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.





Miami Heat Season Preview

19 10 2008

My NBA South East Division preview begins with the Miami Heat:

Miami Heat

2007-08 Standings 15 – 67, 15th Eastern Conference

2008-09 Predicted Record 42 – 40, 2nd South East Division, 7th Eastern Conference

Projected Starting Five:  Mark Blount, Michael Beasley, Shawn Marion, Dwayne Wade, Marcus Banks

Sixth Man:  Udonis Haslem

A healthy Dwayne Wade is crucial for the Miami Heat's chances in 2008/09.

A healthy Dwayne Wade is crucial for the Miami Heat in the upcoming season.

Last year the Miami Heat were shockingly bad. They scraped their way to 15 wins and it seemed lucky that they made that many. Yet it was only two years ago that they won the NBA title. Their fall is a reminder that a team built to win a title can just as easily slide into mediocrity with the rapid aging of key players and a few nasty injuries.

However with a terrible season comes a high draft pick and the Heat scored big with the second pick in the draft. They selected Michael Beasley, a supremely gifted young forward with a great inside outside game and a winning attitude. He has displayed immaturity at times and it will be interesting to see how team boss, Pat Riley, copes with Beasley’s quirks.

The Heat are also blessed with one of the best players in the NBA. When he is healthy Dwayne Wade is nigh on unstoppable. The only thing he lacks is a reliable three point shot. However the healthy part is what is crucial. Wade has only played 51 games in each of the last two seasons and he played hurt in many of the games he did play in. if he is healthy for a full season then the Heat will rebound back up the rankings.

The third player in Miami’s big three is Shawn Marion. Marion is a multi skilled All Star capable of playing both forward positions. He is a highly talented defender and a capable outside shooter, albeit with the ugliest stroke in the NBA. Marion was acquired midseason by the Heat along with Marcus Banks in exchange for Shaquille O’Neal. The trade freed the Heat of Shaq’s humongous contract and they get to see whether Marion is worth offering an extension to. His contract expires at the end of this season and it wouldn’t surprise anyone to see Marion traded before the deadline. A good fit might be with the LA Lakers with the Heat getting back former player Lamar Odom.

Udonis Haslem is the pick of the remaining players. He is a capable forward who plays his best basketball as a supporting player beside a dominant front court player.

The remainder of the players are NBA journeymen who the Heat will be hoping can play above themselves.

The Heat did make one intriguing offseason signing. They signed Shaun Livingston, a player who suffered a terrible injury a couple of years ago. Before the injury he was one of the more intriguing young players. He seemingly possessed limitless potential and it will be interesting to see how he comes back from his injury layoff. If he can recapture some of his former quickness and skills the Heat will be extremely dangerous.   

Coach:

The Miami Heat coach is first year Head Coach Erik Spoelstra. He has been with the Heat organisation for 14 years so the players should be used to him. Being Head Coach is different to other roles however and how he copes will be key to the Heat.

Bench:

The Heat bench has a number of promising youngsters on it. Daequan Cook, Dorell Wright and Mario Chalmers all have skill and ability but can they take their games to the next level?

Star Player:

When fit Dwayne Wade is a top 5 talent in the NBA. He is explosive offensively, basing his game on getting to the hoop and subsequently to the line. He is also a capable defender, able to play lockdown defence from time to time. He already has one title with the Heat. Will he get more?

Team MVP:

How quickly Michael Beasley adjusts to the NBA will be crucial for the Heat’s chances. He has the talent but can he cope with the constant abuse his body will take from NBA defenders?

Final Prognosis:

The Miami Heat should qualify for the playoffs this season. With Wade, Marion and Beasley they have one of the best trios in the NBA. The key will be keeping them healthy and getting regular production from the remainder of the team.

 

You can find an index of past Previews here.