Well it’s the end of the NBA regular season so it’s time for my awards:
MVP: LeBron James
Runner up: Dwayne Wade
Most commentators are seeing this as a no contest – LeBron James has been the best player on the best team and at the same time has been utterly dominant. But to me this disguises the fact that he had a pretty good supporting cast. While none are exactly stellar (and yes I know Mo Williams was an All Star) they are all skilled role players and love playing with LeBron. Whether it’s the energetic pesky defence of Anderson Varejao and Delonte West or the spot up shooting of Zydrunas Ilgauskas and Wally Szczerbiak this is a team built to complement LeBron. What also can’t be underestimated is having virtually the entire team together for a season and a half. They know how to play together and the results have shown.
But for me what Dwayne Wade has done with the Miami Heat, leading them to the fifth spot in the East is just as astounding. Who else on the Heat is comparable to LeBron’s supporting cast? Udonis Haslem is capable of accomplishing a Varejao kind of role and Michael Beasley has the potential to be an All Star but there is little else other than those two. You stick LeBron with Wade’s crew and I expect you’d see roughly the same record.
There are other notable candidates, especially Chris Paul with New Orleans who has almost as bad a supporting cast as Wade, Dwight Howard with Orlando, Paul Pierce with Boston (how Boston have been able to claim the second seed in the East with so many injuries is astounding) and of course the perennial Kobe Bryant with the Lakers.
But in the end LeBron wins it. He’s the best player, playing for the best team and doing it in such a dominating fashion – both defensively and offensively.
Coach of the Year: Mike Brown
Runner up: Stan Van Gundy
A few weeks back this award was going to go to Jerry Sloan for the way he got his team to compete despite all the awful injury luck they had. Then they limped their way to the playoffs, losing 7 of their last 10 games. So that forced a rethink and that means, Mike Brown, step on down. He coached the Cavs to 66 wins and a fearsome 39 – 2 record at home. This award should almost be as slam dunk as LeBron for MVP. His runner up: Stan Van Gundy for getting the Magic to 59 wins, about 9 wins more than what many expected.
Rookie of the Year: Derrick Rose
Runner up: Brooke Lopez
Derrick Rose had the pressure of being the number 1 pick AND playing in his home city and he didn’t disappoint. He managed to lead a flawed Chicago team to the playoffs in only his first year. He gave a tantalising preview of what should be a stupendous talent in years to come. In a deep draft Brooke Lopez showed that being drafted 10th was several positions too low. Lopez proved to be the centre the Nets were looking for both the present and the future.
Defensive Player of the Year: Dwight Howard
Runner up: Dwayne Wade
With Kevin Garnett and Tim Duncan limited with injuries and the catching up of time, Dwight Howard stands out as the obvious candidate in this category. He lead the league in rebounds and blocks and while no one will mistake him for Bill Russell (would it hurt Howard once in a while to block the ball to a team mate?) he was the lynchpin on which the Orlando Magic defence relied. Dwayne Wade had a spectacular season (see the MVP runner up above) on offence AND defence. He was second in the league in steals and an astonishing (for a guard) 16th in blocks.
Most Improved Player: Kevin Durant
Runners up: Rajon Rondo, Devin Harris, Paul Millsap
I don’t know how much of Kevin Durant’s development this season can be attributed to his natural evolution or the firing of PJ Carlisemo. Whatever the case Durant has developed into a stud who will be making All Star games in the very near future. I had a hard time choosing between Rajan Rondo, Devin Harris and Paul Millsap for my runner up so I’ve decided to stick em all in. They all became critical players for their teams.
Sixth Man of the Year: Jason Terry
Runner up: Nate Robinson
Just as much as a foregone conclusion as the MVP. He averaged 19.6 points off the bench for the Mavs, good for 23rd in the NBA. He is the Mavs second best player and a game changer every time he comes on the court. Nate Robinson is a worthy runner up, a spark plug who can change how the game is played. He just wasn’t quite as good as Terry.
And for interest here are my picks from the beginning of the season. I got one right. Ouch.