Words by Phlip
As I type this, we know which teams will be in the NBA draft lottery and which will go on to the second season, and only games involving the 7th and 8th seeds in each conference will much matter, as a win by the current 8-seed combined with a loss by the current 7 will cause them to reverse positions. Given the teams sitting atop the conferences – Derrick Rose’s myriad health concerns and the scramble of James Harden’s brain notwithstanding – the first round series will not be very pretty for the underdogs.
But I am not here to talk about the playoffs, I will be back for that later. Today, I am giving out some end-of-season awards.
Most Improved Player
This one was difficult to pin down…
The homer in me wanted to just say “Andrew Bynum” and go on to the next one. Given his emergence as an ACTUAL dominant Center, and the return of Ron Artest as the team’s goon du jour to take away that distraction, one could argue that Bynum ruined his chances at this one with his 3-point shooting, taking-games-off and insolent behavior late in the season. In so much, Orlando’s Ryan Anderson had it fall to him and his new-found marksmanship keeping Orlando afloat while Dwight Howard tried his damndest to tear the team down.
Ryan Anderson only gets this because it makes so little sense to give it to Kevin Love for a second consecutive season despite the fact that he has gone from pretty good to damn good to now domineering force.
6th Man of the Year
James Harden, OKC Thunder…
Look, this is not the “can the kid take a punch” award. At his size and prowess, Harden could start on 20+ teams in the league at Shooting Guard and 10 more at Point Guard… His own team is included in BOTH of those figures.
His best position on one of the 3 best teams in the league is making it TOTALLY unnoticeable when 52 points of scoring average in Westbrook and Durant need a rest. Sure, James Harden could be an all-star as a starter for a great many teams around the league, but puts up all-star numbers being the first guy off the bench for an elite-level team. For that, he deserves recognition as the 6th Man of the Year.
Rookie of the Year
We all know I campaigned HARD for Ricky Rubio to get this, and the one thing that would have made him a lock for it would have been for The Timberwolves to make the playoffs.
… then he tore his ACL.
Yeah, tough break, as that injury would be the item that tore Minnesota from contention and left the Rookie of the Year to fall to Kyrie Irving. It is not that Irving was bad, and he has definitely made and will make Cleveland better for years to come. All things considered, it was Rubio’s award to lose and he lost it.
Defensive Player of the Year
Lamar Odom, Dallas Mavericks.
No, stay with me here.
At the beginning of the season – as in before any moves had been made – one of the surest things would be that Dallas would bring their nucleus back in and cruise to a repeat, but they let too many pieces escape, then took advantage of a fractured Lakers organization in getting the reigning 6th Man of the Year in exchange for peanuts. If the experiment doesn’t work, at least the guy’s salary will be off the books on July 1st, no?
And then LamarDashian happened. Acting as a special undercover agent for the Lakers, Lamar infiltrated the Dallas locker room and covered it with his malaise and en route to being sent home once, assigned to the D-League to get it together and eventually being kicked off the team, exacted revenge on the Dallas Mavericks for their sweep of the Lakers last spring by leaving them dangerously close to becoming the first reigning NBA Champions to miss the playoffs in a VERY long time. To have effectively defended an entire squad from the inside, he deserves this award.
I’m kidding, Serge Ibaka wins this award this year, but there was nothing entertaining or funny to say about making the case for him. Dwight Howard blew his chance at becoming a lifetime achiever of this award by letting drama drag him down in Orlando.
Coach of the Year
This one is difficult as well…
It was up to 3 people to take this one, and I will eliminate them in order.
Scott Brooks – has won the award with pretty much this same lineup before, so we can simply call this one “progression” than any particular anomaly that would warrant being given a cookie.
Gregg Popovich – look, if we give him this award, we need to create a “lifetime achievement award” for coaches and dig up Phil Jackson, Red Auerbach and perhaps Pat Riley and give it to them as well. This year is no different than any other time, and the presence of a grizzled veteran squad shows that they know what they’re doing.
… And now your winner…
Tom Thibodeau. Derrick Rose has missed 26 games this season due to various injuries, yet the team has kept it together and held off the Miami Heat, San Antonio Spurs and OKC Thunder for the best record in the conference and league, respectively. Now normally they don’t give coach of the year to the same dude more than once, let alone in consecutive years but this should be the exception in exchange for not blowing it.
At the beginning of the season, I predicted that LeBron would win this running away, then the Kevins (Durant and Love) happened. Then Ricky Rubio’s knee happened and prevented us from having the league MVP and Rookie of the Year from the same squad for the first time ever.
Then we got to the business part of the schedule, which included head-to-heads between Miami and OKC, which I would call LeBron the victor of, then we saw Durant and the Thunder lose toehold on the Western Conference…
Then LeBron finished the New Jersey Nets by himself on a night that Durant himself flamed out in a loss to the
Cripples Clippers. Then LeBron had a big game in a win against the Bulls, while Durant shot 11-for-34 in a double overtime loss in which he could have hit a game-winner. Then LeBron monstered the Houston Rockets for 18 points in the last 7 minutes of the game. I’m sure that by now, you get it…
With a dearth of white guys to give it to without inciting riots, if it had been CLOSE down to the wire between the two then Durant would have won, but LeBron James broke it open in the last week and a half of the season. As much as I hate to give the guy credit, he earned this one, his third MVP.
As ever, the above are all if I were the one with a vote in the races of each of these awards, this is how I would vote.