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First half of NBA season awards, second half predictions

Feb 28, 2012, 8:45 AM EDT

Miami Heat's LeBron James dribbles the ball in the first half of their NBA basketball game against the New York Knicks in Miami Reuters

So much for the little rest stop in Orlando. It was fun.

The breakneck pace of the NBA’s condensed post-lockout season picks up again Tuesday night. The pedal goes to the metal and we head for the playoffs.

Before the engines fully rev up again, we’re going to take stock. But rather than just give you some midseason awards, we’ll give you some thoughts on if these players and teams can keep it up.

MVP: LeBron James, Miami Heat
In the second half: LeBron should be able to keep up his pace because what he’s done — 27.1 points per game on 54.7 percent shooting with 8 rebounds and 6 assists per game — is not happening just because he’s simply on a hot streak. He’s matured his game, he’s getting better looks in transition with the Heat’s up-tempo offense and because he’s traded in some threes for shots in the post. If he does falter a little, Kevin Durant is there to scoop up the pieces, with Tony Parker, Kobe Bryant and Derrick Rose lurking.

Top Team in East: Miami Heat
In the second half: The East is a two team race, Miami and Chicago. The Bulls may have the better record right now but the Heat have been the better side of late. If both teams are fully healthy, I think the Heat are the better squad, but the gap is so narrow that nagging little injuries, a hot bench player, just about anything can swing that series. The Eastern Conference Finals are going to be epic.

Top Team in West: Oklahoma City Thunder
In the second half: The Thunder are one of the true elite teams, one of the NBA’s contenders. Yet, there are moments you wonder about OKC and their end-of-game execution, their play that seems to go a bit too isolation, there is a feeling among some scouts in the league they can be stopped. Except nobody has really done it. Who in the West can really best them? San Antonio? Dallas? The Lakers? None of them without making a trade. The Clippers may be the most likely, but they strike me as OKC a year ago, a team learning to win. The Thunder likely will come out of the West and they will push anyone in the East in the finals.

Most Disappointing Team: Boston Celtics
In the second half: You knew that the condensed schedule would be hard on the Celtics older legs (as we expected and have seen with the Lakers and for stretches the Mavericks and Spurs). But in Boston, it’s not just the losses (or 15-16 record), it’s how the losses are happening that gives you feeling they held on too long and there is no way to salvage this short term. Rajon Rondo seems more testy than normal (throwing the ball at the ref? Really?). The defense is still good but come the playoffs will that be enough? Danny Ainge may make a big move, if he can find one he likes.

Biggest surprise player: Jeremy Lin, New York Knicks
In the second half: Lin may not keep dropping 20 a night consistently, but he doesn’t have to — he has to learn to mesh with Carmelo Anthony and Amare Stoudemire and now J.R. Smith. If he can, the Knicks could be the third best team in the NBA entering the playoffs (not by record, but by how they are playing). But Deron Williams said over the weekend that other point guards are seeing the hype around Lin and they are gearing up for him. It’s something to watch.

Coach of the year: Doug Collins, Philadelphia 76ers
In the second half: The Sixers started out playing fantastic team ball — good defense and a balanced offense. But that has fallen off since Spencer Hawes got hurt, he is the guy who made their offense work because he moved the ball side-to-side quickly. The ball gets stuck now and they are easier to defend. And Hawes is going to be out at least another couple of weeks. My guess is the Sixers slip and we can move Gregg Popovich into the coach of the year spot — he has the Spurs playing fantastic ball this season, as he did last year. He deserves it.

  1. bils293 - Feb 28, 2012 at 9:03 AM

    The heat actually have a better record than the bulls

  2. dtownpayne - Feb 28, 2012 at 10:09 AM

    Can’t help but notice you left sixth man off the list after the absurd sixth man comments in the quarter pole awards article earlier this season

  3. sdb74 - Feb 28, 2012 at 10:39 AM

    I would say Frank Vogel deserves COY consideration. Al Harrington for 6th man too.

  4. sknut - Feb 28, 2012 at 10:40 AM

    Don’t count out Adelman for coach of the year if the T-Wolves find a way to get into the playoffs a uphill task for sure but where this team was last year this is night and day.

  5. turnmymicup - Feb 28, 2012 at 10:42 AM

    Lebron is playing at a crazy good level right not. But more important than that the Heat are developing good defenseive habits. Before the Allstar break MIA was playing some of their best ball. Its time to seal the deal now. 305 will be a dangerous team to face in the playoffs. Go Heat!!

  6. africanballer - Feb 28, 2012 at 11:54 AM

    I think the condensed season is about to get very exciting. Because every single game matters now

  7. md23rewlz - Feb 28, 2012 at 2:45 PM

    It’s slightly absurd that anybody could say that LeBron is going to win MVP. Did you guys see what he did in the closing seconds of the All Star Game? But seriously, the notion that the Knicks could end up the third best team in the entire NBA come playoff time is pretty far fetched. I don’t think the talent is right on that team, and I think everybody and everybody is going to start pressuring Lin to the max ala the Heat (and though some teams will fail, getting that kind of pressure night after night is going to expose an already turnover prone player). And even if they do improve, the fact that there’s a good chance that they’ll be locked into the seventh or eighth seed means that it doesn’t matter. Chicago or Miami would destroy New York in the playoffs. I don’t see the Knicks improving to the point that they would actually put up a legit fight against what are clearly two Great teams.

  8. losangelasbasketball - Feb 28, 2012 at 4:21 PM

    There should be a new award for the biggest failure at proofreading their articles in sports writing.

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