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.

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Cleveland Cavaliers Season Preview

8 10 2008

My NBA Central Division preview begins with the Cleveland Cavaliers:

Cleveland Cavaliers

2007-08 Standings 45 – 37, 4th Eastern Conference

2008-09 Predicted Record 52 – 30, 1st Central Division, 2nd Eastern Conference

Projected Starting Five:  Zydrunas Ilgauskas, Ben Wallace, LeBron James, Wally Szczerbiak, Mo Williams

Sixth Man:  Delonte West

LeBron James is the present and future of the NBA. Will he win the MVP this year?

LeBron James is the present and future of the NBA. Will he win the MVP this year?

The Cleveland Cavaliers must be anxiety proof. How else can they deal with the ongoing expectation that superstar LeBron James is going to bolt Cleveland for the New Jersey Nets in 2010? The best thing they can do is get on with playing the game and surrounding LeBron with classy players.

The Cavs attempted to do just that this past offseason by acquiring Maurice Williams from the Milwaukee Bucks. Williams is an upgrade at the point guard position and gives the Cavs another legitimate scorer. However he has missed 54 games in the past 3 seasons and that kind of absence will hurt the Cavs. Luckily in Delonte West they have a more than adequate backup and it wouldn’t surprise to see West and Williams sharing time in the backcourt.

Ultimately this team is all about LeBron. King James is the best player in the NBA with the potential to be the greatest of all time. He is unstoppable on offence, big and strong and he is coming off the high of an Olympic Gold Medal. His defence has improved each season and if he can continue developing his outside shot he will win the MVP trophy for the first time.

Upfront the Cav’s are seemingly well served. Zydrunas Ilgauskas is a giant handful for most teams, bigger than most players with a reliable midrange jumper while off the bench Anderson Varejao is a bustling and bruising forward/centre. The starting power forward is the ghost of Ben Wallace. Once upon a time Wallace was the best post defender in the NBA. Those days are long gone. He is capable of a big game every two weeks but any more than that is a stretch.

With the addition of Williams the Cavs will be better this season and if LeBron can continue to develop his game the Cavs should finish second in the East. However there is a feeling that LeBron still doesn’t have a true sidekick like Michael Jordan had with Scottie Pippen. To start the season they have Wally Szczerbiak plugged in at starting shooting guard but it wouldn’t surprise anyone to see Wally and his expiring contract moved for another player.

Coach:

Mike Brown is the Cleveland Cavalier coach and for the most part he has done an admirable job. The Cavaliers are an above average defensive team and have advanced well into the playoffs the past two years. However there is a suggestion that Brown needs to be more creative in maximising LeBron’s talents. 

Bench:

The Cavs have a very solid bench. They have energy players such as Varejao and Aleksander Pavlovic as well as solid Delonte West. Daniel Gibson provides some sharp shooting off the pine as well. They will also be hoping that draft pick JJ Hickson develops into a solid player. The Cavs starting front court (LeBron aside) is positively geriatric and they will need Hickson sooner rather than later.

Star Player:

Kobe Bryant might, might, be a bigger star than LeBron James but it’s only by a sliver. LeBron is the present and the future of not only the Cavs but also the NBA. He will win an MVP trophy sooner rather than later but whether he wins an NBA title in Cleveland or New Jersey remains a big question. The best the Cavs can do is convince LeBron he has a legitimate chance to win in Cleveland.

Team MVP:

We all know about the sustained brilliance of LeBron James but how Maurice Williams develops as his primary sidekick will dictate how far the Cavs go.

Final Prognosis:

The Cleveland Cavaliers are blessed with the best player in the game. If LeBron stays healthy they should finish second in the East and have a legitimate shot at challenging the Celtics and whoever comes out of the West but if the unthinkable happens and LeBron gets injured they will seriously struggle. Will 2008/09 mark the beginning of King James reign?

 

You can find an index of past Previews here.