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by user Wtt02005
With the playoffs in less than a month, it is time to honor those individuals for their performance during the season.
Rookie of the Year: Chris Paul. Often compared to Jason Kidd when he entered the draft, Paul has lived up to the hype. Paul is averaging 16.1 points, 5.2 rebounds, and 7.9 assists this season which are fantastic numbers for a rookie. Though a rookie, he has stepped into the leadership role easily, replacing former Hornets point guard Baron Davis. His leadership has revived the franchise that still has a chance to make the playoffs. The Hornets are currently the ninth seed in the West, two games behind the Sacramento Kings. Paul has accomplished two amazing feats before even completing his first year in the NBA. In February, he competed in the Skills Challenge, and a few weeks ago, he was one of the twenty-three players chosen to represent the USA Olympic team. He is clearly the rookie of the year but definitely not a rookie for long.
Most Improved Player: Boris Diaw The forward from the Phoenix Suns, Boris Diaw was a mere throw-in in the Atlanta-Phoenix trade. Upon coming to Phoenix, he quickly adapted to the up-tempo style of the Phoenix Suns and eventually earned the starting center spot. Despite the two triple-doubles he had this season, I think his breakout game was the one in which he started as center against the Houston Rockets. He harassed Yao Ming all game, getting into the passing lanes, battling for position, and disrupting his shot. When I saw that game, I knew Diaw for real. Diaw’s averages have doubled and tripled this season, and he clearly deserves the award.
Honorable Mention: David West: Like Diaw, he has doubled and tripled his numbers from last season. West became a double-double threat nearly overnight. The reasons Diaw earns the award are that the Suns are a much more successful team, and Diaw had two triple-doubles. In addition, Diaw has improved his playmaking skill which is very difficult to do.
6th man: Mike Miller The pool for the 6th man of the year award is quite slim. I would be content if they did not name a winner. Mike Miller, like any other Grizzly player, has probably switched from starter to bench player throughout his career. However, this season, Miller has been a permanent bench player. His 13.8 points off the bench are instant offense and benefit the team greatly. The reason I give him the award is because he already played a 41 point game and occasionally has a double-double.
Maurice Williams: En route to a no contest 6th man of the year season in which he was constantly scoring 20-30 points and outperforming T.J. Ford, Williams found himself knocked out of the running due to an assortment of injuries. He has not played much these last two months.
Defensive Player of the Year: Andrei Kirilenko This award is perhaps long overdue as Kirilenko has shown to be one of the premier blockers in the game today. Unfortunately, numerous injuries kept him off the court, leaving the award open for players like Ben Wallace and Ron Artest. This year, Kirilenko is on pace to play at least seventy games.. His numbers have returned to form, especially his 3.1 blocks. Kirilenko’s all-around defensive game was perhaps most noticeable in last week’s unlikely triple-double of 15 points, 14 rebounds, and 10 blocks.
Honorable Mention: Bruce Bowen: Another award perhaps long overdue, Bruce Bowen has been a model of defensive consistency for the Spurs. The last time he was eligible for the award was when he lost to Ron Artest. He has not changed much this year (it is really hard to make defense visible if you are not a major rebounder or shot blocker), but he continues to guard the other team’s best player and rarely plays offense.
Coach of the Year: Mike D’Antoni This award is a hard one because there are many deserving coaches. However, I believe D’Antoni deserves the honor because he did not change his system. Even without Stoudemire, D’Antoni retained the relentless up-and-down style that made the Suns successful last season. The result: a Phoenix team that will run away with the Pacific Division and still is leading the league in scoring.
Honorable Mentions: Flip Saunders: Nearly the entire first half of the season, many people believed that the Pistons would have the league’s best season record by April. Though this will not be the case, you have to give credit to Saunders for opening up the offense and making the team better than before. However, I do feel that he did inherit a good team (remember, they were just one game away from the Championship).
Avery Johnson: Don Nelson’s replacement, Avery Johnson has shown no signs of being a new coach. The current Dallas Mavericks are the best team the franchise has ever seen and could be the first seed by season’s end. Johnson has instilled a defensive mentality which was originally an afterthought in past seasons. However, this may also be due to the team acquiring and utilizing more defensive-minded players in Diop, Dampier, and Griffin, instead of former players like Walker, Finley, and Van Exel.
Most Valuable Player: Steve Nash Once again, another tough call. Steve Nash clearly deserves the award because I have not seen any other team collapse so completely than a team without Nash. Fans saw this last year when Nash missed five games, resulting in the Suns experiencing a losing streak. This season, a possible postseason preview between the Spurs and the Suns was spoiled by Nash’s ankle sprain that kept him from participating. The Spurs would blowout the Suns without any problems. Nash is once again the MVP.
Honorable Mentions: Kobe Bryant: I may take heat for this one. In my opinion, Kobe Bryant’s scoring rampage has catapulted Bryant from just an all-star to the NBA’s greatest players. When a player scorches teams with 60-80 points, that player has clearly set a new bar in this generation of basketball. The only thing preventing him from receiving the award is that the Lakers are not as successful as people want them to be.
Chauncey Billups: Billups’ points and assists are very good this season. He has perhaps solved the point guard’s dilemma of finding a balance between scoring and distributing. However, what places him in the MVP category is that he’s the team’s go-to-guy at the end of games. Billups is the Pistons’ best clutch shooter. However, unfortunately for Billups, the team is just that good that the team would not suffer greatly should he have to sit out. In addition, I do not believe Billups is more valuable than either of the Wallaces.
LeBron James: In my opinion, the third candidate for the award behind Nash and Kobe. Lebron’s numbers are similar with the exception of an 3.0 increase in points. What makes this season a MVP season for Lebron is that the Cavaliers will actually make the playoffs with a decent record. In addition, Lebron has led the team to the postseason without much help. Larry Hughes, the team’s second best player, missed the second half of the season due to a finger injury, and Zydrunas Ilgauskas’ failed to play at an all-star level and missed the mid-season matchup. Lebron truly showed that he was the MVP for this team. Unfortunately, not so much as Kobe and Nash who both play in much more competitive divisions.
Mon 03/27/06, 4:39 pm EST