After a long final month, the NBA regular season has finally come to an end. Before the playoffs kick off this weekend, it’s only right to take some time out and discuss the regular season awards.
Along with All-Star snubs, the NBA Awards are usually a hot topic of debate among sports fans, and this year proves to be no different. Let’s take a look at the race for each award and my picks for who takes home the hardware.
Make sure to check out the BSO Staff Picks below!
Coach of the Year:
Candidates- Gregg Popovich (Spurs), Tom Thibodeau (Bulls), Jeff Hornacek (Suns)
First, let’s recognize the men who have to deal with egos, owners and unruly fans for 82 games every season, the head coaches.
This year there are really only three candidates for the award. Pops, Thibs and the new guy Hornacek. The Phoenix Suns have been the feel-good story of the NBA regular season, and had they made the playoffs this was probably going to be Hornacek’s award running away. But a few late-season collapses to miss the postseason have really hurt his chances.
Thibs has coached the Bulls to home-court advantage in the first-round of the playoffs despite injuries (Derrick Rose) and ownership tank moves (trading Luol Deng for nothing).
And then there’s Pops. No matter how much roster turnover the Spurs have, they just keep on humming year after year. That can be tied directly to Popovich, who this year lead the Spurs to another 1-seed in a loaded West despite all of his key players missing time. Is there really any doubt who deserves this award?
My Pick – Greg Popovich (Spurs)
Rookie of the Year:
Candidates- Victor Oladipo (Magic), Michael Carter-Williams (76ers), Mason Plumlee (Nets)
The 2013-14 rookie class was underwhelming to say the least. Michael Carter-Williams was the early favorite after rocketing out of the gate with a 26-12-9 performance in his debut against the Heat, and has been in the top two all season long.
Victor Oladipo has consistently played great all season for the Orlando Magic. He is the most effective two-way player in this rookie class. Mason Plumlee is late to the party, as the Brooklyn head coach Jason Kidd only started giving him minutes late in the season, and he has definitely made the most of his opportunities.
At the end of the day, Carter-Williams seems to have had this locked up since the beginning of the season. It really says something about these rookies that a guy whose team had a 26 game losing streak and who is having a terrible shooting season (26% from 3, 41% overall) is going to be taking the award home.
My Pick – Michael Carter-Williams (76ers)
Sixth Man of the Year:
Candidates – Jamal Crawford (Clippers), Manu Ginobili (Spurs), Taj Gibson (Bulls)
The sixth man of the year race always seems to have the same names and faces, and this year is pretty much no different. Former winners Jamal Crawford and Manu Ginobili are top candidates, along with Bulls big man Taj Gibson.
Crawford has probably had his best season to date, filling in when necessary in the starting line-up for the Clippers and also providing big scoring off of the bench. Ginobili has played less games and minutes than we are accustomed to, but his numbers are right on par with what we’ve come to expect from the Argentine and he has been the best player off of a loaded Spurs bench.
Gibson is the wildcard in this race. He has come off the bench for 74 of his 82 games this season, but has been the closer at the four-position next to Joakim Noah. And when those two are on the court together, teams find it extremely hard to score inside. Gibson has also been a great balance to Carlos Boozer’s all offense-no defense game, and helped propel the Bulls to a top four seed out East. This is a very, very tough call, but I’m going to give the nod to Gibson, who barely edges out Crawford.
My Pick – Taj Gibson (Bulls)
Most Improved Player of the Year:
Candidates – Goran Dragic (Suns), Gerald Green (Suns), Anthony Davis (Pelicans)
You probably could name about four other Suns players as candidates for this award, but we’re going to narrow it down to the two biggest surprises. Who saw Goran Dragic becoming a number one option on a playoff-contending team? Or Gerald Green suddenly becoming more than just a dunker, averaging around 20 after the All-Star break? This Suns team was full of surprises.
And then there is the prodigy, the former number one overall pick, the unibrow Anthony Davis. All Davis did was jump from good rookie, to elite player in his sophomore season. Davis upped his numbers across the board, jumping almost seven points per game, two rebounds and averaging a full block more in his second season. He ended the season averaging 21-10-3 blocks per.
This award is generally reserved for the biggest surprise improvement from a player, but Davis jumping into the conversation of the league’s most elite players propels him to the MIP Award.
My Pick – Anthony Davis (Pelicans)
Defensive Player of the Year:
Candidates – Joakim Noah (Bulls), Roy Hibbert (Pacers), Lebron James (Heat), Deandre Jordan (Clippers)
This is another award that can go a number of ways when the winner is actually announced.
Davis could be considered for this award, but like the MVP, DPOY should be reserved for players who made a big defensive impact on a winning team.
Lebron is likely the best wing defender in the league today, when he wants to be. He can defend basically 1-5 and put almost as much pressure on the opponents offense as he does their defense. Unfortunately we just didn’t see that from him for 82 games.
Deandre Jordan is a big-time rim protector who is constantly getting highlights for swatting shots away (and dunking on smaller players).
Hibbert is an interesting case. For most of the season he has been the rim protector on the best defensive team in the league, but we all know that the Pacers haven’t exactly been that team as the regular season has wound down. Hibbert is grabbing boards at an alarmingly low rate for a 7-footer, and like his team seems a bit disinterested lately.
Joakim Noah is the engine that makes the Bulls go on defense. He is always talking, always active, and almost never gets beat on pick and rolls. His energy and length makes up for holes in the Bulls defense (see: Boozer, Carlos) and because of this a team that struggles to score still has a great record.
Hibbert’s slide at the end of the season gives Noah’s consistency the edge here.
My Pick – Joakim Noah (Bulls)
Most Valuable Player of the Year:
Candidates – Lebron James (Heat), Kevin Durant (Thunder), Joakim Noah (Bulls), Blake Griffin (Clippers)
And now, to the award that always generates the most debate, the MVP award. The funny thing is, this might be the first time in years that this award is actually not very debatable.
Noah is the do-it-all center on the rugged Bulls squad. Defensively, he makes all the difference in the world, and on the offensive end, Noah’s passing ability makes him a nightly triple-double threat. The fact that he has a Bulls team that seemed destined for the lottery as a top-four seed in the East is incredible.
Blake Griffin is a guy that not many people like as a person, and because of this he probably doesn’t get the credit he deserves on the court. But this season, Griffin was the best power forward in basketball. He kept the Clippers afloat while Chris Paul missed 20 games, and Los Angeles wound up with the three-seed in a loaded Western Conference.
But really, this ultimately comes down to a two man race between the two best basketball players alive today. (Unless you’re an unnamed BSO writer who picked Al Jefferson, you know who you are!)
Lebron James is the face of the league, a four-time MVP and two-time champion who would probably win this award yearly if it went to the best player in the NBA.
The problem is, that’s not how the MVP award works, and that is why Kevin Durant is the heavy favorite. Despite Russell Westbrook missing a good chunk of the season, Durant kept OKC at the top of the Western Conference and his Thunder were able to snag a two-seed out West.
Durant had 41 straight games with 25+, and despite facing more double-teams and pressure than ever, averaged 32-7.4-5.5 and almost had another 50-40-90 season. Incredible.
Even if this award went to the best player in the league every year, Durant would likely win it this season. That’s how great he has played.
Now let’s see if he can carry it over into the postseason and get that elusive first ring.
My Pick – Kevin Durant (Thunder)