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.





Orlando Magic Season Preview

18 10 2008

My NBA South East Division preview begins with the Orlando Magic:

Orlando Magic

2007-08 Standings 52 – 30, 3rd Eastern Conference

2008-09 Predicted Record 50 – 32, 1st South East Division, 4th Eastern Conference

Projected Starting Five:  Dwight Howard, Rashard Lewis, Hedo Turkoglu, Mickael Pietrus, Jameer Nelson

Sixth Man:  JJ Redick

Orlando Magic centre Dwight Howard is a beast and the Magic will need him at his domineering best in the upcoming season.

The hopes of the Orlando Magic are built around one man: Dwight Howard. Howard is a beast. The most powerful and dominating centre in the game now that Shaq is on the slide towards retirement. Last year he showed how athletic and creative he is in winning the Slam Dunk contest, even donning a cape and flying Superman style to the hoop. The scary thing is he’s still developing and while his game is flawed there is no reason to suspect he can’t become an all time great.

The only problem is there’s not much else with him. Some people will point to Rashard Lewis and say there’s his sidekick, but I’m afraid I don’t feel the Lewis magic. He’s a scorer sure but for someone 6’10 and playing at the power forward slot you’d expect him to get more than 5.4 rpg. He’s also a below average defender and hardly justifies his massive pay cheque. He’s a great shooter but one skill does not justify great money.

The only other player of note is Hedo Turkoglu. Turkoglu was outstanding last season, the NBAs Most Improved Player and it was Turkoglu who proved himself the Magic’s clutch performer last season.

The remainder of the roster is filled with players with something to prove. It’s time starting point guard Jameer Nelson lived up to his potential. He only averaged 10.9 ppg last season and the Magic will need him to do a lot more. JJ Redick came into the league with a lot of hype and so far has disappointed. Mickael Pietrus is the third player with something to prove. He’s moved on from the Golden State Warriors and the Magic are looking to him to become the athletic swingman they desperately need.

There is a lingering sense that the Orlando Magic still lack a couple of players to be genuine threats to the elite teams of the league. In particular their point guard play is average (would Howard post Stoudemire-like numbers if he was playing alongside Steve Nash). Howard also lacks a true front court partner. An Udonis Haslem kind of player would be a perfect fit alongside him.

Coach:

Stan Van Gundy is the coach and he has done a solid job with the roster that he has. He’ll be praying that Howard continues to evolve and that they don’t suffer an injury as there’s not much depth.

Bench:

The Magic bench doesn’t inspire a great deal of confidence. Anthony Johnson will provide steadiness and leadership but they lack a true impact player. Its therefore imperative that JJ Redick become the player he promised when he was drafted.

Star Player:

Dwight Howard is the superstar around which all Magic hopes rest. How he continues to develop in the next few seasons will dictate whether the Magic will finally win a championship.

Team MVP:

Hedo Turkoglu is the clearcut team MVP in Orlando. It’s Turkoglu who provides silky offensive play and is the type of player that Howard needs surrounding him.

Final Prognosis:

The Magic will easily win the South East again but won’t get past the Celtics, Cavs or Pistons of this world. The Magic are still developing and it wouldn’t surprise me to see them in the Finals within five years, but they’re not quite there yet.

 

You can find an index of past Previews here.