Continuing what has been a Double-Technical tradition, Kay and I will put our two cents in as to whom we feel are the deserving recipients of the MVP, Rookie of the Year, Most Improved Player, Comeback Player of the Year, and Coach of the Year. Kay is going to chime in throughout the article and share thoughts on his selections for these awards. All strapped in? Let's go. [Note from Kay: I just noticed that Zee forgot to mention Defensive Player of the Year, 6th Man of the Year and Executive of the Year. We'll tackle those awards in a separate blog entry. Just to let everyone know that we did not forget those.]
ROOKIE OF THE YEAR:
Derrick Rose PG, Chicago Bulls
Any surprise here? This highly touted, number 1 draft pick lived up to the hype as well as the promise that the Bulls were hoping for. Upon arrival into the league,Rose was thrown into a team with (1) a mix of veterans, (2) 2-3 year players and (3) a rookie coach. Suffice to say, Rose had his work cut out for him. Judging by where Rose is at this point of the year, so far so good, as the young rook has posted numbers to the tune of: 16.6 ppg, 6.2 apg and close to 4 rebounds a game. Oh and I forgot to mention, as of today the Bulls are hanging on to the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, within passing distance of the slumping Detroit Pistons (1 game) for the seventh place spot. Rose has been instrumental in all of this, thus the reason as to why he is so deserving of the award. Should the bulls make it to the playoffs, that would further cement Rose deserving this award.
O.J. Mayo, PG/SG Memphis Grizzlies
Up until a few months ago, this was a two man race between O.J. Mayo and Derrick Rose, with Mayo leading all rookies in scoring with 18.3 ppg, 3.1 apg, 3.8 reb, 1 stl and close to two 3pt a game. Being one of the top scoring options on a bottom feeding team contributed to those numbers, almost in a way making it seem as if he was supposed to put up these type of numbers on a consistent basis. And he pretty much did all season long, without hitting the infamous rookie wall. But his team still struggled and all he did was what a typical star player on a bad team does: shoot, score, repeat. So, O.J. my friend, while you are a great talent and destined for stardom in this league, round one goes to your fellow rookie Mr. Derrick Rose. (Zee!!)
Your picks are spot-on, Zee. But I'd also like to throw out a few other names. This was a deep rookie class, and there are some other players that deserve some props: Brook Lopez, Russell Westbrook, Kevin Love & Eric Gordon. All of these guys are playing significant roles on their respective teams. I remember that a lot of experts were bashing the Thunder for their selection of Westbrook, but he looks legit. He plays good defense, is a solid play-maker, and is a threat for a triple double on any night. Brook Lopez and Kevin Love have been solid big men for their respective teams. K-Love is a double-double machine, while Lopez provides better defense and shot-blocking. And lastly, Eric Gordon has put up comparable numbers as OJ Mayo when given the playing time. If he had been a starter since the start of the season, he might have been higher up in the ROY award considerations. (Kay)
MOST IMPROVED PLAYER:
Paul Millsap PF, Utah Jazz
I'm a bit biased about this pick simply because of Paul completely BEASTING out for my fantasy team this season, with Carlos Boozer being sidelined for most of the year with an injury. But give this guy some playing time and all of a sudden he's a double double machine. Since Millsap was thrust into the starting lineup and began playing 30-plus minutes, he has put up averages of 14ppg, 9rpg, and 1 blk per game, and now has people talking about him being the future of the Jazz at the PF position and poor Carlos Boozer can't leave town soon enough. But give credit where credit is due, Millsap was given more playing time and took the opportunity and ran with it.
Danny Granger, G/F Indiana Pacers
Granger has made the leap from solid second or third option on offense to Indiana’s go-to guy. Larry Bird cleaned house and re-built this team with Granger as the centerpiece. It must've kicked in awful quick that he was going to be scoring options #1-3 on a talent depleted Pacer team. This is along the lines of my O.J. Mayo analysis earlier in that while Granger has posted great numbers this year, he's basically able to shoot whenever he wants, and everyone pretty much knew it was a matter of time before this kid blossomed into the dynamic player he is today. Hopefully next year with a team that includes Jarret Jack, Troy Murphy and a sleeper in rookie Brandon Rush, and a year more seasoning, he will be able to lead the Pacers to a playoff birth, it would only help to cement his reputation in the city of Indiana as a future basketball icon. (Zee!!)
My pick for Most Improved Player goes to Devin Harris. He's elevated himself to all-star level this season and has become the best player on the New Jersey team. He's proven himself to be a capable leader and floor general, and can score with the best of them. And did you see that buzzer-beater he shot? Nasty. Another player that deserves some recognition is Kevin Durant. I know that he was already a stud last year, but he's really upped his game this year and is amongst the elite wing men now. His shot selection has improved and he's up to 26 PPG, 48 FG% and 43 3PT%. He gets to the free throw line more often, and has increased his rebounding numbers. All of this while opposing teams are focused on stopping him on defense. His stats in February were gaudy, where he scored over 30 points in every game except 1 (before his injury). Some second-year stars that have made some nice strides in their game this year (mainly due to increased playing time) include: Thaddeus Young, Aaron Brooks, Rodney Stuckey, Wilson Chandler, Jeff Green, Al Thornton, Spencer Hawes. (Kay)
COMEBACK PLAYER OF THE YEAR:
Dwyane "Don't call it a comeback" Wade, G Miami Heat
Wow. Where do I start? How about the 101 blocks, a record setting number for any player 6'4 and under? Or how about his league leading 29.9 points a game along with 7.5 apg and 5 rpg? His numbers are just insane this year, especially when you consider Wade was beaten up, raising criticism about his ability from haters and fair weather fans alike who had jumped off the Miami Heat bandwagon after the Heat fell from the ranks of contenders, and a injured, Shaq-less D-Wade was left with a team of youngsters that were too raw for prime time, or worse named Jamaal Magloire. Shame on you all for not wanting to be in D-Wade's circle, because now you're on the outside looking in and D-Wade is yucking it up at the league's expense. Play on young man, play on.
Are you kidding me? No one is remotely close to a comeback of this magnitude. (Zee!!)
I'm gonna have to disagree with you, Zee. Wade only missed 30 games last year because of a shoulder injury. How is that a comeback? Shaq's career revival in Phoenix is a better comeback story. But my pick for Comeback Player of the Year goes to Nene. The guy came back from testicular cancer! That takes balls. He's putting up career numbers across the board and is a big reason (along with Chauncey Billups) why Denver is in contention for the Midwest Division crown. His recent play almost justifies trading away Marcus Camby. I admit, I was skeptical that he would be able to stay healthy. But he has only missed 5 games this year. My runner-up comes from the same team: Chris Anderson. He's been a defensive dynamo for this team coming off of a year-long drug suspension. He leads the league in blocks per 48 minutes at an impressive 5.5! He's provided great energy and defense off of the bench. These two guys are "real" comeback stories. (Kay)
COACH OF THE YEAR:
Larry Brown, Charlotte Hornets
I'll keep this short and sweet: If the Bobcats make the playoffs, there is no possible way Larry Brown will not be named coach of the year. That in itself would be a miracle with how horrible the Bobcats have played in seasons past. Brown did a minor restructuring of the team, shipping out Jason Richardson, bringing in veterans Raja Bell and Boris Diaw from Phoenix, while meshing them with current Bobcat players Gerald Wallace, Raymond Felton and Emeka Okafor, and adding quality rookie guard D.J. Augustine to the mix. The end result is a team that is a sleeper for the playoffs this year, and a definite challenger for a 7th or 8th playoff seed next season.
RUNNER UP: Mike Brown, Cleveland Cavaliers
Best record in the NBA? Check. Current 13 game win streak? Check. 1 home loss for the entire season up until this point? Check. Say what you want about him having #23 doing all the heavy lifting, but give Coach Brown credit for managing the team, not necessarily coaching per se. However his approach to the game, which is allowing players to have fun, along with him being energetic and animated seems to have worked out for the overall chemistry of the team, and good chemistry has led to a lot of wins. If the regular season wins equal post season success, then expect Mr James to stay around, and expect Coach Brown to keep smiling on the sidelines for quite some time. (Zee!!)
I think Mike Brown has the award in the bag. But there are a few other coaches that I'd like to spotlight. Gregg Popovich did a brilliant coaching job, especially given all of the injuries to the Big 3 on the Spurs (6 games by Duncan, 10 games by Parker, and 32 games by Manu). The team has an impressive record of 8-4 in games where only 1 of their Big 3 is healthy. And they had no right giving Denver a run for their money when all 3 of them sat out and they started a lineup of: Bonner, Thomas, Bowen, Mason and Hill. Popovich is a great motivator and strategist. The Spurs always play great defense, and he's managed to get the best out of scrubs like Bonner, Bowen, Oberto, Udoka, etc. They are battling for the second best record in the Western Conference. Of course, you have to give some credit to Phil Jackson, Doc Rivers, Rick Adelman, and Jerry Sloan for their great efforts. Sloan, in particular, is one of the most underrated coaches in history. He's never won coach of the year despite all of his team success. He's 4th all-time on the wins list. And he has the longest tenure of any other coach in the league (20 full years). He's had to overcome tons of injuries (14 by Williams, 9 by Okur, 45 by Boozer, 16 by Kirlenko) and this team still has managed to stay afloat and be competitive in the West. When will he get his? (Kay)
LEAGUE MVP : Lebron James (Surprise,Surprise)
Part of me wants the NBA to give it to Kobe simply because he isn't going to be winning anymore anytime soon, and we all know he was stiffed out of quite a few MVP trophies in the past. But, you can't deny the performances Lebron has graced the league with night after night. The 2009 NBA MVP is dropping 28 points a game, 7.7 rebounds a game and a mind boggling 7.3 assists a game. Kobe, all world player that he is, has not and will not ever distribute like Lebron does, and still manage to impact the game in multiple ways. I have full confidence that Lebron will average a triple-double before his career is done.....the future of the league is now. 2010 will be a madhouse when he becomes a free agent.
Check the Comeback Player of the Year section. (Zee!!)
I have no choice but to agree. Lebron is the clear-cut winner. He's led his team to the best record in the league, while putting up some amazing stats. His season averages might have been even better if so many of the games weren't blow-outs. Think about that. He makes all of the players around him better with his passing, his leadership and the extra attention that the defense gives him. And he's finally stepped up on the defensive end and improved on his other weakness: FT shooting. There's no denying his importance to this team; or the league, for that matter. As an added bonus, he has not missed a single game this year. This guy is a machine. I give Wade the runner-up spot over Kobe and Dwight because of his nasty stat lines and how much the Heat depend on Wade. Wade scores or assists on over 45% of the team's points. That's crazy. But I don't think the MVP award will ever go to a player from a team that is barely hovering over the .500 mark. Team success is an important factor to consider when selecting MVP. (Kay)