Last week, I wrote an article on who I felt should be named the 2011-2012 NBA MVP (Kevin Durant) and I felt this would be a good opportunity for me to discuss who I feel should win the other NBA Awards (Most Improved, Defensive Player of the Year, Coach of the Year, and Rookie of the Year).
Most Improved Player of the Year:
Many people feel that Jeremy Lin should win this award, however, because he’s only played in 35 games this season (just over 1/2 the season), I feel he shouldn’t be considered for this award. Had Jeremy Lin played in at-least 45 games on the season, I would have put him number one or two on my list but because he didn’t play in the required number of games, I feel he shouldn’t be considered for this award.
3. Ryan Anderson: The Magic feature an offense that revolves around two things: Dwight Howard on the inside and a lot of three-point shooters on the outside. The Magic already had there starting point guard (Jameer Nelson), two guard (JJ Redick), small forward (Jason Richardson) and center (Dwight Howard) on their roster, but were missing a good four man to help Howard spread the floor even more. That’s where Ryan Anderson came in and picked up the slack as last year he was a solid bench player for a Magic team that averaged 10.6 points to go along with 5.5 rebounds while shooting 39.3% from beyond the arch. Before this season, the Magic decided to start Anderson (playing in all but 4 games this season) and has rewarded them by averaging 15.6 points and 7.5 rebounds per game, while shooting 39.8% from three and shooting 87.1% from the free throw line. With the addition of Anderson to their lineup, the Magic can make three’s from four of their 5 starters.
2. James Harden: Last year, James Harden showed that he was a one of the best bench player in the league and this year he’s proven that he’s not just one of the elite bench players but that he’s one of the top 2-guards in the entire NBA. Last year, Harden averaged 12.2 points, 3.1 rebounds and 2.1 assists, while shooting 34.9% from 3 and this year, he’s improved in each of these categories averaging 16.5 points, 4.1 rebounds, 3.7 assists, while shooting 38.1% from 3. The 22-year-old Harden has transformed his game from a good player off the bench in his first season to one of the best two guards in the entire NBA.
1. Andrew Bynum: Under former coach Phil Jackson, Andrew Bynum has shown the potential of being one of the best centers in the entire league but was never able to turn the corner and become an elite NBA Center. Since sitting out the first five games of the season because of a suspension during the 2011 NBA Playoffs, Bynum has been great and one of the focal points of the Lakers season. Under new coach Mike Brown, Bynum’s game has taken off averaging 18.6 points, 12.2 rebounds (third in the NBA), and is shooting 55.8% from the field. With Phil Jackson retiring, Lamar Odom being traded before the season, and Kobe Bryant suffering an injury (and missing the past few games) its been Bynum whose steeped up and saved the Lakers season.
Defensive Player of the Year:
The last 3 defensive of the years Awards were given to Dwight Howard, however, as good as he’s been this year, I don’t feel he should win the award this year.
3. Serge Ibaka: The Thunder feature a solid defensive team, but its Ibaka that protects the rim and doesn’t allow anyone to get to the rim on the Thunder. Ibaka leads all players in blocks per game averaging 3.63 per game and the next closest is JaVale McGee with 2.31 per game. To go along with his great block totals on the season (actually had 10 blocks in a game to complete a triple-double), Ibaka’s still averaging 1/2 assists per game and 7.7 rebounds from the Power Forward position. With Ibakadownlow, it’s a difficult task to take the ball to the rim on the Thunder and Serge Ibaka.
2. Andre Iguodala: The 76ers have the second ranked defense in the NBA (behind only Boston) and its 2012 All-Star Andre Iguodala that’s taken the challenge of guarding the best Shooting Guards and Small Forwards day in and day out. In addition to guarding the teams best players, Iguodala’s averaging 1.6 steels, .5 blocks, while only committing 1.6 fouls per game. With the 76ers ranking in the top 2 in defense and Iguodala having to guard the teams best players, I feel he should be rewarded for the work he’s done this season.
1. Tyson Chandler: Led by new coach Mike Woodson and center Tyson Chandler, the Knicks quietly feature the 4th best defense in the entire NBA (allowing only 97.6 points per game). Defensively, Tyson Chandler has been everywhere on the court and is still averaging 10 rebounds, 1.5 blocks, almost 1 steel per game (.9), while transforming the Knicks into a solid defensive team. Had Chandler not been on the Knicks, I feel their defense would be in disarray and would give up more than 100 points per game.
Coach of the Year:
3. Doc Rivers: The Celtics started off the season with a record of 5-9 and then in the middle of February lost 7 of 8 games. However, head coach Doc Rivers refused to panic and because of this, the Celtics are in position to not just make the playoffs, but in fact win their division. Boston suffered through a ton of injuries highlighted by Jeff Green missing the entire season, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen missing a few games, along with others. The key for the Celtics turn around this season was having Kevin Garnett play Center (and not Power Forward) as with this change along with others, the Celtics should be able to make another run at a championship.
2. Gregg Popovich: The 2010-2011 Spurs ended their season on a sour note by losing in the first round of the NBA Playoffs to the 8th seeded Memphis Grizzlies. Many felt that with the age of the Spurs star players (Duncan 35, and Ginóbili 34) that they wouldn’t be able to survive such a condensed schedule when in fact its been the exact opposite. Popovich has been great at allowing his star players to take a few games off and at the same time still have his reserves prepared to step up no matter the situation. With the Spurs featuring the second best record in the Western Conference, they once again should be a team that needs to be taken seriously and are a good sleeper team to win the NBA Title.
1. Tom Thibodeau: No coach has ever won back-to-back coach of the year awards and I feel this season this should change. The Bulls were without the reigning MVP for almost 1/3 of the season and Rip Hamilton for just about half of the season and yet the Bulls still feature the best record in the NBA. If other teams were to lose their entire back court for over 1/3 of their season (not to mention the MVP of the league from their team) they’d be happy to finish the season around the .500 mark. In addition to Rose and Hamilton going down with long-term injuries, Luol Deng suffered a broken wrist that made him missing 9 games and other players have missed a few games throughout the season. With the Bulls featuring the best record in the NBA and defeating the Heat twice (once without Rose and the other time with an ineffective Rose), the Celtics 3 times (twice without Rose), and the Spurs, Coach Tom Thibodeau has earned the right to become the first person to be named Coach of the Year in back-to-back seasons.
Rookie of the Year:
Just like I said above with Lin, I believe a player needs to play at least 45 of the 66 games to be eligible for an Award. With Rubio tearing his ACL and playing in only 41 games, I didn’t believe he should be eligible for this award, however, Kyrie Irving has played in just enough games to be eligible for this award (46 and counting).
3. ImanShumpert: Shumpert has turned himself into a very solid NBA player that the Knicks should be able to count on in the future. Shumpert is averaging 9.7 points, 3.2 rebounds, and 2.8 assists on the season while becoming one of the best young 2-guard defenders.
2. Isaiah Thomas: In two of the past three drafts, the Kings have drafted a point guard with their first round pick (Tyreke Evans in 2009 and JimmerFredette in 2011) and both players have shown that they can’t play the point guard position. 2011 second round pick Isaiah Thomas on the other hand is averaging 11.4 points and 3.9 assists this season while helping solidify the Sacramento Kings point guard position. With Thomas playing the point, the Kings are able to play a smaller lineup which includes Fredette at the 2-guard and Evans at the small forward position which has created a lot of mismatches on the offensive side of the ball. Thomas has been great for the Kings and its seems that the Kings finally found their starting point guard for the future and beyond.
1. Kyrie Irving: I know that Kyrie Irving’s only played in 49 games (and the Cavs have 21 wins) this season, but I still feel that Irving has been the best rookie all year-long. Kyrie’s averaging 18.7 points per game to go along with 5.5 assists and 3.8 rebounds on the season and only a few weeks ago had the Cavs in contention for a playoff spot. When I give out an Award, I also like to look at how a team has done with and without their star player and with Irving out the Cavs have struggled (without Kyrie Irving, the Cavs are 4-10 on the season and when he struggles so do the Cavaliers). In the end, I feel Kyrie has most definitely earned the Rookie of the Year Award and if the Cavs are able to put another good young player with Irving in Cleveland, then the Cavaliers would feature one of the best young cores in the NBA.
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