As competitive and wide open as this NBA season has been, the distribution of the league’s most distinguished hardware figures to be equally up in the air.
For a writer like yours truly, this season has provided an incalculable amount of stories. Raise your hand if you had the Bulls as the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference? Or if you anticipated Derrick Rose and his 2010-11 monstrous campaign? Or if you knew Lamar Odom would enjoy his finest season as a pro, in his 12th year in the NBA?
This year has been anything but predictable, but as each team puts the finishing touches on their respective seasons, this committee of one scours from coast to coast to find the most deserving for each of the NBA’s most prestigious award categories.
Only the most rogue of contrarians would foolishly make an argument for anyone other than Derrick Rose for 2010-11 MVP. The Bulls have suffered through as many meaningful injuries as any team; they have a rookie head coach in Tom Thibodeau roaming their sidelines and Keith Bogans has been the starting shooting guard for the entire season. Keith. Bogans.
Through it all, Derrick Rose has been the rock for a Bulls team that has absolutely overachieved by anyone’s standards. Through his first two years, Rose has seen a steady increase in his statistical production. His game has evolved to another level in 2010-11, as he imposed his will to the tune of 24.9 points a game along with 7.9 assists.
Rose has also put forth a consistently high level of energy and focus on the defensive end and has his Chicago Bulls playing championship caliber basketball.
LeBron James’ statistics are nearly identical to that of his Cleveland days. However, the fact that the Heat didn’t blitz the league to 60+ wins and he happens to play alongside a star like Dwyane Wade, who, under normal circumstances, would be a MVP candidate himself, squash his hopes at three straight MVP awards.
Kevin Durant enjoyed a terrific season, but statistically he regressed and the Thunder improved marginally over their surprise performance from a year ago. The standards are unfair and flat out fickle, but I don’t make the rules.
All three of those players warrant consideration, but Derrick Rose took equal parts, possibly even weaker considering the staggering number of injuries, carried his team to 60+ and the No. 1 seed in the conference when no one walking God’s green Earth thought they would.
History favors teams that do better than expected. Teams with one of the two or three best records in the league, and the best player on said team. Check. Check. Check.
Derrick Rose is your 2010-11 Most Valuable Player.
Annually this is the most difficult award to hand out. For the decades of masterful coaching under their respective belts, Jerry Sloan and Rick Adelman have never won a Coach of the Year trophy, so that goes to show how hard it is to win one..
There are multiple valid candidates this season. Doug Collins has the Philadelphia 76ers, a team that won just 27 games the year prior with by in large the same roster, poised for the seventh seed in the East. San Antonio Spurs’ coach Gregg Popovich shockingly guided the aging Spurs to the best record in the Association.
George Karl showed his coaching merits by handling the Carmelo saga with class, then incorporating his brand new roster on the fly post-Carmelo trade and turning them into arguably the hottest team in basketball since the All-Star break. It plays no role in his winning or losing the award, but Karl also is just 10 months removed from a lengthy battle with cancer in his return to Denver’s sidelines.
Tom Thibodeau has spent nearly two decades serving as an assistant head coach, gaining a reputation as one of the most brilliant defensive minds in basketball. He was the architect of the 2007-08 Boston Celtics’ championship defense that frustrated Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers.
This past June, the Bulls wisely hired Thibodeau to be their head coach and he hasn’t disappointed whatsoever.
His Chicago Bulls rank first in the league in opponents field goal percentage, opponents three-pointers made, opponents three-point field goal percentage and rank second in terms of points allowed.
The Bulls are 60-20 as of this writing, and incredibly could catch the Spurs for the best record in the league with two games to play, despite trailing them by more than 10 games in the standings just six weeks ago.
All of these factors make Tom Thibodeau a relatively easy choice for 2010-11 Coach of the Year.
Common logic was that Blake Griffin would require time to acclimate himself to the NBA. After missing his entire first year due to a broken left kneecap, there were questions about whether Griffin would be able to handle much, if any, of a steady workload.
Blake’s first basket as a professional was an alley-oop in traffic, which is quite indicative of what kind of rookie season this young man has enjoyed. He stormed out of the gates playing at a superlative level and has been quite a consistent producer. He even earned a role as a reserve for the Western Conference All-Star team.
John Wall’s rookie season is nothing to sneeze at, averaging 16.4 points and 8.5 assists. But his turnovers are through the roof and it’s difficult for a player to win it when his team is as bad as the Wizards have been.
DeMarcus Cousins’ rookie year has played out like the most violent of roller coasters. There has been some good, plenty of bad, but all in all, it’s about what the Kings expected. Cousins has proven to be perhaps the most talented player on the Kings roster already and is considered one of the chief building blocks for an organization desperate to return to their winning ways.
Greg Monroe has also played spectacularly, especially since the All-Star break, giving Pistons hope in an otherwise dark season.
You hear about Andrew Bynum being in and out of the starting lineup with injuries, but you never hear a peep out of Lamar Odom. He just does what he's asked like a good soldier, despite the fact his role is consistently changing for the Lakers.
Odom slipped right in as a starter the first two months and had the Lakers playing championship basketball. Then Bynum makes his way back from injury and Odom doesn’t even raise a finger, instead just embraced his new role as sixth man.
Lamar’s play, averaging 14 points, nine rebounds and three assists and a field-goal percentage through the roof, was so outstanding that his name was discussed as a potential All-Star in the Western Conference through November and December.
For a great team guy and an individual with as much talent as Odom has, it'd be nice for the 12 year pro to get some well deserved recognition for a change.
Jason Terry leads a dangerous Mavericks bench again this year, but Odom’s contributions have proven to be invaluable.
There were teams that made flashier moves, but the Chicago Bulls offseason was spent meticulously adding a number of significant role players, as well as their big star in Carlos Boozer.
Paxson has long had a very keen eye for talent evaluation, as his rosters have been among the deepest in the league the past few years.
New additions Kyle Korver, Ronnie Brewer, Omer Asik and C.J. Watson each have come in and filled a precise role for this team. Carlos Boozer has battled various injuries, but is now healthy for what looks to be an extended playoff run.
Another award with no obvious winner. In a field that includes Dorrell Wright, LaMarcus Aldridge, Dwight Howard, Kris Humphries, Eric Gordon and a few others, Kevin Love stands above the rest for a few reasons.
Minnesota thought they knew what they had in Kevin Love. After two seasons playing with Al Jefferson and playing lesser minutes because of it, Love established himself as a guy who could average a double-double. He flirted with it as he hovered around 12 points per game and 10 rebounds per game.
As it has done for countless other young stars, this past summer with the U.S. Olympic Team has served as a beacon to greatness. Love’s rebounding has skyrocketed to an NBA leading 15.2 per night, his scoring has been boosted to 20.2 a night and he became the first Timberwolf representation in an All-Star game since a certain trash-talking power forward traded to Boston four years ago.
Love went from being a role player to being a can’t miss franchise player in just a few months time. As difficult as it was to omit LaMarcus Aldridge, to whom a similar transformation occurred, it’s by the skin of his teeth and that impressive rebounding number that have Kevin Love as this year’s Most Improved Player.
In sports, often times there are guys who get by purely off reputation. It’s found most often when there aren’t stats to support their claim to how great they are (e.g. offensive linemen in the NFL or who are the best defensive players in the NBA).
Dwight Howard is not a guy who gets by off his reputation as a frightening defensive force; he backs it up every night. The overall defense of the Magic isn’t as good, but that is more of a result of the composition of the roster. Bless their hearts, but Ryan Anderson, Hedo Turkoglu, Jason Richardson and Gilbert Arenas will never be known as defensive-minded players.
All of them are guys who are covered up by the individual brilliance of Howard. Dwight erases shots at the rim like nobody in basketball, he changes more shots than anybody, and when you play against the Magic, you know any points in the paint are going to be very difficult to come by.
Dwight Howard rarely misses games, but this year he has due to suspensions resulting from technicals. In the four games he’s missed, the Magic have allowed 55 percent or more field-goal percentage three times. When he’s in the game, points in the paint are very hard to come by. When he’s on the sidelines, the Magic allow layup lines.
If Joakim Noah had stayed healthy, he could challenge Dwight Howard for this honor in the future. Also Tony Allen deserves mention, bringing his tenacious on ball defense to Memphis and helping in leading them to the playoffs.
All-NBA First Team:
F LeBron James F Kevin Durant C Dwight Howard G Kobe Bryant G Derrick Rose
All-NBA Second Team:
F Dirk Nowitzki F Amar'e Stoudemire C Pau Gasol G Dwyane Wade G Russell Westbrook
All-NBA Third Team:
F Zach Randolph F Kevin Love C LaMarcus Aldridge G Manu Ginobili G Chris Paul
All-NBA Defensive First Team
F Kevin Garnett F Grant Hill C Dwight Howard G Tony Allen G Derrick Rose
All-NBA Defensive Second Team
F Josh Smith F Luc Richard Mbah a Moute C Andrew Bogut G Toney Douglas G Dwyane Wade