Top candidates for the NBA’s major awards
So far this NBA season has been one of the most tough and competitively fought in recent memory, at least in regard to individual awards. The race for most of the individual awards is right open, ready for anyone hungry enough to rise up and steal it.
This is somewhat reminiscent of the race for playoff seedings the regular season.
However close it may be, going into the new year, here are my leaders for all the major individual awards.
Rookie of the Year: Damian Lillard, Portland Trail Blazers
Right now, Damian Lillard is looking pretty good for the Eddie Gottlieb trophy. Lillard has emerged as one of the leaders of the Blazers young core of himself, Wesley Matthews, Nicolas Batum, LaMarcus Aldridge and J.J. Hickson.
It is a roster that has oodles of potential. Lillard is always calm, collected, never panics, and already has the presence of a veteran on the court.
He’s already developed into one of the NBA’s better point guards. However, if any of the other rookies listed as an honourable mention, especially Anthony Davis, can up their production, we should have a real good battle on our hands.
Honorable mentions: Anthony Davis, Alexey Shved, Dion Waiters
Coach of the Year: Mark Jackson, Golden State Warriors
Early in the season, it looked like it could go to Mike Dunlap. A bit later, Mike Woodson looked to have the edge. This award could truly go to any number of coaches, but I’ve chosen Mark Jackson of the Golden State Warriors.
His ability to turn his team so far around has been astonishing, especially since his best three-point shooter, Brandon Rush, is out for the season, and best defensive player, Australian Andrew Bogut is yet to log a minute.
Jackson has done this with virtually the same roster as last year (bar a healthy Stephen Curry), and for an offensive-minded coach with no Bogut, his team has undergone a significant defensive transformation as well.
The Dubs, as of the fourth of January, sit fifth in the west, and they should only get better when Bogut returns at the end of the month.
Honorable mentions: Mike Woodson, Larry Drew, Lionel Hollins
Defensive Player of the Year: Serge Ibaka, Oklahoma City Thunder
What’s scary is that Serge Ibaka is actually blocking less shots per game than last year. He is down by .6 BPG, and he is still, in my opinion, edging out Larry Sanders for the DPOY at the quarter-season mark.
Many thought that the Oklahoma City Thunder made the wrong decision letting James Harden go instead of Serge Ibaka, but it turns out they did no such thing.
Ibaka is leading the league in blocked shots and Harden is fifth in the league in scoring, proving he can be the alpha dog on a team.
Ibaka already has one hand on the award. If he can up his blocking to the level he was at least year, it seems that the 22 year-old will be able to put his other mighty paw on it and take it away.
Honorable mentions: Larry Sanders, Roy Hibbert, Dwight Howard
Sixth Man of the Year: J.R. Smith, New York Knicks
When Iman Shumpert was ruled out with a knee inury, J.R. Smith was disappointed to learn that the starting job would be given to Jason Kidd.
Right now, J.R. averages more than double Kidd’s PPG and 1 more RPG than Kidd, and is making a massive case for the Sixth Man of the Year Award (however he’d probably be happier with a starting job).
As well as J.R Smith has been playing this year, he’s closely being trailed by Jamal Crawford, who is again showing off his superb skill by torching opposition bench guards with his own 16.5 PPG.
These men could start on other teams (or maybe even on their team) and it will most likely be a tight-knit battle between the two come the end of the year.
However, those are not the only two lighting it up off the pine, and if any of the honorables mentioned below turn it up, J.R. will have a battle on his hands.
Honorable mentions: Jamal Crawford, Kevin Martin, Ramon Sessions
Most Improved Player: James Harden, Houston Rockets
What a player. James Harden was a bona fide star last year, but this year, he’s elevated his status to superstar. While he has upped his rebounds per game by only two, he has upped his points per game by almost 10, and is has basically put the Rockets on his back on their way to the sixth seed in the West.
If he can take a slight cut on his numbers, and can help Jeremy Lin find the medium between their ball handling and pick-and-roll play, the Rockets can be truly dangerous. And from his previous Sixth Man of the Year Award, we know that Harden has no problem taking that lesser role.
And he should be able to do that without sacrificing his award for Most Improved. Not that he’d care, anyway.
Honorable mentions: Jrue Holiday, O.J. Mayo, Kemba Walker
Most Valuable Player: LeBron James, Miami Heat
The regular season is usually just a formality before LeBron is awarded his MVP trophy. And what can be said about this man that hasn’t already been said? Not much really. What’s scary is that LeBron’s 2012/13 numbers would seem scary to the naked eye however, he is actually down on last year’s production.
And he still leads the MVP race. LeBron is casually putting up 26.4 PPG, 8.3 RPG and 6.8 APG. If you don’t like that, you don’t like NBA basketball. However, it doesn’t seem to impress us any more.
We’ve almost become desensitised to LeBron’s greatness on the court. We expect this from him. And when you have a player like that on your hands, putting up those kinds of numbers that no longer seem to shock us, you know they’ll end up with a few MVP’s under their belt by the time their career is out.
And LeBron can be expecting his fourth this year.
Honorable mentions: Kobe Bryant, Carmelo Anthony, Kevin Durant