I apologize to whomever may read this in advance, but my past 3-4 months have been heavily booked with a new job, a hospital stay for my daughter, holidays, and my extreme frustration with my New York Knicks. Anyway, I decided to take this time to hand out my mid-Season awards. Some might be not so typical.
MVP: You could throw the usual names in there such as LeBron, Chris Paul, Kevin Durant, etc. This year, we can add in players such as LaMarcus Aldridge and Paul George, who have had their teams at or near the top of their conferences all year long. And while I’m especially torn with the play of those two, I must go with Durant. He is currently in such a scoring streak and is totally carrying his team right now without Westbrook, which is the definition of an MVP to me. Not the best player, but exactly what it means. “Most Valuable.” Kevin Durant.
Most Improved: When considering this, my first thought was Eric Bledsoe, which I’m sure many picked to win. My problem with that is how many games he’s missed. I thought about Anthony Davis as he is averaging over 20 and 10, which few players do in today’s NBA. He too has missed several games. Evan Turner is having a very good year, nearly all star level. Isaiah Thomas has exploded onto the scene after the Kings traded away Greveis Vazquez. He’ll most likely be sadly overlooked for the All Star team. But, when I consider all statistics from last year until this point in the season, Lance Stephenson has surprised nearly everyone in the league with his play. Leading the league in triple doubles, he earned himself a chance at an All Star berth in the weakened East, upon which he was snubbed by the coaches. Scoring nearly doubled, second on team in rebounding, and first in assists, “Born Ready” is the next potential James Harden. He is someone the small market Pacers may not be able to afford and who could explode into a lite version of LeBron if he can tame his often recklessness. Lance Stephenson.
Rookie of the Year: So far, there’s only been two real candidates. Michael Carter-Williams and Victor Oladipo. Other rookies have made impressions, such as my Knicks’ Tim Hardaway Jr, but no rookie is getting the consistent playing time that Williams and Oladipo are getting. In fact, this is likely the only time this has happened. Back on December 3rd, both Williams and Oladipo had triple doubles, but Williams has been more consistent, had more opportunities, and has a line of 17, 6, and 6. Again, like Stephenson, had a chance of making the All Star team. Michael Carter-Williams
6th man: This one I struggled with. Isaiah Thomas was well on his way to this award before the Rudy Gay trade. However, two perennial candidates in Jamal Crawford and Manu Ginobili can be considered. I also was considering Reggie Jackson. However, since Westbrooke went down, Jackson has been in the starting lineup and will be until probably after the All-Star break. To me, my personal definition of “6th man” is someone who rarely starts. Maybe a dozen games a year. All of these players sometimes start games, but with the exception of Jackson, they don’t start that many. Based off of the play of Crawford, and his leading the NBA in 4th quarter scoring, Crawford gets my vote here. Jamal Crawford.
Coach of the Year: Jeff Hornacek. To me, there is no question. Wasn’t this team basically making trades with the anticipation of tanking and rebuilding? Yet here they are, several games over .500 in a tough Western conference. They’re easily the 3rd seed in the East if they go over there. Hornacek is winning with a bunch of young players, as a rookie coach himself. Even with Eric Bledsoe being injured, the Suns are still in the midst of the playoff battles. Also...they have beat Indiana...twice.
Let me preface the following list of All-Stars by saying I am not removing any of the starters, not even Kobe Bryant. And I really did not follow any “rules” (certain amount of positional players). Players out with lengthy injuries will NOT be on this roster, although I will say Chris Paul has enjoyed a great season up until January 3rd. Finally, since an active NBA roster has 13 players, I will be selecting 8 reserves.
Starters: Kobe Bryant, Stephen Curry, Kevin Love, Blake Griffin, Kevin Durant
My picks below.
Close, but not close enough: I could list several, but will stick with just a few. I had a hard time leaving Klay Thompson off, but couldn’t justify giving a 6th/7th seed 3 all stars. Also, Tim Duncan is basically averaging a double-double, but Anthony Davis has played incredibly, and could win the Most Improved Player award. He currently leads the league in blocks, and I feel the NBA made a mistake by not having him play, since the game is in New Orleans. Maybe he’ll be selected in Kobe’s spot though. Tough to leave Mike Conley off, but the other point guards selected were all better choices and their teams had similar if not much better records.
Eastern All Stars:
Starters: Dwyane Wade, Kyrie Irving, Carmelo Anthony, LeBron James, Paul George
Joakim Noah Close: I know the NBA coaches selected Roy Hibbert. 12 ppg, 8 rpg, 2 bpg while only shooting 46% when being over 7 feet tall is not All Star worthy to me. Compare Hibbert to Noah, who is averaging a legitimate double double while keeping the Bulls in the playoffs, even though they traded Luol Deng for nothing and lost Derrick Rose. It was very difficult to leave Michael Carter-Williams off the list as well. But his team’s record is atrocious. I also hated to leave Kyle Lowry off, but couldn’t pull anyone off of the list.
Disappointment of the Year: To me, it’s a tossup between Derrick Rose being out for the rest of the year and the Knicks/Nets struggles, although both are showing signs of life. I have to go with Derrick Rose. The man won an MVP and then has endured through 2 and is now working on the 3rd injury plagued season.
Surprise of the Year: I thought for sure the Phoenix Suns were in tank mode. But I hear rumors now that they might be in “buy mode” at the trade deadline. Let’s not forget they are also the only team to beat the Indiana Pacers twice…and had very significant leads against them in both games.
Most Impressive Game: This one is easy, and call me a homer, but anytime anyone scores 60 or more points, I’m super impressed. It has only happened 62 times, and Wilt Chamberlain had over half of those games. By now you know I’m talking about Carmelo Anthony. He hit every shot imaginable, from dunks to 3’s, to half court buzzer beaters. All without a single turnover (or assist, but who really complains about that?). First time to score that much without committing a turnover.
Most Impressive Feat in a Game: Has anyone saw Paul George's 360 degree dunk? Enough said. This was the exclamation point on the thrashing Indiana gave the Clippers. Paul George is very much athletically gifted. Wow. I wish players wouldn’t do this type of move in a game, but that takes some skill.
Please feel free share your opinions, or reply to my Twitter with what you think. I would love to hear what other awards we could look at and discuss. I can be tweeted at @KeysNotes. Or just reply here!