Wednesday , Apr , 25 , 2007 C.Y. Ellis

NBA Hardware 2007

Predicting the winners of the yearly player awards in the NBA has become somewhat of a tradition. And like any tradition, it always finds its way to completion – even if it’s late.

NBA Hardware 2007

A few days and a couple of games into the NBA Playoffs, two of the six major awards have already been handed out. Not my fault. If the league would stop handing out awards in the first round I’d have time to get these things out. As it stands, I’m stuck with the asinine job of predicting the present, as well as trying to give you a good look at who I think will win the remaining awards.

What follows is my look at who I think should win the major player awards (MVP, Defensive Player of the Year, Rookie of the Year, Sixth Man, Most Improved Player, and Coach of the Year). Even if some of those have already been handed out, I’ve had my picks bouncing around in my noggin for a couple of weeks now, so I’ll give you my picks, whether they coincide with who actually won or not.

In addition to my picks for the winners, I’d like to a give a line or two for what I like to call the ‘non-pick’, a player who doesn’t deserve to win the award, but someone who generally wasn’t even in the conversation, when maybe they should have been. Just my way of adding some depth to this.

With no further noise…

Most Valuable Player – Steve Nash, PHO

I’ve been saying it all year, and I have no intension of changing my pick now. For the last year and a half or so I’ve been drinking the Canadian cool-aid and I honestly don’t think I can say enough about Nash.

You’ve heard me and others talk about his play making ability, his vision, his ability to make his teammates better, and you’ve seen Phoenix rise to the top of league offensive rankings under his guide. All that’s left is for me to convince you that a short shaggy-haired unorthodox point guard deserves to be only the fourth player in league history to win three consecutive MVP awards. Steve Nash has dominated the brand of basketball played in today’s NBA like legends of the past dominated the old style of play. Nash epitomizes the fast pace, run and gun style of the league right now and has defied basketball logic by making Phoenix a consistent contender playing that style. He has elevated the game of every player on the Phoenix roster and is the single most irreplaceable player in the league, because of all the things he does. Even the things people say he can’t do well (play defense, or dominate a game with his scoring), he does better than you think.

Nash has consistently performed and only gotten better with each passing season. He doesn’t deserve to have an award that is rightfully his given to someone else only because people are tired of seeing him win. Just like he was a couple of years ago, just like he was last season, Steve Nash is this season’s MVP.

Non-Pick: Chris Bosh, TOR
Quietly Chris Bosh has gone about his business, having a 22 and 10 season while leading the Raptors to a remarkable 47 win season and their first playoff appearance in six years. There’s been a lot of talk about a lot of MVP candidates, but in all of it I’m surprised that we’ve hardly heard mention of the best player on the team that has shown tremendous improvement from one season to the next.

Defensive Player of the Year – Marcus Camby, DEN

After having a phenomenal year last year, and not getting the award, there’s no way I can’t give this award to Marcus Camby. There’s a lot to be said for Tim Duncan getting it considering how effective a defensive team the Spurs are, but when you think about the system and style of play Denver plays, I have a hard time believing even Duncan could be as effective as Camby is with the Nuggets.

With virtually no other reliable defensive players on the Nuggets, Camby single handedly anchors their defensive, leading the league in blocked shots, altering a considerable amount more than he blocks, and furthermore intimidating opposing players not to even come into the lane. His length, athleticism, and aggressive play make him an incredible defensive force and his numbers in rebounds, steals, and blocks put him ahead of any other candidates. Despite Denver giving up more than a few points as a team, in terms of individual defense, no one has had a better season than Marcus Camby.

Non-Pick: Ben Wallace, CHI
It feels wrong picking the four time DPoY for my non-pick, but I actually think it’s fitting. I think the general perception is that Ben Wallace hasn’t been as effective in Chicago as he was in Detroit. And while it’s true that his personal numbers have gone down from his years with the Pistons, the Bulls have gone from a middle of the pack team in points allowed to one of the stingier defensive teams. No, Ben is not nearly as good as he used to be, but he has made the Bulls a significantly better defensive team and for that I think he at least deserves some mention.

Rookie of the Year – Brandon Roy, POR

There’s no doubt on this one. Seriously, the guy’s name is ROY. Many people, this writer included, touted Roy as the most Association ready player coming out of the draft and he lived up to every word of it. Getting an opportunity to play a big role and big minutes in Portland, Roy took advantage of his chances, averaging 16.8 points, 4.8 rebounds, and 4.0 assist per game. He’s got a complete, well rounded game and a beyond his years poise. Like so few rookies do, he put a stamp on the league in his first season out. Best of all, he’s only going to get better.

Non-Pick: LaMarcus Aldridge, POR
Over shadowed by his own teammate in Portland, Aldridge went on and had an impressive season of his own. By the end of the year Aldridge was even looking he might have even been able to steal Roy’s thunder. Regardless, Portland has a bright future with these two young players.

Sixth Man of the Year – Leandro Barbosa, PHO

Okay, fine, this one’s already in the books. But it’s not like it was a hard one to pick. Barbosa has not only had more of an impact on his team than any other bench player has had on theirs, he easily outweighs other teams’ starters in importance to the Suns. Aside from Nash and Stoudemire, Barbosa may be the most important players on the Suns team. His energy, the spark he brings off the bench, is one of the biggest reasons for the success the Suns have had this season. Furthermore, averaging 18 points per game off the bench is just straight silly. Barbosa comes with a bucket of points and energy every time he comes into the game. No one could deserve this award more than him.

Non-Pick: Matt Harpring, UTA
I could have gone a lot of different directions here seeing as how everyone is a non-pick after Barbosa, but I like Matt Harpring for a few reasons. First, he’s a true sixth man, coming off the bench in 75 games and only starting in two. His role is consistent and crucial coming off the bench. Second, he plays for a good team. His role as a backup in Utah is only accentuate further by the fact that he could start on a lesser team. And plus he’s Matt Harpring; he plays in Utah. If I don’t give this guy some ink who will?

Most Improved Player – Monta Ellis, GSW

In just his second year, Monta Ellis has made huge leaps of improvement from his rookie campaign fresh out of high school. Ellis has upped his scoring average by nearly ten points a game and his assists by three. He’s also turned himself into a good defender, ranking eighth in the league in steals. It’s good to see this kind of improvement in young players, especially those who came out of high school. After having a rough rookie season, Ellis has made himself an intricate part of this up and coming Warriors team.

Non-Pick: Deron Williams, UTA
Another non-pick for Utah on my list, and another sophomore point guard in the running for Most Improved Player. Deron Williams had a solid rookie year for the Jazz, but the young point guard just took it to another level this season, elevating his floor game, and becoming a true leader for Utah. Points went up from 10 to 16 a game, assists from 4.5 to 9.3, and more importantly, he’s become the clear floor general in Utah.

Coach of the Year – Jerry Sloan, UTA

No offense, to Sam Mitchell, but Jerry Sloan is the coach of the year. The Raptors have had a surprisingly impressive season, remarkable considering the state they’ve been in the past few seasons, but I attribute that as much to Chris Bosh as anything else. Not so say Mitchell hasn’t had a lot to do with Bosh’s development, I just don’t see the Raptors success as overwhelmingly Mitchell’s doing.

On the other hand, I see the Jazz and I think Jerry Sloan. Put simply, the Jazz are a coached team. No disrespect to the players, many of whom are very talented, but the Jazz are a success due to the system and the philosophies of Jerry Sloan. And they’re a better team than the Raptors, and most of the teams in the west, because of that. Maybe my criteria is wrong, but I can’t help but give this award to Sloan not only for this season (though he merits based on that alone), but also for the seasons since Malone retired and he’s been left rebuilding this team, ever present, ever patient. Jerry Sloan has rebuilt this team back into a competitive team in the west and more than anyone I believe he deserved to win Coach of the Year.

Non-Pick: Don Nelson, GSW
I never expected the Warriors to make the playoffs. Not at the beginning of the season, not after the Stephen Jackson/Al Harrington trade. Along with Baron Davis and Monta Ellis, they have the talent. But it took Nellie to put it all together, something I just wasn’t expecting. Nelson has put this team in a system that gives them a chance to win, and they’re success against Dallas in the regular season and thus far in the playoffs only further illustrates how far this team has come under Don Nelson.