MVP: No other player means more to his team then Derek Rose. He is the heart and soul of the Bulls. Without him they are a 6 or 7 seed. You could argue Kobe Bryant, LeBron James or Dwight Howard are more deserving (and the Magic would certainly be worse off without Howard), but Rose has lead his team to the best record in the NBA and they are the favorite to make it out of the East.
Coach of the Year: As a Wizards fan it pains me to say this, but Doug Collins has done a masterful coaching job with the Philadelphia 76ers. He took a team that started 3-13, and managed to get them to .500 and in to the playoffs. He helped revitalize Elton Brand’s career (now he is more like ¾ of the player he used to be), while turning a team of young players (seven of their 10 rotation players are 24 or younger) into a playoff team, all without a single star. Tom Thibodeau of the Bulls did a great job as well, but Collins had the bigger challenge.
Most Improved: You could certainly make the argument that Derrick Rose took the step from star to superstar, but my vote goes to Kevin Love. He averaged 20 ppg and 15 rpg on an awful team. He also shot 41 percent on three-pointers, which is unheard of for a big man who rebounds at the rate he does (a league leading 23 percent). Dorrell Wright has a solid case for the award, but his numbers have more to do with increased playing time on a run-and-gun Warriors team (only his points-per-36-minutes went up this year, and his shooting percentage actually went down).
Rookie of the Year: Blake Griffin wins the Rookie of the Year easily, although he already complains like a veteran. His diploma from the LeBron James Academy for Advanced Pouting (with a teaching certificate in Incredulous-Staring-At-An-Official) must be in the mail.
Sixth Man of the Year: This was probably the toughest award for me. Lamar Odom was the winner on paper (14 ppg, 8 rpg, 54 percent shooting and a PER of 19), but is he really a bench player? He’s averaging 32 mpg (basically a starter’s playing time), and he actually started 35 of his 82 games (the rules only state you need to start fewer than half of the games that you play). Lou Williams deserves this award. He averaged only 23 mpg, yet his points-per-36-minutes were higher than Odom’s, and his PER was nearly as good. He also played in 75 games without starting one, which is more in keeping with the spirit of the award.
Defensive Player of the Year: Dwight Howard is the easy pick here. He leads the NBA in Defensive Win Shares, Defensive Rating and is tied for second in blocks per game while averaging over a steal per game. He is also saddled with a defensive squad (at various times this year he played with Gilbert Arenas, Vince Carter, Jason Richardson, Rashard Lewis, Hedo Tukoglu, Quinton Richardson and J.J. Redick) whose collective devotion to defense rivals Charlie Sheen’s devotion to sobriety. Except for his back-up, Marcin Gortat, no teammate was within eight points of his Defensive Rating. With all that the Magic finished fifth in opponent’s field goal percentage and fifth in points allowed per game.
Most Underrated: In the age of blogs and Twitter where everybody thinks they’ve found that one break-out star it’s hard to say that a player is truly underrated. One player who doesn’t get enough credit though is Kevin Martin. Martin has averaged at least 20 ppg in each of the last five years. The only other players to do that are all known by their first names: Dirk, Kobe, LeBron, Amare and Carmelo. This year, Martin’s PER of 21 is 19th in the league. He’s played for some bad teams and doesn’t put up big numbers in other areas of his game, but he continues to produce despite double teams and one of the ugliest jump shots you will see this side of Rashard Lewis.
Cal Ripken, Jr. Award for Injury Avoidance (Team Category): Four of the five L.A. Lakers starters (plus pseudo-starter Lamar Odom) didn’t miss a game this year. Only two other teams (Chicago and Charlotte) even had two starters that accomplished that. Of course, the fifth starter is Andrew “The Porcelain Doll” Bynum, so it’s good the other four starters are so healthy. The Lakers are a good team, but sometimes you have to get a bit of luck. Somewhere the Lakers insurance company’s actuaries are doing high-fives.
Methuselah Award: Grant Hill ran (shuffled) away with this award at the ripe old age of 38. He had his highest scoring average in four years (13 ppg), and played lock-down defense on the opposing team’s best wing player most nights.
Somali Shilling Award for Most Worthless Contracts: Yao Ming ($17 million for five games) or Rashard Lewis (second-highest paid player in the league at $20M for 11 ppg) could easily win, but the award should really be bestowed upon the 19 highest paid players in the league, each of whom earned at least $15M this year. Those 19 players collectively average 15.1 ppg, with not even 1-in-3 of them averaging 20 ppg. The top 10 is even worse, with only one (Kobe Bryant) even averaging 20 ppg.