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Ted S. Warren, Associated Press
Seattle SuperSonics rookie Kevin Durant will hope to collect a little hardware come season's end as the NBA's Rookie of the Year.

Spoiler alert: If you don't want to know what's going to happen during 2007-08 NBA season until it actually happens, please skip this story. Otherwise, read on. You have been warned.

Actually, most of these predictions won't actually come to pass, but, hey, NBA writers are supposed to try to call their shots at the beginning of the season. Then, if they get lucky, they can say, "I told you so."

And if they miss everything, they hope nobody remembers.

In any event, here are some fearless predictions:

ROOKIE OF THE YEAR: Kevin Durant, F, Seattle

This became almost a foregone conclusion once Portland's Greg Oden had knee surgery. Durant, the consensus college player of the year last season, will see plenty of playing time for the young Sonics and will put up enough big numbers that he won't be denied.

Runner-up: Luis Scola, F, Houston (although the 27-year-old Argentine has a wealth of international experience and probably shouldn't be considered a rookie)

COACH OF THE YEAR: Larry Krystokowiak, Milwaukee

The Bucks went just 28-54 last season. They will improve by 10 to 15 wins during the ex-Jazz forward's first full season and may even make the playoffs in the weak Eastern Conference. That will be enough to get Krysto recognized.

Runner-up: Rick Adelman, Houston

EXECUTIVE OF THE YEAR: Danny Ainge, Boston

This is another no-brainer. He pulled of two huge offseason trades to land a pair of All-Stars who still have some fuel left in their tanks — Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen — without giving up Paul Pierce. The Celtics have gone from a 24-win embarrassment to an instant contender.

Runner-up: Daryl Morey, Houston

MVP: Tim Duncan, F-C, San Antonio

Duncan's Spurs will win 60-plus games again and he'll be the main reason. Plus, his team's usual success in the playoffs will work to his advantage with the voters. They won't want a repeat of last season when the MVP (Dallas' Dirk Nowitzki) was given the award after his team had already flamed out of the postseason — so they'll subconsciously want to vote for a player on a team they don't think will choke and will last at least a couple of rounds in the playoffs.

Runner-up: LeBron James, F, Cleveland

DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Ben Wallace, C, Chicago

The Bulls will be one of the best teams in the East — if not the best — and Wallace will be a big part of it with his rebounding, blocking shots, intimidation and defense.

Runner-up: Bruce Bowen, G-F, San Antonio

MOST IMPROVED PLAYER: Ronnie Brewer, Utah

Brewer averaged just 4.6 points and 1.3 rebounds per game last season. He was healthy but inactive five times and had 21 games where he was active and in uniform but didn't play due to his coach's decision. Now he is a starter who will average double figures scoring for a division-championship-caliber team. If he can hang on to the starting job all year long, this really should be his award to lose.

Runner-up: Darko Milicic, F-C, Grizzlies

ATLANTIC DIVISION CHAMPIONS: Toronto

The popular pick here is the new-look Boston Celtics, but the Raptors were the only team to finish with a winning record last year and they should be better this season. Look for Toronto to keep the Atlantic title in the Great White North.

CENTRAL DIVISION CHAMPIONS: Detroit

Chicago and Cleveland are both capable of winning here, but the Pistons still have a savvy, veteran team. With Chauncey Billups, Rip Hamilton, Tayshaun Prince and Rasheed Wallace, the Pistons have four potential All-Stars.

SOUTHEAST DIVISION CHAMPS: Miami

Dwyane Wade is out for now, so the Heat will get off to a slow start. Still, this division is so weak that Wade will be able to make up ground and give Miami another division title once he returns.

SOUTHWEST DIVISION CHAMPS: Dallas

Expect three of the four best records in the league to come from the Southwest — with Dallas, San Antonio and Houston all winning 58 game or more.

PACIFIC DIVISION CHAMPS: Phoenix

Even with a disgruntled Shawn Marion, the Suns will rise in the Pacific. Steve Nash, Amare Stoudemire and Co. are simply too talented for the rest of the division.

NORTHWEST DIVISION CHAMPS: Utah

The Jazz won't wrap up the title as early as a year ago since the Nuggets will win more games. But Utah is still again the cream of the crop.

OTHER EASTERN CONFERENCE PLAYOFF TEAMS: Chicago, Cleveland, Boston, Washington, New Jersey

OTHER WESTERN CONFERENCE PLAYOFF TEAMS: San Antonio, Houston, Denver, Golden State, L.A. Clippers

EASTERN CONFERENCE FINALISTS: Detroit and Chicago

WESTERN CONFERENCE FINALISTS: Phoenix and San Antonio

NBA FINALISTS: Phoenix and Chicago

NBA CHAMPIONS: Phoenix


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