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MVP Award predictions: In a wide-open field, will Giannis Antetokounmpo repeat?

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With the start of the NBA season just more than a week away — it’s predictions time. We’ll be covering most of the postseason awards between now and the opening tip of the NBA season.

As a disclaimer, we get it: making NBA preseason awards predictions is like nailing Jell-O to a tree. We’ll be wrong. But it’s fun, so the NBA staff here at NBC is making our picks. Today…


Kurt Helin Anthony Davis (Los Angeles Lakers). Last season, James Harden was the best offensive player in the league, putting up historic numbers. Yet he came in second in MVP voting (including on my ballot) to Giannis Antetokounmpo because the Greek Freak had impressive offensive numbers as the guy Milwaukee’s attack was built around, plus he also played defense at a level that had him in the Defensive Player of the Year conversation. I see Davis following Antetokounmpo’s model to the MVP award. After years feeling in the shadows in New Orleans, and a very awkward last season, Davis is going to look to break out now that he is in Los Angeles, putting up big numbers on offense and being a beast of a rim protector on defense. Davis is going to shine in the spotlight the Lakers give him — if Davis can just stay healthy. He’s had a history of nagging injuries slowing him down (although, before last season, he had played 75 games two seasons in a row). This year’s MVP race, much like the league itself, is wide open with a lot of contenders. Davis, however, will have the numbers and the narrative.

Dan Feldman: Stephen Curry (Golden State Warriors). We’ve collectively forgotten how great Curry was playing before Kevin Durant joined the Warriors. Not only did Curry win back-to-back MVPs, he was hitting unprecedented offensive levels. Curry is 31, maybe still in his physical prime. With Durant gone, Klay Thompson injured and Golden State facing a tough road just to make the playoffs in a loaded Western Conference, Curry could return to that elite individual status. He showed a glimpse last postseason.

Is Curry the best player in the NBA? Maybe. Will Curry push as hard as he can next regular season? Maybe. In an open race during the load-management era, those two maybes are enough for him to be my pick.

Dane Delgado: Giannis Antetokounmpo (Milwaukee Bucks). There are lots of challenges ahead for the Milwaukee Bucks. The Celtics are at full strength and don’t need to deal with Kyrie Irving’s galaxy brain on a night-to-night basis. The Sixers have Al Horford. The Raptors will still be very good. But at the end of the day, Milwaukee has Giannis Antetokounmpo and a squad that looks much like it did last season. With Kawhi Leonard no longer out East, Milwaukee could rack up even more wins than when they took home the conference pennant last season. If that’s the case, all signs point to Antetokounmpo repeating at MVP. He’s got a better chance than either of the top Clippers players, who will lose votes due to load management. Houston’s top stars will battle for screen time (and a playoff spot). That leaves the Greek Freak, whose only problem will be his own 3-point shooting percentage. The Bucks star will only lose the MVP race if his team is clearly unable to fulfill its potential due to his lack of range. But if Antetokounmpo can be serviceable from deep, he’ll take home the Podoloff trophy again.

Trae Young gets ankles absolutely destroyed by Dejounte Murray (video)

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The Hawks got Trae Young his desired help, trading for Jeff Teague.

Maybe Young will do his part and step up on defense.

That didn’t happen on this possession against Spurs guard Dejounte Murry.

At least Young continued his breakout season on the other end, scoring 31 points and dishing nine assists in Atlanta’s rare victory in San Antonio.

Tristan Thompson slaps Jae Crowder’s rear end, gets ejected (video)

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What is it about Cleveland athletes slapping butts and getting in trouble?

Browns wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. faces a simple battery charge for slapping a police officer’s backside in LSU’s locker room after the College Football Playoff National Championship.

Last night, Cavaliers center Tristan Thompson got ejected for slapping Grizzlies forward Jae Crowder‘s behind.

Thompson and Crowder got double technical fouls earlier in the game. So, Thompson got ejected with a tech for this incident between free throws.

Though the two are former Cleveland teammates, Crowder didn’t look amused. Crowder doesn’t play.

The Cavs rallied without Thompson, but Memphis won, 113-109.

Kyle Lowry flings in wild 3-pointer (video)

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Kyle Lowry had the ball in his left hand when he felt contact. Not only did he try to sell a foul by flailing his arms, the right-hander tried to draw a shooting foul by hurling an off-balance 31-footer toward the basket.

No continuation. No whistle at all.

But Lowry made the shot, anyway.

Lowry and the Raptors will take it, but they didn’t need a break like that against the Wizards’ dismal defense last night. Toronto won, 140-111.

Knicks rookie R.J. Barrett out at least a week with right ankle sprain

R.J. Barrett
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NEW YORK (AP) New York Knicks rookie R.J. Barrett will miss at least a week with a sprained right ankle.

Barrett was hurt during the Knicks’ loss to Phoenix on Thursday. On Friday, he had X-rays, which were negative.

The Knicks announced afterward that Barrett will be re-evaluated in a week.

The No. 3 pick in the draft from Duke is averaging 14.1 points.