Ok so, at around 1:00 tomorrow morning, the regular season of the NBA will officially be over. Since it’s over it’s time to give the awards to the men who deserve them. One by one.
MVP: Lebron James
This really shouldn’t surprise many people, Lebron James has had one of the best individual seasons in NBA history. He’s had one of those seasons that people will look back on in twenty years and say, “Man, that’s when he became one of the greatest ever.”Lebron sees the game, and plays the game like a once in a lifetime player. Lebron has really separated himself from everybody else in the league and has contributed to the overall #1 seed in the NBA. He’s a man among boys, and what’s really scary about him, scarier than the fact that he’s a bald 28 year old, but that this will be his 4th MVP award at 28 years of age. This season Lebron James has averaged 26.8 points a game, 7.3 assists, and 8 rebounds a game. He’s done this before but let me remind you he’s one of only 5 players ever to average 25, 7 and 7 in a season. He has the 4th highest PER rating for a season behind only Wilt Chamberlain and MIchael Jordan with 31.68. Don’t forget the 6 straight games in February where he averaged 30.8 points a game on 73% shooting. He is the ONLY player to ever score 30 or more points on 60% shooting by the way. He’s averaging a career high in three point shooting at 40.6% and career lows in personal fouls and turnovers per game. Call him a beast. Call him the chosen one. Call him the best all-around player ever. Or call him the most athletic player ever. It doesn’t really matter what you call him unless you call him the MVP.
Rookie of the Year: Damian Lillard
It’s rare a rookie can break out onto the NBA scene and make such an impact on a team that people are crying when your ‘snubbed’ from the all-star game. Damian Lillard is a cold-blooded man even getting recognition from the coldest in the Black Mamba.
Damian Lillard has taken the Trailblazers and given them some hope. Lamarcus Aldridge is not alone anymore, because he now has the point guard of the future in Portland and really, one of the point guards of the future for the NBA. He’s averaged 19 points, 6.5 assists, and 3.2 rebounds per game this year. He’s shooting 36.7% from three and 42.8% from the field this season. He is the only rookie in NBA history since Oscar Robertson to average 19 and 6 on 43% from the field and 36% from beyond the arc. He has scored a total of 1541 points so far this season and 528 assists, becoming the only rookie to do so since Robertson and Allen Iverson. He’s also the first player in NBA history to score 1,000 points and 300 assists in his first 55 games. To finish your first season garnering comparisons to the great Oscar Robertson and Allen Iverson means your in good company.
Sixth Man of the Year: J.R Smith
The competition fighting for this award stretched from names like Jamal Crawford in Los Angeles, all the way to a Grievis Vasquez in New Orleans. But the last month of the NBA season really set J.R apart from the rest of them. The Knicks went on a 13 game winning streak from Monday the 18th of February to Tuesday the 9th of April. During that stretch he averaged 23 points, 6 rebounds and 2 assists per game on 35% shooting from the three point line, and 52% from the field. He really established himself as a clear second option for Carmelo, and did everything for the Knicks from playmaking to scoring 30 points in a game. Throughout the entire season he has matured significantly, largely due to Mike Woodson’s effect on him but as a player he has developed and improved from an erratic nut who could score the ball, to a less erratic nut who can play basketball.
Most Improved Player: Nikola Vucevic
This category was a real tough one, as so many different players emerged this season as essential pieces to their team. Guys like Larry Sanders, Greivis Vasquez, Jrue Holiday and so on. I truly went back and forth between almost every guy on the list until I went with my gut, and the blood running through my veins and I said Nikola deserves the award. See, Larry Sanders has improved drastically defensively and on the boards and turned into a double double guy this season. Greivis Vasquez has become a highly effective and efficient point guard for the New Orleans Hornets. He’s improved in almost every statistical category and really has flown under the radar and established himself as one of the top playmakers in the league. Jrue Holiday improved everywhere – so much so, that he garnered an all-star selection this season. There is no doubt he has become a top point guard in the NBA, but I can’t help but think that if he were really such an all-star and such an improved player than his 76’ers wouldn’t be 33-48 especially when Jrue had complete control over the team and the green light to do whatever he wants. James Harden doesn’t get my vote because everybody knew how good James Harden was, the problem was he was playing behind Westbrook and Durant two of the top 5 or 6 guys in the NBA. It’s not like he’s an improved player, he was a star in OKC but was playing 7 minutes less than this season and is now the main focus instead of being the third option in OKC. Nikola Vucevic gets my vote because not only has he improved from 5 points to 13 points, and 5 rebounds to 12 rebounds, but he has kept his head up and worked hard for the Magic who were left completely in the shitter after the Dwightmare came to a conclusion. It’s tough for guys, especially competitors at the highest level to go out every night knowing their chances of winning is very low. He kept playing and finished averaging 13 and 12 on the season. He’s 2nd in the league in rebounding, and 3rd in double-doubles. He’s essentially become one of the top centers in the league, while nobody was watching. Oh, he also has four 20-20 games on the season
Defensive Player of the Year: Marc Gasol
The Memphis Grizzlies are the toughest team in the NBA. They are the team that you would not want to see walking in a V-formation down an alley with hoods on their head. They’re the team you wouldn’t want to see on any street-ball court, never mind NBA court. The Grizzlies are dirty, they’re tough, they grind it out and they make it tough for teams to score and for teams to play their game. They’re first in opponents points allowed with 89 a game, 3rd in opponents FG% with 44% and 3rd in opponents 3-Point% allowing 34%. They play defense as a team, but at the heart of that defense and at the back of their interior is the angel faced Spaniard Marc Gasol. He may not look like the toughest guy around but he is averaging 8 rebounds and 2 blocks a game while helping Memphis allow only 38 points in the paint per game.
Coach of the Year: George Karl
George Karl has never been a believer of the super-team system, nor has he ever believed in playing slow and letting a defense set up. This season it feels like George Karl has found his perfect match. His entire coaching career he’s been looking for a crop of guys who are young, selfless, athletic and don’t mind sharing the spotlight. It was a match made in heaven when this current team was formed. He does not have a star and yet his team is the 3rd seed in the West above teams like the Clippers who have CP3 and Blake Griffin, the Rockets with Harden, the Lakers with Dwight, and the Grizzlies with Z-Bo and Gasol. He has got everybody working together, and buying into his system and it has paid dividends. They score 106 points a game which is just decimal points back of first place. They’re also 5th in offensive efficiency. It’s not only offense though, sure the Nuggets can score better than anybody in the league but they only give up about 101 points a game, and of that 101 they only give up 40 in the paint. They have all the tools to be a contender this off-season and a lot of it is all thanks to the way George Karl has shaped this team. Some say Spoelstra should get this award, but I feel like if there was a year for him to win it it was last year when they came back from the atrocious 2010 finish and won a championship in dominating fashion. Lebron had one of the best seasons EVER, that’s why he looks good. The system isn’t different to last year, they’re just playing better. Mark Jackson, and Mike Woodson were on the bubble for me and I wouldn’t be against giving it to them either.