With the NBA regular season coming to a close last night, it’s time to predict the regular season awards. It was a wild year for the NBA, and a lot of drama surrounded the compact 66 game season. The league’s reigning MVP, D.Rose, played half a year and his team still finished with the best record in the Eastern Conference. Dwight Howard and his head coach, Ron Jeremy look-alike, Stan Van Gundy created a public war of words in Orlando. And, a guy named World Peace was suspended seven games for fighting. The playoffs are as wide-open as ever, the overwhelming favorites entering the year: Chicago, Miami, and Oklahoma City are all flawed. While, the San Antonio Spurs, who no one ever gives any credit to, quietly became the best team in the regular season with a cast of aging veterans and young role players. But without further ado, here are the lezbehonest predictions for the regular season awards.
The NBA rookie of the year is the easiest to pick, hands down its Kyrie Irving of the Cleveland Cavaliers. He has the makings to become one of the best point guards in the league. He single-handedly won games for the woeful Cavs, and even before they lost their center Anderson Varejao for the season, they were actually fighting for a playoff spot. His speed, strength, and athletic ability will soon place Irving in the category of an already crowded position of elite point guards in the league.
The Defensive player of the year is a two-horse race between the incumbent Dwight Howard and OKC’s Serge Ibaka. It is undeniable the difference Howard makes on the defensive end of the court: rebounding, altering and blocking shots. But, the truth is, his antics this year have made me want to pick against him. Serge Ibaka led the league in blocked shots, and like a good defender, kept his mouth shut. Plus the fact that Howard blatantly quit on his team in some games this year, I’m going to give the award to Ibaka.
The Sixth man of the year also dawns in a Thunder uniform, shooting guard James Harden. Without Harden coming off the bench, in a similar role as the Mavericks’ guard Jason Terry, where would the Thunder be this year? He became a legitimate third scoring option after the Durantula and Westbrook, and didn’t make any complaints about sitting behind the defensive-minded OKC starter Thabo Sefolosha. Harden would be a viable starter on any NBA team, and selfishly I would love to see him in a Jazz or Bulls uniform some day.
The Most improved player of the year will prove to be a popularity contest with Jeremy Lin winning the award. He captured the sports world by storm when the Asian-Harvard graduate guided the Knicks back into NBA-relevancy. He’ll probably win the award based on the media’s love-affair with his story, but if I was given a ballot, I’d vote for Utah’s Gordon Hayward. I admit that this pick is biased, but being a Jazz fan and watching him progress from his struggles as a rookie to where he is now is remarkable. Even if Lin doesn’t win, Hayward isn’t next in line to win the award, but I felt obligated to give some love to the former Butler Bulldog.
The Coach of the year is another interesting race between repeat winners. It was stunning to see the Bulls’ players buy into Tom Thibodeau’s system, and they captured the top seed in the East without Rose playing a majority of the last two months. However, the award should go to the multiple winner and four-time NBA champion, the Spurs’ Gregg Popovich. The way he incorporated his younger players around veterans Tony Parker, Manu Ginobli, and Tim Duncan was incredibly impressive. He led the Spurs to the best record in the NBA (tied with the Bulls), all while dealing with injuries to stars and resting his older players. “Pop” and “Thibs” are both equally deserving of the award, but I’ll give the edge to the Spurs’ head man solely based on his outstanding resume.
The final and most meaningful award from the regular season is the league MVP award. Here are the five guys, not in any particular order, who are most deserving of the award: Lebron, Durant, Love, Paul, and Parker. Take any one of those guys off their teams’ roster and the standings would look a lot different. CP3 and Parker’s leadership abilities provide the intangibles that often get overlooked during MVP voting, and as meaningful as they were to their teams this year, they are long shot’s to win the award. K.Love’s numbers were outstanding this year, averaging 26 points and over 13 boards a game, but the Timberwolves’ overall 26-40 record all but disqualifies him from winning the award. That leaves us with the remaining two: King James and the Durantula as the MVP front-runners. Durant won the scoring title while adding 8 boards and 3.5 assists a game; take his production off the Thunder and they wouldn’t be heading into the playoffs as one of the favorites to win it all. But, all year Lebron has been playing his best team basketball since he entered the league. Since the beginning of the year it has been Lebron’s award to lose. Love him, or hate him, he is the most physically gifted athlete in the NBA, and probably in all of sports. The self-titled “King” will wear the regular season MVP crown, but if the “King” doesn’t receive a Ring this year, it would have all been for nothing.