The end-of-season awards handed out by the NBA serve as a way of recognizing individual achievements and feats accomplished during the regular season. Some awards, like the Most Valuable Player (MVP), are necessary for anyone who hopes to go down as one of the greatest players of all time. Others, like Coach of the Year (COY) seem to have very little significance. The award only goes to coaches who turn a bad team into an OK team, and a number of legendary coaches have only gotten the honor once, or not at all.
Regardless of how much these awards may mean to fans or players, they are a staple of the NBA and a big part of players’ career resumes.
The following is not a list of predictions of who will get which award, but rather, who should get which award:
Most Valuable Player: LeBron James
The case for: He’s the best player in the league on the best team in the league.
If you take a look at the Cleveland Cavaliers roster and cross out LeBron James, there aren’t many other household names. Unlike other well-known superstars James does not have a Pau Gasol/Ron Artest or Kevin Garnett/Ray Allen backing him up. Granted, Antawn Jamison is a versatile scorer, Mo Williams is a solid guard, and you can count on 20 good minutes every few games from Shaquille O’Neal. However, none of these players could be the “number one option” on their own.
Statistically, James wrapped up his 2009-10 campaign with yet another monster year. The Cavs forward put up 29.7 points on 50.3% shooting, 7.3 rebounds, 8.6 assists, 1.6 steals, and 1 block per game. He had a PER of 31.37, and a lower assist-turnover ratio than anyone in the NBA not named: Chris Paul, Carlos Arroyo, Luke Ridnour, Jose Calderon, or Mike Bibby.
James is not without flaws. His defense has not been as good this season as it was last, and he is still prone to making bad decisions in crunch-time. He is nowhere near a good enough three-point shooter to constantly spot up and take a long jumper with the game on the line, yet he seems to think he is.
Also, for someone who is as concerned as he has been with corporate image, he would be well-served to show some humility. His cockiness and arrogance has reached an all-time high this year, and he needs to keep it check. For those wondering why this matters, the answer is simple: No matter how talented a player is, he will always have people looking for reasons to not give him the MVP. James cannot give those people ammunition to ignore his amazing basketball skill by poorly thought-out and childish antics.
The case against: None. People who believe James does not deserve the MVP award fall into one of three categories:
- Blind, devoted fans of a particular team who believes their boy deserves it.
- Bitter LeBron James haters.
- The devils advocate. The person who knows James deserves the MVP but does not want to go with the majority.
Most Improved Player: Kevin Durant
The case for: If there were no LeBron James in the NBA, Kevin Durant would be the league MVP.
At 21 years old, Durant has changed the discussion from whether he will be a phenomenal talent or not, to whether he will go down as one of the greatest to play the game.
The Oklahoma City Thunder swingman became the league’s youngest scoring champion ever this season and led his team to 50 wins.
The statistics really speak for themselves:
2008-09: 25.3 PPG, 47.6% FG, 42.2% 3FG, 86.3% FT, 6.5 RPG, 2.8 APG
2009-10: 30.1 PPG, 47.6% FG, 36.5% 3FG, 90.0% FT, 7.6 RPG, 2.8 APG
Durant’s points, free throw percentage, and rebounds have all increased. His field goal percentage and assists have remained the same despite the fact that he’s shooting two more shots per game than last season. Only his three-point shooting has suffered this year, and all things considered, he is still shooting at a very impressive clip.
As far as intangibles go, Durant just seems to have it all. He has the build of a small forward, with the stroke of a two-guard, and the ball-handling capabilities of a point guard. He’s the guiding force behind taking a young, inexperienced team to the playoffs only two years after it moved from Seattle. He is a leader on the court, and a character guy off the court.
In a few years, he will give King James a serious run for who is going to rule the NBA.
The case against: Houston Rockets’ guard Aaron Brooks is making a lot noise as the fan-favorite for this award.
Brooks has vastly improved an already-solid offensive game by putting up nearly nine more points a game than he did last season. The Rockets point guard has seen increases in his points, assists, field goal and three point percentages this year. His free throw percentage, however, is down.
The problem with Brooks’ stats is that they don’t tell the whole story. The former Oregon guard has seen his minutes per game increase by ten minutes this year, and he has become the focal point of an offense with no real leaders. Bloated stats by default are alright, but the fact remains, they had a minimal affect on the Rockets’ overall wins total. In fact, the Rockets play worsened, and the team failed to make the playoffs.
Rookie of the Year: Tyreke Evans
The case for: He has put up the best production of any rookie in the NBA for the entire season. Evans’ season totals are: 20.3 points, 5.3 rebounds, 5.8 assists, and 1.5 steals. By putting up those point, assist, and rebounding numbers, the Sacramento Kings’ guard placed himself in a 20-5-5 Rookie Club whose members include Michael Jordan, Oscar Robertson and LeBron James. Not bad company by any stretch of the imagination.
The case against: The Sacramento Kings are a God-awful team. They were nowhere near playoff contention this season, and they won’t be in playoff contention in the Western Conference for at least a few more seasons.
That being said, Stephan Curry, another popular choice, plays for an equally bad team in the Golden State Warriors. Further, the run-and-gun style of the Warriors is a known stat-booster for all players involved. However, despite the offensive game plan that Warriors coach Don Nelson utilizes, Curry has only started averaging 21.6 points, 5.4 rebounds, and 7.7 assists after the all-star break. Evans has put up the same numbers -- less two assists -- for the entire season.
The other popular choice for Rookie of the Year is Milwaukee Bucks star point guard Brandon Jennings. The Bucks guard wowed fans with a memorable 55-point outing early in the season, and he's consistently put up solid efforts while helping his team get the sixth seed in the NBA Eastern Conference Playoffs. Although Jennings played a somewhat large role in the success that his team has had in the 2009-10 season, he was not the sole factor. Furthermore, his individual statistics after his 55-point explosion have not been as consistently stellar as those of Evans’ and Curry.
Coach of the Year: Scott Brooks, Thunder
The case for: His team saw a 27-win increase from last season.
Brooks deserves the honor of COY because he was able to turn one of the youngest teams in the league into of the most defensively fierce and best road teams in the NBA. Further, in his first full year as the coach of the OKC Thunder, Brooks is taking them to the Western Conference Playoffs.
Sure he has Durant, but one good player will not do it all. Brooks has brought stability and maturity to a young ball club that had been desperate need of guidance.
Keep in mind, this award has always felt like a death sentence for coaches. They seem to get this honor, then get fired three years later. Good luck, Mr. Brooks.
The case against: Scott Skiles of the Milwaukee Bucks has made a strong case. If not for a recent injury to Andrew Bogut, the Bucks would have probably been the experts’ sleeper upset pick in the first round of the Eastern Conference Playoffs.
The biggest problem with Skiles getting Coach of the Year honors is that despite having a more talented team in the Bucks, he still was not able to amass as high a win total as the Thunder. And the Thunder, unlike the Bucks, play in the West.
Sixth Man of the Year: Jamal Crawford
The case for: He leads the league in scoring among players who haven’t started a game.
The Atlanta Hawks guard is putting up 18 points per game on 45% field goal shooting, in a mere 31 minutes. Oh, and he’s doing all this for one of the powerhouse teams in the league.
The case against: Manu Ginobli swatted a bat out of mid-air on live television this season. That’s just plain cool.
In reality, there is no justifiable reason for anyone besides Crawford to walk away with this award.
Defensive Player of the Year: Dwight Howard
The case for: He’s the big muscular guy in front of the basket that inspires more team-friendly basketball from opposing squads. The Magic center probably increases assist totals for every team in the league because everybody would rather pass the ball than take it in against him.
Howard is putting up a league-leading 13.2 rebounds per game, 9.7 of which are defensive rebounds. He’s also blocking 2.79 blocks per game, and spearheading the defense that holds the teams to the lowest field goal shooting percentage in the league. The Magic center has led the league in rebounding and blocked shots for two straight years.
The case against: Anderson Varejao, Josh Smith, and Gerald Wallace all have their defensive strong points. None of them have the total package that Howard does, though.
All-NBA First Team
Guard: Dwyane Wade
Guard: Kobe Bryant
Forward: Kevin Durant
Forward: LeBron James
Center: Dwight Howard
All-Defensive First Team
Guard: Rajon Rondo
Guard: Kobe Bryant (Although Sefolosha will probably get it)
Forward: Josh Smith
Forward: Gerald Wallace
Center: Dwight Howard