After last year’s offseason was clouded with fear of a lockout and the negotiation of the new CBA, this year we get nothing but the sheer excitement and anticipation of the upcoming season. Now that the draft is in the books, here’s a look at some of the top Rookie of the Year candidates as well as some early favorites to win the NBA Title.
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SEC draft picks early favorites for ROY
After winning the draft lottery, the New Orleans Hornets selected power forward Anthony Davis out of Kentucky. In a draft loaded with potential but lacking many sure-thing picks, Davis was the one player that scouts and fans all agreed was a definite difference maker. After leading Kentucky to the championship in 2012, Davis will make a great face of the franchise for New Orleans and is the runaway favorite to win Rookie of the Year at 3/2.
Davis’s teammate at Kentucky, small forward Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, was selected second overall by the Charlotte Bobcats, marking the first time in NBA history that the first two picks came from the same school. Davis should flourish as the team’s focal point on offense, but considering the Bobcats are coming off an NBA-worst 7-59 season, there isn’t much of a supporting cast in place at the moment. Kidd-Gilchrist is 15/2 to win Rookie of the Year
Florida shooting guard Bradley Beal was drafted third overall by the Washington Wizards. A pure shooter, Beal averaged 14.8 points per game at Florida and was 33.9% from three point range last season. Like Davis and Kidd-Gilchrist, he’ll be the focal point of his new offense, and is going off at 19/2 to finish as the season’s top rookie.
Other Rookie of the Year Contenders include Golden State’s Harrison Barnes (19/2), Sacramento’s Thomas Robinson (19/2), and Toronto’s Jonas Valanciunas.
Heat should return as the top dogs in East
Coming into last year, people were asking if LeBron James would ever win a title. Now the question seems to be how many titles will he win? James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh led the Heat to the title in 2012, and remarkably they could be even scarier in 2013 with the acquisition of veteran shooting guard Ray Allen. Miami will open the season as the favorite to win both the East and the title, for good reason.
The only team that looks like a very legitimate threat at the moment to disrupt the Heat from heading to their third straight NBA championship is the Chicago Bulls. The Bulls finished the 2011-12 season with a better regular season record than Miami, and looked poised for a deep playoff run before star point guard Derrick Rose tore his ACL. If Rose can return this season and stay healthy, the Bulls could threaten in the East.
Another dark horse in the East is the Brooklyn Nets. The Nets made a big trade to bring in Atlanta Hawks star Joe Johnson and were able to retain Deron Williams this offseason as well. Actively trying to trade for Dwight Howard (who has expressed a desire to go there), the Nets could have a formidable “Big 3” of their own if they could make the trade happen.
Thunder hoping to take next step out West
Led by Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, the Oklahoma City Thunder have taken a step forward each of the last three years, making the playoffs for the first time in 2010, making it to the Conference Finals in 2011, and making it to the NBA Finals in 2012. Can they take that final step and win the NBA championship this season? They definitely enter the year as the favorite to do so out West.
Since the decline of Derek Fisher, the point guard position has plagued the Los Angeles Lakers. However, they made a major splash this offseason in trading off multiple first-round picks to land elite playmaking point guard Steve Nash. Nash joins Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, and Andrew Bynum to form what should be a pretty deadly offense that could give Oklahoma City a run for its money.
Coming off of a 50-16 regular season, the San Antonio Spurs also can’t be ignored. Will age finally catch up to the veteran Spurs, or will Tim Duncan and Tony Parker lead the team back to the promised land?
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