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Look at that! The playoffs are suddenly upon us. Seems like just yesterday, we were basically praying for an NBA season just to be played. Before we start worrying about all that postseason drama, how about taking a few moments to recognize the accomplishments of an exceptional few and explain why they will/should be honored with this season’s individual awards?
Let’s start with an obvious one, and go from there. Kyrie Irving, a.k.a. the number one overall pick of the Cavs, is clearly going to win Rookie of the Year, and deservedly so. Sure, there were some nice rookies out there like Iman Shumpert of the Knicks, the Pistons’ Greg Monroe, and Golden State’s Klay Thompson, but Irving displayed star power year round.
With an average of 18.5 points and 5.4 assists per game, there is only a 2.4 difference when comparing both of these numbers to the rookie stats of one of the league’s top-point guards, Chris Paul. Do not forget about his eight three-pointers, thirty-four points, nine assists, and MVP Award during the Rising Stars Challenge, either.
Next on the list is Most Improved Player of the Year. As much as you think that Knicks point guard Jeremy Lin is going to be the unanimous winner, you are unfortunately and sadly mistaken. Lin’s story may have been inspirational beyond belief, beautiful, and Hollywood-like, but he did not participate in enough games to contend for this award. His absence from the rotation before being given an opportunity, combined with a serious knee injury, caused him to miss 31 of the team’s 66 games.
Instead, the honor will go to Magic forward Ryan Anderson. Anderson, who completed his fourth season in the league, was able to up his scoring average from 10.6 points per game last year to a career high 16.1 in 2011-2012. In one year, he also increased his minutes per game by 10, jumped up to 7.7 rebounds a night after previously averaging 5.5, and made 32 more three-pointers while still shooting a respectable 39 percent from deep.
Sixth Man of the Year will undoubtedly be won by Oklahoma City forward James Harden. At 16.8 points, 4.1 rebounds, and 3.7 assists per game, he is exactly the kind of beast you would want to have, so he can take care of things while the starters are getting a blow. In fact, he actually averaged starter-like minutes, at 31.4 per game, and scored a career high 40 points in an April 18 game at Phoenix. Having a guy like that to come off the bench sort of seems like cheating.
No one is more deserving of Defensive Player of the Year than New York’s Tyson Chandler. He did exactly what the Knicks hoped he would when they brought him in this season–make playing defense cool. New York went from the third worst defensive team in 2010-2011, giving up 105.7 points per game, to the eleventh best in 2011-2012, allowing just 94.7. It was a group effort, but Chandler, his average of 1.4 blocks, and seven-foot-one-inch frame definitely got the ball rolling.
Usually, Coach of the Year goes to the man who takes a bad team and turns them around. That should not be the case this time. Tom Thibodeau should be the recipient for leading his Bulls to the league’s best record at 50-16, despite not having last year’s MVP, Derrick Rose, for 27 games. He coached a suffocating, lock-down defense that surrendered a league best: 88.2 points a game.
Neil Olshey equals Executive of the Year. Who is Neil Olshey, you ask? He is the L.A. Clippers’ General Manager, the one that brought in superstar Chris Paul, solid Caron Butler, clutch Chauncey Billups, scrappy Kenyon Martin, smooth Nick Young, and high-energy Reggie Evans all in the same year, even with the lockout.
He is also the man that took last year’s 32-50 Clippers squad and turned it into a team worthy of a 40-26 record, giving them the fifth best record in the West as they clinched only their third playoff berth since 1997.
Finally, the moment for which you have all been waiting: the Most Valuable Player award. If it truly did go to the “most valuable” player, it would go to Chris Paul for what he means to the Clippers, but instead, it will go to LeBron James for the third time since it was actually claimed by the league’s most outstanding performer.
The Heat forward put up averages of 27.1 points, 6.2 assists, and 7.9 rebounds per game this season. Only Kevin Durant of the Thunder had relatively similar numbers, but his inability to play skin-tight defense like James will cost him the MVP in the end.
Now let’s wait and see!