NBA Awards Predictions
I’ve never much liked end of season awards predictions. No particular reason, I just think at the end of the regular season, heading up into the playoffs, one could use their time more effectively than arguing for Kobe Bryant as MVP since he’d be knocked out of the playoffs before he even had a chance to touch the trophy(they announce the MVP after the first round). Maybe I’m just bitter. Maybe I just have a thing against predictions all together. Whatever it is I’ve never found much satisfaction in running down my list for the individual league awards. In a matter of weeks I’ll have my daring picks refuted and my boring ones confirmed. Vanilla — not necessarily bad, just not all that compelling.
What you’ll find below are indeed by picks for everything from MVP to Coach of the Year(yes, even the boring ones), but for a re-mix track I’ll also serve up my "non-picks", the people who likely won’t be taking home hardware but who at least haven’t been mentioned a million times over already. Everybody can make the real picks, few take the time to look a little deeper at players who are farther down the list. Here’s a look at both…
Most Valuable Player: Steve Nash, Phoenix Suns
Didn’t I warn you about this getting predictable. This pick, Jamie Foxx is not. Now while you and a few others may consider the MVP race wide open(and it is), my pick hasn’t changed all season. The MVP is Steve Nash. He’s taken what should have been a lottery team and took them to a 50 win season and he’s done it by making sub-par players into more than solid contributors. Shawn Marion is having a career season, yes, but there’s a reason for that beyond The Matrix himself and that reason is the same one behind all the good things that have happened for Phoenix this year. Steve Nash, Steve Nash, Steve Nash, Steve Na–
Non-Pick: Tony Parker, San Antonio Spurs
I’m as annoyed by the "Tony Parker for MVP" talk as anyone, and as much as I hate to fuel it, the little Frenchy does have reason to be mentioned. Parker’s numbers are actually very much comparable to those of Chauncey Billups, who has been garnering MVP talk all season long, and if you look at both the Pistons’ and Spurs’ records, then it would seem obvious their ability to lead a team is also similar. Tony Parker does not deserve to win MVP, but don’t be surprised if he gets a vote.
Defensive Player of the Year: Bruce Bowen, San Antonio Spurs
For the past four seasons Bruce Bowen has made the NBA’s All-Defensive Team and with good reason. Bruce Bowen is the single most effective perimeter defender in the league. And he’s been such for at least the past three to four seasons. Bowen gets my pick for Defensive Player of the Year because quite frankly it’s been long over due. His ability to shut down an opposing team’s top scorer has been vital for the Spurs in a season where defensive runs have been more crucial than ever without Duncan and Ginobili at 100% to make it up on the other end. There is no player who has more of an impact for his team on the defensive end.
Non-Pick: Andrei Kirilenko, Utah Jazz
The freakish numbers are in full effect to go along with the freakish length of Andrei Kirilenko. Along with being top 20 in steals Kirilenko is second in the league in blocks per contest at 3.15; anyone who has seen enough Jazz games knows he changes several more. At 6-9 and with a wing span the length of a flag pole AK-47 can affect any part of the floor from any position. He won’t get the awards due to some missed games and the Jazz’s struggles, but make no mistake about it, Kirilenko is one of the league’s top defenders.
Rookie of the Year: Chris Paul, New Orleans/Oklahoma City Hornets
It doesn’t feel right to put Chris Paul’s name in the same sentence as the word boring, but that’s essentially what this pick is. That’s not a knock against Paul, it’s closer to a compliment. This pick is predictable, and unnanimous, because Paul has thoroughly distanced himself from his competition. He leads all rookies in assists and steals and is top ten in the league in both. Two triple-doubles and 16 plus points per for the season isn’t too bad either. Whether or not he manages a miracle and gets his team into the playoffs, he is undeniably the top rookie product.
Non-Pick: Charlie Villanueva, Toronto Raptors
Villanueva is probably the second most deserving rookie out there, but we all know anyone not named Chris Paul is about as "non-pick" as you can get when it comes to the ROY award. Villanueva has been putting up decent numbers on a bad team and his play in Chris Bosh’s absence, including a 48 point outburst against Milwaukee, are what put him in this spot.
Coach of the Year: Avery Johnson, Dallas Mavericks
Avery Johnson has gotten the Mavericks to play defense and has got them closer to contention then they’ve ever been. Having Dirk Nowitzki doesn’t hurt, but Dirk has clearly benefited from Little General’s tough approach. There has been a systematical improvement on the Mavs with discipline seemingly a higher priority than ever before. For that Johnson gets my vote for Coach of the Year.
Non-Pick: Phil Jackson, Los Angeles Lakers
This clearly hasn’t been Jackson’s best season, but considering it has been his most difficult, he deserves some credit for what he’s done with this Lakers team. Kobe’s scoring has been the highlight everyone pays attention to, but any production from the other fours guys on the court has to be attributed to Phil Jackson’s brilliance. There won’t be a championship at the end of this one for Phil, and probably not even a Coach of the Year award, but some consideration should be thrown his way.
Sixth Man of the Year: Mike Miller, Memphis Grizzlies
Nevermind that Memphis should probably be trying to lose games, Mike Miller is playing to nab himself top sub honors. Miller has been providing the big shots for the Grizz all season and 13.3 per with only 8 starts this season makes him the clear choice for Sixth Man of the Year. Now if only he can lay off so his team doesn’t get bounced in the first round by the Coach of the Year.
Non-Pick: Antoine Walker, Miami Heat
Who knew the once shot chucking, turnover prone three-time All-Star could become… well, a shot chucking, turnover prone sixth man. I think we should just be proud of Antoine for not trying to best his 645 three-point shot attempts just to prove a point. That and being an explosive option off the bench for a conference contender.
Most Improved Player: Boris Diaw, Phoenix Suns
Usually there isn’t much more than numbers to go by for this award, seeing how much a guy ups his rebounding or scoring stats are what decides this award most times. And while Diaw’s numbers have clearly gone way up(points, rebounds, and assists all more than doubled from last season), it’s obvious that’s he’s also playing with more confidence and feeling more natural on the floor. Outside of Steve Nash, Diaw is the most crucial part of the Suns high powered offense.
Non-Pick; David West, New Orleans/Oklahoma City Hornets
It’s not so much that David West is "farther down the list" as it is people would seem to miss him no matter how much improvement he’s shown. From a reserve playing eighteen minutes a night and averaging just around six points per game to becoming one of the Hornet’s focal points, averaging 17 points per game and playing 35 minutes a night. If the Hornets hadn’t gone on their second half skid I might even be inclined to call West the Joakim Noah of the NBA. Comparisons aside, West deserves nearly as much credit as the guy above who’ll be getting the award, he’s just that good.