Who’s your Rookie of the Year? Who’s your Coach of the Year? Who’s your Sixth Man?
But most importantly — who’s going to be dumb enough to vote against LeBron James for MVP?
It’s a wonder you don’t ever see unanimous selections for Most Valuable Player in the NBA. Let’s face it — sometimes there’s just a clear-cut choice for the award, and when those 120 votes are only bestowed upon true professionals with the utmost knowledge of the game, you’d think they would get it right.
Yet these things always happen. You have homer picks and hater picks. You have people who vote against the obvious winner just to be contrarian. And sometimes, you have lunatics who vote against a guy just because he rests a game before the playoffs. These things happen.
But whether it’s a unanimous decision or not, LeBron’s second consecutive MVP won’t be the most compelling or controversial decision of this awards season. LeBron’s been the biggest name, the best player, the leader of the best team. He has been the story of the NBA this season, the undisputed king of the game. Hands down, no questions asked, no further discussion. The award is his. So let’s dig deeper into this spring’s accolades:
MVP: LeBron James, Cleveland Cavaliers
Nothing to see here. Move along.
Rookie of the Year: Tyreke Evans, Sacramento Kings
There are two legitimate challenges to Tyreke’s candidacy — one is Brandon Jennings, who has bolstered his resume by leading the Bucks to the playoffs in his rookie season, and the other is Stephen Curry, who’s quickly become the smartest, most mature, best-developed young player in the league. But the award is really Tyreke’s to lose.
Consider this: In NBA history, only four players have averaged at least 20 points, five assists and five rebounds in their rookie seasons. Those would be Oscar Robertson, Michael Jordan, LeBron James and Tyreke Evans. Case closed.
Coach of the Year: Scott Brooks, Oklahoma City Thunder
No one’s disputing that Brooks has had tons of talent to work with. When you’ve got Kevin Durant leading the way with Russell Westbrook and Jeff Green by his side, you’re going to win ballgames. But the fact that Brooks has brought them together so quickly, gotten them all to play team basketball, gotten them all to play defense and led them into the playoffs in the ultra-competitive Western Conference? It’s unbelievable. Brooks’ seven best players are all under age 27. Doesn’t matter. He just wins.
Defensive Player of the Year: Dwight Howard, Orlando Magic
Boring, chalky pick. I know. The temptation to make the homer pick with Rajon Rondo is overwhelming, and there are a handful of other role players on contending teams — Charlotte’s Gerald Wallace, Cleveland’s Anderson Varejao, Atlanta’s Josh Smith — for whom you could make a case. But Superman reigns supreme.
No one alters a game the way Howard does for the Magic — his ability to keep scorers out of the paint, to block their shots when they dare to defy him, to get every rebound in sight, it’s all exceptional. Maybe one year someone will come along and push Howard aside, but this is not that year. For now, Howard is the best defensive player in the league.
Sixth Man: Jamal Crawford, Atlanta Hawks
Again, Varejao is a candidate you can’t ignore, and Dallas’ Jason Terry is always going to be in this discussion as well. But Crawford is a game-changer off the bench for Hawks coach Mike Woodson — he’s the best bench scorer in the league, and to have a guy who can take the floor with the second unit and bring that kind of explosiveness is invaluable. You score 18 points a night for a No. 3 playoff seed, and the award’s yours. Crawford earned this one.
Most Improved Player: Aaron Brooks, Houston Rockets
Honestly, the most improved player in the NBA this season might be none other than Kevin Durant. But that isn’t really the way this award works — you rarely see it handed to a superstar who elevates his game from awesome to even more awesome. Brooks has been a breakout player in the league this season; as the Rockets have been forced to do without Yao Ming and Tracy McGrady, he has become the Rockets’ leading scorer at age 25. He’s a deadly shooter from outside, an athletic slasher inside and just a superb all-around weapon for a Rockets team that’s sorely needed one.
And with that, all your questions should be answered. Except for that LeBron one. Really, seriously, truly — can anyone vote against him? On that one, we’ll have to wait and see.
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