Picks to click for the NBA season

As baseball season begins to wind down with the World Series already underway, sports fans will need to find another way to escape from their everyday lives. As Halloween approaches, so does the NBA regular season. Hardcore fans have already been scouting their favorite teams, but for the more casual fan, here are my predictions for the 2008-09 season.
MVP: Dwight Howard
This 22-year-old big man had a breakout season last year and he showed no signs of slowing down. Howard caught the eye of NBA fans in the Slam Dunk Contest, and his popularity has been growing ever since. Howard is a hard-worker who has yet to miss a game during his four-year career. He has averaged a double-double each season, and his scoring average have gone up each season. This leaves no reason to think Howard will be slowed down this year.
Not to mention the improvements Howard has brought to the Orlando Magic, that won only 21 games the year before drafting him, compared to the 52 the Magic won last season. A consistent, young player who is on the rise and carrying his team with him is a perfect fit for MVP.
Runner up: Kobe Bryant
Last year’s MVP should have another strong season, but with Bynum’s return and a strong team behind him, Kobe won’t be able to put up the same numbers.
Defensive Player of the Year: Kobe Bryant
I know it’s surprising to see as explosive a scorer as Bryant receiving a defensive award, but he really can do it all.
He showed how good he could be in the Olympics, being chosen as the player to shut down the opposing countries best scorer. One could argue that playing in Beijing isn’t as challenging as playing in the NBA, but Bryant has already proven he can do it at that level.
He has been named to the NBA All-Defensive Team for eight straight seasons, receiving first-team honors for the past three seasons. With a talented team around him, Bryant’s defensive skills will shine through this year.
Runner up: Bruce Bowen
Bowen’s play speaks for itself. He is a viable candidate for the award year in and  year out, but with the Spurs on the downfall and Tim Duncan hogging the spotlight, I don’t think he comes through this year.
Rookie of the Year: Michael Beasley
This one is a toss up. So many talented rookies shined in college, but Beasley shined the brightest. He is a force both shooting the ball and under the boards. In college, Beasley recorded 28 double-doubles, breaking the freshman record previously held by Carmello Anthony.
Beasley also had 16 games with more than  30 points, including three games with more than 40 points. His size matched with his athleticism makes him a good fit in the NBA and a solid selection for the award.
Runner up: Greg Oden
Most people forget Oden is still yet to step foot on an NBA court. A popular choice for the award last season, don’t be surprised if Oden makes a run for it.
Most Improved: Andrew Bynum
Bynum, who is just 20 years old, has already shown he is going to be a special player. Coming into the league as the youngest player to ever play in an NBA game, Bynum is still younger than some college sophomores. Playing sparingly his first two years, Bynum started to show some talent.
Last season, he began to break out averaging more than 13 points and 10 rebounds a game before going down with a knee injury.
If he can stay healthy, Bynum has a great chance to win the award.
Runner up: Patrick O’Bryant
A name familiar to Bradley fans, O’Bryant has found a new home in Boston. He has excelled so far in pre-season and should get a chance to show the fans what he can do with his increased playing time.
Coach of the Year: Nate McMillan
McMillan has a team loaded with young talent, and has already shown he is capable of developing players.
He took over as coach of the Portland Trail Blazers in 2005, and in just his second year coaching turned Brandon Roy into the Rookie of the Year.
The next year the Blazers added former Texas star LaMarcus Aldridge through a draft day trade with the Bulls, and with the first pick in the 2007 NBA Draft they took Oden.
This year the Blazer ended up with Jerryd Bayless of Arizona after the conclusion of the NBA Draft.
If McMillan can mold these young players and develop a strong core of  players who work together on the court, he should be a favorite for Coach of the Year.
Runner up: Phil Jackson
The former NBA Coach of the Year could put together a strong argument for himself, but with a tough, developing Western Conference, it’s difficult to say how things will work out.
Alex Mayster is a junior journalism major from Paltine. He is the Scout sports editor.
Direct questions, comments and other responses to amayster@mail.bradley.edu.