The NBA playoffs are now set, and have the potential to be as entertaining and competitive as ever. While October seems like forever ago, the regular season has seen some great performances, storylines, and developments. As my colleague and I prepare for what shapes up to be a great postseason, we wrap-up the past 6 months of the NBA.
PS: Lebron James, Kobe Bryant, Dirk Nowitzki, and Dwayne Wade are perennial contenders for this award. Kevin Durant has joined them with his scoring ability and polishing his all-around game. Dwight Howard is vital to the success of the Orlando Magic and may have just completed his best season as a pro, finishing in the NBA’s top-11 in scoring, rebounding, blocks, and field goal percentage. But this year’s winner should be Derrick Rose. His value to the Chicago Bulls earning the overall #1 seed in the playoffs is palpable, and really what pushes him over the top of the rest. The burden that he carries for this team is second to none, particularly in the scoring department. A very telling stat: the Bulls are 38-15 when Joaquim Noah and/or Carlos Boozer are out with injury. His game speaks for itself. He’s virtually impossible to keep out of the lane, and is as explosive as any point guard I have seen finishing at the rim. With a developing jumpshot, the 22 year old still has room for improvement, which is scary for the rest of the league.
DB: As my partner said, the usual suspects of Lebron, Kobe, Dirk and Dwight are always legitimate candidates year in and year out. They are all having monster years once again and are all worthy for this year’s award. Lebron had a great regular season but his inability to finish games just dropped him off my list for this year. The Black Mamba was his usual self, but the Most Valuable for a team? I don’t think so. The Lakeshow is still a top playoff team without Kobe (see his supporting cast!) and no, his rings do not count towards my MVP vote. Dirk deserves consideration as well. Simply look at what happened when he was out for a short stretch, and the Mavs were losing games left and right. But similar to Kobe’s situation, I think the Mavs are still loaded enough with good players to not be legitimate contenders throughout the season even without Dirk. Derrick Rose appears to be the people’s choice and definitely gets my vote with Dwight at a close second. D-Rose has been the rock for a young Bulls team that has absolutely overachieved by most people’s standards. His credentials are evident: D-Rose hit game winners, improved numbers across the board, controls games with more than just his scoring, has consistently displayed a high level of energy on the defensive end and has his team playing championship caliber basketball. He has led these young Bulls-who was hit with the injury bug all season long- to the best record in basketball and the overall #1 seed in the playoffs.
Coach of the Year
PS: This award will attract much debate this season, and the likes of Doug Collins and Tom Thibodeau are right there in contention, but my choice is George Karl of the Denver Nuggets. He held his squad together during the first part of the season, and completely changed their attitude, approach, and personnel in the last couple months. What coach has had more issues to deal with than Karl, who not only kept his team afloat but steered it to the fifth seed? Karl spent the first five months of the season with his best player, Carmelo Anthony, angling for a trade. Once that distraction was removed, Karl quickly molded a vastly new roster — featuring Knicks castoffs Raymond Felton, Danilo Gallinari, and Wilson Chandler– into a potentially dangerous playoff opponent that is better as a collective defensive unit then the sum of its parts. The Nuggets are 18-6 since they moved ‘Melo, with 9 different players leading them in scoring. The one constant has been George Karl, and he deserves his first Coach of the Year Award.
DB: I’m not going to argue against my partner’s choice of George Karl. He’s done an outstanding job under ridiculous circumstances. I wouldn’t argue with Greg Popovich, Nate McMillan or Tom Thibodeau either. All of these guys are very solid picks…just not mine. My vote goes to Philly’s Doug Collins. Collins has done an incredible job coaching the Sixers back to the post-season. With no major upgrades in his roster coming into the season, his team struggled right out of the gates, compiling a 3-13 record. His two main guns, Elton Brand and Andre Igoudala, just couldn’t carry the team to wins. Brand was once touted as a legitimate NBA star. However, with his injury plagued career, this label has fallen off. Andre has the ability to be one of the League’s young stars but he is simply not in that elite level just yet. Even without a single top-40 scorer, Collins has the 76ers defending on one end of the court and sharing the ball beautifully on the other. Doug Collins has the 76ers, a team that won just 27 games last season with essentially the same roster, poised for the 7th seed in the East.
Rookie of the Year
PS: Not since Lebron has there been a more impactful rookie or more of a landslide vote as Blake Griffin for rookie of the year. Beyond his numbers of 23 points, 12 boards, and 4 assists while shooting over 50% from the field and highlight after highlight, what the BlakeShow forested is a genuine level of excitement and hope for the lowly Clippers. A feat that should not go unnoticed nor unrewarded.
DB: This award is a no brainer for me. My vote also goes to the Blake Griffin. After missing his entire first year due to a broken left kneecap, there were plenty of questions about whether the young man would be able to handle a steady NBA workload. What happened? B-Griff stormed out of the gates and played at such a high level, earning a ticket to the Western Conference All-Star team. His consistent solid productivity and never ending highlight reels, earned my vote for this year’s top rookie.
Defensive Player of the Year
PS: I think this one, too, is a no-brainer. Dwight Howard will probably be in the NBA’s top-5 for blocks and rebounds every year that he is in the league. The fact that Orlando remains in the top-3 in defensive efficiency with a slew of mediocre to terrible individual defenders speaks to the greatness and impact of Howard on the defensive end.
DB: If Joakim Noah had stayed healthy all season, I think he could have challenged for this year’s award. However, as my partner Pete said, this year’s top Defensive Player is a no brainer as well. When Dwight Howard is in the game, points in the paint are very hard to come by. When he’s on the bench watching, his teammates on the court are also watching…giving their opponents layup lines. The overall defense of the Orlando Magic isn’t as good as the other elite defensive teams in the league, but that is more of a result of their roster makeup. Let’s be real here-Jason Richardson, Hedo Turkoglu, Gilbert Arenas, JJ Redick, Ryan Anderson (naming the whole roster is unnecessary because I know you all get my point) will never be known as defensive minded players.
Most Improved Player
PS: As astounding as his rebounding feats were, Kevin Love’s improvement went far beyond the boards. His scoring average increased more than six points (from 14.0 to 20.2); he shot a higher percentage from the field on more than three additional attempts per game, and became a dependable 3-point shooter (.417 on 211 attempts). The historic rebounding numbers merely clinched it. 20-15 as a season average is just a level not many players reach. In fact, no one has done it since Moses Malone in the ’82-’83 season.
DB: I agree with Pete on this one but I will give my second place guy some love. LaMarcus Aldridge will probably come a very close second on most people’s polls for this year’s most improved player. Aldridge has expanded his game with some long-awaited inside scoring and gave the injury plagued Blazers someone new to build around. Like Kevin Love, Aldridge has had an excellent season and improved his offensive numbers across the board. With their frontline- along with their main gun, Brandon Roy- hurt for a good portion of the season, Aldridge has carried this Blazers team into the post-season.
Sixth Man of the Year
PS: Since his high school days, Lamar Odom’s talent has never been in question. This season is arguably the best of his career, and he has developed into the Lakers second most important player to Kobe Bryant. What Odom can do at 6’10″ and lefty are as impressive as his days at Christ the King in New York. And as a basketball junkie and someone that read a book about the triangle offense, watching Odom now that he truly understands the scheme is a beautiful thing to see.
DB: 2009 Sixth Man of the Year, Jason Terry, led a dangerous Dallas Mavericks bench once again and can be a very worthy pick. However, Lamar Odom’s contributions to the Lakers have proven to be very invaluable. With Andrew Bynum out, Odom started the first two months of the season and had the Lakers playing their usual championship caliber basketball. Then when Bynum made his way back from injury, Odom embraced his new role as the 6th man without any hesitation or disruption to the team. His professionalism combined with his line of 14ppg, 9rpg, 3apg and a career high of 53% field-goal percentage, gives him my vote for this year’s sixth man award.
As competitive and wide open as this NBA season has been, the allocation of these awards figures to be equally up in the air. One thing is clear however; the excitement in the League is back! With the playoffs upon us, we here at SwipeLife are looking forward to a phenomenal post-season, filled with many dramatic finishes. With that said, this year’s Larry O’Brien trophy goes to…
NBA Season Recap
By SwipeLife Sports Columnists Dresden Baluyot and Peter B. Stine
Introduction by Peter B. Stine and Conclusion by Dresden Baluyot