The NBA is just past the mid-point of the regular season so the Kobe Beef decided to jump on the bandwagon and list our selections for who is deserving of an award thus far.
Coach of the Year
Ben Gooding: Tom Thibodeau, Chicago Bulls
I’m sure you guys like Mark Jackson.
Travis Huse: Mark Jackson, Golden State Warriors
After years of hearing Mark Jackson spit his catchphrases beside Jeff Van Gundy on ABC, I could have never envisioned that he would be the man to lead the Golden State Warriors back to the playoffs. But now with Monta Ellis gone, The Warriors can now play Stephen Curry at the 2, and allow Jarrett Jack to handle more of the distribution duties. Once you factor in Klay Thompson’s advancement and the return of Andrew Bogut, it is evident that the Warriors might just be the beginning of a perennial playoff team.
Doyle Rader: Mark Jackson, Golden State Warriors
It was a bit premature for Mark Jackson to declare that the Warriors would be playoff-bound after he was named head coach last season. However, he was only off by a year. Barring a collapse on the level of the 2007 Mets, Golden State will reach the playoffs for the first time since 2007 as they have already topped their win total from last season. Jackson has melded his rotations well and rode the chemistry that David Lee and Stephen Curry have developed to this point. Not to mention this team is all buckets everything. They shoot 45.6 percent from the floor, and lead the league in 3-point shooting percentage with a mark of 38.8. The Warriors are also the only team to have defeated the Thunder, Heat, and Clippers. Now the team has Andrew Bogut back which will only bolster their roster. His handling of Curry’s recent ankle tweak, by sitting him, also shows that he is not risking his team’s future for one game.
Most Improved Player
TR: Paul George, Indiana Pacers
This award is not even up for discussion. To begin the season, Indiana looked like a sure lock on winning the Central Division, but were derailed by Danny Granger’s knee injury and disappointing play from Roy Hibbert. George has filled the superstar role nicely, and the Pacers now have a serious chance to overtake the Bulls in order to land the 3rd seed in the East by the time playoffs roll around.
DR: Greivis Vasquez, New Orleans Hornets
Vasquez’ play this season has been nothing short of superb. He has quarterbacked a bottom feeding team as well as anyone could imagine and has already set career numbers in points, assists, rebounds, and 3-point shooting percentage and he has done it all in ewer total minutes than he played all of last season. New Orleans has a +/- of -7.9 and a Net Rating of -8.1 when Vasquez is on the bench.
Defensive Player of the Year
BG: Joakim Noah, Chicago Bulls
Chicago is 27-17 and Derrick Rose has not set foot on the hardwood all season. What could be even more astonishing? That the Bulls have that record by only scoring 93 points a game (that’s 27th in the league, folks).
How are they doing it? Defense and Joakim Noah is leading the way. Midway through the season, Chicago is only giving up 90 points a game (3rd in the league) and they are gathering 44 rebounds a game (6th in the league).
Noah is gathering 7.2 rebounds a game and 2 blocks. He’s gathered 15 boards or more eight times this season. His energetic style matched with stingy defense all over the court, is allowing the Bulls to bide their time before Rose returns.
TH: Joakim Noah, Chicago Bulls
The Bulls’ success in the absence of Derrick Rose speaks volumes about the work of head coach Tom Thibodeau, and the way he has managed to keep this team performing at an elite level without his MVP point guard just might be his biggest success to date. But with the defensive identity of this squad is the glue that holds them together, and Noah has been phenomenal as a defensive leader, in a capacity similar to Kevin Garnett’s role on the Celtics.
DR: Larry Sanders, Milwaukee Bucks
Larry Sanders may be an odd choice for Defensive Player of the Year. Yet, I cannot get past a few aspects of his game that let me to select him. Sanders is by no means a household name. He has scrapped for playing time in Milwaukee, a team laden with forwards, but now seems to be coming into his own as a defensive presence. Sanders currently has the second best defensive rating in the league, 95.9, behind only Tim Duncan and leads in every block category. The most striking statistic being that he blocks nine percent of all the shots taken when he is on the floor. NINE PERCENT! JaVale McGee is second with 7.9. Opposing offenses only shoot 52.7 percent, a dreadful number, from the restricted area when Sanders in patrolling the paint. He also pulls down 8.2 defensive rebounds per 36 minutes and sports a defensive win shares rating of 2.3.
TH: Jarrett Jack, Golden State Warriors
Jarrett Jack is just one of those players who can really rally a second unit, and I am pretty damn unsure as to why he hasn’t managed to secure a starting spot on an NBA team. At any rate, he has helped out many a crappy team (looking at you, Chris Paul and Chris Bosh) while being buried under talented starters, and you just have to enjoy him.
[Editor’s note: Jack was the starting point guard for the Portland Trail Blazers during the 2006-07 season. He started in all 79 games that he played.]
DR: Jarrett Jack, Golden State Warriors
One of the reasons that the Warriors have been so successful this season, aside from their coach, has been the willingness of Jarrett Jack to accept his role as the team’s sixth man. Not only has he accepted this position but he has excelled in it. This is Jack’s first season coming off the bench since he backed up Chris Paul in New Orleans. Now he comes off the bench to spell Stephen Curry or play alongside him. He has posted a win shares rating of 3.6 to go along with a true shooting percentage of 56.2 and 7.1 assists per 36 minutes. The Warriors are a deep team with many good bench players, Carl Landry especially stands out, but it is Jack who has contributed the most.
Rookie of the Year
Unanimous: Damien Lillard, Portland Trail Blazers
BG: Portland won 28 games last year. So far this season, they are 22-22. May not seem like a lot but it is when you consider how cursed this team has been with rookies (Sam Bowie, Bill Walton, Greg Oden). Seems like all they needed to do was stop drafting centers to break the curse.
Regardless, no one expected to see what we have already seen from Lillard this season. A 37-point game and six double-doubles so far this season are just a few things padding his resume.
TH: I have tried all season to believe in Anthony Davis. I drafted him too highly on our fantasy league. I bought into all the hype about his “NBA readiness,” and I am still trying to believe that he will pull off winning this award.
With the passing of each day, it becomes more and more unlikely. The Hornets have been very careful with their franchise prospect, and Eric Gordon has finally returned, taking some of the scoring load off Davis.
Lillard, though, has crafted an amazing year, finally giving the fans in Portland a capable distributor. He is smart with the ball, and he has been willing to shoulder the burden of a leadership role right out of college. When was the last time the Blazers had that? He maximizes the performance of teammates LaMarcus Aldridge and Nicolas Batum. Blazers GM Neil Olshey certainly drafted himself out of the hot water that he was in after matching Batum’s $46 million, four-year offer sheet from Minnesota.
DR: When I saw him fearlessly attack and harry Steve Nash during the preseason, I was sold.
Most Valuable Player
Unanimous: Kevin Durant, Oklahoma City Thunder
BG: It’s hard not to see him winning MVP at this point in the season. The Thunder have only lost two games in a row once this season and one of those games was to the Heat. He leads the league in scoring (29.6 ppg) on one of the best teams in the league (2nd in the West and league, OKC with 34 wins).
While its just as easy to mention LeBron James in this conversation, it’s an award that belongs to Durant. We never expected Durant to be what he is now while the media, fans, and the league completely set the stage for LBJ.
His stat sheet includes over seven rebounds and four assists a game. That matched up with shooting 91 percent from the free throw line and 42 percent from past the arc, spells out history. Only Dirk Nowitzki, Reggie Miller and Larry Bird have maintained the 40-50-90 line throughout a full NBA season.
TR: Even though Lebron James is the best basketball player in the world, the Miami Heat haven’t particularly shined this season, and that will hurt his chances of hoisting a fourth Maurice Podoloff trophy. Instead, I opt for Kevin Durant, who looks driven and determined to win a ring. His team has managed to maintain such a high level of play even though they traded away James Harden, and Durant is poised to take home his fourth straight scoring title. While Durant has lived under Lebron’s shadow the past few years, this is Durant’s time to shine.
DR: Kevin Durant is in rare form. He is currently a 50/40/90 player, meaning that he shoots 50 percent on field goals, 40 percent on 3-pointers, and 90 percent on free throws. If he can maintain this through the rest of the season he will join the ranks of Larry Bird, Mark Price, Reggie Miller, Dirk Nowitzki, and Steve Nash as the only players to finish a season shooting at such a level. Not only is his shooting impressive but he is averaging 7.4 rebounds and 4.4 assists per game to go along with his league-leading 29.6 points.