We’re halfway through the NBA season and it’s time to stop and take stock of what has happened. It is usually a good time to examine who might be in line to potentially collect some of the major awards at season’s end.
Most Valuable Player
First off, if your team isn’t winning, I don’t care how well you’re playing, you can’t be considered for the award. The MVP, in most instances, resides on a winning team.
The leading candidates are, well, the usual suspects. Kevin Durant and LeBron James are mixed in with other names like Carmelo Anthony, Tony Parker, and Chris Paul.
But here’s a question for you, who is the one player that always has an advantage in an individual match-up?
It’s James, who is too quick for a bigger player, too strong for a smaller player and his passing ability and basketball IQ makes him impossible to stop. James gets the vote with Durant a close second.
Sixth Man of the Year
There are plenty of players that come off the bench to spark their clubs.
There familiar names like past winners, Manu Ginobili and Jamal Crawford. But look at some of the names on teams that are having good seasons and players like J.R. Smith, Kevin Martin, and Jarrett Jack catch your eye.
This vote goes to Crawford who, without a “reputation’ or “star power protection” may be the most difficult cover in the NBA off the dribble. Just look at the fact he is one of the top scorers in the fourth quarter. The slender Crawford can flat out embarrass anyone off the bounce.
Defensive Player of the Year
This award always seems to go to big players that control the lane but has anyone ever considered that if a big player is blocking shots in the lane that the perimeter players may not be doing a good job?
There is not one dominant stat to consider for perimeter players the way shot-blocking governs the effectiveness of the human erasers that reside in the lane. So knock yourself out trying to pick a winner here. It’s a tough choice.
Some candidates, Joakim Noah and Serge Ibaka, anchor a couple of the top defensive teams in the league. Milwaukee’s Larry Sanders is amongst the leaders in shot blocking and then there are perimeter players without the stats like Tony Allen, Paul George or that guy LeBron James who can guard almost every position on the court.
No argument with any of those names but I’ll give the nod to Noah.
Rookie of the Year
Prior to the start of the season, the consensus was that Anthony Davis, the NBA’s first overall pick, was a lock to win the award. Well not so fast, not that the New Orleans rookie hasn’t had a good campaign, it’s just that he’s had some competition.
Portland point guard Damian Lillard has turned heads with his scoring and decision making that belies his age and experience.
Votes will also be tossed in the direction of Bradley Beal and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, but Lillard is the clear choice at this time.
Coach of the Year
If a team is winning, the man strutting the sidelines tie suddenly becomes a hot name for this award.
In New York, Mike Woodson has the Knicks playing well and suddenly so are the Nets under P.J. Carlesimo. Vinny Del Negro has the Clippers doing the same on the left coast as is Mark Jackson in Oakland with the Warriors. Lionel Hollins may be destined never to win because his effective old school approach that is consistent but unspectacular seems to be taken for granted in Memphis. Ditto for Greg Poppovich in San Antonio and anyone could coach the team in Miami, right Erik Spoelstra?
Tough choices but, for now, let’s give the nod to Jackson.
Executive of the Year
All you have to do is look at how a team is performing under its coach and it will lead you to a list of people to consider for Executive of the Year.
So Glen Grunwald in New York, Garry Sacks in Clipperland, and Bob Myers in Golden State will get consideration. But consider Danny Ferry in Atlanta. He has helped build, for now, a playoff team with just less than $20 million in salaries committed to next year’s team. Sam Presti pulled off a major trade involving a cornerstone of past success, James Harden, without his team missing a beat.
Grunwald has used this formula for success before surrounding a star with veteran players, so let’s say it’s his, at this point.
Most Improved Player
This award is not necessarily always associated with a player on a winning team. It helps, but it doesn’t seem to be a prerequisite.
Grevis Vasquez is having a solid season in New Orleans and Jrue Holiday has blossomed in many ways in Philadelphia. For his efforts, Holiday was rewarded with an all-star selection as a reserve being voted in by the coaches.
On the other side of the coin, it doesn’t hurt that Indiana is playing well and Paul George is emerging as a mainstay in the line up without Danny Granger. One last name for consideration, as he is the season’s biggest reclamation project and that is Andray Blatche. If he keeps things going in the right direction, Blatche’s versatility could be very valuable for the Brooklyn Nets come playoff time.
The biggest team surprise of the season is the Golden State Warriors and the biggest disappointment is easily in Los Angeles as the Lakers are a mess.
A couple of thoughts as we turn the corner and head toward the season’s end in April
Keep your eyes on the Denver Nuggets in the second half of the season. They had more road games than only the Toronto Raptors up until the turn of the calendar. The Nuggets are a good team at home and if they can capitalize on 22 of the final 38 games being in the thin air at altitude, they will have a lot to say about seeding in the western conference. If they make some shots outside of the lane, the Nuggets are going to make some noise.