I wasn't planning on doing this for this year since I think my picks will probably match the consensus picks, but I figured, I'm watching basketball all day today anyway, so why not? Here's who I would pick for each of the major NBA awards:
Defensive Player of the Year: Dwight Howard, Orlando Magic
I mean, I dunno. This is such a hard award to determine. There really isn't a whole lot to look at as far as stats go for defense. You can look at blocks and steals, but that only tells you so much, and it's not really a lot. And defense is much more of a team effort than offense is. So why Howard?
1. The award almost always goes to a center, and he's the best center in the game.
2. Playing one-on-one against Howard is almost impossible - you really don't ever need to double-team his man, which is huge.
3. Opposing offenses have to alter their entire half-court sets to account for him.
4. He blocks and/or alters a ton of shots.
So why is that award not a no-brainer pick for me?
1. He seems to think it's the paragon of defensive ability to just swat the ball as hard as possible out of bounds whenever he blocks a shot. He's partly right. It does look cool. But only when you're flying full speed to block a fast break layup. If you're playing half court, and you have time to predict the shot, gather yourself, jump, and control the ball (which he almost always does), it's supremely idiotic to just cannon the ball out of bounds. No, it's not cool, Dwight. The other team gets the ball back and another chance at another shot. Just grab it or tap it to a teammate. Stan Van Gundy loves to bitch so much, so why has he not berated Dwight into knocking this off? Answer: it seems like he's all bark, no bite, and/or he's afraid Dwight will just sulk and pout if he gets on him about it. Which leads me to point number...
2. I think Dwight Howard's personality crystallized as soon as he was drafted. He will never not act like an 18 year old. Not that his enthusiasm isn't a good thing. It is. But it would be fantastic if he would get so enthusiastic about getting better at basketball instead of just running and jumping like a kid and reveling in his amazing physical gifts. Which leads me to point number...
3. Dwight Howard always seems like he would much rather wear a Superman cape, make commercials, dunk ridiculously hard, look cool, and pile up impressive stats instead of improving his game and winning a title at any cost. I just can't fully get behind a guy like that.
(Was that the most backhanded award ever given out or what?)
Sixth Man of the Year: Lamar Odom, Los Angeles Lakers
I believe in order to qualify for this award, you have to come off the bench in over half of the games (41). Of all the players who qualify, Lamar is 2nd in points (Jason Terry leads by 113) and leads in rebounds and win shares. It's either him or Terry and I know I'd take Odom on my team over Terry without a heartbeat of hesitation.
Funny semi-tangential story: When I first found out this was an award, which was when I was, like, 8 years old, I could not for the life of me understand it's purpose. Why would you ever want to give an award to the best guy who wasn't good enough to start on any team? There were 27 teams in the league at the time, I believe. I figured they should just call it the "136th Man of the Year."
Most Improved Player: Derrick Rose, Chicago Bulls
Look, this is a dumb award in the first place, but if you're going to give it out, I don't know how you could not give it to Rose. He went from All-Star calibre player to almost certainly the MVP of the league. Isn't that more of an improvement than Kevin Love's "decent player" to "good player"?
Coach of the Year: Tom Thibodeau, Chicago Bulls
He's the coach of the team with the best record. I would just give this award to whoever fits that description every time.
Rookie of the Year: Blake Griffin, Los Angeles Clippers
Please. Was there ever any doubt about this one? The kid had an absolutely amazing year. Probably the best rookie campaign since Tim Duncan in 1998. Also the first rookie All-Star since Duncan in 1998. Well, Yao was an All-Star in 2003, but he got voted in by 1.2 billion Chinese people, so that wasn't really based specifically on his performance during his rookie year.
Most Valuable Player: Derrick Rose, Chicago Bulls
He carried a Bulls team whose next best players are Carlos Boozer and Joakim Noah (who I personally feel are a bit overrated) to the best record in the league. I don't think anyone saw that coming. And he did it without those guys for significant portions of the year because they were hurt. Without Rose, I can't see the Bulls getting any higher than maybe the 5th seed in the East. And maybe winning 50 games tops as opposed to 62. If I actually had a ballot to name the top five it'd go:
1. Derrick Rose
2. LeBron James
3. Dwight Howard
4. Kobe Bryant
5. Dirk Nowitzki
Derrick Rose, Chicago Bulls
Kobe Bryant, Los Angeles Lakers
Dwight Howard, Orlando Magic
LeBron James, Miami Heat
Dirk Nowitzki, Dallas Mavericks
Chris Paul, New Orleans Hornets
Dwyane Wade, Miami Heat
Pau Gasol, Los Angeles Lakers
Kevin Durant, Oklahoma City Thunder
Paul Pierce, Boston Celtics
Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City Thunder
Manu Ginobili, San Antonio Spurs
Amare Stoudemire, New York Knicks
Zach Randolph, Memphis Grizzlies
LaMarcus Aldridge, Portland Trail Blazers
As always, there's way too many deserving players than there are slots to fill them. I suppose I "cheated" a bit by putting Gasol and Stoudemire at center, but they both played significant minutes there this year and there's far more deserving forward than there are centers. I don't think anyone would mind seeing them nab those spots over, say, Al Horford and Tyson Chandler. (Both those guys had good years, but Gasol, Durant, Pierce, Stoudemire, Randolph, and Aldridge all had better ones.)