Kidd could be the pick if Dallas rises in the West and gets back in the playoff picture. But we’ll go with the coach who might not be the most brilliant strategist but could lose a star and still win the East. The pick: Steve Nash, Brooklyn Nets.

WESTERN CONFERENCE

Predicted playoff seeding

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1. Utah

2. Los Angeles Lakers

3. Phoenix

4. Golden State

5. Denver

6. Dallas

7. Los Angeles Clippers

8. Portland

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9. Memphis

10. Sacramento

11. New Orleans

12. San Antonio

13. Minnesota

14. Oklahoma City

15. Houston

Phoenix provided a breath of fresh air, ascending to the NBA Finals, and even if they were led by one of the league’s elder statesmen in Chris Paul, the Suns povided a new face for title contention. While Phoenix, Denver and Utah all have shots at representing the West, it’s hard to rule out the legends squad assembled by the Lakers, who seem set on taking a shot at a title before settling for Ice Cube’s Big 3 League. Still, it’s hard to imagine that everything breaks right, even for LeBron James with something to prove again. The pick: Utah Jazz.

EASTERN CONFERENCE

Predicted playoff seeding

1. Milwaukee

2. Brooklyn

3. Philadelphia

4. Miami

5. Boston

6. Atlanta

7. New York

8. Chicago

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9. Charlotte

10. Indiana

11. Toronto

12. Charlotte

13. Cleveland

14. Orlando

15. Detroit

The great plans put in motion by Brooklyn are now stalled by Kyrie Irving’s vaccination status. Philadelphia’s “Process”Ben Simmons’ inability to feel the brotherly affection of the city has caused the suspension of its progress. Milwaukee, the defending champion has quietly made its way through summer and fall without any drama. Is that enough to keep the East title? It is probable. The pick: Milwaukee Bucks.

NBA CHAMPIONS

If the free-throw countdowns couldn’t rattle Antetokounmpo and the dramas surrounding most teams bypassed them, what can stop the Bucks from repeating? Losing P.J. Tucker’s departure will be painful, but Donte DiVincenzo will be back from injury. Led by the happiest superstar in the game, it’s enough to overcome a deep and versatile Jazz squad. The pick: Six Bucks

Steve Popper is a Newsday reporter who covers the Knicks. He has covered the Knicks, the NBA, and almost every other sport team in the New York metropolitan region for nearly three decades.

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