MVP: LeBronJames, F, Cavaliers
He's without adoubt the front-runner after single-handedly leading an underwhelming Clevelandteam to the Finals last season.
Runner-up: PaulPierce, F, Celtics
ROOKIE OF THEYEAR: Luis Scola, F, Rockets
This versatile27-year-old Argentine will beat out two more traditional newcomers, KevinDurant and Al Thornton, to become the oldest winner ever.
Runner-up: KevinDurant, F, SuperSonics
COACH OF THEYEAR: Doc Rivers, Celtics
He will deservecredit for melding his three stars with young role players.
Runner-up: RickAdelman, Rockets
DEFENSIVE PLAYEROF THE YEAR: Bruce Bowen, F, Spurs
Some may not likehis physical style, but his blanket coverage merits recognition.
Runner-up:Rasheed Wallace, F-C, Pistons
MOST IMPROVEDPLAYER: Andrea Bargnani, F, Raptors
Comparisons withDirk Nowitzki will abound in this 7-footer's second year.
Runner-up: DarkoMilicic, F-C, Grizzlies
EXECUTIVE OF THEYEAR: Danny Ainge, Celtics
A no-brainer onceAinge's trades take Boston from the bottom of the East to the top.
Runner-up: ChrisWallace, Grizzlies
C YAO MING,Rockets
F DIRK NOWITZKI,Mavericks
F LEBRON JAMES,Cavaliers
G PAUL PIERCE,Celtics
G STEVE NASH,Suns
C TIM DUNCAN,Spurs
F KEVIN GARNETT,Celtics
F CARMELOANTHONY, Nuggets
G DWYANE WADE,Heat
G TONY PARKER,Spurs
9 Youngsters ToWatch
Not Named Kevin Durant
RAJON RONDO, G,Celtics
Can he become Boston's version of Tony Parker?
TYRUS THOMAS, F,Bulls
A breakout season as a post scorer would elevate Chicago to titlecontender.
JASON MAXIELL, F,Pistons
His athleticism should help invigorate an aging front line.
DORELL WRIGHT,G-F, Heat
Pat Riley desperately needs Wright's young legs.
ANDRAY BLATCHE,F, Wizards
This third-year preps-to-pros must fill in for the stricken Etan Thomas.
NATE ROBINSON, G,Knicks
Believe it or not, he can be the true point guard that New York needs.
DARKO MILICIC,F-C, Grizzlies
As a complement to Pau Gasol, he may finally fulfill his potential.
AL JEFFERSON, F,Timberwolves
He faces enormous expectations as Kevin Garnett's replacement.
LAMARCUSALDRIDGE, F, Trail Blazers
A multiskilled forward, he has to carry Portland without Greg Oden.
7 Big Names WhoMight Be Traded
Not Named Kobe Bryant
JERMAINE O'NEAL,F, Pacers
To unload his $64.1 million contract, rebuilding Indy will have to take lessthan equal value.
JASON KIDD, G,and RICHARD JEFFERSON, F, Nets
New Jersey considered trading both these stars last season.
SHAWN MARION, F,Suns
He wants out of Phoenix, but the team has found no takers.
MIKE BIBBY, G,and RON ARTEST, F, Kings
Sacramento will again try to deal the former and would consider moving thelatter.
ANDREI KIRILENKO,G, Jazz
Unfortunately for him, Utah can't make a trade with a Russian team.
5 Big Stories
That Won't Involve the Celtics
An us-versus-the-world attitude drives Isiah Thomas's crew into theplayoffs.
KOBE BRYANT'STRADE DEMANDS
The Lakers will try to pacify him by dealing for a complementary star.
THE NUGGETS' SOAPOPERA
The league's most contentious locker room is also among the most talented.
In Rick Adelman's fluid offense, Yao will use his vision and creativity tobecome the giant playmaker everyone knew he could be.
THE ANTICIPATEDDIVORCE OF THE SONICS AND SEATTLE
But don't rule out an 11th-hour deal preventing a move to Oklahoma City.
4 Most AppealingFree Agents
Not Named Gilbert Arenas*
ANTAWN JAMISON,F, Wizards
This active scorer and rebounder is also a good teammate.
JASON WILLIAMS,G, Heat
To raise his value, he will have to guide Miami on a long playoff run.
RON ARTEST*, F,Kings
He must stay out of trouble while restoring his reputation for defense.
COREY MAGGETTE*,F, Clippers
Can he play unselfishly and demonstrate any leadership skills?
(*can opt outthis summer)
5 Coaches on theHot Seat
Not Named Flip Saunders
Last year's All-Star Game coach from the East must upgrade his team's D tocontend.
He's improved Cleveland's defense but will have a hard time matching lastyear's playoff run.
The owner's increase in spending hasn't paid off, and Dunleavy will take theblame.
Despite a high payroll, Denver has won just two playoff games in Karl's twoseasons.
Entering his fourth season, he might need a deep playoff run to save hisjob.
Talk hoops all season long in Chris Mannix's blog, ajournal of commentary, news, analysis and reader-driven discussions about theNBA.
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JOHN W. MCDONOUGH (JAMES)
BOB ROSATO (NASH)
JOHN W. MCDONOUGH (WADE)
JESSE D. GARRABRANT/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES (MAXIELL)
GREG NELSON (KIRILENKO)
SCOTT CUNNINGHAM/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES (ARTEST)