Posted: Tuesday November 1, 2005 11:53AM; Updated: Wednesday November 9, 2005 4:19PM
Teamed up with coach Phil Jackson again, the Lakers' Kobe Bryant hopes to find his way back to the postseason.
John W. McDonough/SI
With the 2005-06 NBA campaign upon us, SI.com surveyed our NBA writers, Chris Ballard, Roland Beech (of 82games.com), Marty Burns, Kelly Dwyer, Chris Mannix, Jack McCallum, Drew Packham, Ian Thomsen and Brad Weinstein to get an early read on the season.
1. Who will be the MVP this season?
Chris Ballard: LeBron James, Cavs -- More W's do wonders for a candidacy, and the beefed-up Cavs should win plenty.
Marty Burns: Tim Duncan, Spurs -- The best player on the best team usually wins the award, and Duncan hasn't won it since 2003. LeBron James and Kobe Bryant will make it close, but their teams won't win enough games.
Kelly Dwyer: Duncan -- Hard to argue against last year's Finals MVP. The only question is whether or not he'll play enough minutes to stave off a few flavor-of-the-year votes. It's tough to foresee a Steve Nash-type popping out of nowhere, so the best player on the league's best team should be dutifully rewarded.
Chris Mannix: Kobe Bryant. After a humbling '04-05, Kobe will come back a better player and better teammate
Jack McCallum: James -- It's asking way too much for a repeat from last year's winner, Phoenix's Nash. San Antonio's Duncan won't play hard for 82 games because he doesn't have to and he shouldn't. Bryant will have an outstanding season but his team won't be that good. Bronnie will do it all year.
Drew Packham: Duncan. The best player on the best team adds up to Duncan's return to MVP status. LeBron will give him a run, and Dwyane Wade will get consideration, but Tim's the man.
Ian Thomsen: Bryant -- He'll singlehandedly keep the Lakers in playoff contention.
Brad Weinstein: James. The Cavaliers should be successful enough -- 50 or so victories with a push for home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs -- to legitimize James' candidacy.
2. What team will be the biggest surprise this season?
Ballard: Cleveland Cavaliers -- For the first year at least, the chemistry of Mike Brown, 'Bron, Damon Jones, Donyell Marshall and Drew Gooden should be impressive.
Beech: New Jersey Nets.
Burns: Milwaukee Bucks -- They not only added Jamaal Magloire, Bobby Simmons and No. 1 overall draft pick Andrew Bogut. They also get back T.J. Ford, the perfect quarterback for their new uptempo attack.
Dwyer: Detroit Pistons -- The '04 champs will surprise initially by boasting a .500 record after the season's first two months, and they'll surprise again when spring comes along by zoning their way to a third-straight Finals appearance. When all is said and done, most players would rather wear a coat and tie to work than try to have to score on that frontline.