Jan 24, 2013, 12:31 PM EST
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.)
Dec 10, 2013, 3:14 AM EST
Here is our nightly look at some of the noteworthy things around the NBA, the things you missed while glued to a toilet seat at Home Depot. DeMarcus Cousins, Sacramento Kings. Note to Rudy Gay: Get this guy the ball. Not like you did with Jonas Valanciunas — actually get Cousins the rock. Cousins…
Dec 10, 2013, 12:02 AM EST
Not sure I have ever seen this before. Early in the Clippers eventual easy win over the Sixers Chris Paul puts up a shot and because DeAndre Jordan‘s man had rotated over to help on the drive it left Tony Wroten — all 6’5″, 205 five of him — trying to keep Jordan off the…
Dec 9, 2013, 10:05 PM EST
Al Harrington, who at 33 has been battling knee issues since last season when he has an infection in there, issues that have kept him out since Nov. 12, is now going to be out a while longer. Harrington had knee surgery again on Monday and will be out at least a month, the Wizards…
Dec 9, 2013, 8:24 PM EST
Tyreke Evans drove to attack Kevin Durant off the dribble Friday night — Evans had been very aggressive all game, largely carrying the reserves in the first half — he went up for the shot and when he can down he sprained his ankle. That sprain is going to keep him out a week, maybe…
Dec 9, 2013, 7:20 PM EST
Kobe Bryant is back with the Lakers and frankly that’s just good for the NBA — it’s a star driven league and it needs its elite players on the court. That said Kobe looked rusty and his teammates clearly were not used to playing with him in the Lakers loss to the Raptors Sunday. Kay…
Dec 9, 2013, 6:39 PM EST
The Milwaukee Bucks were already without Larry Sanders, who needed surgery to repair torn ligaments in his hand after a bar fight, and now this. Zaza Pachulia will be out at least four weeks with a broken bone in his foot, coach Larry Drew announced Monday. It is the calcaneus bone, what most of us…
Dec 9, 2013, 6:01 PM EST
As we told you earlier was likely to happen, Stephen Jackson has agreed to terms with the Los Angeles Clippers. For one, Doc Rivers confirmed it to Brad Turner of the Los Angeles Times. Second, Jackson himself posted this on Instagram. The Clippers need some depth on the wing because J.J. Redick is out with…
Dec 9, 2013, 5:03 PM EST
“I think the last time I had eight months off I was still in the womb.” —Kobe Bryant, Los Angeles Lakers, talking about the eight months he was forced out of action due to his ruptured Achilese. Bryant, as his his nature, had to work hard to get back on the court 240 days after…
Dec 9, 2013, 4:53 PM EST
The general rule of thumb is 20 games into the season you can start to really trust the stats and the trends — in which case it’s good to be a Portland Trail Blazers fan. They move into the top slot with their recent wins over Indiana and OKC. 1. Trail Blazers (17-4, Last Week…
Dec 9, 2013, 4:08 PM EST
Knicks fans could use a little good news, so we’re here to help out. Tyson Chandler’s return from a broken leg should be here in the next few weeks. Chandler returned to practice on Monday, in a limited role, then told reporters he thought he would be back before New Year’s Day, as tweeted by…
Dec 9, 2013, 3:15 PM EST
Minnesota’s Corey Brewer, you’re the next contestant on “pay some money to NBA Charities for flopping!” The league announced Monday that Brewer has been fined $5,000 for his second flopping offense of the season. His first came against the Knicks earlier in the year, this new one was against the Heat on Saturday, when he…
Dec 9, 2013, 2:39 PM EST
Memphis extended the contract of Quincy Pondexter this summer thinking they had secured a solid outside shooter they desperately needed at a fair price. Now they may have lost him for the season. An MRI Monday revealed a tarsal navicular stress fracture in his right foot, the team announced. That’s a small bone near the…
Dec 9, 2013, 1:59 PM EST
Dwight Howard turned 28 on Sunday. (Maybe that’s why Kobe decided to not play Friday and wait until Sunday… nah.) Howard celebrated by dropping 20 points and grabbing 22 rebounds on his old Orlando Magic team (you knew he’d be up for that game) then the team went out bowling with his Rockets’ teammates —…
Dec 9, 2013, 1:07 PM EST
In case you can’t get enough Kobe Bryant comeback we are here to help. Nike released a Kobe Bryant comeback commercial on the day of his return to the Lakers lineup, which you can see above. In case you didn’t know and it wasn’t already obvious, Nike is a Kobe sponsor and he has his…
Dec 9, 2013, 12:55 PM EST
Tuesday night the Nets could get Paul Pierce and Deron Williams back on the court. Which would be a nice first step toward turning Brooklyn’s tire fire of a season around. Both Pierce and Williams went through practice on Monday, reports A. Sherrod Blakely of CSNNE.com. We knew Williams was close to returning, however Pierce…
Dec 9, 2013, 12:01 PM EST
This was easily my favorite highlight of Sunday night. In the fourth quarter of the Lakers loss to the Raptors Sunday, Nick Young got the ball in a transition attempt before the defense set, Young got the ball in the right corner, attacked along the baseline and as he got close to the basket Jonas…
Dec 9, 2013, 11:19 AM EST
Getting Rudy Gay in a trade from Toronto was not a sign the Kings want to make a run at the playoffs right now in the West — they are one of just two teams in a deep conference with no real shot at the postseason (Utah is the other). No, this was about future…
Dec 9, 2013, 9:59 AM EST
There were rough patches — the 2-for-9 shooting, the eight turnovers — but there were also moments in Kobe Bryant‘s return to action Sunday night against Toronto where you said “that’s the Kobe I remember.” There was his first play, a bullet pass to Robert Sacre for an assist. Later there was the jab step…
Dec 9, 2013, 9:31 AM EST
The Knicks suffered their worst loss of the season on Sunday, losing by 41 points to a Celtics team that shouldn’t beat anybody by that much. And they did so wearing their alternate orange uniforms. Whether the 12 noon tip time or the orange color scheme is messing with the Knicks on these weekend games…
Dec 9, 2013, 8:44 AM EST
J.J. Redick is out with a broken hand. Matt Barnes is out following surgery to repair a retinal tear in his left eye. Reggie Bullock is out with a sprained ankle. All this has left the Los Angeles Clippers short bodies on the wing, so they may bring in veteran Stephen Jackson to fill the…
- Monday night NBA Grades: DeMarcus Cousins was in beast mode 0
- PBT Extra: Kobe Bryant is back, doesn’t have much time to get it right 3
- It’s official, Clippers agree to terms with Stephen Jackson 3
- PBT NBA Power Rankings: At the quarter pole Portland takes the lead 17
- Paul Pierce practiced Monday, could return vs. Celtics Tuesday 2
- LeBron says Wade is “getting that Kobe deal” in next contract. Should he? (65)
- Dwight Howard frustrated with Rockets’ effort in recent losses (52)
- Kobe Bryant dunks, looks good in Lakers practice; Friday return possible (47)
- The Extra Pass: Our awards at the quarter pole, plus Monday recaps (43)
- Durant tells “60 Minutes Sports” he’s still tired of being No. 2 (35)