NBA Awards Odds: Arguing the Favorites for MVP, ROY, MIP and More

Jimmy Spencer@JimmySpencerNBANBA Lead WriterApril 5, 2013

NBA Awards Odds: Arguing the Favorites for MVP, ROY, MIP and More

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    The allure of the NBA exists further than the crooked numbers that headline each box score.

    It’s a game greater than its final score, and the beauty of following the league is the polarizing topics that divide our loving-yet-hostile community.

    The debate isn’t over.

    The playoff picture is nearly framed, so bickering over those predictions can commence soon, but the focus on individual talent leads to an even greater web of clashing takes.

    With all the spirit and beauty of argumentation, this week’s NBA awards odds will look at the cases made for all types of candidates—done with attitude.

Defensive Player of the Year: Joakim Noah

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    The strongest case

    When was the last time a team, one that thrived behind a top-five guard like Derrick Rose, ever maintained a winning record when its biggest talent became an awkward, non-offensively dominant post?

    OK, that’s pretty specific.

    Still, Noah has meant everything to the Bulls this season, and his intangible contributions aren’t calculated through your fancy little statistics.

    But I’ll play that game anyway: Noah ranks sixth in the NBA in blocks per game at 2.22 and anchors the league's third-stingiest defense, allowing just 92.4 points per game.


    The counterarguments

    The eye test doesn’t always apply. While Noah can be obnoxious defensively, his try-too-hard efforts don’t make him the league’s best defender.

    We use stats because they quiet the simplistic approach of “he’s just really, really good, OK?”

    Statistically speaking, no one defends the paint better than Larry Sanders of the Milwaukee Bucks, who averages 5.05 blocks per 48 minutes. Sanders provides great rim protection.

    Or if you really want to talk stats, how about what Tim Duncan is doing this season?

    Noah may be fourth in rebounds with 11.4 per game overall, but 4.1 of those boards come on the offensive end. Duncan is fifth in the league in defensive rebounds (8.1), and his 2.63 blocks per game is greater than Noah's 2.22 blocks. The Spurs' defensive efficiency is third-best in the league at 98.7.


    The other voice in the debate

    Last time I checked, the Indiana Pacers had the best defense in basketball.

    The Pacers allow the fewest points in the league (89.6) and have the best defensive efficiency (95.4). Both Roy Hibbert and Paul George, the game’s best perimeter defender, deserve to be in the conversation.

    Don't forget about the lane-clogging Marc Gasol, who blocks the lane for the league's next-best defense, the Memphis Grizzlies.



    Noah (35 percent)

    Sanders (15 percent)

    Duncan (15 percent)

    George (15 percent)

    Gasol (10 percent)

    Hibbert (5 percent)

    The field (5 percent)

Coach of the Year: Gregg Popovich

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    The strongest case

    Gregg Popovich is a ball hog; his predictable greediness of success has continued once again, and everyone saw it coming.

    The San Antonio Spurs have finished as a top-three team in the West 11 times in the last 12 seasons. This season will mark 12 of 13.

    Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker aren’t that good.

    Popovich has a cryptic algorithm that he doesn't share with the rest of the league. His system continues to dominate the regular season, and his Spurs are again the league’s best team.


    The counterargument

    Oh whatever, Popovich has the second-best record in the league this season. There’s plenty of talent collections throughout the league, but they don’t all win 27 consecutive games like the Miami Heat.

    Erik Spoelstra doesn't simply roll the ball out, and let's not forget, this thing didn’t all come together right away.

    It’s easy to suggest “anyone could do this,” but those voices obviously don’t understand the intricacies of adjustments that keep defenses guessing game to game.

    The management of personalities alone should be enough to make even Phil Jackson clap.


    The other voices in the debate

    A great coach can do it without a superstar. Given, the Denver Nuggets have depths of talent, but George Karl has put it all together for the fourth-best record in the league.

    Or if managing talent is the job, then how about Mike Woodson for what he’s done with the New York Knicks? He’s taken misfit island and last year’s seventh seed and transformed it into a team that will win 50 games.

    The Knicks play defense, allowing an eighth-best average of 95.7 points per game, and Woodson gets the most from Carmelo Anthony and J.R. Smith.

    The other turnaround has happened thousands of miles west, where Mark Jackson is about to put the Golden State Warriors into the postseason for just the second time in 19 seasons.



    Popovich (30 percent)

    Spoelstra (25 percent)

    Karl (20 percent)

    Woodson (10 percent)

    Jackson (10 percent)

    The field (5 percent)

Sixth Man of the Year: Jarrett Jack

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    The strongest case

    No individual bench player has meant more to a team’s success than Jarrett Jack.

    The Golden State Warriors wouldn't be a near-lock for the postseason if Jack wasn’t brought in this offseason to share point guard responsibilities with Stephen Curry.

    Jack plays 29.7 minutes per game and allows Curry, the team's starting point guard, to get time off the ball. When Jack brings the ball up, he makes Curry into a versatile scoring threat by allowing him to move freely off screens and cuts.

    Jack averages 13.2 points on 45.4 percent shooting and adds 5.5 assists per game.


    The counterarguments

    Wait, hold on.

    There’s a more influential guard on a better team in the West. Jamal Crawford might be the most valuable player on that Los Angeles Clippers team.

    It doesn’t get much better for a coach than knowing 16.7 points of instant offense will drop in off the bench.

    Jamal Crawford's play in the final quarter of games should help lead him to the Sixth Man of the Year

    — Los Angeles Clippers (@LAClippers) April 3, 2013

    Eric Patten of wrote of Crawford:

    Crawford has put up an astounding +220 in the fourth quarter this season, leading the league 11 points ahead of likely MVP LeBron James. He’s ahead of James in fourth-quarter scoring, coming in third behind preeminent scorers Kobe Bryant and Kevin Durant.


    The other voice

    Don’t forget about J.R. Smith.

    His offense has been just as valuable for the New York Knicks’ winning.

    In the Knicks' 10-game win streak, Smith has averaged 23.3 points and 5.7 rebounds per contest. He averages 17.6 points and 5.1 rebounds per game for the season, and his scoring off the bench has pushed New York's success all season long.

    Call him an erratic volume shooter if you will, but that’s his job, and he does it well.



    Jack (35 percent)

    Crawford (30 percent)

    Smith (30 percent)

    The field (5 percent)

Most Improved Player: James Harden

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    The strongest case

    This is also known as the backhanded compliment award.

    That said, no one deserves to be told he is better than he used to be more than James Harden. The guy has been fantastic this season in his superstar role, and don't forget he is just 23 years old.

    The most improved player is about to put the Houston Rockets in the postseason for the first time since 2009, and he's putting up career highs in points, assists, rebounds and minutes.

    Harden has been the biggest reason for the Rockets' turnaround, and role player to superstar is no simple task.


    The counterargument

    Harden’s play has just been extrapolated via an increase of minutes. The guy whose play on the floor has improved most is Jrue Holiday of the Philadelphia 76ers.

    He’s grown into an All-Star this season. In five more minutes per game, Holiday has nearly doubled his assists (4.5 to 8.5). He scores 18.2 points per game, up from 13.5 points last season.


    The other voices’re arguing for this guy?

    Jrue Holiday's 2-24 game is the second-worst shooting performance of the shot-clock era. Only Mike Newlin's 1-22 game in 1973 was worse.

    — Alex Kennedy (@AlexKennedyNBA) April 4, 2013

    How about a point guard who has become one the league’s greatest offensive threats, distributes and is actually winning?

    Stephen Curry is the golden boy wonder.

    Curry has become the league's seventh-highest scorer at 22.6 points per game.

    The Golden State Warriors guard is the league's best three-point shooter, with the most three-pointers made at the third-highest percentage (45.4 percent). He ranks second in free-throw percentage behind Kevin Durant at 89.7 percent.

    Curry is up eight points from last season, and his 6.8 assists are a career high. Curry was the biggest All-Star snub this season, though he will be in the playoffs for the first time in his career.

    Houston Rockets center Omer Asik averaged just 3.1 points and 5.3 rebounds in 14.7 minutes per game last season with the Chicago Bulls. In Houston, he averages a double-double at 10.4 points and 11.6 rebounds.

    Nikola Vucevic of the Orlando Magic is a similar story, doubling his minutes and his production from last season in Philadelphia. The second-year player averages 12.5 points and 11.6 rebounds.

    Don't ignore that Greivis Vasquez has become one of the league's top assists guys, as the first-time starter averages 14.1 points, 9.2 assists and 4.4 rebounds per game for the New Orleans Hornets.



    Harden (50 percent)

    Holiday (15 percent)

    Curry (15 percent)

    Asik (10 percent)

    Vasquez (5 percent)

    Vucevic (3 percent)

    The field (2 percent)

Rookie of the Year: Damian Lillard

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    The strongest case

    It’s not even an argument.

    Remember in The Godfather when it didn’t seem believable that Michael Corleone had enough in him to run the family business? Then, with each scene, he grew nastier and became more of a leader?

    That’s what we’ve seen out of Damian Lillard. If anyone says he’s not Rookie of the Year, they might end up in sheets with a horse’s head.

    The Portland Trail Blazers went for visible talent over big-name reputation when they drafted the Weber State product, and now the kid is running the show.

    Lillard averages 19 points on 43 percent shooting and 6.5 assists per game. His 170 total three-pointers is a new rookie record.

    Lillard is only becoming more efficient as a scorer, and in March he scored 21.3 points per game on 47.6 percent shooting and 46.7 percent from three-point range.


    The counterargument

    Put the ball in a guard’s hand, let him launch and of course his numbers will look nice. But the development of Anthony Davis as a big man who just turned 20 years old is another story.

    The Rookie of the Year vote is not wrapped up.

    Davis shoots 51.4 percent for 13.2 points per game and averages 8.1 rebounds for the New Orleans Hornets. He also leads all rookies with 1.7 blocks per game.



    Lillard (90 percent)

    Davis (8 percent)

    The field (2 percent)

Most Valuable Player: LeBron James

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    The strongest case

    LeBron James will win the LeBron James—er, Most Valuable Player—Award in his typical runaway fashion.

    James is the greatest player on the planet, and it's not even close. Winning the MVP may become an annual tradition for James for a long, long time.

    The league's biggest name has become everything: He's defending his title with the Miami Heat, and he's dominating this regular season both individually and with wins.

    For any hate that still exists against James, please drop it and don't miss the show. One of the all-time greats—we're talking of the elite top-five category—is hitting his prime, and this postseason should be incredible.

    James shoots 56 percent for 26.9 points per game and averages 8.1 rebounds and 7.3 assists.

    But for the sake of argument, who else is in the running? Well, no one even presents an argument.

    Let's just settle for names that deserve recognition.


    The runner-up voices

    Kevin Durant has pushed the Oklahoma City Thunder closer to a No. 1 spot in the Western Conference.

    While James' player efficiency rating of 31.45 is leaps ahead of the rest of the league, only Kevin Durant's (28.01) comes even close. Third-rated Chris Paul (26.25) and fourth-rated Tim Duncan (24.50) trail by a substantial margin.

    Durant is the league's best scorer at 28.3 points per game, but he will battle for that honor with the hot-shooting Carmelo Anthony, who currently has an average of 28.1 points per game.

    Anthony has brought the Knicks to a second seed in the Eastern Conference and has torched the nets during the team's 10-game winning streak. He has averaged 31.4 points in his nine games since returning from injury.

    Kobe Bryant has hoisted this Los Angeles Lakers "superteam" into at least a shot at the postseason. While the torch has long ago been passed to James as the game's new alpha, Bryant still shoots 46.4 percent for his 27-point average, and he also tallies 6.0 assists and 5.5 rebounds per contest.

    What Paul has done in turning the Clippers into a contender earns him notice on this list, while Duncan's time-machine act also deserves honorable mention distinction.

    Of course, the true MVP of San Antonio is the ever-underrated Tony Parker, injured or not.



    James (96 percent)

    Durant (2 percent)

    Anthony (0.5 percent)

    Parker (0.2 percent)

    Bryant (0.15 percent)

    Paul (0.15 percent)

    James Harden, Dwyane Wade, Russell Westbrook, Marc Gasol (1 percent split)

    Duncan (0 percent)