A Substitute for War

Basketball philosophy

Predictions, Predictions, Predictions everywhere: 2011-2012 NBA Awards Picks

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Derrick Rose

Derrick Rose's position as the lone superstar on a league best team gives him an MVP race advantage (Image via Wikipedia)

Who’s winning the major awards in this shortened NBA season?

Here’s my picks:

Sixth Man of the Year: James Harden. Not an original pick at all but it’s the obvious choice. The Thunder will likely have one of the best records which together with making a jump as a player, will give Harden the profile and narrative to win the awards. Harden could even make the all-star team this year. When a team jumps out to the best record in their conference, Harden getting in like Jameer Nelson did the year the Magic were the league’s best story is reasonable.

Coach of the Year: George Karl. The Coach of the Year award has morphed into the “Coach of the most surprising team” award lately, so if the Nuggets jump out to a top 4 record in the Western Conference Karl will fit that metric. He’s also a true veteran coach and has coached succesful teams for quite some time – but has never won coach of the year. This is another reason for them to finally give him one.

Rookie of the Year: Kyrie Irving. I could see Irving, Jimmer Fredette, Kemba Walker, Brandon Knight and Ricky Rubio all have similarly impressive rookie seasons statistically. The difference in Irving’s case is I expect the Cavaliers to be a better than than all of those other players’. Which may be a result of having a good frontcourt and good 3pt shooting, but Irving’s presence will get a lot of credit for it if they surprise.

Most Improved Player: Jrue Holliday. I dislike the idea of giving most improved player to someone in their first 3 years as improvement via natural development is expected – Though Kevin Love’s win last year sets a precedent enough for them to give it to Holliday if he breaks out. I have Holliday making a leap to an all-star caliber player this season as the clear best guy on a good Sixers team.

Defensive Player of the Year: Andrew Bogut. After Dwight Howard winning the last 3, this is about the time for voters to get silly and vote for someone else just to shake it up. Bogut led the league in blocks last season and will likely be playing on a league best defensive team in the Bucks – Howard could very well have a split season between the Magic and a new team he’s traded to, or if he stays on the Magic they may be distracted and underwhelming all year. It’s enough for Bogut to sneak in to win the award this time.

Most Valuable Player: Derrick Rose.

This is an extremely tough Most Valuable Player race to predict because it appears everyone has their warts preventing them from making them easy choices.

Lebron James? Like last year, the presence of Dwyane Wade on his team hurts his case – As well as the fact that some writers may act against adding an MVP to Lebron’s resume before he comes through in the playoffs

Kevin Durant? Likewise, I believe he’ll face problems he had last year in the MVP race. Russell Westbrook dominating the ball and being the team’s playmaker, gives him the appearance of the driving force of the team on many nights. And other candidates like Lebron and Rose having both scoring and playmaking games gives them an element Durant doesn’t have. Durant needs to have a truly special scoring season to win MVP this year but I believe Harden’s emergence as a scorer and Westbrook’s continued shooting, will keep him at a similar volume as last season.

Dirk Nowitzki? My pick a month ago, but I hate what the Mavericks did to their roster this offseason. Offensively, they’ll hurt from having less 3pt shooters and will missing Chandler’s inside scorers, and they’ll miss the latter’s dual defensive presence with Brendan Haywood. Unlike last year, this year’s Mavericks don’t fit particularly strongly. They’ll be good, but perhaps closer to a middle playoff seed than in the mix for 1 or 2 which is what Dirk needed to win MVP.

Chris Paul? He can be a frontrunner if the Clippers jump into a top 2 seed in the West. At the moment I don’t see them playing defense well enough to get that high in the conference. Furthermore I could see Blake Griffin being such a dominant force this year that it’s hard to give Paul MVP.

Carmelo Anthony? Perhaps the biggest darkhorse as he could very well lead the league in scoring this year, but he’d need the Knicks to move into contention for the #1 or #2 seeds in the East and at the moment the Heat and Bulls appear to be far too strong as teams, while the Knicks are incomplete until they add depth and Baron Davis gets healthy.

And that leaves Derrick Rose. Who’s biggest wart is that he won it last year. But if you remove that and look and what normally determines MVPs – Essentially, who’s a single dominant force on a 1 or 2 seed in either conference – Rose’s case fits the most. Thus I wonder how much the “Back to back MVPs for DERRICK ROSE?” factor will play its part. After all, it’s not any more weird than Steve Nash winning back to back MVPs. Especially if he is even better statistically, which I believe is the key factor in Rose making an MVP push. As impressive as Rose was statistically last season, he can take it to an even higher level. He averaged 6.9 FTA/game last season, when superstars can commonly will their way to 8-10 FTAs a game. He averaged 7.7 assists per game but is in a better position to get them this year with a healthy Carlos Boozer and Joakim Noah and Rip Hamilton playing SG instead of Keith Bogans. If Rose’s efficiency makes a leap and he starts putting up 9-10 assists per game, his statistical improvement could make it easy to make a case for him as MVP again. And of course it depends on the Bulls being really, REALLY good again, which I believe will happen with a healthy lineup and Rip added. The main reason Rose won MVP last year is that as the lone all-star on his team, the Bulls outperformed the Heat with Lebron, Wade and Bosh, the Lakers with both Kobe and Gasol, the Thunder with both Durant and Westbrook, etc.. If the Bulls finish 1st in the league again with Rose as the lone star, it’s easy to see the MVP case being made for Rose, again.

Stay tuned for my Finals and champion picks in the next few days

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