Jan 24, 2013, 12:31 PM EDT
It’s the halfway point of the NBA season. To me having a serious discussion about end of season awards before this point is like discussing the 2016 presidential election today — it’s all speculation and wishful thinking.
Now we have enough games to have a body of evidence and a discussion. So here are my picks for all the awards, as things stand at the midway point of the season. I’ll give you my top five for MVP and three for everything else — including team to beat for the NBA title.
To me this is a two man race with a gap to the No. 3 spot. Kevin Durant and LeBron James are the two best basketball players walking the face of the earth and both are having monster seasons — LeBron is averaging 26.5 points per game on 55 percent shooting, plus 7.1 assists and 6.9 rebounds a game, with a PER of 30.3. Durant is at 29.6 points a game on 52 percent shooting with 7.4 rebounds and 4.4 assists per game with a PER of 29.2. It’s tight.
What puts Durant on top for me is he is leading his team to more consistent play — the Heat appear bored and coasting to wins some nights, the Thunder seem to bring it every night. In the playoffs when the Heat are focused the outcome may be different, but this is a regular season award and I think Durant is getting more out of his team — James Harden was traded, he had to take on more playmaking load and the Thunder are better than last year. So he gets the big award for now.
This is not the runaway some fans think it is — Lillard is putting up 18.3 points and 6.6 assists per game and has taken charge of the Trail Blazers offense, but his defense is not good and his PER of 16.6 reflects some inefficiency in his game. He’s been fantastic, he’s the clear leader halfway home, but there are other good rookies, too.
Anthony Davis is not getting noticed because: 1) He’s on the Hornets and they only make news because they are about to be the Pelicans; 2) He has an unconventional offensive game — he doesn’t have a go-to offensive move, he doesn’t rack up a lot of highlights. What he does is space the floor well, play efficiently, defend well and he’s great on the roll or cutting off the ball. He’s going to be very special soon.
And my god Lawrence Frank, why are you playing so much Jason Maxiell and not so much Andre Drummond? You’re not making the playoffs, develop your young star. Drummond has the best PER among rookies at 22.9.
This race is still really wide open for me. J.R. Smith puts up big numbers at times but he’s a little too streaky and inefficient for my taste. Jarrett Jack is right there because not only does he come in and anchor the second unit for the Warriors, he is a guy they trust with the ball in his hands at the end of games. He’s got the best PER of the group at 17. But he’s getting outscored pretty heavily by the other two, averaging 12.5 points a game.
Jamal Crawford’s flashy game — he finally practiced dribbling last summer! — fit with the Clippers “new Showtime” style, but the key is he is second on the team in scoring (16.6 points a game) and he leads the best bench unit in the NBA. He has been streaky and inefficient as well, but has had better results.
This is a tough and deep category — notice I don’t have any Pacers on here and they have the best defense in the land. Paul George easily could be on this list. Chris Paul makes it because he is leading the league in steals (2.6 a game) which is key to a pressure Clippers defense designed to set up fast breaks and highlight alley-oops to Blake Griffin. The Clippers have been good defensively and Paul leads them on that end, too. Marc Gasol is second because… have you watched him or Memphis? He just owns the paint and makes smart reads.
But the top spot goes to the Energizer Bunny that is Joakim Noah — the Bulls are a playoff team without MVP Derrick Rose because Noah has anchored their defense and brings it every night. Tom Thibodeau rightfully gets a lot of credit for what the Bulls do defensively, but it doesn’t work without Noah, who plays the role Kevin Garnett did in the scheme in Boston just as well.
Coach of the Year
1. Mark Jackson
2. Frank Vogel
3. Mike Woodson
Right or wrong, this award generally goes to the coach who exceeded expectations with his team. Woodson has gotten more out of the Knicks and got them to jell in a way Mike D’Antoni simply could not. Frank Vogel has the Pacers playing the best defense in the NBA by being smart and playing to their strengths. The Pacers have been without Danny Granger all season, have watched Roy Hibbert slump all season, and are still right there in the East and getting better.
But the award goes to Mark Jackson. And I’ll take my crow cooked medium rare — I thought this was a bad hire, taking the inexperienced coach out of the broadcast booth and it would backfire. But the fact is once he got a healthy team Jackson’s skill is getting guys to buy in and believe in the system and with that he has the Warriors impressing everyone (they beat the Thunder and Clippers in the last few days). Most importantly, Jackson got them playing good team defense, and that was a huge change.
Teams Most Likely to Win NBA Title This Season
When the Heat and Thunder were playing last year, I was saying not to be surprised if we saw that same finals three out of the next five years. It looks as if we might get a rematch this June. The Thunder are better — Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook are both 24, they are still at the point in their careers where their games make big strides each year. After their first Olympic experience, both came back better playmakers and that helped because when James Harden was traded the Thunder needed them to fill that gap. They did. Throw in the improved Serge Ibaka and good production from Kevin Martin and the Thunder are the team to beat in the West. The one team that can do it — the Clippers. Vinny Del Negro may run simple sets, but when you have Chris Paul letting him make decisions and improvise is smart coaching. Most importantly for the Clippers, Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan have learned how to defend as a unit on the back line (most of the time) and when the Clippers defend they are hard to beat. They are also much deeper now.
The Heat are coasting to the best record in the East. You only see their pressure defense and full intensity for a quarter here or a half there — but when you do you wonder if anyone can beat them when they are focused. And as we head into the playoffs they will get focused.
(Note: There are no picks for Most Improved Player because I can’t stand the award in concept and how it is usually handed out to a guy who just got more minutes because his coach finally woke up.)
Report: Dwight Howard will consider multiple teams in free agency, is said to be most intrigued by the Rockets
May 19, 2013, 8:34 PM EDT
We already know what we’re in for in terms of the steady stream of reports and rumors that will flood us leading up to the free agent decision of Dwight Howard this summer. It even has a nickname, and although he’s technically not a free agent for another six weeks or so, the Dwightmare has…
May 19, 2013, 7:11 PM EDT
When the Spurs started the 2010-11 season with a 17-3 record – on their way to a conference-best 61-21 finish – Chris Mannix of Sports Illustrated profiled a team that no longer resembled previous San Antonio squads. Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili had played together under Gregg Popovich since the 2002-03 season, and…
May 19, 2013, 6:35 PM EDT
The San Antonio Spurs are never the “it” team. Never the sexy squad with high-flying stars casual fans gravitate toward in the postseason. The collective national will was behind Stephen Curry and Golden State last round. Then a whole lot of prognosticators — very smart, good ones — picked Memphis this round. The Grizzlies were…
May 19, 2013, 5:07 PM EDT
In honor of the way Tony Parker is currently carving up the Grizzlies in Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals, here’s a look at a compilation of his top 10 plays of the 2012-13 regular season. And just think — this doesn’t even include the circus shot he hit over the Warriors, which would…
May 19, 2013, 3:34 PM EDT
Now that the Conference Finals are upon us and there are just four teams left for both local and national media to cover, the amount of focus on each, along with everything that’s said will be magnified exponentially. Our first case study of this postseason comes out of Miami, where reporters talked to Heat players…
May 19, 2013, 2:01 PM EDT
PBT continues profiling likely first-round draft picks in the upcoming NBA Draft. Today we look at a key member of the NCAA title team in Louisville. Rim protection matters. It mattered in college at Louisville and it matters in the NBA. And that is what Gorgui Dieng brings to the NBA — and can bring…
May 19, 2013, 12:30 PM EDT
J.R. Smith had an incredible regular season for the Knicks, and was every bit deserving of the Sixth Man of the Year honor he was given for that performance. He also was brutal in the postseason, struggling to find his shot ever since he was suspended for Game 4 in the first round of the…
May 19, 2013, 11:00 AM EDT
This video was recently released by the folks that run the website for LeBron James, and it gives us a glimpse into the types of motivational words and teachings that young NBA prospects received from James and Chris Paul five years ago. The highlights come from a 2008 summer camp that took place before the…
May 19, 2013, 9:30 AM EDT
One of the more popular cries from the Thunder fan base after the dismal all-around postseason performance of Kendrick Perkins was that the team should rid themselves of his contract (two more seasons at nearly $19 million total) by using the amnesty provision on him this summer. In the new collective bargaining agreement, teams have…
May 19, 2013, 8:00 AM EDT
SEASON RECORDS Memphis: 56-26, fifth seed in the West San Antonio: 58-24, second seed in the West PLAYOFF RECORDS Memphis: Beat the Clippers 4-2 in the first round. Beat the Thunder 4-1 in the second round. San Antonio: Beat the Lakers 4-0 in the first round. Beat the Warriors 4-2 in the second round. SEASON…
May 19, 2013, 12:01 AM EDT
The Pacers sent all five members of the starting lineup to the podium for the postgame press conference following their 106-99 Game 6 win over the Knicks, which goes a long way in telling the story of how they were able to advance to the Eastern Conference Finals. The team defensive effort that Indiana exhibits…
May 18, 2013, 11:12 PM EDT
WIth the Pacers’ win over the Knicks in Game 6 on Saturday in the books, the schedule for the Eastern Conference Finals is now set. Miami will host Indiana beginning on Wednesday, May 22, and all games will be televised nationally on TNT with a start time of 8:30 p.m. Eastern. Game 1 – Wed …
May 18, 2013, 10:52 PM EDT
Midway through the fourth quarter of Game 6 and with the Knicks surging and clinging to a two-point advantage, Carmelo Anthony drove baseline and elevated, almost certainly expecting to finish this dunk over Roy Hibbert to further extend his team’s lead. Hibbert got there first, however, and met Anthony at the rim for this monster…
May 18, 2013, 8:29 PM EDT
Nate Robinson wasn’t only the Bulls’ main scoring punch during the playoffs, he symbolized the team’s heart, as well. Robinson put in many memorable performances during his injury-ravaged team’s run into the second round, including leading Chicago to a thrilling triple-overtime win over the Nets in the fourth game of that series, and helping to…
May 18, 2013, 7:01 PM EDT
By winning Game 5 against the Pacers, the Knicks have turned their series. After it seemed Indiana had a decided advantage, each remaining game is basically a tossup. Both teams could make arguments for why they have the upper hand in Game 6 tonight: In the Pacers’ favor: The Knicks are 0-4 at Indiana this…
May 18, 2013, 6:31 PM EDT
UPDATE: 6:28 p.m. ET: George Hill has been cleared to play in Game 6, the Pacers announced. Here’s the official release: “Over the last two days under the care of the Indiana Pacers’ medical staff, George Hill has participated in each step of the NBA’s Return-to-Participation Exertion Protocol as part of the NBA’s Concussion Policy.…
Dennis Schroeder bows out of combine in Chicago, plans on skipping Eurocamp due to likely draft promise
May 18, 2013, 5:30 PM EDT
Dennis Schroeder is an international prospect from Germany that has been rapidly moving up draft boards. The 19-year old point guard is listed at 6’2″ with a 6’7.25″ wingspan, and the speed and flair with which he plays is already eliciting comparisons to Rajon Rondo in terms of ability, body type, and style. Schroeder was…
May 18, 2013, 4:07 PM EDT
For months, Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski has maintained he’s done as Team USA’s basketball coach. But he might be having a change of heart. Pete Thamel of Sports Illustrated: Duke Coach Mike Krzyzewski acknowledged in a phone interview Saturday that he’s in discussions to return as head coach of USA Basketball through the 2016 Olympics.…
May 18, 2013, 4:00 PM EDT
Damian Lillard is getting special edition shoes from adidas to honor his Rookie of the Year campaign with the Blazers. As with all commemorative releases, it’s the small design details that make them something worth coveting. From the official release: “The shoe’s sockliners feature Damian’s Twitter handle, an Oakland satellite print and “9800s” to represent…
May 18, 2013, 2:30 PM EDT
Toronto has until Monday to decide the fate of Bryan Colangelo as GM and the guy steering the Raptors ship — do they pick up his option for next season or release him? It looks more and more like the new management of Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment — which owns the Raptors — wants…
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