It’s hard to believe, but the NBA’s regular season comes to an end on Wednesday.
Before the total focus of the NBA is shifted to the playoffs, it is a good time to recognize the executive, coach and players that deserve accolades for their accomplishments during the regular season.
Here is one person’s view for this year’s winners of the awards that will be given out by the NBA during the postseason.
MVP: SHAQUILLE O’NEAL (MIAMI HEAT)
The superstar center has been everything and more that the Heat were hoping he would be when they acquired him from the Lakers last summer for forwards Lamar Odom, Brian Grant, Caron Butler and a first-round draft pick. He has teamed with guard Dwyane Wade to give Miami the most potent one-two combination in the league, and has helped the Heat earn the top seed in the Eastern Conference for the 2005 Playoffs.
Shaq, who has missed seven of Miami’s 80 games, is averaging 22.9 points and a team-high 10.4 rebounds. He has scored in double-digits in 72 of the 73 contests he has played in and has recorded 43 double-doubles. The 33-year-old veteran has played like a man on a mission and has his sites set on winning a title. O’Neal is the most dominant force in the NBA.
HONORABLE MENTION: Allen Iverson (Philadelphia 76ers), LeBron James (Cleveland Cavaliers), Steve Nash (Phoenix Suns) and Dirk Nowitzki (Dallas Mavericks).
ROOKIE OF THE YEAR: BEN GORDON (CHICAGO BULLS)
Gordon has shown that he is going to have a very productive career in the NBA. He has played in all 80 of Chicago’s games this season and has proved to head coach Scott Skiles that he is not afraid to take the big shot in crunch time. The Connecticut product has played a big role in the Bulls earning their first playoff berth since 1998.
The 6-3 guard, who has started just three games for the Bulls, is averaging 15.1 points, 2.6 rebounds and two assists. He has scored in double-digits in 60 of his first 80 games as a pro, and has netted 20 or more points in 24 of those contests. Gordon is the real deal.
HONORABLE MENTION: Dwight Howard (Orlando Magic), Andre Iguodala (Philadelphia 76ers) and Emeka Okafor (Charlotte Bobcats).
COACH OF THE YEAR: GEORGE KARL (DENVER NUGGETS)
Karl took over a Denver club that lost four of its first five games to start the campaign, and was just 17-25 when he coached his first game on January 28th against the Milwaukee Bucks at the Bradley Center. Under the leadership of Karl, the Nuggets have compiled an unbelievable 31-7 record. Karl, who became the team’s general on January 27th when he replaced interim head coach Michael Cooper, has also guided Denver to an incredible 18-1 record at the Pepsi Center.
Even though he will have coached Denver just 40 games when the regular season ends, Karl has had a huge impact on the Nuggets turning around a season that looked like it was headed for disaster. He has gotten the most out of forwards Carmelo Anthony and Kenyon Martin, and has made believers out of his club. It doesn’t matter when Karl coached his first game this season, the fact is that he has been the best coach in the league this campaign. Karl deserves this award!
HONORBALE MENTION: Mike D’Antoni (Phoenix Suns), Nate McMillan (Seattle SuperSonics) and Scott Skiles (Chicago Bulls).
DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THEY YEAR: MARCUS CAMBY (DENVER NUGGETS)
The Nuggets are not known for their defense, but Camby is the reason that they do make some big stops that have helped them win some huge games. The 6-11 veteran is averaging an impressive 3.02 blocks in 66 contests.
An athletic center, Camby, who is averaging a team-best 10 rebounds per game, has defended the middle and the paint in a big way for Denver. Even though he is not as large as some of the bigger centers in the league, Camby has used his long arms and athletic ability to defend some of the NBA’s best. He is the catalyst for Denver’s transition game and his defense leads to a lot of easy baskets for the Nuggets.
HONORABLE MENTION: Bruce Bowen (San Antonio Spurs) and Ben Wallace (Detroit Pistons).
MOST IMPROVED PLAYER: DAMON JONES (MIAMI HEAT)
The 28-year-old Jones has shined with the Heat this season. He is averaging a career-high 11.8 points and 4.3 assists. Prior to this season, the Houston product’s career-high was just 7.0 points per game, which he achieved last season as a member of the Bucks.
Playing in his seventh season in the NBA, Jones is shooting 46 percent from the field, including 43.5 percent from beyond the arc. He is playing just under 32 minutes per night, and has given the Heat a deadly three-point shooter who can play either guard spot. Jones has been a welcomed addition to the Heat roster and has surprised with his stellar play.
HONORABLE MENTION: Kyle Korver (Philadelphia 76ers) and Bobby Simmons (Los Angeles Clippers).
SIXTH MAN OF THE YEAR: JERRY STACKHOUSE (DALLAS MAVERICKS)
Stackhouse has averaged 15 points for the Mavericks this season. He has missed 26 games because of injury, but when he has played he has given Dallas a big lift off the bench.
The 30-year-old Stackhouse adapted to his role of coming off the bench for the Mavericks without any problems. His minutes have been reduced, but the North Carolina product has had great production and is a big reason that Dallas has a chance to win the West.
HONORABLE MENTION: Earl Boykins (Denver Nuggets), Antonio McDyess (Detroit Pistons) and Bonzi Wells (Memphis Grizzlies).
EXECUTIVE OF THE YEAR: PAT RILEY (MIAMI HEAT)
He traded for Shaquille O’Neal, and that alone qualifies Riley to win this honor. Riley knows the main goal is to win a championship, and he has made sure that the Heat have their best chance in franchise history to accomplish that goal this season.
HONORABLE MENTION: John Paxson (Chicago Bulls) and Kiki Vandeweghe (Denver Nuggets).