It’s that time of year again. We’ve played about 50 games so far, and it’s time to gear up for the All-Star Game. It is also time to dish out some mid-season awards. The awards to be given out are MVP, Sixth man of the Year, Defensive Player of the year, Most Improved Player, Coach of the Year, and Rookie of the Year. Some of these races have clear cut winners at this point in the season, and some are so difficult to differentiate a front-runner that we need to delve further into each category. I am here to clear up any confusion as to what you’ve seen thus far in the 2012-2013 NBA season.
Let’s start with the easiest debate, Rookie of the Year. If the season were to end today, the obvious winner for this award would be Damian Lillard of the Portland Trailblazers. There are some other nice rookies this year(Anthony Davis, Bradley Beal, and Dion Waiters come to mind), but Damian is head and shoulders above everyone else right now. He has started every game this season for the Trailblazers. In those games he is averaging 18.2 points on 42% from the field in 38.5 minutes per game(not to mention he’s shooting an impressive 85% from the charity stripe). That is the easiest award to give out, but the rest are a little tougher. Don’t be scared. Just close your eyes, count to three, and rip off that band-aid.
Let’s move on to Sixth Man of the Year. For me this is a two man race between Jamal Crawford and JR Smith. Both have been instant offense off their teams bench. They have both been an integral part of their teams success this season. As much as I love the Knicks, this award has to go to Jamal Crawford. Not only did he outplay JR this past Sunday in a head to head match up, but he has been the better player all season, barely.
Next let’s talk about Coach of the Year. This is a tough one, so let’s throw all the potential candidates out there and then break them down until this makes sense. The candidates are Mike Woodson, Mark Jackson, Frank Vogel, and Tom Thibodeau. If you read my blog you know I am a die hard Knicks fan, and while Woodson has done a phenomenal job with the team so far, their most recent struggles against good teams might hurt him for now. He did, however, do a great job right from the start of the season. He was motivating Carmelo Anthony, JR Smith, Jason Kidd, and even Rasheed Wallace to maximize their potential out on the floor. He had everyone buying into his concept of team defense and an uptempo offense. It was working perfectly until Amar’e Stoudemire and Iman Shumpert came back from injuries. I believe it will work out in the end for the Knicks, but there is definitely a growing period that the Knicks and Woodson are going through right now. The final chapter for the Knicks will determine whether Woodson is the Coach of the year or not. As of now, I say he is not. As for Tom Thibodeau, he has impressed by continuing to succeed without his superstar. For the second straight season Derrick Rose has missed a significant amount of time, yet the Bulls continue to put up winning records. His team plays a defense first, physical brand of basketball that creates nightmare match-ups for smaller teams and turnover prone teams. It is also extremely impressive to win with Luol Deng as your best player(no offense to Luol he is a nice little player, but let’s be real, he is NOT a #1 guy). With all that being said Tom is still not the coach of the year. Who is? I’m getting there just calm down! The popular pick right now is Mark Jackson. I like what Mark Jackson is doing with Stephen Curry and the rest of those boys, but his team is not good enough to push him to the top of this debate. While I always liked him as a player, and I personally always thought he would make a good coach some day(ahem, Jason Kidd, ahem), he is not the coach of the year at this point of the season. My pick for coach of the year right now is Frank Vogel. I bet most of you don’t even know what team he coaches. That is part of the reason why he is coach of the year right now. He is a nobody to most people, and he is succeeding with nobodies. Even his best player who is not playing right now due to injury is a nobody amongst the ranks of superstars. I like Danny Granger’s game, but he like Luol Deng is not a #1 guy. The only problem for the Indiana Pacers(ohhh that’s who Vogel coaches) is that Granger IS their #1 guy. Frank Vogel is my pick for Coach of the Year.
There could have been a nice segue into this next category, seeing as The Pacers have two candidates for Most Improved Player, George hill and Paul George. They have both vastly improved their games, but I think this award is a two man race. Greivis Vasquez and Jrue Holiday have both taken their game to the next level. They have both increased their points and assist totals tremendously from a year ago, and they both have bright futures ahead of them. No disrespect to Greivis, but Jrue Holiday has taken his game into another stratosphere. He has quickly become one of the premier point guards in the NBA, and the league recognized this by selecting him to his first all-star appearance. My award for most improved player goes to Jrue Holiday.
This next category is the toughest for me to choose. It is difficult to find a clear cut winner for Defensive Player of the Year. There are many worthy candidates so far this year that include: Tyson Chandler, Serge Ibaka, Larry Sanders, Lebron James, and Joakim Noah. Larry Sanders and Serge Ibaka will most likely be battling each other for this award for years to come. They are both physical presences underneath the hoop and both block approximately 3 shots a game. It is not due to their lack of defensive effort that they aren’t going to win this award, it’s because someone else on this list has managed to stand out above all the rest. This is me building suspense. Next, what else can you say about Lebron James? The guy is as physically gifted an athlete as anyone who has ever stepped foot on the hard wood. He can guard 4 positions at anytime while still managing to dominate on the offensive end. He is not going to win this award though(at least not this year), but don’t feel too bad for him I’m sure he’ll win another award real soon(hint hint). The reigning Defensive Player of the Year, Tyson Chandler, has yet again found his way into contention for this award, however when he played the Bulls earlier this season he learned why he isn’t going to repeat as DPOY(he would get my vote for the most intimidating man on the planet though if that was a real award). Joakim Noah has placed himself at the forefront of defensive forces in the NBA. Man is he ugly!! Anyway, as much as I dislike Noah, he does anchor the best defense in the NBA. When he’s on the bench they give up 10 more points then when he’s on the floor. Joakim Noah gets my vote for Defensive Player of the Year.
Finally, last but not least, the MVP award. This is always a fun debate because people think it’s strictly about offense. It mostly is, but you really need to look at the overall skill-set of a player plus his impact on his team to measure the MVP. The candidates this year are: Lebron James, Kevin Durant, and Carmelo Anthony. There are two honorable mentions for this category, Chris Paul and Tony Parker. Parker is doing spectacular things that go mostly unnoticed, especially with a banged up Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobli on his team. Chris Paul will be in this conversation at the end of the year because he is clearly the best point guard in the NBA. For right now though he has missed too many games to be considered for this award. I love what Carmelo Anthony is doing this season, and I hope he can sustain his outstanding play throughout the whole season, but he doesn’t do enough of the little things to make his teammates better. Let me see if I can use an analogy that makes sense for this argument. Kevin Durant is like The Utah Jazz in the 90’s. If it wasn’t for that Jordan guy and the Chicago Bulls, they might have a couple of rings right now(sorry John, sorry Karl). Get it? Not yet? See, Kevin Durant has improved every facet of his game this year. The problem is that there is this guy named Lebron James in the NBA. As good as Durant is(28.9 points, 7.5 rebounds, 4.4 assists, 51% from the floor, 43% from three point range, and 90% from the free throw line), Lebron is better. Sorry Kevin, I know I’m pulling for you because I certainly don’t like Lebron “I can’t win a title without an all-star roster” James, but Lebron is on his way to another MVP. As much as I don’t like Lebron, I must give credit where credit is due. My vote for MVP and best player on the face of the earth is Lebron James.