Viewing one week of an NBA season often isn't nearly enough time to accurately predict the winners of major awards.
With that said, we now know far more about the 2012-13 season than we did a week ago.
Sure, teams like the Denver Nuggets (2-3) and Los Angeles Lakers (1-4) likely won't maintain losing records after the season is all said and done. On the other hand, blazing hot starts by James Harden and Jamal Crawford may have shifted the outlook of key NBA awards.
So who has the best chance of taking home each major NBA award now that we can factor in a week of games and performances?
Read on to find out.
After three solid games to start the 2012-13 season against the Los Angeles Lakers, Oklahoma City Thunder and Houston Rockets, Damian Lillard struggled against the red hot Dallas Mavericks. In the fourth NBA game of his career, Lillard shot just 2-for-13 from the floor, finishing with 13 points.
Even so, as a rookie there’s sure to be a few bumps in the road, so I’m not prepared to jump off the “Lillard-for-ROY” bandwagon.
Prior to his poor shooting night against Dallas, Lillard had 20 or more points and seven or more assists in all three games.
As Lillard continues to get acclimated to the NBA schedule, his consistency and shooting percentages should improve.
Anthony Davis and Dion Waiters are the only other horses in this race, so to speak. Both will get plenty of minutes and opportunities to compete with Lillard for Rookie of the Year honors. But Waiters’ inconsistent play dating back to the NBA Summer League and Davis’ recent concussion are both troubling.
Other Candidates: Anthony Davis, Dion Waiters, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist
There are a plethora of NBA coaches in the running for Coach of the Year this season. However, after the first week of the NBA season, there should be no questions asked about Rick Carlisle’s coaching prowess.
Playing without Dirk Nowitzki and Chris Kaman (arguably the team’s two best players and two of its most experienced), the Dallas Mavericks won their first game. They're off to a 3-1 start overall.
Their first win came against the stacked Los Angeles Lakers on opening night, and their only loss came to the Utah Jazz a night after the emotional victory in L.A. (It's never easy to win a back-to-back against two solid teams, especially when short handed.)
Carlisle needs to be given the bulk of the credit for keeping this squad competitive without Nowitzki—and doing so while playing rookies and integrating a number of different players to the roster, including Kaman when he came back from injury.
Dallas' performance makes me wonder just how good this team will be if and when Nowitzki comes back healthy.
Other Candidates: Tom Thibodeau, Mike Woodson, Gregg Popovich, Doug Collins
Jamal Crawford is no stranger to the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year Award, having won it in 2010 as a member of the Atlanta Hawks. Even so, the sharpshooter’s stats had been on a steady decline for the past four seasons.
Last season with the Portland Trail Blazers, Crawford shot 38.4 percent from the field (the lowest since his rookie year) and 30.8 percent from three-point range (his lowest percentage ever from beyond the arc). Despite being 32 years old (ideally still with a couple of solid years ahead of him), it appeared as if Crawford’s days of relevancy in the NBA had come to an end.
Flash forward to the first week of the 2012-13 season and we have a completely different outlook.
In four games off the bench for the Los Angeles Clippers thus far (the sixth team Crawford has played for in his career), Crawford has been shooting the lights out.
He’s averaging 24 points per game while shooting 53.6 percent from the field and 48.1 percent from beyond the arc. Those numbers are almost certainly not sustainable over the course of an 82-game season, but both of those percentages would be the best of Crawford’s entire career by far.
Crawford has given the Clippers some serious scoring punch off the bench and he’s doing so in less than 30 minutes per game.
Granted, Crawford isn’t a guy who will help a team in other categories—he averages just 2.1 rebounds and one assist per contest. Nevertheless, his scoring is why he’s out on the court, and he has looked positively rejuvenated in L.A.
Other Candidates: Kevin Martin, Lou Williams, Ray Allen, Jason Terry, Manu Ginobili
In terms of opponent points per game, what team would you wager has the best defense in the NBA thus far?
The Miami Heat rank 29th in the league in that category despite being in the top five last season.
The San Antonio Spurs have been a defensive staple for more than a decade, so they’d be a solid guess, but they have the fourth-best defense as far as points allowed per game are concerned.
Believe it or not, the New York Knicks lead the league, giving up just 85.3 points per game.
Credit needs to be given to head coach Mike Woodson for introducing a defensive culture, but Tyson Chandler won Defensive Player of the Year a season ago and instilled a defensive presence with this team.
Chandler’s numbers haven’t been huge so far this season—averaging just seven rebounds and one block per game—but other candidates around the league haven’t made a solid case for themselves, and the Knicks have the best defense so far.
Once Dwight Howard gets more comfortable with the Lakers, he should settle in and make a strong push to win the award for the fourth time.
Serge Ibaka is another candidate due to his shot-blocking prowess. He’s averaging an impressive 2.3 blocks per game this year, but by his standards, that is below par.
Again, there’s no clear-cut winner for DPOY after one week. However, Chandler has to be in consideration in the early as the reigning winner of the award on one of the league’s best defensive teams.
Other Candidates: Dwight Howard, Serge Ibaka, Tony Allen, LeBron James
I’m sorry to disappoint if you expected another name in this spot, but the NBA MVP is LeBron James’ award to lose.
James has been electric yet again this season, averaging 23 points, 9.3 rebounds and five assists per game while shooting 54.5 percent from the field. Aside from a blowout loss to the New York Knicks (a game in which James still played quite well), the Heat are 4-0 against formidable opponents including the Boston Celtics and Denver Nuggets.
James is the most talented basketball player in the world right now, and his ability to affect the outcome of games on both ends of the court is rivaled by nobody else.
Houston Rockets’ guard James Harden has been making a strong case to overtake this spot though. He opened the season averaging 35.3 points per game, prompting Dallas Mavericks beat writer Dwain Price to say via Twitter, “Rockets guard James Harden will win the NBA scoring title this season.”
Harden looked virtually unstoppable and appears thrilled to be “the man” in Houston. Most recently against the Denver Nuggets however, Harden turned the ball over six times and scored just 15 points on 5-for-15 shooting. He’s human after all.
Additionally, Harden’s former teammate in Oklahoma City has been having a solid start to the 2012-13 season.
Kevin Durant is averaging 20.8 points, 12.3 rebounds and 5.3 assists per game. However, he’s also averaging five turnovers per game, while shooting just 30.8 percent from three-point range.
Every MVP candidate thus far seems to have room to improve if they hope to catch up to James.
Other Candidates: Kevin Durant, Rajon Rondo, James Harden, Tim Duncan