Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Awards Time

With the next to last night of NBA action happening tonight, and my Sixers looking like the worst team in the post-season with their sixth straight loss (a 100-98 effort to a Celtics team that didn't have Kevin Garnett or much of a reason to play hard)... well, it's as good a time as any to rattle off my picks for the major awards. Let's get right to it, so I can get the stink of that game out of my mind.

Most Valuable Player -- LeBron James, Cleveland Cavaliers

People have been trying to make this into a competitive race for months now, and the general public, for one, isn't fooled. James is simply the best player in the Association on the team with the best record. The year he's had hasn't been matched statistically since Jordan's glory days.

Which isn't to denigrate the year that Dwayne Wade had. He's the clear number two choice, will most likely survive the first round against the Hawks, and will scare the living hell out of whatever luckless high East seed has to deal with him. He's just not as good as James. There's no shame in that.

As for Kobe, I'm not feeling it. In the future history of this year, he might be remembered for a championship, and he might be remembered as the year that he finally trusted his non-Shaq teammates.

But this is the year in which the most talented player in the league -- James -- became one of the hardest workers, too. Getting back on defense to make a saving and spectacular block just seemed to be a nightly occurrence. The pregame hijinks showed that, in a very real way, he was embracing a leadership role. The way he incorporated and raised Mo Williams, and how the team didn't miss a beat even as personnel shifted, just speaks volumes. And the 39-1 and counting home record just served notice that this was his year.

It's his year. And we're going to keep saying that for the next decade. Get used to it.

Rookie of the Year - Derrick Rose, Chicago Bulls

Chicago is a playoff team, and Rose is their best player. That makes him the choice over Memphis's OJ Mayo, and New Jersey's Brook Lopez. Either of those guys might have actually been better players this year, but point guards just matter more, and it's not as if the Bulls were awash in talent this year, especially with Luol Deng hurt for much of the year. Rose needs to get better, and he will, but for this award, he's more than good enough.

Coach - Rick Adelman, Houston Rockets

There's a lot of thinking that this needs to go to Mike Brown of the Cavaliers, or the criminally under-regarded Jerry Sloan, who has somehow not won this thing for his entire damn career. You could also think about San Antonio's Gregg Popovich, who could get it every year, or the Lakers' Phil Jackson, who really did a fantastic job of making sure that his talent meshed. But for my money, I'm giving it to Houston's Rick Adelman, who survived Ron Artest, the auto-ejection of Tracy McGrady, a near-fatality to big man Carl Landry, a midseason trade of his starting point guard to Orlando, and his best player (Yao Ming) being a defensive sieve despite being 7'-5". I still don't like this team's playoff chances, just because Artest is far too crazy to survive national attention and pressure, but give Adelman his due. This could have been a train wreck, and instead, they are highly competitive.

Most Improved Player - Paul Milsap, Utah Jazz

Most folks go for the easy choice of guys who are scoring more points thanks to an opportunity (the Nets' Devin Harris), a second-year player just finding his range (the Thunder's Kevin Durant), or the slow rising action of an improving veteran (Indy's Danny Granger). I just can't get enough of Milsap's game, a guy who just came from nowhere to be a critical part of a potentially dangerous playoff team, and a guy who more or less Wally Pipped Carlos Boozer in Salt Lake. To me, the MIP is about rewarding this kind of player, not adding to the trophy closet of players who will find themselves getting honored enough.

Sixth man - Lou Williams, Philadelphia 76ers

Everyone takes Jason Terry on this one, but Terry's really not a sixth man; he's just a guy who, for some reason that no one outside of Dallas can really tell me, doesn't start. Williams, on the other hand, is a true bench guy; he doesn't start because he's not better than Andre Miller, Andre Iguodala or Thaddeus Young. But when he comes into the game, he is a real difference maker, having scored an ungodly number of points from that position without being, unlike Terry, a defensive matador. He's a big reason why the Sixers get to the line so much, have a cohesive second unit despite erratic talent, and simply deserves more play than he gets nationally, in that I'm pretty sure no one outside of Philadelphia knows about him at all. Give him the award.

Defensive Player of the Year - Dwight Howard, Orlando Magic

This one's not even close. Howard lead the Association in boards and blocks, the first time that's been done in forever, and he's the only reason why Orlando's situation (i.e., a bunch of guys who can shoot threes, none of whom are known for their defense) works. If he were hurt, you'd be looking at a .500 at best team, because their defense would look Phoenix-esque. I don't think they are a Final Four team, because I don't like their guard play that much, and when your best fourth quarter player is Hedo Turkoglu, that doesn't smell like a championship to me. But that's not what we're dealing with for Defensive Player of the Year. It's Howard, who is good on the ball, off the ball, and in every other way.


Dirty Davey said...

"It might be his for the rest of the decade."

I somehow think LeBron's dominance is likely to last more than eight and a half months.

DMtShooter said...

Agreed; fixed.

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