NBA All-Star Break Awards
After a solid NBA All-Star weekend, teams will start kicking it back into gear tomorrow to make their final pushes to the postseason through the last third of the year. In this last chunk of games we will see who wants that coveted championship the most and which players will take part in leading their teams there. Before the games start back up here are my thoughts on the NBA Awards at this point in the season.
Who Will Win– LeBron James
Who Should Win- Chris Paul
It’s simple, James is the best player in the entire universe. The skills that James possesses have never been seen before all in one player and I’m not going to talk that up anymore because we all have known it for a long time. But again, LeBron is leading his Miami Heat team pretty easily through the regular season keeping their slim lead in the Eastern Conference over the New York Knicks. James is averaging 27.0 PPG, 6.9 APG, and 8.1 RPG on the year, not even his most dominant season scoring-wise, but the fact that he can do anything out on the floor at anytime is the value he has. Without him, the Heat would still be a playoff team, but it is James who has that constant edge, that constant want for more, and that’s the value that gets voters throwing his name down as MVP a week into the year. It would be James’ third career MVP.
Chris Paul is the no doubt leader of this Los Angeles Clippers team, that’s why he was traded for, that’s why they are going to offer him every cent possible once this season ends; so when he went down with that knee cap injury two weeks ago, the entire franchise breathed a collective sigh of relief when it was only nine games that their superstar had to miss. During that span of Paul’s absence, the team went 3-6, not exactly the best showing they hoped for. These losses included some close ones but also a 12-point loss to the Thunder, a 25-point rout by the Raptors, and an 8-point loss to the rising Wizards. In those 3 games Paul’s backup, Eric Bledsoe, only scored 12, 10, and 17 points, respectively. For a backup point guard in his second year, these numbers aren’t bad, but the effect that he has on the team compared to Paul is unmatched. I understand that it was a small nine game span and all teams go through rough patches whether it’s with or without their best player, but of every player in the NBA, Chris Paul has the most value to his team. Ignore the stats and just look at the offense that is run by Los Angeles. They want to get out on the run as much as any other team so they can get those coveted Lob City dunks to Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan. A point guard is a key to the offense and if you don’t have one like Paul, who is also the best in the entire league, it’s going to be tough to get that offense going. Paul’s intelligence and sense of the game allow him to control the pace of every single play up and down the floor, if he wants to run the Clippers are running, if he wants to slow down, they’ll go half-court. It is something that can’t be taught, hence why even though his numbers aren’t even close to LeBron’s, his value is just as high.
Rookie of the Year
Who Will Win- Damian Lillard
Who Should Win- Damian Lillard
Anthony Davis might have been the number one pick of last summer’s NBA Draft, but he has not been the best rookie this year by a long shot. After getting drafted sixth overall by the Trail Blazers, Lillard was pretty much the automatic starting point guard for the franchise before even stepping on the court. Playing in college for Weber State helped him out for the situation he was going into, where they might not be the most competitive but he will be able to play, and play very well. Of course, in the NBA the talent on any team is better than the talent at Weber State. He has teamed up with All-Star big man, LaMarcus Aldridge to lead the Blazers to one game under .500. Nevertheless, Lillard hit the league hard from the start, dropping 23 points and dishing 11 assists in his first career game against the Lakers. He’s had seven double-digit assist games so far along with 22 games topping 20 points or more, including a 37-point explosion against Golden State in a loss. His excellence of running and controlling the offense at the point guard position is a credit to both himself and college coach, Randy Rahe, as Lillard had the maturity to not jump after one year to the NBA, but rather stay a full four years becoming a leader for his college squad and then taking that leadership role with him into the Association. Just another reason why this kid is leaps and bounds ahead of any other rookie this season. Plus, he did this. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2FJ3bfy-4hk
Sixth Man of the Year
Who Will Win- Jamal Crawford
Who Should Win- Jamal Crawford
Crawford has had a revival in Los Angeles this season, after not living up to expectations and a heavy contract in Portland a year ago. Throughout the past four or five years, Crawford has grown into his role as a very effective sixth man. This year though he’s putting up numbers above his career averages, while playing less minutes (17.1 PPG, 29.5 MPG). With Chris Paul, Crawford has brought veteran leadership to this Clippers squad and big reason why some of the top analysts think they have what it takes to make it to the Western Conference Finals against the Oklahoma City Thunder. Many believe Crawford to be an older player since he’s in his 12th year professionally, but only at age 32 he still has a lot of good basketball left in his tank and he’s showing it for LA this year truly making them contenders in the west. This would be Crawford’s second career Sixth Man award after he won in 2010 with Atlanta.
Most Improved Player
Who Will Win- Chandler Parsons
Parsons had a strong rookie campaign where he really came out of nowhere getting a starting job with Houston for practically the entire season. Now, with the absence of Kevin Martin and the entry of two distributing playmakers with Jeremy Lin and James Harden, Parsons numbers have improved strongly from a year ago. After averaging nine and a half PPG a year ago, he is up almost five points averaging 14.4 so far. He is up in almost every category including minutes, shooting percentage, free throw percentage, and rebounds. This is a tribute to his hard work ethic, but also the effect that players like Harden and Lin can have on team, because while the duo gets the bulk of the defensive attention, Parsons flourishes hitting open shots and getting to the rim. He will win because of his team’s improved record from a year ago and the effect that his improved play has on it.
Who Should Win- Greivis Vasquez
This is Vasquez’s third professional season and we are finally seeing the talent and leadership that he had at Maryland down in New Orleans. Last season with the trading of Chris Paul and injuries to Jarrett Jack, Vasquez was able to get his first taste of being a starting point guard in the NBA, and now this season he has taken the role full on, playing and starting in every game so far this season. He is playing nine more minutes per game and with that extra playing time has improved in a lot of categories. The biggest jump was in his assists per game, which is of course huge for a point guard. Vasquez is averaging 9.4 APG this season, four more than a year a go. This is big, along with him averaging only one more turnover per game from a year ago even with the increased minutes which is a great sign for a point guard still early in their career. The Hornets are struggling again this year, but Vasquez will continue his high play and eventually next year this “Pelican” will take flight in the league.
Coach of the Year
Who Will Win- Tom Thibodeau
Derrick Rose, the NBA’s 2011 MVP, went down with an ACL injury a few weeks before the playoffs began last year. His injury’s impact was felt as his Chicago Bulls floundered to become the first number one seed ever to lose a series to an eight seed. How could a team suffering such a blow like that, be able to come back from that embarrassment the next season? That is the work of a great coach. Knowing that his superstar would be lost for most of this season, if not all of it, Tom Thibodeau went right back to work making his team a playoff contender. The Bulls are sitting strongly in the fifth spot in the Eastern Conference with a record of 30-22. Though the entire season is sprinkled of thoughts about if and when Rose will return, but Thibodeau doesn’t take any of that into consideration as he has to worry about the 15 guys he has now, not the one guy he eventually might have. What hurts him in my eyes is that he is still sending out a lineup with two All-Stars this year in Luol Deng and Joakim Noah, which can help a lot when you don’t have a player of Rose’s ability.
Who Should Win- Mark Jackson
Mark Jackson is in his second year as an NBA coach. In his first year with the Golden State Warriors he led the team to an underwhelming 23-43 record. Even with the talent that is on the roster, he couldn’t quite right the ship in year one. But now with a year under his belt and a season for Stephen Curry to strive without the shot-hungry Monta Ellis always lurking over his shoulder, Jackson now has the Warriors sitting in sixth place in the Western Conference with a record of 30-22. Jackson, who was one of the top point guards during his playing days, knew that the key to this team’s success was through Curry and he made sure that he harnessed it this season, helping Curry to a very strong campaign thus far and making many believe he was snubbed from his first All-Star selection. The Warriors have lost five games in a row going into All-Star Weekend, so they will look to turn it around, and with the return of center Andrew Bogut and the Memphis Grizzlies expected to fade after their big trade a couple of weeks back, there is still plenty of time for Golden State to keep this strong season going and even move up in the ranks before it’s all said and done. If they can move up past Denver and possibly Memphis also, you will be seeing Jackson receiving a much-deserved award in June.