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.





Dallas Mavericks Season Preview

26 10 2008

My NBA South West Division preview continues with the Dallas Mavericks:

Dallas Mavericks

2007-08 Standings 51 – 31, 7th Western Conference

2008-09 Predicted Record 45 – 37, 4th South West Division, 8th Western Conference

Projected Starting Five:  Erick Dampier, Dirk Nowitzki, Josh Howard, Jason Terry, Jason Kidd

Sixth Man:  Jerry Stackhouse

If Jason Kidd can recapture his form from a few years ago then the Dallas Mavericks will remain a contender, otherwise look out below.

If Jason Kidd can recapture his form from a few years ago then the Dallas Mavericks will remain a contender, otherwise look out below.

The Dallas Mavericks are a team on the slide but they remain seemingly unaware of it. In 2006 this team made the NBA Finals where they were defeated by the Miami Heat in six games. The following season they had one of the best regular seasons in history, finishing 67 – 15. Mavs superstar Dirk Nowitzki won the MVP but unfortunately they met the upstart Golden State Warriors in the first round and were bounced from the playoffs. In retrospect they perhaps should have retooled the team then. Instead they waited till midseason and traded point guard star of the future, Devin Harris to the New Jersey Nets for former Maverick Jason Kidd. The trade didn’t work and the team were bounced from the first round of the playoffs again. Instead of retooling the roster in the offseason, the Mavericks have kept mostly the same roster together, the only major change is new coach Rick Carlisle.

At least the Mavericks still have a superstar centrepiece in Dirk Nowitzki. Nowitzki remains a top 10 player in the league. He is arguably the best shooting big man ever and when his shot is falling is unstoppable. Unfortunately he goes missing at times – can you see Tim Duncan leading the San Antonio Spurs to the best record in the NBA and then allowing his team to be bounced in the first round? Perhaps it’s the toll of playing most offseasons for the German national team? Saying that though I still consider Nowitzki a franchise player, the question is whether he is surrounded by the right players.

The highest profile of Nowitzki’s sidekicks is Jason Kidd. Kidd is a future Hall of Famer. He should have won an MVP trophy for leading an inferior New Jersey Nets team to the Finals twice. Four years ago this would have been a great acquisition for the Mavericks. Unfortunately Kidd has worryingly shown his age over the past year or two and he is a shadow of his former self. The one positive however is that he has a massive expiring contract and if things aren’t going well for the Mavs then it wouldn’t surprise to see him moved before the trade deadline. 

Josh Howard is an All Star talent with an unfortunate knack of getting into All Star class trouble off the court.  Before the playoffs last year he admitted to using marijuana in the offseason then in September he disrespected the US national anthem and flag. Not a good look. Unfortunately such acts have damaged Howard’s trade value so it looks like the Mavericks are stuck with him. On the plus side he is an exceptional do-everything talent and if he can get his head right he ensures the Mavericks remain contenders.

The other notable talent on the Mavericks if Jason Terry. A slight player, Terry is a streak shooter capable of taking over a game every so often. He’s probably better coming off the bench but can perform the starter’s role admirably.

Coach:

Rick Carlisle has his work cut out for him. Somehow he must keep the Mavericks in contention (there is still a belief in Mavericks land that they are contenders) while getting them to forget the failures of the past couple of years. He has a talented group of assistants with him and it will be intriguing to see the schemes they create.

Bench:

On paper the Mavericks have a solid, well rounded bench. Jerry Stackhouse is the designated sixth man while they also have defensive stoppers in DeSagana Diop and Devean George with a dashing swingman in Gerald Green. However Stackhouse is past it and Green has proved woefully erratic, failing to stick with even poor teams such as the former Boston Celtics and Minnesota Timberwolves.

Star Player:

Dirk Nowitzki is the star here. While his MVP is tarnished by the subsequent loss in the first round he is still a transcendent scorer.

Team MVP:

Jason Kidd is critical to the Dallas Mavericks hopes this season. If he can recapture the form of season’s past then the Mavericks will remain in contention. However this is doubtful. He was always a poor shooter but he compensated brilliantly in other ways. Can he do it again?

Final Prognosis:

Unfortunately the Dallas Mavericks are doomed to another season of disappointment. It wouldn’t surprise to see them hovering around the .500 mark midseason and then pulling off a blockbuster trade or two. I still expect them to make the playoffs but they’ll be bounced in the first round again.

 

You can find an index of past Previews here.