The NBA All-Star Weekend marks approximately the half way point of the season, and that means that it is time to start talking about awards.
MVP: With all of Derrick Rose’s injury problems, the MVP race looks like it is a two man race between LeBron James and Kevin Durant. It is incredible how close these two players are in this competition, and their stats are very similar. First, the Heat and Thunder have identical team records, and they are each leading their respective conferences. Durant is averaging only 0.5 points per game more than James, and they are both averaging 8.1 rebounds per game. Durant also only averages only 0.1 less turnovers than LeBron. The big difference between the players is assists and field goal percentage. Even though Durant is shooting an outstanding 51.3% from the field and has 3.4 assists per game, Lebron averages double the amount of assists, and he is shooting 54.7%. Both of these players are on pace for great seasons, but at this point I have to give the edge to the James, but by the slimmest of margins.
Sixth Man of the Year: Many people want to just hand this award to James Harden right now, but keep an eye on Lou Williams. Williams is the leading scorer for the division leading 76ers, and is the go-to-guy to at the end of the game. Lou means much more to the Sixers than Harden does to the Thunder, and if Lou can lead this team to an Atlantic Division Title, I think you might have to give him the award. But for now Harden has had a great first half and deserves to receive this award.
Rookie of the Year: There should be no debate on who should win this award. Kyrie Irving is having a great season on a team that was terrible last year. Irving is averaging over 18 ppg and he is keeping the Cavaliers in playoff contention. Ricky Rubio has had a strong first half with 11.3 ppg and 8.4 apg. But Rubio is not the best player on his team, and teams pay a lot more attention to Irving than they do to Rubio. Minnesota is also in playoff contention, which is a big improvement from last year, but Irving is making the most impact on his team than any other rookie, and that’s why he earns this award.
Coach of the Year: A lot of praise has been given to Doug Collins for the job he has done this season with the 76ers, and he deserves it. The Sixers have been playing great defense, leading the league in points against (87.5 ppg). And their efficiency has been even better on offense. The Sixers are on pace to break the record for the fewest turnovers per game in a season. The current record is 11.6 turnovers per game, and the Sixers are only averaging 10.5. But do not count out Frank Vogel. Vogel has the Pacers currently in third place in the East, and they continue to win. I really want to give Vogel the award, but the Pacers are beating up on the bad teams, and are really struggling against the better teams in the NBA. I expect them to fall a little bit in the standings during the second half of the season since they will have to play much better competition, including a stretch of 9 straight games in March against teams that are currently in playoff positions.
Defensive Player of the Year: I am not a big fan of this award since it never goes to the best defensive player. This award typically goes to a player that blocks a lot of shots. So if the past has taught me anything, I believe that he award will go to Serge Ibaka this year. Ibaka is leading the league in both blocks per game, with 3.21, and blocks per personal foul, with 1.20. He makes players change their shots when they come in the lane, and that’s what makes a great defensive big man.
Most Improved Player: DeMarcus Cousins wins this award for me. Cousins did not have a great rookie season, and his determination and drive has been questioned by many analysts. But as long as he can keep his motor going he will have a very successful NBA career, and he has done that this season. Cousins is averaging 2.3 more points per game and 2.6 more assists per game from last season, and he is becoming the force that the Kings hoped he could become when they drafted him. The Kings have a bright future with young guys like Cousins and Tyreke Evans on their team.