With the NBA playoffs underway, it’s time to recap the 2009-10 season and dish out some awards to well-deserving players. Here are my picks, along with reasoning for each category.
Feel free to comment with your agreements and disagreements.
Portions of this article also appeared on vype.com and vype.com/dfw.
1. LeBron James
2. Kevin Durant
3. Dwayne Wade
4. Kobe Bryant
5. Dwight Howard
6. Carmelo Anthony
7. Joe Johnson
8. Deron Williams
9. Steve Nash
10. Dirk Nowitzki
James' statline for the season is ridiculously good—29.7 ppg, 7.3 rpg, 8.6 apg, and 1.64 spg. It’s been years since a player has come so dangerously close to averaging a triple-double for the season, and no one else on this list should earn a first-place MVP vote over King James.
James' next challenge comes in the postseason, because if he fails to bring home a title, his legacy could start tipping toward being one of those great players who isn’t a supreme winner.
The rest of this list is tougher to pick. Without Durant, the Thunder would more than likely be the second-worst team in the West, therefore he gets the nod as the runner-up to James.
As the scoring champion, Durant deserves a little more respect than he’s been getting. Hopefully, Oklahoma City will get more nationally-televised games next year.
D-Wade beats out the other guys because he did so much with so little. Michael Beasley is the Heat's only legitimate option besides Wade, and yet they are the five-seed in the East.
Bryant and Howard round out the top five, with ‘Melo just narrowly missing out. Anthony was the MVP front-runner at season’s start, but Denver’s semi-collapse as the season progressed dropped him down.
Nowitzki's stats should put him higher on this list, but his supporting cast is inarguably more complete than Williams’ and Nash’s, so fair or not, he’s relegated to the No. 10 spot.
Defensive Player of the Year Rankings:
1. Dwight Howard
2. Josh Smith
3. LeBron James
4. Gerald Wallace
5. Rajon Rondo
Dwight Howard showed his dominance as the best defensive player in the game all season long, leading the league in rebounding and blocked shots.
Howard is the perfect compliment to the Magic’s inside-outside game. When opposing guards and forwards drive the lane, they have to contend with No. 12.
Smith showed meteoric improvements in his overall game, and grabs the No. 2 spot on this list. He was third in the league in blocks, 11th in steals, and 18th in rebounds, despite playing as an undersized power forward.
King James’s impact on the defensive end can be seen on SportsCenter every night with his highlight-reel rejections, so there’s no need to elaborate on him.
Wallace and Rondo are two of the best stoppers in the league. Whomever they guard is in for a long night, and that’s for superstars and role players alike. Wallace’s performance is heart-warming considering his multiple concussions last year.
Most Improved Player Rankings:
1. Aaron Brooks
2. Carl Landry
3. George Hill
4. Andray Blatche
5. Corey Brewer
The Rockets are going through a mini-rebuilding process, but that didn’t stop Brooks from emerging as a No. 1 scoring option. He averaged nearly 20 points and six dimes, an improvement of eight points and two assists from the 2008-09 season. He should easily win this award.
Landry was already a most improved player candidate on the Rockets, and once he was traded to Sac-Town, he improved in every statistical category. He nearly doubled his scoring average from a year ago.
Hill helped keep the Spurs afloat when Tony Parker was injured, and stepped up his scoring while Manu Ginobili struggled shooting. Now, both of those guys are back and playing better, but Hill’s contributions shouldn’t be forgotten.
Blatche played for a terrible team, and had a selfish blow-up when he refused to re-enter a game. Bottom line is the young power forward finally showed the potential that Wizards fans have been clamoring for.
He averaged over 22 ppg after the All-Star break, and had a knack for racking up double-doubles with an unusually high amount of assists for a big man (he had a 20-point, nine-rebound, 13-assist game versus the Nets).
And don’t forget Brewer. The former Florida standout had been in and out of the lineup with debilitating injuries at the beginning of his career, but finally stayed healthy in 2009-10, and averaged 13 ppg.
Rookie of the Year Rankings:
1. Tyreke Evans
2. Brandon Jennings
3. Stephen Curry
4. Darren Collison
5. Jonny Flynn
Evans is one of the only rookies to average over 20 points, five rebounds, and five assists for a season. That’s not something you see everyday. Sure, he played on a bad team, but without Evans, the Kings would have literally no future to be hopeful for.
Jennings settled down after his 55-point explosion early in the season, and struggled mightily at times during his rookie campaign. Still, something has to be said for a young starter who leads his unappreciated team into the postseason.
Curry can flat out score the ball. He should remain a 20-point per game weapon for years to come, but he can’t move ahead of Jennings because Golden State’s free-flowing offensive system inflates Curry’s overall stat line.
Collison filled in admirably for Chris Paul, and his play actually creates a logjam at point guard going into next season. New Orleans will have to determine if Paul and Collison can coexist on the court together, otherwise Collision may have a new home sooner than later.
Sixth Man of the Year Rankings:
1. Jamal Crawford
2. Jason Terry
3. J.R. Smith
4. Anderson Varejao
5. J.J. Redick
Crawford should be the unanimous choice for this award. He took much of the scoring load off Joe Johnson, and helped the Hawks fly to new heights in the Eastern Conference standings.
The rest of this list is a bit uninspiring.
Manu Ginobili, Lamar Odom, and Carl Landry would all be candidates, but due to injuries to other players and, in Landry’s case, a trade, they all started too many games to be considered.
Terry, the defending champ, is still a major cog in Dallas’s offense even if he didn’t play quite as well as he did in the 2008-09 season.
Smith is the third scoring option for Denver, and has the ability to go off at any time. He’s a valuable asset for the Nuggets in the playoffs.
The other two guys on this list are invaluable role players for their squads. Redick picked up the scoring load multiple times this season, and proved he is more than just a three-point shooter, while Varejao provided hustle and defense for the Cavs.
Coach of the Year Rankings:
1. Scott Brooks
2. Scott Skiles
3. Alvin Gentry
4. Larry Brown
5. Nate McMillan
Entering the season, there were few fans or analysts willing to put the Thunder in the playoffs. Oklahoma City ended up winning 50 games, and that’s in part due to the superb coaching job of Brooks.
Skiles' hard-nosed style brought the Bucks out of the cellar of the Eastern Conference and propelled them into the sixth seed for the playoffs.
He took a chance on Brandon Jennings, Luke Ridnour, and Jerry Stackhouse, and they made him look smart.
Gentry successfully converted the Suns from a run-and-gun offense into a balanced squad. As the three-seed in the West, Phoenix is the sexy pick to make the NBA Finals with Steve Nash at the helm.
Larry Brown’s Bobcats made the postseason for the first time in franchise history, so he garners a spot on this list. McMillan gets the last spot because he guided Portland to a playoff berth without their starting centers, and with injuries to star Brandon Roy.
G Dwayne Wade
G Kobe Bryant
F LeBron James
F Kevin Durant
C Dwight Howard
I went with the setup the NBA uses to decide on these teams. That means it isn’t as position specific—just guards, forwards, and a center.
Wade and Bryant are the two most exciting guards in basketball, and skillfully led their respective teams to the playoffs. Bryant has a great shot at adding another title to his already illustrious career.
The rest of this group was easy to pick. No other center is even close to Howard, especially defensively. Durant and James were the top two scorers in the NBA, so they get first-team awards.
G Deron Williams
G Joe Johnson
F Dirk Nowitzki
F Carmelo Anthony
C David Lee
Williams narrowly beats out Nash for the second-team spot because he had to keep a Jazz team together that lost multiple players to injuries, along with its best perimeter defender (Ronnie Brewer) to a trade.
Johnson is still the most under appreciated superstar in the NBA, but he will prove his worth during the playoffs.
Nowitzki and Anthony were obvious choices for the second team, and Lee’s 20/11 combination was enough to beat out anyone else at the center position.
G Steve Nash
G Derrick Rose
F Chris Bosh
F Amare Stoudemire
C Andrew Bogut
Nash is a no-brainer, as he was a borderline second-team player.
This is where things get much tougher. Rose was the heart and soul of a Bulls team enveloped in controversy, and after promising a playoff appearance, he delivered. He narrowly beats out Chauncey Billups, who really is a toss-up for Rose’s spot.
Bosh and Amare had great seasons statistically, and Stoudemire managed to keep his head up despite dozens of trade rumors during the All-Star break.
Andrew Bogut quietly averaged a double-double and finished second in the league in blocks. His injury was even more disappointing because now fans won’t be able to see just how much he improved as the Bucks play in the postseason.
In case you’re wondering, Tim Duncan has always lobbied to be listed as a power forward, and that came back to hurt him for All-NBA selections.
If he were center-eligible, he’d be on the All-NBA second team. Unfortunately, he doesn’t stack up favorably against the forwards listed above.