In honor of the 86th Academy Awards, it’s time to break down the NBA’s Oscar Award winners. With about a month remaining in the regular season, things are starting to take shape. MVP candidates and their perspective playoff bound teams are pulling away from the rest of the pack and will be hitting this final stretch run in full stride.
Beginning with the NBA’s “Best Director,” this award is handed out to the coach of the year thus far. There have been a handful of coaches deserving of this award. The easy choice that could be made every season would be San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich. The Spurs are coming off of a heartbreaking Game 7 loss to the Miami Heat in last year’s NBA Finals. A lot of people counted them out once again this year mainly because of their old age. But here they are, through key injuries and all, sitting in the second seed of the Western Conference. Coach Pop is a genius.
However, it’s too easy to give him the award, and there’s one guy who deserves it even more considering the fact that he doesn’t have three first ballot Hall of Famers on his roster. That man is Chicago Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau. After losing Derrick Rose yet again early in the season, then trading fan favorite and two time All-Star Luol Deng to Cleveland, everyone counted them out. But they have been the hottest team in the league as of late and are 21-8 since Jan. 1, 33-26 overall and find themselves right back in the third seed of the Eastern Conference. Tom Thibodeau deserves the thanks for bringing their confidence back.
Next up, the “Best Actor in a Supporting Role.” Winning this NBA Oscar Award usually means playing alongside an MVP candidate on a championship contending team. This is another tough award to hand out. There are teams like the Oklahoma City Thunder that are arguably the best team in the league, sitting atop of their conference. They lost Russell Westbrook for a majority of the season and Kevin Durant has since then put up MVP numbers. However, his teammates also stepped up in a big way, but did it as a team. Reggie Jackson filled the void of Westbrook’s absence, but from night to night the entire team elevated their game and it’s too tough to single out one player in particular.
There are also teams like the Dallas Mavericks who are fighting for a playoff berth. Their offseason acquisition of Monta Ellis was considered a gamble by many, but it has worked out splendidly for the Mavs so far. Monta has averaged 19 points, 5.8 assists and 3.4 rebounds playing alongside a resurgent Dirk Nowitzki as the Mavs continue playing solid ball with a 36-24 record.
However, the award must go to Damian Lillard who has hit big shot after big shot all season long for the surprising Portland Trailblazers. Lillard is averaging 21.2 points, 5.6 assists, 3.6 rebounds and has more than supported LaMarcus Aldridge, who has turned into a top three power forward in the league, yet there is still not much being said about either of them. With a 41-18 record, Portland is currently the third seed of the Western Conference. They have been one of the steadiest teams in the league all season long.
Now onto the “Best Actor.” This award only has two candidates, but is still the most difficult to decide. It really comes down to being a LeBron James fan or a Kevin Durant fan, as they are the two faces of the NBA and the front runners for the MVP Award.
Durant has carried his team for a majority of the season without Russell Westbrook, who would be a top 10 MVP candidate himself. Durant leads the league in scoring at 31.6 points per game and averages 5.6 assists, 7.7 rebounds and a PER of 30.64. He’s shooting over 40 percent from beyond the arc and a career high 51 percent from the field. His Thunder are currently first in the Western Conference at 44-15.
As for LeBron, he’s third in the league in scoring at 26.9 points per game and is averaging 6.4 assists, 7.0 rebounds per game and a PER of 29.73. He’s also shooting a career high at 58% from the field and is once again a candidate for Defensive Player of the Year. James has been as solid as ever, but with every passing day is growing increasingly confident, which is scary for the league. He’s searching for that illustrious three-peat that would put him in the company of few and make him one of the greatest players of all time, and that’s why this award goes to LeBron.
James is still the best player in the world, hands down. For years people criticized him for not being able to win the big game and that was their reasoning for Kobe Bryant still having the advantage, whether or not it was true. So why doesn’t LeBron deserve that same advantage now? If Kevin Durant wants to be the league’s MVP, then he must knock off LeBron James and the Miami Heat.
Lastly, the “Best Picture” wraps up the NBA Oscar winners. This award must go to the one team that has played steady all season, has had no drama, no injury problems and currently has the best record in the NBA. The award goes to the Indiana Pacers.
At 45-13, the Pacers are considered to be the only team that can stop Miami’s three-peat quest in its tracks. Earning that top seed just might be what it’s going to take to do that. A Conference Finals Game 7 loss in Miami last season could have seen a much different result if that game was played in Indiana. The defensive minded Pacers made all of the perfect offseason and regular season moves and have an emerging superstar in Paul George to go head to head with LeBron James. Much like the NFL’s NFC Championship game between the San Francisco 49ers and the Seattle Seahawks, the NBA Eastern Conference Finals could turn out to be the deciding factor in who hoists the Larry O’Brien trophy this summer.
Opinion By Rich Peters
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