My NBA Award Winners for 2008-2009!
Okay – it’s that time of the year when everyone starts chucking their opinions on the NBA Regular Season Awards at each other. With only a a game left in the season for most teams, here’s mine and why (and who I think WILL win).
Most Valuable Player (MVP): Lebron James
Everybody has their own criteria for judging the MVP award. I tend to take a global approach that considers, among other things, the player’s statistics, his team’s record, the player’s value to his team, at the same time comparing them to the previous year. With that in mind, it’s a no-brainer that the award goes to Lebron James. His overall stats (28.4ppg, 7.6rpg, 7.2apg, 1.7spg, 1.1bpg) may appear to be down a little compared to last year, but per minute he’s doing roughly the same, if not better. On top of that the Cavs are one of the closest things you can get in the NBA to a ‘One Man Team’ and they improved from 45-37 last season to at least 66 wins this season en route to the best record in the NBA. I love Dwayne Wade‘s play this year and he’s statistically the closest to Lebron, but when you factor in the team records it’s not even close. As for Kobe Bryant, I know many people still consider him to be the best player (I don’t) in the NBA, but as history shows, that alone is not enough to get the MVP, especially when he won it the year before. Lebron has him on each of the criteria I mentioned above.
Lebron James WILL win, no doubt about it. The only question is whether it will be unanimous, and I say no.
Rookie of the Year: Derrick Rose
During the pre-season, Derrick Rose showed a bit of flair and potential but I don’t think anyone expected him to be this good, this fast. Every time I watch a highlight reel containing his moves, whether it’s breaking down the defense with his crossovers or on the break, I just shake my head. Rose averaged 16.8ppg and 6.3apg and 3.9rpg this season – not many rookies in recent years can put up those types of numbers – and he’s only going to get better. If he improves his defense and jumpshot, he’ll be rivalling Chris Paul as the best PG in the league in a few years. Not to say Rose hasn’t had any competition this year. I’m sure there will be voters going for Brook Lopez and OJ Mayo but unlike those players, Rose is heading to the playoffs.
Derrick Rose WILL win, but he’ll be splitting votes with Lopez and Mayo, and maybe even guys like Russell Westbrook and Rudy Fernandez. Throw in Greg Oden and you’ve got a one of the most intimidating All-Rookie Team in years.
Most Improved Player (MIP): Kevin Durant
First let me make it clear that I would like nothing more than for Danny Granger to win this award. That being said, Kevin Durant is most deserving in my opinion. Granger and Durant, together with Devin Harris, make this one of the more compelling awards to be decided this season. Some may also rank Brandon Roy in the mix (but not me – if you take a look at his stats they have not changed much from last season). Let’s compare.
Last season, Danny Granger averaged 19.6ppg, 6.1rpg, 2.1apg, 1.2spg and 1.0blg. This season, 25.7ppg, 5.0rpg, 2.7apg, 1.0spg and 1.4blg. His shooting percentages and minutes have remained similar (a little higher in FT% only), but he has played about 13 games less this season than last, when he appeared in 80 games. Indiana was 36-46 last season, a record they will duplicate provided they win their final regular-season game against the Bucks. Granger’s numbers have perhaps been helped by the departure of Jermaine O’Neal and the absence of Mike Dunleavy, elevating him to All-Star status for the first time in his career. However, on paper at least, Granger’s improvements appear largely confined to his scoring average and perhaps maturity down the stretch (as evident from the several big shots he hit throughout the season).
Now Devin Harris. Last season in his 25 games as a Net (after the trade from Dallas) he averaged 15.4ppg, 6.5apg, 3.2rpg and 1.4spg. This season he has averaged 21.3ppg, 6.9apg, 3.3rpg and 1.7spg while shooting roughly the same percentages (albeit a dip in 3P%). The Nets are 34-47 with one game to go and will miss the playoffs. If they lose their final game their record will be the same as last season’s. Like Granger, Harris’s improvements on paper are predominantly in the scoring column. Some say he has overtaken Vince Carter as the leader of the team, but I’m not sure everyone agrees.
Lastly, Kevin Durant. Last season’s Rookie of the Year averaged 20.3ppg, 4.4rpg and 2.4apg, whereas this year he has upped his stats to 25.3ppg, 6.5rpg and 2.8apg, while shooting significantly better from the field (0.430 to 0.475) and in particular from 3-point range (0.288 to 0.419). Meanwhile, the team most expected to come dead last (Oklahoma City Thunder) has gone 22-59 with one game to go. Not very impressive but then you remember that they went 20-62 last season (as the Seattle Supersonics) and came dead last in the West, whereas this season there are a couple of teams worse than them (Clippers and Kings). Taking all of that into consideration, I believe Durant is slightly more deserving than Granger and Harris, and thus SHOULD win the award.
I was pleasantly surprised when I saw ESPN’s experts poll in which Granger came out on top in the MIP category, edging Devis Harris 5 votes to 4. Durant and Roy were equal third with 2 votes apiece, along with Nene and Thaddeus Young. I have a feeling this has something to do with Granger’s offensive explosion in the remaining games of the season, whereas Harris’s and Durant’s performances have dipped. Nevertheless, I predict that Devin Harris WILL win the award based on his early season heorics that shocked a lot of people. Even though I don’t agree with it, I read elsewhere that people are reluctant to vote for Durant because they expect a played of his calibre to improve this much in his second season. Still, I’m hoping for a Granger victory!
Sixth Man of the Year: Jason Terry
To be honest I haven’t paid much attention to this award, but no matter which way you look at it, Jason Terry is the clear winner. Manu Ginobili has been in and out of the line up all season with injuries, and even though I like the way he has carried himself in a diminished role, Lamar Odom played lots of games as a starter (32) this year. That just about leaves one guy, Terry, who averaged 19.5ppg and 3.4apg while coming off the bench in 62 out of 73 games.
Jason Terry WILL win and it will be a big win.
Defensive Player of the Year: Dwight Howard
This is another easy category because Dwight Howard has simply been a defensive monster all season, leading the league in both blocked shots (2.9) and rebounds (13.9) while averaging close to a steal per game. That doesn’t take into account how many shots he changed in games or how many times he forced teams to take outside shots than drive it into the lane. Historically, there have been much more impressive numbers, but the talent is spread out so evenly that these stats are about as impressive as you’ll get these days. His nearest rivals are the usual wing players such as Ron Artest, Shane Battier and Kobe Bryant, or perennial contenders such as Kevin Garnett. I’ve even read about support in this category for Dwayne Wade and Lebron James, but I consider these more token votes for acknowledging the strides these players have made defensively rather than genuine votes.
Dwight Howard WILL win easily.
Coach of the Year (COY): Rick Adelman
Probably the hardest to predict out of all the categories this year (and in most years). How much of a team’s success can you attribute to a head coach? I mean, look at Mike Brown, coach of the Cleveland Cavaliers. Most people rip his coaching abilities and pin the team’s success all on Lebron, but shouldn’t he at least get some credit for leading the team to the best record in the NBA? After all, isn’t the measuring stick for COY usually the team with the best record? Or do you give the award to someone like Stan Van Gundy, who led his team (Orlando Magic) to new heights? Or perhaps coaches like Greg Popovich (San Antonio Spurs), Rick Adelman (Houston Rockets) or Jerry Sloan (Utah Jazz), who did commendable jobs in the face of serious injury concerns all season? I don’t know, and I’m sure everyone has their own set of criteria.
Anyway, I’m going to go toss a coin and say Rick Adelman, though I think Mike Brown WILL win. The Rockets are, amazingly, 53-28 with a game to go, despite basically spending half a season with half a healthy Tracy McGrady, plus injuries problems to Ron Artest (who missed 13 games) and Shane Battier (who missed 22 games). Even more amazingly, I could have just as easily said Greg Popovich, whose team (the Spurs) have the exact same record as the Rockets and spent half the season without Ginobili and a clearly less than 100% Tim Duncan.
So those are my winners and predictions. What are yours?