It has been an interesting NBA season full of twists, turns and upsets. One of the topics commonplace every year when the NBA season comes to a close is the individual awards and who should and should not win. Listed below is a breakdown of these possible winners.
Who should win: Kevin Durant
Runner up: n/a
Throughout the 2013-2014 there have been a number of solid performances. Early on, it appeared players such as Paul George, Chris Paul and others had potential for MVP; unfortunately while they have played well, their lack of consistency has destroyed their chances of winning the award.
If one were to pick MVP strictly on statistics, it would be hard to argue with Kevin Love getting the award. This season he is averaging 26 ppg, 12.6 rpg and 4.4 apg. While it may seem unfair, it’s hard to give MVP to a guy on a mediocre team who won’t make the playoffs. Reason being is that it seems he hasn’t found that last notch in his game to push the team over the hump in close games. As a result, it would be silly to give him the award.
Lamarcus Aldridge on the other hand seemed destined for the award as he pushed the Trailblazers to the top of the west for the first half of the season. Unfortunately though, Aldridge’s play as well as the Blazers’ numbers started to diminish over the last few months, which had a lot to do with Aldridge getting sidelined with an injury nine games. While he has come back to form mostly since his return, he just doesn’t have the consistency to win the award.
Lebron James has won the award four of the last five years. As a result, it is expected for him to be in the conversation. Yes, he has had a good season, but while he is putting up numbers of 26.8 ppg, 6.9 rpg and 6. apg, one gets the feeling he is capable of more. Is it fair? Maybe not, but he has not had the most consistent of seasons and his numbers in rebounds and assists are considerably down from the past few years. As a result, the team hasn’t been able to perform on the level they should to defend their title.
Most importantly though is the fact that there is only one player who has delivered on a consistent basis night after night and that man is Kevin Durant. The Thunder looked to be in trouble at several points in the season with second leading scorer Russell Westbrook being sidelined 33 games this season, but instead of falling off, Durant has willed the team to victory time and time again this season. He is the top scorer at 32.1 ppg with a 50.7 percentage along with 7.6 rpg and 5.6 apg, which has led them to a 58-21 record, second only to the Spurs. He also recently made news when he passed Jordan’s record of consistent 25-point games with 41 after Sunday’s game. If that is not MVP-worthy, what is?
Coach of the Year
Who should win: Greg Popovich
Runner up: Doc Rivers
Coach of the year is always a tricky one to figure out simply because it should be based on decision making in-game, lineup and being able to deal with egos. What makes it more difficult is to see where the coach has excelled opposed to the players, which is why there are only two coaches that stand out this season in that of Doc Rivers and Greg Popovich.
The Clippers have been a team on the rise over the last few seasons due to Blake Griffin and once Chris Paul arrived a season ago. However, they haven’t been able to put it all together, that is until now. This year seems different. They are currently third in the west and overall in the NBA. What really stands out in their season is the plethora of injuries they have had. Team leader Chris Paul, Jamal Crawford, Matt Barnes, J.J. Redick and even Blake Griffin have all been hurt at times during the season, yet they have soldiered through. One has to look at Doc Rivers though who has been able to adjust lineups and deal with egos in terms of why they have managed to succeed all season long. Furthermore, it would be shocking if they don’t make noise in the playoffs.
Having said that though, no one truly deserves coach of the year other than Greg Popovich. Before every season there is always speculation that it will be the beginning of the downfall of the Spurs; however, much like all the other seasons, the 2013-2014 season has been a great one for one of the NBA’s oldest clubs. In fact, they have managed to obtain the league’s best record despite the fact that each of the big three have gone down with injuries. It doesn’t matter though as Popovich always finds a way to adjust and even implement newer players into the rotation and have them succeed. It is for these reasons he should be a shoe-in for coach of the year.
Rookie of the Year
Who should win: Michael Carter-Williams
Runner Up: n/a
Rookie of the year is judged very differently from MVP. Typically, the best rookies are on the worst teams, and as a result unless you’re Lebron James, his first season won’t be a successful one in terms of wins. This season there have been some decent rookies such as Tim Hardaway Jr., Victor Olapido and Mason Plumlee. However, this season is a no-brainer for rookie of the year and that is Michael Carter-Williams.
The 76ers might be an embarrassment to the NBA with their recent 26 losses in a row while taking the league’s second worst record; however, none of that should affect how well Carter-Williams has played. He is currently averaging 16.7 ppg, 6.1 rpg and 6.3 apg. Those are solid numbers for a rookie. No, he has not been consistent every game, but he is the best of the rookies and has tried to will his team to victory even if he has had the deck stacked against him, i.e. the front office unloading all decent complimentary players and a coach who appears to have given up on his squad. Needless to say, Carter-Williams should get the award no problem.
Defensive Player of the Year
Who should win: DeAndre Jordan
Runner up: Serge Ibaka
While there are plenty of statistics to go by, there is one element that makes a player a defensive player of the year candidate — how this player affects the other team’s offensive performance. In terms of this, Serge Ibaka and DeAndre Jordan are the ones that should be in this conversation.
Serge Ibaka is second in blocked shots at 2.6 bpg, but he also is one of the most feared defenders who can go against various positions. On a team that is so offensively minded for the most part, he is a great asset to a team that will make a run for the championship. Most importantly, no one on the opposing team wants to go up against the Congo native. The only problem is that it seems as though Ibaka has faltered a bit this season compared to the previous two seasons, which were both seasons that he should have won the award. Having said that, this should not be his year.
DeAndre Jordan is a player who seems to have come out of nowhere. Not only is he the leading rebounder, but he has proven to serve as quite the presence defensively. Blake Griffin may be an offensive juggernaut, but Jordan proves to be the ying to his yang by averaging 2.5 bpg and serves as one of the few great true centers in the league by guarding his team’s rim no matter who is in his way. He is not an offensive player, but what he does is he gives the Clippers that anchor on defense they need to go up against the Dwight Howards and the Tim Duncans in the league. In fact, it’s arguable that he may be the next Ben Wallace of the league where his game is mostly focused on defense. It is for this reason, Jordan should be given best defensive player for the regular season awards in the NBA even if Ibaka (who is still a solid defensive player) has been talked about more, which he should not be.
Most Improved Player of the Year
Who Should Win: Gerald Green
Runner up: Anthony Davis
The most improved player award is always a complicated one to figure out. Should it go to someone who has shown a huge increase in statistics? Should it go to someone who has shown leadership to will his team into the playoff picture? Should it be a good player that has become great? Most likely a number of these reasons, but what should be looked at most is someone who has made the largest strides in an all-around game. As such, this award has a few players in the running, but there are only two that should be given thought of the award: Kyle Lowry and Gerald Green.
Sure, Anthony Davis has had a great season, which he has improved in almost every statistic, but the problem with Davis is it’s hard to judge due to him being injury prone. This season he has played in 67 games in addition to only playing 64 games last season. He has gone from 13.5 ppg to 20.8 ppg, 1.8 bpg to 2.8 bpg and 8.2 rpg to 10.0 rpg. Those are significant improvements, but he also has played a lot more minutes, so it’s hard to tell. Additionally, with the Hornets missing the playoffs again, it doesn’t appear his improved numbers are helping the cause in New Orleans.
This is not the case though for both Kyle Lowry and Gerald Green. Not many figured the Raptors and Suns had potential of making the playoffs, yet a week away from the playoffs both seem primed for the postseason.
The Raptors have already won 12 more games than they did last season, and Kyle Lowry is a big reason for that. He has gone from averaging 11.6 ppg and 6.4 apg to 17.6 ppg and 7.6 apg in a season. That is a substantial increase for the journeyman point guard. Additionally, he has shown he is capable of leading his team as evident by their third place standing in the Eastern Conference.
Having said that, the bigger surprise of the season is that of the Phoenix Suns. Last season the Suns were at the bottom of the Western conference with a 25-57 record; this season they have improved to a 47-31 record with four games left in the season, making it very possible for them to double their wins from a season ago. One of the principle reasons for this is Gerald Green who was traded from Indiana in the offseason in what many thought was a trade used mostly for a draft pick; instead, they got an outstanding player who has propelled the Suns into a playoff team. Last season as a bench player, Green averaged 7 ppg, .8 apg, 2.4 rpg with only 36 percent shooting; however, this season he is averaging 15.9 ppg, 1.5 apg, 3.3 rpg with a 44.7 percentage. While he is playing more minutes, he has proven himself not only to his team but around the league that he is a more than capable starter who has increased his efficiency and all-around play. As a result, he should be named the most improved player.
Sixth Man of the Year
Who should win: Taj Gibson
Runner up: Markieff Morris
A great sixth man is a player who brings a spark off the bench in terms of scoring, defense and filling that void when the big guns are out. In seasons past, there have been solid players off the bench, but were not necessarily sixth man but were bench players playing starter minutes. In order to be a recognized sixth man, a player needs to be a true sixth man, and this year two players have risen among the pack — Markieff Morris and Taj Gibson.
Gerald Green is not the only player that has propelled the Suns into the playoff picture. Markieff Morris, along with his twin brother Marcus Morris has been a great asset to a team that has one of the deepest rosters in the league. This season he has helped elevate the bench with 13.6 ppg, 6 rpg to go along with 48 percent shooting while only averaging 26 mpg.
Taj Gibson on the Chicago Bulls, however, has made an imprint on the Bulls’ dramatic season. With Boozer not having a stellar season, Gibson has proved himself to be a great player to plug in when the often criticized starting power forward isn’t putting up the numbers. He is averaging 13.2 ppg, 1.4 bpg, 6.9 rpg with a 48.3 shooting percentage. While those aren’t that big of a difference on paper, they have made a huge difference in games for the Bulls. With rumors of Boozer being an amnesty player after this season, the Bulls may bring Gibson to the starting lineup where he can score in the post with ease while also having the defensive presence that Boozer does not have. Not to mention it will complete a solid front line of Noah and Gibson. Bottom line here is that Gibson has drastically improved his game and filled holes this season when the bulls needed him; there is no better characteristic than that in established sixth man.
Executive of the year
Who should win: Masai Ujiri
Runner Up: Neil Olshey
The obvious way to pick executive of the year is to pick a GM who landed a big star, i.e. Dwight Howard in Houston. However, this is not what executive of the year should be. Instead, it should be a guy who changed a team from leaps and bounds, from a conference dweller to a playoff team/contender or someone who is able to bring in a group of guys to convince a franchise player to stay.
The latter of which is what Neil Olshey did. Coming into the season, Lamarcus Aldridge was not a happy camper. There were rumors he wanted to leave Portland, so Olshey brought in guys like Robin Lopez who would take the burden off Aldridge down low. He also brought in other role players like Mo Williams and Dorell Wright. As a result, the Portland Trailblazers were a surprise of this season by leading the Western Conference for the better part of the season, even if they have slipped a bit during the last leg. As a result, Aldridge has gotten the supporting cast he needed, and it may very well mean that the franchise player stays in Portland.
As shocking as Portland’s rise was, nothing was more shocking than the Toronto Raptors, though it should not have been considering Masai Ujiri was named executive of the year last season in Denver before moving to the sole Canadian team. He has proven it was not a fluke as he has created a team that is third in the Eastern Conference, despite a shaky start. How did he do this? He shipped off two overpaid players in that of Andrea Bargnani and Rudy Gay for a plethora of role players. As a result, the Raptors have turned into a team with one of the deepest rosters in the league. Could Ujiri pull it off again? Seems likely.
There is only one week left in the regular season. As a result, being able to tell who should and should not win the NBA season awards can be done now. While Durant is a given, it should be interesting once the playoffs start, who will garner the NBA’s top honors.
Commentary by Simon Mounsey