POSTED: Oct 29, 2012 9:03 AM ET
NBA legends Rick Barry, George Gervin and Bill Walton sat down with NBA.com on the eve of the 2012-13 season to discuss the top stories in the league and make predictions on the season ahead.
Rick Barry, George Gervin, Bill Walton
What are you most looking forward to heading into Kia NBA Tip-Off 2012?
Rick Barry: Seeing if the Miami Heat are able to repeat, as it's a task that is very difficult for any NBA team to accomplish.
George Gervin: Seeing how the Lakers start out. The Lakers are the team by adding to Kobe and Gasol. They could do some damage in the West.
In the countdown to Kia NBA Tip-Off, what has been the biggest off-season move?
Barry/Gervin/Walton: The Los Angeles Lakers getting both Steve Nash and Dwight Howard.
What do you think are the most important traits for a Kia Sixth Man of the Year?
Rick Barry: Ability to sit on the bench, analyze what's going on during the course of the game, then enter the game and bring the elements to his team that are lacking at that particular time - and to do so on a consistent basis. It is a very difficult task, but many players have been able to fulfill that particular role. I admire the Sixth man.
George Gervin: The ability to lift their team on both ends of the court when they come off the bench. Putting the ball in the basket and getting stops, while uplifting the team, is key.
Bill Walton: Leadership, analytics and decision making. As a sixth man you have to either let it flow when it's going great or take over and change direction when things are falling apart. You have to be good enough to be the lead player and smart enough to be a role player, because, like life, things change all the time. You never know how it will play out because the team is built around other people and their strengths. It's when their strengths don't shine that the Sixth man has to turn things around and quickly restore order to the universe.
In your eyes, what makes a player deserving of the Kia Most Improved Player Award?
George Gervin: A guy that didn't get much time the previous year and suddenly plays consistent basketball and becomes a part of the rotation for his team.
Rick Barry: A player who in the previous season didn't get a lot of minutes, but continued to work hard and remained prepared throughout the season. During the off-season, he continuously worked on his craft and improved in areas of weakness. Once given the chance to get into the game on a consistent basis, he helped his team win games and generally became a more productive and consistent contributor to the team.
Bill Walton: Somebody who realizes the need for constant innovation and redefining himself because when you're good, the other team puts everything they have into stopping your strength. The really good ones are able to eliminate all weaknesses. Most Improved is making the giant leap from great to better then perfect.
Who are your early predictions for the end of season Kia NBA Performance Awards (MVP, Defensive Player, Most Improved, and Sixth Man) for the coming season?
• MVP: You have to talk about LeBron, he's really coming into his own as far as living up to his potential.
• Defensive: Dwight has always had that potential, as he blocks shots and rebounds well. I'd also be interested to see what Anthony Davis can do.
• Most Improved: That's a tall order. You almost have to see how the season and teams play before you can really pick a most improved player. Off the top of my head, Kawhi Leonard here in San Antonio. He had a good summer and he's a Spur, so I've seen him and I'm familiar with his progress, and it's been unbelievable.
• Sixth Man: That's also tough because I'm not sure if Ginobili will come off the bench or start. The Sixth man last year could be starting this year, so only time will tell.
• MVP: Front runners would once again be LeBron James and perhaps Kevin Durant.
• Defensive: Certainly Dwight Howard would enter into the equation or maybe someone like Serge Ibaka.
• MVP: LeBron, Kobe, Durant, and Rondo
• Defensive: LeBron James
• Most Improved: Dwight Howard
• Sixth Man: I'm interested and excited about guys like Jamison, Odom, Grant Hill, Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis. We'll also see what Jason Terry can do in Boston. If I were to make one pick for Sixth Man of the Year, I'd go with Lamar Odom—he is the most capable, complete and versatile of all the real contenders.
Who do you think will be NBA Champions this year or which two teams would you like to see make it to the NBA Finals?
George Gervin: It's hard not to pick the champions (Heat), and in the West, I would say San Antonio. Everyone always says how old they are, but they're very successful and were close to getting to The Finals last year. You have to mention the Lakers too, but it's still a question mark on how they'll gel.
Rick Barry: Trying to pick who will be the NBA champion for this upcoming season is a very difficult task, as it is shear speculation. Certainly you have to include the Miami Heat because they are the defending champions, but again it is very difficult to repeat. However, in the West, there are two teams standing out right now. The Oklahoma City Thunder have improved over the last few years, and the experience that they had last year shows that they are capable of being NBA champions. Of course with the addition of Steve Nash and Dwight Howard to the Los Angeles Lakers, the Lakers have to be a team that would be considered a top team and could conceivably make it to the NBA Finals. I enjoy watching the Finals and whatever teams get there, it will be fun for me to be able to watch them.
Bill Walton: Lakers and Heat in the Finals, and the Lakers will win that.