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Predicting the 2018-19 NBA awards and the NBA Finals: LeBron James will win MVP

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Predicting the 2018-19 NBA awards and the NBA Finals: LeBron James will win MVP

With the 2018-19 NBA season kicking off this week, it seems like a good time to put my predictions out into the universe. 

I am fortunate to be a voter for both the All-Star teams and the NBA Awards, but I can assure you of this: much of this is impossible to forecast. I decided to only include the first team selections for All-NBA, All-Defense and All-Rookie because the less I predict, the less I get wrong.

With that said, here is how I expect the major awards, plus the NBA Finals, to shake out... 

MVP: LeBron James, Lakers

Going to L.A. to play with such a bizarre supporting cast was all by design so he could win his fifth MVP award, right? Okay, maybe not. But if LeBron carries that team to even a fifth seed the trophy should be his.

Defensive player of the year: Anthony Davis, Pelicans

This always goes to a big man and Davis finished second last year. He's probably going to have a monster season overall.

All-NBA first team: G Stephen Curry, G James Harden, F LeBron James, F Giannis Antetokounmpo, C Anthony Davis

All of these guys are going to make the All-NBA team, it's just a matter of which tier. The toughest one to leave off was Joel Embiid, but you can only pick five.

Rookie of the year: Deandre Ayton, Suns

Luka Doncic has become a popular pick here, but Ayton averaged 18.2 points and 10.0 rebounds per game in the preseason. If that is any precursor whatsoever, he's going to be tough to beat.

Sixth man award: Austin Rivers, Wizards

Rivers is a starting-caliber guard now back to playing off the bench. He should help John Wall and Bradley Beal a ton this year and we know he will get buckets. If he can maintain anything close to his scoring average from last season (15.1), he will be on the short-list for sure.

Most improved: Brandon Ingram, Lakers

Though L.A. has a lot of questions, Ingram seems most likely to benefit from James' ability to make those around him better. He should thrive in a secondary scoring role.

Coach of the year: Billy Donovan, Thunder

The Thunder won 48 games last season, but could improve a lot in Year 2 with Paul George. They have loads of talent and Dennis Schroder will fit nicely on their bench.

Executive of the year: Sam Presti, Thunder

You may be sensing a theme here. I see the Thunder becoming the clear-cut No. 3 team in the West and Presti will get plenty of praise for retaining George and getting something legitimate back for Carmelo Anthony.

All-rookie team: Luka Doncic (Mavs), Miles Bridges (Hornets), Marvin Bagley III (Kings), Jaren Jackson Jr. (Grizzlies), Deandre Ayton (Suns)

This is shaping up to be a really good class. Guys like Mo Bamba (great song), Kevin Knox, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Wendell Carter Jr. will likely be in the mix as well. 

All-defensive team: G Chris Paul, G Klay Thompson, F Draymond Green, F Anthony Davis, C Joel Embiid

Thompson should finally get his due this year. He is clearly one of the best defenders at his position, but hasn't received the proper recognition for it.

NBA Finals: Warriors over Celtics, 4-2

Picking the champion of the 2018-19 season is too easy and no one should feel good about that. Sports are better when they aren't predictable. But who will finish second is where it gets interesting. I see the Celtics being that team and winning two games in the Finals, though it won't be a close series.

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Bradley Beal drops 46, but Wizards return from All-Star break with ugly loss to Hornets

Bradley Beal drops 46, but Wizards return from All-Star break with ugly loss to Hornets

The Washington Wizards lost to the Charlotte Hornets 123-110 on Friday night. Here are five observations from the game...

1. The All-Star break may have given the Wizards some much-needed time off, but it did not produce the reset in momentum that they were hoping for. They lost again on Friday night in their first game back and have now dropped eight of their last 11.

The losing overall has been devastating to their playoff hope,s and their latest defeat came against a team they are directly competing against. The Hornets are seventh in the East, and the Wizards are 11th.

Time is starting to run out, and losses like Friday's cause extra damage for the Wizards' chances of making the postseason.

2. At least Bradley Beal was good. The Wizards' lone All-Star came out of the break like he never went away.

He had 14 points in the first quarter and 20 by halftime. He finished with a season-high 46 points to go along with seven assists and six rebounds. He shot 64 percent on 25 attempts.

Beal also threw down what might have been the best dunk of his career. Not known as a high-flyer, Beal got way up there for this one:

If the Wizards' season continues on this losing trajectory, at least Beal gives D.C. fans a reason to tune in every night.

Beal, by the way, now has 10 career 40-point games. That is tied for fifth in Wizards/Bullets history with Earl Monroe. The only guys ahead of him are Gilbert Arenas (28), Walt Bellamy (23), Bernard King (13) and Elvin Hayes (11).

3. The first quarter was a dream. The second quarter was a nightmare.

After scoring 38 points in the first, the Wizards allowed the same amount to Charlotte in the second. They were outscored by 16 in the frame and never regained control. 

It was in the second that the Hornets' bench imposed their will. Tony Parker carved the Wizards up off the dribble and Jeremy Lamb both got hot from long range and caught the Wizards by surprise with a series of intercepted passes.

For the game, the Wizards' bench was outscored 38-21. They couldn't hold up their end of the bargain on a night the starters mostly played well.

4. Tomas Satoransky was back after missing two games due to the birth of his first child. He hadn't played in 13 days before he returned to the starting lineup on Friday.

Despite the time off, Satoransky showed no signs of rust. He had 15 points (6-9 FG) and four assists, though he did have three turnovers.

With John Wall out, Satoransky is legitimately one of the Wizards' most important players. That would have been surprising to hear before this season, but nothing about this year has been predictable for the Wizards. 

5. We got another glimpse at the combination of Thomas Bryant and Bobby Portis on the floor together. It was just the second time in five games since Portis arrived in D.C. that has happened.

It will be interesting to watch how much they play together the rest of this season, considering they have some redundancy in their games.

Offensively, it might be able to work. They are both fast and can stretch the floor. But defensively, they are both limited in the amount of positions they can defend and neither protects the rim particularly well.

Because of that, there are varying opinions within the organization about whether they can form a consistent frontcourt combination. That uncertainty has been reflected so far in head coach Scott Brooks' rotation. It is also something to consider as we project their futures with both set to hit restricted free agency this summer.

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Wizards vs. Pacers: Time, TV Channel, Live Stream, How to Watch

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Wizards vs. Pacers: Time, TV Channel, Live Stream, How to Watch

After Friday's 123-110 road loss to the Hornets, the Wizards return home Saturday night to take on another Eastern Conference foe, the Indiana Pacers.

The Wizards (24-35) have now lost three straight and eight of their last 11, but remain within touching distance of the playoff picture, four games back of the eighth-seeded Pistons. 

The Pacers (39-20), meanwhile, have won seven of their last eight and currently sit in third place in the East, still playing very well despite the loss of star guard Victor Oladipo. 

Coverage of Wizards vs. Pacers begins at 6 p.m. and will be broadcast live on NBC Sports Washington. 

WIZARDS vs. PACERS HOW TO WATCH

What: Washington Wizards vs. Indiana Pacers

Where: Capital One Arena, Washington, D.C.

When: 7:00 p.m. ET

TV Channel: The Wizards game will be broadcast on NBC Sports Washington (Channel Finder Link).

Live Stream: You can live stream Wizards vs. Pacers on NBC Sports Washington's live stream page and on the NBC Sports MyTeams App.

Radio: Wizards Radio Network, 1500 AM

WIZARDS vs. PACERS TV SCHEDULE

6:00 PM: Wizards Outsiders (LIVE)

6:30 PM: Wizards Pregame Live (LIVE)

7:00 PM: Wizards vs. Pacers (LIVE)

9:30 PM: Wizards Postgame Live (LIVE)

10:00 PM: Wizards Outsiders (LIVE)

WIZARDS vs. PACERS INJURY REPORT:

Wizards: John Wall (achilles, out), Dwight Howard (back, out)

Pacers: Victor Oladipo (knee, out), Myles Turner (hip, day-to-day)

WIZARDS vs. PACERS PLAYERS TO WATCH

Wizards: Bradley Beal (25.5 PPG, 5.1 RPG, 5.4 APG) 

Pacers: Bojan Bogdanovic (16.8 PPG, 4.0 RPG, 1.8 APG)

WIZARDS vs. PACERS SERIES HISTORY

Number of all-time Meetings: 183 games (6 playoff games)

Regular Season Record: Pacers lead 102-81

Last Meeting: Wizards won 107-89 on 1/30/19

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