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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.

LeBron James finishes Rajon Rondo alley-oop to close out half (VIDEO)

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One of the reasons LeBron James leads the league in assists — other than the fact he can do anything on the basketball court he wants — is that he was the Lakers’ only quality playmaker to start the season. He had to set guys up.

Until Rajon Rondo returned recently from injury.

Now Rondo is setting up everyone — including LeBron for this monster alley-oop just before the half Tuesday night.

LeBron can still finish with the best of them.

Just don’t ask him about doing the dunk contest.

 

New Orleans spoils Carmelo Anthony’s Portland debut in 115-104 Pelicans win

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NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Jrue Holiday had 22 points and 10 assists, Brandon Ingram added 21 points, and the New Orleans Pelicans spoiled Carmelo Anthony’s Portland debut with a 115-104 victory over the Trail Blazers on Tuesday night.

Anthony finished with 10 points while Portland leading scorer and four-time All-Star Damian Lillard missed his first game of the season with back spasms.

Starting at forward and playing across the street from where he led Syracuse to the 2003 NCAA championship over Kansas, Anthony scored the Blazers’ first points of the game on a 3-pointer from 26 feet out. However, he wound up missing 10 of 14 shots in what was the first game of his 17th NBA season.

Ingram looked spry in his return from right knee soreness that sidelined him four games, particularly on an authoritative, driving, one-handed dunk that got the crowd roaring in the opening quarter.

J.J. Redick hit 4 of 9 3-pointers and scored 14 points for New Orleans, which has won two straight and three of four. Kenrich Williams, who got the start at forward, filled the stat sheet with hustle plays, grabbing 14 rebounds to go with three steals and a blocked shot. He also scored eight points.

Holiday highlighted his night with a spinning dribble around Nassir Little for a driving dunk. In the second half, he scored on an unusual play in which he remained under his own basket, re-tying his shoes while his team advanced 4-on-5 into the offensive end. Holiday then came sprinting down court, took a handoff from Nicolo Melli near the 3-point line and exploded toward the rim for a layup.

C.J. McCollum led Portland with 22 points, while Hassan Whiteside added 14 points and 14 rebounds.

Anthony wasted no time getting his first shot off. His miss from 20 feet came within the opening 30 seconds and was Portland’s first shot of the game. Anthony also took Portland’s second shot, hitting his first of two made 3s.

But when Anthony tried to rise for a two-handed dunk in the first half, he was met with resistance by a member of the NBA’s rookie class when eighth overall draft pick Jaxson Hayes rejected the attempt.

Hayes closed out the half with his third block, swatting away a driving floater by Anfernee Simons to keep Portland’s lead at 54-53.

New Orleans seized momentum in the third quarter, going up by 13 on a sequence that began when Melli hit a 3 and then got the ball right back in a largely vacated Portland back court after Nickeil Alexander-Walker dove to swipe the ball away from McCollum. Melli went straight in for a dunk that made it 83-70.

Portland responded with three quick 3s — two by Kent Bazemore — during a 9-2 run that trimmed New Orleans’ lead to six before Alexander-Walker, who had hit 11 3s in his previous two games, ended the period by banking in a straightaway 3 to make it 88-79.

Watch Carmelo Anthony’s first bucket as a Trail Blazer

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That Carmelo Anthony started the first game he played for Portland speaks to why they signed him in the first place — this team is so shorthanded along the front line that the guy they just signed got thrown into the fire.

Anthony responded with a solid level of play. His first bucket was a wing three where both defenders went to CJ McCollum and left ‘Melo wide open.

Anthony played 12 minutes in the first half and had 7 points, 3 rebounds, 1 block, and three fouls. The team was looking to keep him at around 20 minutes for his first game back.

Portland led New Orleans 54-53 at the half.

How a single computer folder and dogged HR official exposed former Kings executive’s $13.4M embezzlement scheme

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Just how close did Jeff David come to getting away with embezzling $13.4 million from the Kings while working for them? He already secured a new job with the Heat and was in the process of moving from Sacramento to Miami.

Kevin Arnovitz of ESPN:

On this Monday, walking through the Davids’ new front door is a dizzying procession of cable guys, utility workers and movers. Amid all of this, Jeff receives a phone call from a former co-worker with the Kings. Her name is Stacy Wegzyn, and she works in HR. Jeff last remembers sitting in her office in Sacramento just months earlier, being told that the Kings were going to eliminate his position. After a few pleasantries, she gets down to business. She tells Jeff she’s been going through his old files, and in doing so she found one labeled “TurboTax” that references an entity called Sacramento Sports Partners.

“I was just curious what that is and if those are documents that should go to somebody else,” Wegzyn says.

It’s a seemingly innocuous inquiry from an HR lifer. But it’s one that will dictate the rest of Jeff David’s life. If he knows that — or senses it — he doesn’t let on.

“No, no, no,” Jeff responds. “That was a … man, this is taking me back. Maybe 2015?”

Wegzyn presses on. She asks Jeff whether the documents contain anything that anyone with the Kings needs to see. Jeff assures her they can trash them because the entity isn’t around anymore. A few minutes after he hangs up, his mother-in-law, Nancy, is standing at the front door when an FBI investigator appears, asking to speak to Jeff.

If you like the NBA or true crime – let alone both – I HIGHLY recommend reading Arnovitz’s full piece. It’s riveting!