With what might likely be the craziest season in recent memory coming to an end, it’s time to hand out the end of season hardware. And much like the regular season, a lot of these awards are going to be highly contested, and why not.
In the most hectic season in a while, you wouldn’t expect anything less but a competitive race in a good amount of the awards. So without further a due, it’s time to hand out the hardware.
Surprise of the Year: The Western Conference
At the beginning of the year, anyone would have told you that the West would be good. And why not, they’ve been the superior conference for years now and no team really lost anything during the offseason aside from the rebuilding Seattle Supersonics.
Now, if you’d have told me it’d be this good, I would have called you crazy.
I don’t recall the last time we saw eight 50 win teams in one conference, but that’s what we got this year. Aside from that, we even had a 48 win team miss the playoffs. To put this in perspective, any of the top nine seeds out West could have gotten home court advantage in the East, and the top 11 teams in the West could have all made the playoffs out East. If you want to talk about competitive, that’s it right there.
Disappointment of the Year: The Chicago Bulls
Is there really any question here? The Bulls were supposed to be a team that could compete with the Pistons and Celtics for the best record in the East. Instead, they fire head coach Scott Skiles, hire a completely inept coach in Jim Boylan, trade away their big free agent acquisition from the year before, and end up completely tanking. So, instead of competing with the Pistons and Celtics for the top team in the East, they’ll be competing with the likes of Memphis and the Knicks for the top pick in the NBA Draft.
Defensive Player of the Year: Marcus Camby
While some may argue for Kevin Garnett because of the turnaround his team made, how can you not give it to Camby? He led the league in blocks again and was near the top in rebounding. People will say he shouldn’t win the award because of how bad Denver is defensively, but it’s certainly not his fault. In fact, if he’s not there, they’re probably even worse. So, even though his team may be inept on defense, it’s certainly not his fault, and he should be recognized for the outstanding job he does on that end of the floor.
Coach of the Year: Tie: Nate McMillan, Byron Scott
The only tie in the awards. Both coaches are more than deserving of this award, and it was just too hard to choose one of them. Both took teams that were less than spectacular last year and turned them around this year, and you can’t say either of them were expected to be this good. The Hornets ended up with the #2 seed in the West after missing the playoffs last year, all while winning a franchise record 56 wins, while the Blazers finished at 41-41 after an 5-12 start, doing so while top pick Greg Oden sat out all season. So, if there’s any year where two different coaches deserve it, this is the year, because it’s so hard to not give it to either on of these guys.
Rookie of the Year: Kevin Durant
While many people will say that Al Horford deserves this award because he’s on the better team, lets not forget that this isn’t the MVP. It goes to the best rookie, regardless of what team he’s on. So, while the Sonics might be way out of the playoffs, Durant should still get this vote. He brought life back to that franchise. He scored 20 points per game despite being the main focus of the opposing defense on a nightly basis. Horford was good and all, but Durant was better.
6th Man of the Year:Manu Ginobli
You have to ask yourself if this is even fair. Manu wins this award in a landslide. He’s been dynamite off that Spurs bench and it’s crazy that a top 15 player in the NBA is winning this award. I don’t think anything else needs to be said except he might be the best 6th man the NBA has ever seen.
Most Improved Player of the Year: Hedo Turkoglu
While a lot of people might go and choose Rudy Gay as their most improved player, I refuse to go that route. I don’t believe that a second year player should be winning the award, because quite frankly, it’s expected of you to improve in year two, especially for a player with the talent of Gay.
Aside from that, I don’t even think he’s the most qualified person for this award. That has to go to Hedo Turkoglu out in Orlando. He had career highs in basically every statistical category and was probably the second best player on the Magic all year. He was also the one that came through in the clutch when they needed someone too. If he doesn’t win this award, it’ll be a travesty, because with the strides he made this year, he most certainly deserves it.
Most Valuable Player: Kobe Bryant
Let the debates begin now. I can hear it coming right now: “Chris Paul deserves this because no one saw the Hornets coming”, or “LeBron James deserves this because he carried the Cavs”. But none of that really matters.
This award has to go to Kobe Bryant this year. Not only is he the best player on the planet, but he also did something no one thought he could do, he turned into a leader. His shot attempts went down and he started trusting teammates more often, and it worked out. The Lakers got the top spot in the West, despite dealing with countless injuries (Ariza has missed over 40 games, Bynum has missed 47 and counting and Gasol missed a dozen).
And why? Because of the sheer brilliance of Kobe Bryant. He knew when to turn it up a notch this year, he knew when to hold back on the throttle as well. This wasn’t the Kobe Bryant of old, where he went out with the me against the world demeanor, this was a more mature Kobe Bryant.
And not only did it show in his play, it also showed in the success of the Lakers, and if he’s ever deserved the MVP, this has to be the year. No offense to Chris Paul or LeBron James of Kevin Garnett, but Kobe Bryant has to be the MVP.