The NBA Playoffs couldn't have come any later for almost half of the teams in the league, and OTRBasketball has been anticipating its arrival for weeks.
Three staff members (Yama Hazheer and Erick Blasco, writers, and Brandon Neal, site owner) have put their minds together to come up with their own version of the NBA's 2008-09 awards.
Despite a few hours of indecision on my part for the Coach of the Year award, here is our list.
Coach of the Year
Erick Blasco: Rick Adelman, Houston Rockets
Despite having no roster stability over the first half of the season, and no Tracy McGrady over the second half, the Rockets have been the second-best team in the West for much of the second half of the season.
Their defense has been professional-grade since T-Mac expunged himself from the team, Ron Artest has played nice, and the Rockets rarely beat themselves.
All this with a second-year runt directing the offense. Adelman deserves major props for guiding Houston through unstable waters.
Yama Hazheer: Rick Adelman, Houston Rockets
This season, Adelman developed Von Wafer, was able to control Ron Artest, and kept the Houston Rockets at the top of the Western Conference without Tracy McGrady. He has made this club one of the better defensive teams in the league.
Brandon Neal: Mike Brown, Cleveland Cavaliers
Over the last few years, fans have taken shots at Mike Brown for playing "LeBron James basketball" and having the inability to make coaching decisions for anyone else on the floor.
The fact of the matter is, Brown's stint under Popovich may have paid off, because his coaching is nothing short of outstanding this season.
Cleveland has hit an all-time high in wins, reached the best record in the NBA for the first time in franchise history, and has a stellar defensive squad, and it's fairly difficult to put that all on LeBron's shoulders, although a significant chunk is due to his improved play on defense.
Sixth Man of the Year
Erick Blasco: Jason Terry, Dallas Mavericks
Strictly a conscienceless scorer and defensive gambler, Terry’s ability to sizzle quickly has given Dallas’ offense the edge it’s needed. No other bench player has provided the same impact Terry has.
Yama Hazheer: Jason Terry, Dallas Mavericks
Jason Terry would be a starter on 90 percent of NBA teams, but the Dallas Mavericks already have enough offense in their starting lineup, so they put Terry on the bench.
When "Jet" comes into the game, he averages 20 points on 46 percent field goal shooting. He's also one of the better three-point shooters in the game.
When it comes down to the final minutes of the game, Dirk Nowitzki and Terry will finish out games for Dallas.
Brandon Neal: Jason Terry, Dallas Mavericks
Terry is averaging nearly 20 points per game on 46 percent shooting. His ability to hit jumpers from anywhere on the floor not only spreads the opposing defense out to allow more offensive options, but also gives him room to operate out of any one-on-one situations.
With Josh Howard's inconsistent play this season, Terry has been there to pick up the slack.
Most Improved Player
Erick Blasco: LeBron James, Cleveland Cavaliers
The strides he’s made defensively in the last season and a half have taken his game to another level. Now James dominates games on each end of the court.
He’s better at positioning himself without the ball, and though it’s nowhere close to being perfected, James actually can beat opponents from the perimeter, if only at Quicken Loans Arena.
Offense, defense, rebounding, the ability to score and defend his own man, the ability to distribute and help off the ball—all aspects of the game are starting to fall under the King’s jurisdiction.
Yama Hazheer: Devin Harris, New Jersey Nets
Mark Cuban must be kicking himself right now, considering the results of the Jason Kidd/Devin Harris swap. While Kidd is in Dallas getting older, declining, and wanting more money, Harris is in New Jersey, leading the team alongside Vince Carter.
He has become the primary offensive option for the Nets, though his defense is shaky despite playing the passing lanes well. Harris has been a good leader, scorer, passer, and clutch this season.
Danny Granger is close to winning this award, too. It'll likely be a coin toss between Harris and Granger for most improved.
Brandon Neal: Kevin Durant, Oklahoma City Thunder
Harris and Granger's stats are nearly identical in every major category except for points per game, comparing this season's to last.
However, Durant's field goal percentage has increased by 4.6 percent, his points per game by five, his three point percentage drastically, rebounds are up by two, assists are up, and even his steals are higher. You can't do any better than that in terms of improvement.
Defensive Player of the Year
Erick Blasco: Shane Battier, Houston Rockets
There’s no better defensive player in the league. Battier’s quickness, strength, timing, footwork, discipline, and ability to execute an individual defensive gameplan have neutralized opposing wings for years. He’s always in perfect defensive position, and prevents players from getting to the basket.
The number of free throw attempts in a game by players Battier is guarding are minuscule with stars like LeBron James, Brandon Roy, and Kobe Bryant being forced well below their season averages for free throws attempted.
Battier is the main reason why the Rockets are second in the Western Conference in opposing field goal percentage.
Yama Hazheer: Dwight Howard, Orlando Magic
Dwight Howard has been a monster on the defensive end this season. He averaged 14 rebounds, three blocks, and one steal through the campaign, and he has shut down most opposing centers and functioned as the defensive anchor for the Orlando Magic.
Brandon Neal: Dwight Howard, Orlando Magic
Howard leads the league in blocks and rebounds, is third among all centers in steals, and those abilities alone scream to opposing guards that they should stay out of the paint when playing the Magic.
Kobe Bryant dominates Shane Battier just as Yao Ming has Howard, but the difference is that Battier leads his opponents into help defense, or poor shooting zones.
Dwight will block your shot no matter the position you play, or where you shoot from, and he doesn't need help doing it.
Rookie of the Year
Erick Blasco: Derrick Rose, Chicago Bulls
Rose will someday be mentioned in the same breath as Chris Paul and Deron Williams. His athleticism has been off the charts with a near-perfect combination of speed, strength, hops, and explosion.
Plus, he has a mastery of how to run a pro-level offense. His defense is too passive, but that will improve with age.
He’s already tough enough at drawing charges and has the strength to handle most power-guards. Vinny Del Negro is the coach and Ben Gordon is the high-profile scorer, but Rose is the dictator behind Chicago’s playoff-bound Bulls.
Yama Hazheer: Derrick Rose, Chicago Bulls
The Chicago Bulls had no chance of making the playoffs, according to many experts at the beginning of the season, but Derrick Rose has proved them wrong. He stole the starting point guard spot from Kirk Hinrich and has made the Bulls relevant again.
He has become a great leader for a team that had chemistry issues last season, and he's teamed up well with new coach Vinny Del Negro. He could go down as one of the better point guards to play the game if he continues to get better.
Brandon Neal: Derrick Rose, Chicago Bulls
If you watched yesterday's playoff game against the Celtics, you know why it doesn't get any more obvious.
Most Valuable Player
Erick Blasco: LeBron James, Cleveland Cavaliers
This isn’t necessarily a declaration that James is the best player in the league, but he’s the reason why his team will have the best record in the NBA.
His all-around playmaking ability is unsurpassed, and his raw strength and ferocity leave him as the king of the rim. What’s more, his defense, a liability only 15 months ago, has turned into an asset.
The Miami Heat aren’t good enough for Dwyane Wade to win any tiebreakers for my MVP vote, and Kobe’s often allowed his teammates to carry the bulk of the load in Los Angeles’ prime time games.
For Cleveland, despite an ordinary collection of teammates, LeBron’s been able to elevate the Cavs to the best team in the league with the best record in the league—an MVP-worthy achievement.
Yama Hazheer: Dwyane Wade, Miami Heat
Dwyane's situation is similar to that of Kobe in the '05-'06 season, and that year, I would have given the award to Bryant instead of Steve Nash.
The association gives this usually to the best player on a team with a top-three record, but as for me, I would give this award to the player who did the most for his team with barely any help.
Take Wade off the Miami Heat, and they are the worst team in the league. Take LeBron James or Kobe off their respective teams, and the Cavs and Lakers would either be high lottery teams or postseason bottom-feeders.
Without the Flash last season, the Heat had the league's worst record. This year, with him, they are top-five in their conference. It's clear to me that Dwyane Wade is the most valuable player to his team.
Brandon Neal: Kobe Bryant, Los Angeles Lakers
I realize that there's a criteria for the award, and it involves being the best player on the best team. My criteria is simply being the best overall player in the NBA.
The truth is, Kobe Bryant should win the award, either way.
Using both definitions, the Lakers are 2-0 against the Cavaliers, one win shy of their 66 Cleveland totaled this season while playing all of the battered Eastern Conference teams three or four times each.
To me, that makes Bryant the best player on the best team. Even without that, Bryant is the superior defensive player, and if you were to list all of their weaknesses in their overall game, you would find more for LeBron.
If the assist and rebounding totals bother you, try looking up Michael Jordan's stats in the 90's, and provide me your argument as to why LeBron is already better than Jordan.
I have no problem with LeBron winning it, and I knew he would a month ago. My view on the award is far different from that of the MVP voters, though.
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