Mackenzie on NBA: First quarter awards

December 21, 2012, 7:56 PM

With the end of 2012, we also say goodbye to the first quarter of the 2012-2013 NBA season. It’s a little hard to believe that we already have 25-ish games down, played and in the books, but here we are.

Why do we love sports so much? Besides the obvious (they’re fun!), it’s that mix of the absolutely predictable (Russell Westbrook being awesome, Kobe Bryant hitting ridiculously tough game-winners) and the entirely unpredictable (Oh hi, Larry Sanders points/rebounds/blocks triple-doubles and Deron Williams shooting struggles) that keeps us tuning in.

In the first quarter of this season, there have been some things that just make sense and a few surprises as well. Here’s a look at how things are shaping up around the league thus far.

Most Valuable Player

Of course Carmelo Anthony is the popular pick here and it’s easy to see why. He’s got the Knicks playing fantastic ball, he looks great at the four and when things are fun at the Garden, everybody wins. Still, Melo isn’t getting the nod over here. While LeBron James is the obvious choice because he’s still the greatest player on this planet, the gap is narrowing between James and Kevin Durant and thanks to the Thunder’s strong start to the season, the MVP of the first quarter of this season goes to Durant. With a 27.9 points per game scoring average (third in the league after Bryant and Anthony), Durant is also averaging career-highs in rebounds and assists with 8.4 and 4.2 per game, respectively. Add in 52 percent shooting from the floor, nearly 43 percent shooting from beyond the arc and 90 percent shooting from the line along with 1.5 steals and 1.3 blocks per game and it’s easier to understand how Oklahoma City is at a league best 21-5 on the season. While no one knew how the Thunder would fare after sending James Harden to Houston, Durant has eliminated the question entirely.

Rookie of the Year

Coming into the season, first-overall pick Anthony Davis was the easy choice here. If you had watched any of the Las Vegas Summer League games though, you would know that Portland’s Damian Lillard would have something to say about everyone being ready to crown Davis with the ROY title before a single regular-season game had been played. While Davis has been in and out of the lineup due to injury (including a concussion), and has been solid whenever he has played as Davis has appeared in just 12 games, averaging 14.8 and 7.9 rebounds per game. In comparison, Lillard has appeared in 24 games for the Blazers and is averaging 18.5 points and 6.5 assists per game. He’s also hitting game-winners and looking like he knows his way around the block. While this race would definitely have been closer if Davis had been healthy, Lillard gets the nod here.

Sixth Man of the Year

Happy to announce that through the first quarter, Jamal Crawford has been the best sixth man in the league. The Clippers’ second-leading scorer, Crawford is averaging 16.6 points per game in just under 30 minutes off of the bench for the best team in L.A. With the Clippers sitting at 19-6 and first in the Pacific division, Crawford has shown how valuable he can be to a contending team. He’s also shaken off the remnants of last year’s disaster of an experiment in Portland and is playing the role of savvy vet to a young team with a wide range of personalities.

Biggest surprise

New York Knicks. Did anyone have them at 19-6 after the first 25 games of the season? With Amare Stoudemire out with a knee injury, Jeremy Lin out of the picture replaced by a combination of Raymond Felton and Jason Kidd, the Knicks playing their best basketball in years was not supposed to be on the agenda. They’re showing they don’t really care about the agenda, because here they are, flourishing. Anthony at the power forward spot has been a blessing in disguise for the team. Now the challenge will be integrating Stoudemire when he returns.

Honourable mention: Orlando Magic. Jacque Vaughn might secretly be a magician. The team that lost Dwight Howard is showing some serious fight and is creating a case for teamwork in Orlando. At 12-13, the Magic are getting contributions across the board. Arron Afflalo and Glen Davis are leading the team in scoring, each averaging 16 points per game, topping five players who average double-figures. Canadian rookie Andrew Nicholson has impressed scouts and veteran NBA players alike while quietly averaging 7.4 points and 3.2 rebounds per contest in just 14 minutes per game. They won’t be competing for an NBA title, but… having a better record than the Lakers through the first 25 games has to count for something, right?

Biggest disappointment

Los Angeles Lakers. Feels weird to see the Lakers here, doesn’t it? While the people who were expecting the newly-assembled core of Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, Steve Nash and Dwight Howard to suddenly reel off 60 wins were always crazy, the slow start to the season has been worrisome. Ditching Mike Brown after five games and bringing in Mike D’Antoni was a rash move. D’Antoni with an older team and without Steve Nash, who has been recovering from a fractured fibula, hasn’t been as great as the Lakers’ front office might have hoped. Offensively things have been okay. Defensively, well, Howard is not where he needs to be, Gasol’s knees are showing their age and game-by-game, the Lakers are wasting one of the most impressive and efficient seasons Bryant has had. There’s a lot of “welp” among Lakers fans right now, but the good thing is that Nash is on his way back and the team is still sitting at 12-14 on the season. This is Los Angeles, after all. Not Washington.

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