NBA Season Awards

17 04 2009

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.





Chicago Bulls Season Preview

10 10 2008

My NBA Central Division preview continues with the Chicago Bulls:

Chicago Bulls 

2007-08 Standings 33 – 49, 11th Eastern Conference

2008-09 Predicted Record 40 – 42, 3rd Central Division, 8th Eastern Conference

Projected Starting Five:  Joachim Noah, Drew Gooden, Luol Deng, Larry Hughes, Kirk Hinrich

Sixth Man:  Derrick Rose

The Bulls are hoping that overall number 1 pick Derrick Rose can lead them back to glory.

The Bulls are hoping that overall number 1 pick Derrick Rose can lead them back to glory.

The Chicago Bulls were supposed to be title contenders in 2007/08. They seemingly had a championship calibre defence coupled with a whole bunch of young athletic scorers. The only thing they lacked was a post presence. Yet almost from the word go there was tension in Bulls land as key players (Ben Gordon and Luol Deng) failed to get contract extensions and the Bulls slumped to a 33 win record and 11th place in the Eastern Conference. Ouch.

Then the Chicago Bulls did the remarkable thing and won the lottery. Instead of selecting Michael Beasly, a player who projects as a superstar and solution to their low post woes, the Bulls selected Derrick Rose, a local player who will probably be a superstar as well. It would have been a good pick for most teams only the Bulls are loaded in the backcourt. Rose will have to battle for playing time with Kirk Hinrich, Gordon, Larry Hughes and Thabo Sefolosha.

Something has to give. Gordon is still around having signed a one year qualifying offer yet he’ll hardly be an ideal team mate and instead will look to gun for points to score a lucrative contract elsewhere. It might be best if the Bulls shipped him out. Hinrich might also be on the way out. He plays the same position as Rose and ultimately that makes him expendable. Hughes contract is probably too big to move.

The Bulls are relatively loaded at the small forward slot with Luol Deng and Argentinean Andres Nocioni there. Both are perimeter players however and that simply adds to the Bulls woes, they really need a post player.

Upfront the burden falls on second year centre Joachim Noah and Drew Gooden. Neither inspire as the answers to the Bulls problems. Gooden has bounced around various teams while Noah, for all his undoubted passion, needs to develop his game.

Probably the best thing the Bulls can do (other than shipping Gordon out) is play a small ball kind of game. They’ll get killed up front but hopefully they can run other teams out of the building.

Coach:

Vinny Del Negro is the first year coach of the Bulls replacing Scott Skiles. Not much is known of his coaching style, or indeed what kind of game they’re going to play, but he seems to have done the right thing in getting the experienced Del Harris and Bernie Bickerstaff to join him.

Bench:

Derrick Rose will probably start the season on the bench and at some point graduate to the starting lineup. The Bulls are relatively deep if only in the backcourt and on the perimeter. It would perhaps be in their best interests to ship one or more of their backcourt players for another forward or centre.

Star Player:

Luol Deng is arguably the face of the franchise having recently signed a big contract extension. However sooner rather than later the team will belong to Derrick Rose.

Team MVP:

Joachim Noah projects as the most important player on this team. If he can develop an inside postup game then the Bulls begin to look dangerous. With their relative weakness up front the Bulls absolutely need him to come on.

Final Prognosis:

The Bulls will be better this year and should make a return to the playoffs. However if they don’t deal with Gordon and their overstocked backcourt it’ll be a short visit.

 

You can find an index of past Previews here.