The season is coming to an end and it’s that time, awards are being handed out. In this post, I will be writing about who I think should be the winners of the MVP, Coach of the year, Most Improved Player, Rookie of the Year, Sixth Man of the year, Defensive player of the year, and the First, Second and Third All-NBA teams awards. Also, I have made my own award, the Re-Birth award, to the veteran player who has come back alive this year.
Most Valuable Player Award:
This award can be seen in many ways. Is it the award for a player who is most valuable to his team, or is it the “Best Player Award”? Really, it doesn’t make a difference, because my pick is LeBron James. People could make a case for Kevin Durant, and maybe Kobe Bryant, but LeBron is hands down the best basketball player in the league, and without him in the lineup, the Heat are not in the same spot they currently are. James averages 27.1 points per game. Which is 0.8 less than the league leading Durant. However, James is shooting at a blistering 53% which is unheard of for a 3 man. Lebron also scores the most points per minute out of the three contenders. Furthermore, LeBron doesn’t just exceed on the offensive end, he is also an excellent defender. James is the only star in the league who can defend every possession throughout one game. ie. He could be defending Rajon Rondo on minute, then switch to either Mickael Pietrus or Paul Pierce at the two or the three, then the next possession be guarding Kevin Garnett at the four or the five. He is fourth in the league in terms of stealing the ball, averaging 1.9 take aways per game and just under 1 block per game. James is also one of the best passers in the game averaging over 6 assists per game, which is better than most point guards. LeBron is also second in combined points, rebounds and assists averaging a total of 41.1 per game.
His ability to drive the lane at any point in time still amazes me. There is no better player at moving from the open floor, driving to the hoop crossing over, then finishing with a reverse layup and drawing the foul. It’s quite interesting, it’s not often that a player of his caliber gets ridiculed for passing the ball too much. People say that he should hold on to it and make a play instead of passing, but passing is what makes LeBron who he is. He has the court vision of a point guard the size of a big man and the scoring ability of a swing man. He is truly a wonderful player.
Coach of the Year:
There are a few names that come to mind in terms of the best bench bosses of 2012, for example, Doug Collins of the Sixers, Tom Thibodeau of the Bulls, and Greg Popovich of the Spurs. All three of them just as deserving of the honor. Collins leading his Sixers squad to a fantastic season having his team play team first, ego second, basketball. Thibodeau has once again kept his Bulls at the top of the league without MVP Derrick Rose in the line up for a large chunk of the season, and Popovich, coaching his group of veteran superstars to another playoff contending season.
My pick goes to coach Thibs. He has coached his team to manage without Derrick Rose and they still play unbelievable defense while at the same time can score at an astounding rate. The Bulls hold the top spot in team point differential at +7.86 points. They allow an NBA lowest 88.4 points per game. All of this is done for the most part without Rose at the helm. The best thing is, that without Rose, you look at that roster and really, there is no other A+ level superstars. How are they doing so well? If we forget the contribution of Luol Deng, there are no pure scorers on the team. I guess you could argue that Carlos Boozer is, but he has been slumping of late. So how can they win? Well, players like Kyle Korver, Taj Gibson, John Lucas and CJ Watson have stepped up BIG. Furthermore, the Bulls are the best rebounding team in the NBA. It was a tough decision choosing Thibs as my Coach of the Year because he won it last year, but to repeat basically the same results without your superstar for most of the season is pretty remarkable.
Most Improved Player:
The Most Improved Player award is an interesting award because really, it’s an award for an up and coming player. Well what does that mean? I guess it means that a player in his 8th or 9th year can’t win the award and a rookie can’t win it so really that leaves the balloting open to players in their 2nd to maybe 5th year as a pro.
This year there were a few up and coming players who really surprised me. Obviously there is Jeremy Lin, I don’t think I need to say much about him, but he truly came out of no where, and compared to his number last year he is at the top for growth. However, did Lin really play enough games to be in contention? Goran Dragic and DeMarcus Cousins definitely came into the spotlight. Dragic, running the show in Houston after the injury to Kyle Lowry and Cousins becoming the All-Star power forward he was destined to be. And we can’t forget Ryan Anderson of the Orlando Magic. Anderson has been in a slump of late, but that is no reason to disregard the Magic’s best player for most of the year.
But my vote is for Jeremy Lin. It takes a special type of player to accomplish what he did in a month and under the international spotlight of New York City, this Kid truly is amazing. Especially after the season he has last year with Golden State averaging 2.6 points per game and 1.4 assists. Lin turned the Knicks around, that’s maybe the most impressive thing. He came into the team as a desperation attempt and was a diamond in the rough. On top of all of that, he came in and help the Knicks win without Amar’e Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony. Still to this day, my favorite Jeremy Lin memory of this year has to be either his pre game hand shake with Landry Fields or his game winning three against Toronto, in Toronto. I watched that game on TV and when he hit that shot I jumped up from my couch and gave him a standing ovation. It was a BIG time shot.
Rookie of the Year:
This was a tough year for the rookies, having to come in and play NBA level basketball in a shortened season with minimal practice time to learn the plays and get to know their teammates. But those who did manage to survive, thrived. It may have been too much as the top two rookies, Kyrie Irving and Ricky Rubio, both suffered major injuries. This brought the spotlight to my favorite player of the draft Isaiah Thomas, who was actually the last player in the Draft and this may have helped him, (More on this in my previous post). Also, players like Kennith Faried, now better know as the Maninal, or Klay Thompson in Golden State. I have however, been extremely disappointed with the BYU sensation Jimmer Fredette.
In all cases, I give the nod to Kyrie Irving. The top pick in last years draft has become an excellent player for the Cleveland Cavaliers. Not to the likes of a LeBron James, but he is sure to be a good player as his career goes on. Irving is averaging 18.7 points per game while shooting 46% from the field and 40% from 3 point range. His scoring leads all rookies in scoring. He is also averaging over 5 assists a game and close to 4 rebounds per contest. Watching Irving play, I was really surprised at how quickly he was able to drive the lane and score. He has one of the quickest first steps I have seen, and it is a great asset in this league. Also, his shooting stroke is smooth, pure and looks effortless.
Irving has been the little bit of silver lining the Cavs so desperately needed this year, following one of their worst season in franchise history they were lucky to get the first pick in the draft. Scouts were unsure about Kyrie coming into this season because he had only played around 10 games of college basketball, but he went and proved all doubters wrong.
Sixth Man of the Year:
No NBA team can win with just it’s starting five, true championship contenders have excellent sixth men. For example, last years NBA champions, the Dallas Mavericks, had sharpshooter Jason Terry coming off of the bench. That may have been the difference in the finals against the Heat.
Once again Terry finds himself back in the discussion for the best Sixth man in the league. He is joined with the likes of James Harden of the Oklahoma City Thunder, Lou Williams of the 76ers, and Mo Williams from the Los Angeles Clippers. Unfortunately this isn’t really a close race. Harden is hands down the best player coming off of the bench this season. He would be starting and be the first or second option for all of the other NBA teams, minus the Heat and Lakers. In only his third season, Harden is averaging 17 points per game off of the bench, along with 4.1 rebounds and 3.7 assists. But numbers aren’t the entire story. If you watch him play, you see him as this spark plug coming into the game smiling and having a great time. He is one of, if not the most explosive scorer in the league right now. Also his ability to drive to the rim is ridiculous. If you think of players who can get to the rim with ease you think of Derrick Rose, Carmelo Anthony, LeBron James, Dwayne Wade and James Harden. He has a way of slithering to the rim, drawing contact and scoring. Also, he shoots the ball at close to 50% and is a better 3-point shooter than any of those guys mentioned before.
Defensive Player of the Year:
This award is often overlooked because most people enjoy watching a good offensive player, rather than a good defensive player. Also, besides blocks and steals, there aren’t many ways of keeping defensive stats on players. For example, there is no successful ball denial stat, or way of keeping track of forced misses. So voters usually resort to stats like blocks and steals because they do represent defense. Although there are players like Avery Bradley, Shane Battier, Metta World Peace who are lock down defenders, they don’t receive that much credit. But maybe it is because you can’t tell if someone is playing good D, or if the offensive player is having a tough shooting night. Which is why stats don’t lie, they are consistent.
In this case, there are a few players who stand out as great defenders. Chris Paul leads the league in steals at just over 2.5 per game. Serge Ibaka, or better know as Serge Iblaka is posting Anthony Davis like block numbers at close to 4 per game. Dwight Howard, the three-time defending recipient of the award is and always will be in the conversation for the award. LeBron James is another name we cannot forget being able to steal the ball, get ridiculous chase down blocks while guarding every position.
Sorry Dwight, your streak is over, this years winner is Serge Ibaka. He is leading the leagues in blocks by almost one and a half blocks per game, it’s insane. He once, got a double double with 10 blocks. How does that happen?!? If I am playing this guy I am never driving into the paint, because that orange is getting swatted in a second.
This is an award that I created based on the fact that there are so many great veterans in this league and with the condensed schedule its tough for some players who have so many miles on them to continue to perform at such a high level. Despite the conditions, some players have even played at a higher level this year. I look at some of these players and there are only a few of them, Steve Nash, Kevin Garnett, Tony Parker, Tim Duncan and Paul Pierce. Nash, has been playing unreal ball this season, and at the age of 39 the Canadian kid still can play. For most of the year he was at the top of the league in assists per game and was selected to be an All-Star because of it. Parker faced the same sort of year. He to, had an All-Star worthy season, and really helped to carry the Spurs to the great season they are having. Then there is the Big Fundamental. Timmy had an excellent season and his numbers are way up. I always love watching Tim Duncan play because he is a true professional, and now I get to see the old Timmy. On multiple occasions I have seen him drive to the rim to finish with a one-handed throw down. Another big player, is the Big Ticket. Since being moved to the five-spot in the Celtics starting line-up, Garnett has been posting close to 20-10 numbers. He is looking like the Garnett of old and it is quite a sight if you are a Celtics fan. Even his perimeter shooting is up. Finally, The Truth is truly playing excellent ball for the Celtics this year. After a slow start to the season, Pierce has come on strong down the stretch and is showing no age.
In the end, the very first Re-Birth Award has to go to Steve Nash of the Phoenix Suns. At the age of 39, Nash is the reason the suns game against the Jazz on Tuesday means so much. It is the deciding factor whether the Suns make the playoffs or not. The best free throw shooter in league history and the best Canadian basketball player of all time has shown us this year that he still has a few years left in him, hopefully he will end up on a true championship contending team. This was the most surprising thing I discovered today while doing some re-search, Nash is shooting 58% on 2 point field goals, only Chandler shoots better. That is an incredible feat, not only as a guard, but as a player.
I have said this before, there is no player more liked and more deserving of a championship than Steve Nash, this Award is a true testament to who he is as a person and player. He keeps himself in amazing shape and is a true professional in every sense of the word.
All NBA Teams:
All NBA First Team: Guards: Chris Paul, Kobe Bryant. Forwards: LeBron James, Kevin Durant. Center: Dwight Howard.
All NBA Second Team: Guards: Russel Westbrook, Dwayne Wade. Forwards: Carmelo Anthony, Kevin Love. Center: Andrew Bynum.
All NBA Third Team: Guards: Tony Parker, Rajon Rondo. Forwards: LaMarcus Aldridge, Dirk Nowitzki. Center: Marc Gasol.