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Anthony Davis? Luka Doncic? Our predictions for NBA MVP, Rookie of the Year

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It’s time for us to say things we will look back on and regret in just a few short months.

With the NBA season just a little more than a week away, the NBA writing staff here at NBC Sports have put together our predictions for MVP and Rookie of the Year (the top three in each). We will likely forget these within 24 hours, but no doubt you readers will remind us how wrong we were down the line.

Let’s get to it:

MOST VALUABLE PLAYER

Kurt Helin1. Anthony Davis (New Orleans Pelicans); 2. LeBron James (Los Angeles Lakers); 3. James Harden (Houston Rockets)

This is the year Davis, already a top-five NBA player, stays healthy and puts up MVP-level statistics, and does so on a team that will be in the playoff hunt, keeping it in the eyes of voters. That will earn him his first MVP, whether it’s enough to keep him in New Orleans long term is another discussion. Beyond Davis, it’s hard not to lean toward the top vote getters from last year, especially LeBron who will be on a team that will need him to carry a big load in the deep West.

Dan Feldman: 1. James Harden (Houston Rockets); 2. Anthony Davis (New Orleans Pelicans); 3. Giannis Antetokounmpo (Milwaukee Bucks)

Harden won MVP last year and finished a fairly close second two of the previous three years. He is almost always in the mix for this award, and people seem to be overlooking him in the race this season. Davis and Antetokounmpo are fresh names, and voters sometimes reward that. Of course, if LeBron James — the NBA’s best player — cares about chasing this award, he’ll be in the thick of the race. But getting these Lakers to a record that impresses voters won’t be easy.

Dane Delgado: 1. James Harden (Houston Rockets); 2. LeBron James (Los Angeles Lakers); 3. Kevin Durant (Golden State Warriors)

I really want to pick Kevin Durant here, because he might actually be the most dominant player in the league even if his value to the Golden State Warriors is obviously less than absolute. I think if the Rockets can build on last season, Harden will continue to be the reason why. Any guy who leads a team who can slow or derail the juggernaut in the Bay Area is going to get a lot of repeat votes.

ROOKIE OF THE YEAR

Kurt Helin1. Luka Doncic (Dallas Mavericks); 2. Deandre Ayton (Phoenix Suns); 3. Jaren Jackson Jr. (Memphis Grizzlies)

Three years from now I’m not convinced Doncic will be the best player in this class — I think that will be Jackson in Memphis — but he’s the most NBA ready and he’s going to get the touches needed to put up numbers. Ayton will get touches in Phoenix this season, if they can figure out the point guard situation. This is a deep class and other players could get in the mix (keep an eye on Marvin Bagley Jr. and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander).

Dan Feldman: 1. Luka Doncic (Dallas Mavericks); 2. Deandre Ayton (Phoenix Suns); 3. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (Los Angeles Clippers)

Doncic and Ayton have tools and roles to flourish early. There’s enough Doncic hype coming out of Dallas already that I gave the edge to him. The third spot was throwing darts.

Dane Delgado: 1. Luka Doncic (Dallas Mavericks); 2. Deandre Ayton (Phoenix Suns); 3. Trae Young (Atlanta Hawks)

Luka Doncic is going to get something the other rookies won’t get this season, and that’s unfiltered praise for being a poster boy for the modern NBA. A big tweener forward who handles the rock, shoots, and passes like every game is an AAU All-Star event is going to make the collective NBA social sphere lose its mind each and every night. Ayton might end up having a higher ceiling, but this year Doncic is going to be all over your Twitter feed.

Possible top-10 pick Sekou Doumbouya declares for NBA draft

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Just three 18-year-olds have played in the NBA since the league instituted its one-and-done rule: Giannis Antetokounmpo, Dragan Bender and Devin Booker.

Sekou Doumbouya – who’ll remain 18 until Dec. 23 – could become the fourth.

Jonathan Givony of ESPN:

French forward Sekou Doumbouya has submitted paperwork to the league office to make himself eligible for the 2019 NBA draft, his agent, Bouna Ndiaye of Comsport, told ESPN.

Doumbouya projects as a potential lottery pick.

The 6-foot-9 power forward is extremely physically developed for his age. He’s strong and mobile, and he can elevate.

But he’s still early in his skill development. His shot, handle and feel all need work.

Doumbouya has plenty of tools. His rebounding is already impressive. The rest? It’ll be a project.

Report: Pelicans cut Lakers GM Rob Pelinka from Anthony Davis trade talks

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On Jan. 31, a report emerged the Pelicans hadn’t returned the Lakers’ calls about Anthony Davis. Later that day, another report said the Pelicans and Lakers discussed a Davis trade.

That sparked questions: Was the first report wrong? Did New Orleans and Los Angeles begin talking that day?

Maybe we missed an important distinction.

The first report said then-Pelicans general manager Dell Demps hadn’t returned Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka’s calls. The second report said Demps spoke with Lakers president Magic Johnson.

Dave McMenamin of ESPN:

Pelinka was mostly cut out of trade talks between L.A. and New Orleans, with the Pelicans preferring to deal directly with Johnson, multiple league sources told ESPN.

Since Johnson stunningly resigned, Pelinka has assumed control in Los Angeles. The Lakers surely still want to trade for Davis.

Will having Pelinka running the front office impair their ability to do so?

We don’t know why the Pelicans rebuffed Pelinka. Different theories bring varying levels of present concern.

Maybe the Pelicans just didn’t want to waste their time with someone who’s not in charge. That’s often an issue when lower-level executives contact other teams. If that’s the case, Pelinka assuming the top job in basketball operations would solve the problem.

Maybe Demps was still bitter with Pelinka over Pelinka’s time as an agent. In 2012, New Orleans restricted free agent Eric Gordon – represented by Pelinka – signed an offer sheet with the Suns. Gordon lobbied hard to leave New Orleans, even saying his heart was in Phoenix. Though New Orleans matched, the saga caused animosity. But the Pelicans fired Demps and hired David Griffin, who’ll now oversee Davis. If this was a personal issue between Pelinka and Demps, that’s now irrelevant.

Maybe Pelinka is just that off-putting. I definitely don’t buy everything people say about him. Being a good agent often means ruffling feathers, and it’s easy for people he countered in negotiations to gossip about him now. But maybe there’s some truth to Pelinka being difficult to work with. If so, that’d come up again – not just with the Pelicans, but every team.

Report: Hornets not trading for Marc Gasol soured Kemba Walker on Hornets

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Kemba Walker has never had an All-Star teammate. For someone as established as Walker, that’s unprecedented.

The Hornets nearly paired Walker with a former All-Star, though. Shortly before the trade deadline, they reportedly nearly dealt for Marc Gasol. But talks stalled, and the Grizzlies instead sent Gasol to the Raptors.

Unsurprisingly, that didn’t go over well with Walker, who was trying to lead a playoff push before entering free agency this summer.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

I got the sense in talking to people, that trade deadline really deflated him. When they were pretty close on a Marc Gasol deal, and it fell apart. It didn’t happen. He goes to Toronto. And he looks around and goes, “Come on, what are we trying to do here?”

The reported outline of the Gasol deal: Gasol for Bismack Biyombo, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and a protected first-round pick. The hang-up was reportedly on the specifics of the protection.

Which is important!

The Hornets shouldn’t have relinquished too high of a pick for a 34-year-old center just for a likely first-round loss.

Making the playoffs matters. Keeping Walker happy matters. But so does keeping draft picks to build the team going forward. Without knowing the exact line of the protection being haggled, I can’t say whether Charlotte erred by not making the trade. But there’s plenty of room to make passing the right call.

Shortly after the deadline, a rumor emerged Walker would likely leave the Hornets in free agency. This probably explains why.

But a lot has and will happen before Walker makes that call. Charlotte still made a strong late playoff push, though fell short. Walker could make an All-NBA team, which would make him eligible for a super-max contract.

I wouldn’t be surprised if he re-signs. I wouldn’t be surprised if he leaves, either.

What’s clear: He wants to win right now. Though it certainly won’t be the only factor, the Hornets’ stagnancy looks like a real negative when Walker ultimately decides.

Ben Simmons on feud with Jared Dudley: ‘I don’t really have energy for it. It’s done’

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Jared Dudley called Ben Simmons great in transition and average in the halfcourt.

Simmons responded: “It’s coming from Jared Dudley. C’mon.”

In the 76ers’ Game 3 win over the Nets last night, Simmons did what he frequently does – create high-efficiency transition and semi-transition opportunities for himself and teammates. He was also good in the halfcourt, though one game doesn’t establish Simmons in that facet.

Simmons, via Noah Levick of NBC Sports Philadelphia:

“I don’t really have energy for it,” Simmons said. “It’s done. People are going to say what they want to say. Just gotta play.”

As I wrote earlier, this beef will be only as big as Simmons makes it. Dudley’s scouting report was largely accurate. He didn’t really say anything inflammatory, except to people in Philadelphia looking for a slight.

Apparently, after one dismissive comment and one excellent game, that’s no longer Simmons.