Thursday, January 24, 2013

2013 NBA Awards Predictions, updated mid-season edition


As the All Star break nears, we can get excited to see the fan favorites take the court. Or in more accurate terms, we can watch the players from the largest markets play together in one game. Eight out of the ten starters are from only three cities: Los Angeles (Chris Paul, Blake Griffin, Kobe Bryant, Dwight Howard), Miami (LeBron James and Dwyane Wade), and Boston (Kevin Garnett and Rajon Rondo). Let's just say it is not bad that few people place much consideration of a players legacy on All Star appearances.

Here are our updated mid-season predictions on who will take home the hardware for individual accomplishments. (Note: statistics are as of 1/22/12.)

Coach of the Year

Mark Jackson, Golden State Warriors


The former ESPN analyst did not have the confidence of his players immediately. But after a complete offseason with the Warriors, it is readily apparent that he has tremendously influenced the culture of a team previously run by a me-first guard in Monta Ellis. Jackson has established accountability among the players while not patronizing them; he attributes this mentality to the problems he saw with coaches when he was a point guard in the NBA. While Mike Woodson and others have worthy resumes for the award this year, Jackson stands out among all of them, with wins against Miami and Oklahoma City to bolster his resume. Contrast the Warriors and teams where stars are plentiful and it’s obvious that what he has accomplished is very impressive. Combine that with the fact that this is his very first coaching stint and all signs point to M-Jack being a great coach for years to come.

Defensive Player of the Year

Joakim Noah, Chicago Bulls


Noah has led his team on defense and provided stability with the absence of Derrick Rose. The Bulls have a top-five defense in the NBA and it centers (pun intended) around the big man’s 11 rebounds, two blocks, and (more than) a steal per game. A player like Noah may not be the greatest scorer—and he’s only shooting 45 percent from the field—but what he brings on defense is something that has helped the Bulls win 60 percent of their games thus far. And while Kevin Garnett is a consideration for this award, the fact that KG plays less than 30 minutes per game drops him at least a spot in the DPOY pecking order.

Most Improved Player of the Year

Jrue Holiday, Philadelphia 76ers


There are a host of players worth mentioning here but two in particular stand out: Jrue Holiday and Kemba Walker of the Charlotte Bobcats. Up until Kemba’s stellar play this season, you could only count on Michael Jordan’s Bobcats for one thing: a very high draft pick. But what the former North Carolina Tar Heel has done for a team that hasn't even won a quarter of its games this year is impressive, particularly in light of their perennial struggles. But the singular improvement of the 76ers point guard is remarkable. His defense has marginally improved (almost a rebound more per game than 2011-12) but what he brings to the court offensively now is pivotal to the Sixers success. His assists per game have doubled (4.5 to 9.0) and his PPG has increased from 13.5 to 19.0…all while shooting over 45 percent from the field as a point guard.

Sixth Man of the Year

Jarrett Jack, Golden State Warriors


This offseason pick up has proven to be the best move for the Warriors thus far. While Andrew Bogut sits in a suit on the sideline, Jack is out draining dagger threes, finding teammates for game-winning shots, and providing an energy off the bench that has given his team a second wind. His per game stats are an indicator of the influence he has had (13 PPG / 6 APG / 3 RPG / 48% on FGs / 87% on FTs) but a look at some of the individual efforts he has had in games show that he is invaluable to this team. Case in point: in the last month of basketball he has had four games with over 10 assists and eight games with over 15 points—including two games with 28 and 29.

Rookie of the Year

Damian Lillard, Portland Trailblazers


To lead a team into Western conference relevance is impressive for any player…but for a rookie to do it is something special. While there is no doubt that the Trailblazers have pieces around Lillard (like MIP candidate J.J. Hickson), his team is significantly out-performing even Kyrie Irving’s Cleveland Cavaliers in Irving’s second year in the league. Another comparison would be to Wizards point guard John Wall, who came out of college with high expectations but could not turn around a terrible team and whose frustration has affected his performance. Lillard is well on his way to becoming one of the best scoring point guards in the NBA.

Most Valuable Player

LeBron James, Miami Heat


This is the only pick that has remained constant since my preseason predictions but it is much closer than I expected. The offensive monster that is Kevin Durant has made this a more competitive race especially in light of James Harden’s departure. While Durant is worthy, he has Russell Westbrook and a host of other skilled defensive players to lean on—namely Serge I’ll-Block-Ya. LeBron has again proved that he can win with teammates underperforming. Erik Spoelstra’s decision to bench Wade and Bosh in the fourth quarter of a game gives a glimpse into how even LeBron’s most reliable teammates have been struggling. Miami is last in the league in rebounding despite LeBron’s 8.1 rebounds per game. Also, surprisingly the Eastern conference Heat have a nearly identically difficult schedule this season as the Western conference Thunder. It is very tempting to say that Kevin Durant and his 50-40-90 shooting is worthy of the honors; however, it comes down to the fact that LeBron is playing better than ever with often less than capable surrounding players.

18 comments:

  1. Interesting thoughts. The second half of the season will likely bring some changes, but your selections are solid all around. I agree with most of them, besides one (and maybe another one). Here are my thoughts on this.

    I think that Sixth Man of the year should be Jamal Crawford. Coming off a disappointing 2011-12 campaign for the Blazers that saw him average 14 ppg (lowest since 03) on 38% shooting and only 30% from 3. The Clippers took a risk in signing him, hoping that he will provide more scoring on an already deep team. And man, has he succeeded. Crawford has averaged 17 ppg on 42% shooting (37% from 3), and at one point was the team's leading scorer. Although he is not great as a passer or a defender, he is a guy who can create his own shot consistently, and playing off the bench gives the clippers a huge spark in games. Currently, the Clippers are 32-12, in 3rd place in the Western conference, and looking more like contenders than ever before, while playing Chris Paul only 33 minutes per game (38 last year), and Blake only 32 mpg (36 last year). I agree that Jarrett Jack has done very well off the bench for the surprising Warriors, but his stats and impact don't top that of Crawford. Keeping their main stars fresh for the playoffs will likely prove invaluable to the Clips, and the main reason why they are able to do this is Jamal Crawford

    Meanwhile, the MVP race is going to extremely close, but personally, I would give it to Kevin Durant. KD does have Russell Westbrook, but LeBron still has Dwade and Cbosh, who, in spite of that recent benching, are still all-stars and very capable teammates. KD is shooting 52% from the field, 40% from 3, and 91% from the line. For a guy who takes as many shots as KD does, these numbers are completely off the charts. Also, OKC hasn't missed a beat, going 34-10 for the best record in the NBA. LeBron has also played astounding this year, but it just isn't as IMPRESSIVE to me as Durant's performance this year. He is a better rebounder than LeBron, and has also significantly improved as a passer (4.2 apg) and a defender. While his impact there isn't as significant as Lebron's, it's getting closer, and Durant is a more potent scorer with a better team record. You can't really go wrong with Lebron tho.



    Finally, I would say COY should be Mike D'Antoni. He has done...quite amazing, given his talent-free roster.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Well regarding APG, Crawford is there to score. I know that he is not as capable of a passer as Jack but he is a significantly better and more game-changing scorer. It seems that the Clips win every game that Crawford goes off in. 17ppg off the bench is no joke. I would say that Crawford, right now, is playing like a rich-man's Jason Terry - raw momentum-changing scorer/3 PT shooter off the bench, and that's mostly it -, and as you remember, Terry did win 6th man of the year, and was very instrumental in helping Dallas win the NBA Championship in 2011. The Dubs have had major success, but I think that has more to do with Curry's improvement (a guy who you have mentioned as a POSSIBLE candidate for MIP), Lee's good work on both ends of the floor, and coaching, than it does with J. Jack. He's a factor, no doubt, but the Clips have exceeded expectations this season (yeah, they were supposed to be good, but nobody thought they'd be 1 game below the Thunder), and a large part of that has to do with Crawford, especially his contribution to the minutes decrease for Paul and Blake.

    In regards to Durant/Lebron, you ask "Westbrook vs. Wade, who would you take on raw talent this year? Bosh vs. Ibaka, who would you take?". I don't think those are simple questions at all. Personally, I'd take Westbrook over Wade (just barely) and Bosh over Ibaka, so it's close. I would say that both of them have great supporting casts. And yes, we have come to expect a lot of Lebron. It shouldn't influence votes but it does. Jordan won 5 MVPs but if you look at his stats, he should've probably won 8. Eventually, people get tired of the same old. And Durant is playing extremely well, so I think that if he continues at this pace, at the end of the season, more people will vote for Durant. Me included.

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