Coach of the Year : Tom Thibodeau, Chicago Bulls
Ray Allen: “Tom will come up with a defensive scheme that we’ve never heard before, and he’ll say it like we’ve been talking about it all year. But he makes sure we’re all on the same page with it. So, he’s definitely kept us keyed in.”
Kevin Garnett: “Coach is real animated. He’s real emotional. He’s real energetic. That’s what type of defense we try to go out and have. It’s an energetic, consistent defense. It’s a talkative defense, and when you see him on the side, those are the things that he’s put in for us to try to go and carry over to the court.”
Kendrick Perkins: “Thib has been the best thing that happened to us.”
Thibodeau's 20-plus year career just got an upgrade, as he landed a head coaching gig with the Chicago Bulls.
The former Boston assistant to Doc Rivers has waited for this opportunity. Now that he has it, the 52-year-old will waste no time handing out the blueprint to Rose, Boozer, and Noah, which afforded him the 2008 championship ring with Boston.
Defender of the Year : LeBron James, Miami Heat
Newly acquired forward via signing has thrown controversial powder into the air this trip around. James, whom many envy nowadays, willingly curtailed himself from commander to first sergeant by teaming with Dwyane Wade.
The two arguably can make a case for who'll have the ball during certain parts of the game, but given James demoted himself, look for Wade to score and James to seek guest work—more passing and more emphasis put on defense. The new Heat made it loud-and-clear around the league last year that when coming into the paint, or initiating a fastbreak, his trending tail-block and sneaky help-side rejection would be around.
Rookie of the Year : Lance Stephenson, Indiana Pacers
Stephenson is this year's Tyreke Evans. The moniker "Born Ready" definitely applies.
It makes me want to call up every GM and say, "Look what you did." Stephenson hardly was treated with respect, but rather frowned upon for being a teenager.
Come beginning of the season the 40th pick—not the 10th pick—will be handing out buckets like candy on Halloween.
Sixth Man of the Year : Ben Gordon, Detroit Pistons
Ben Gordon, you healthy?
If so, the rebirth of his 6'3" frame will, in time, lead him to center stage of the Palace to accept the Sixth Man Award. Last year's was a touchy situation, just signing a contract with a new team and discouragingly missing 20 games. But when on, Ben Gordon can repeat he success of Detroit's Vinnie "The Microwave," throwing high arcers to help his team to victory—Gordon already did it in Chicago.
Most Improved Player : Ronnie Brewer, Chicago Bulls
You know how you barely see something but afterward just totally dismiss what was thought to be? Then later it captures your confirmation, like, "Oh, I know I saw something come by this way."
That fits Brewer's situation.
Last year he started off great, knocking down a consistent midrange shot and slashing for athletic finishes. Then, like out of the blue, Brewer gets traded for financial reasons. His tenure in Memphis was sweet and short. Once free agency came around, the Bulls came to their senses, paying the athletic two by way of a three-year deal.
This is his breakout year.
You rarely find a 6'7" swingman with a true understanding of both ends. He may not have the three-shot, but, to his credit, his IQ on-court is off the charts. This is his for the taking; there's no O.J. Mayo to compete with.