The NBA All-Star Game isn’t exactly played in the middle of the season. For most teams, there are around 30 games remaining before the end of the 82 game season. However, with there being an actual break in the action there isn’t a better time to reflect on the first few months of the season, with a look at who would win the individual awards. At least according to Sports & Swag, that is. A lot of the awards are quite debatable, but one that isn’t debatable in my opinion is the top individual award. MVP.
MVP:KEVIN DURANT (OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER) – Let’s see….. His team has the best record in the game at 43-12. Not only does his team have the best record, but they have the best record while they’re second best player, Russell Westbrook, has only played in 25 of the team’s 55 games. He leads the NBA in scoring with 31.5 ppg. He went on an incredible streak where he scored 30 or more points in 12 consecutive games. The only reason it didn’t go to 13 or beyond was because he was taken out by his coach, Scott Brooks, early in the 4th quarter after the Thunder had built a huge lead. That game he only scored 26 points. There are only two things that most people thought that Durant needed to work on about his game. Low post game, and aggressiveness. Durant’s low-post game still may not be where some would like it to be, but his aggressiveness is definitely one of the main reasons for his excellent play so far this season. It remains to be seen how things will play out once Westbrook gets back, but one thing is for sure. No disrespect to Lebron James or maybe even Blake Griffin, but if Durant keeps on this pace, he may have to clear space on his trophy case for two trophies. MVP and an NBA Title……
MIP: (Most Improved Player)
BLAKE GRIFFIN (LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS) – Kevin Durant isn’t the only player who has thrived with his star point being injured for a significant amount of time. Since his rookie season in 2009, Blake Griffin has been one of the more criticized players in the game. With good reason. He seems to be on a mission to silence those critics this season, and his mission has been accomplished so far. Griffin’s numbers are up in just about every major category from his 2013 stats, where he averaged 18 points and 8.3 rebounds in 32.5 minutes per game. This season, Griffin is averaging 24.2 points and 9.8 rebounds in 36.5 minutes per game. The rebounds are still well below the 12.1 boards he averaged in 2011, but they are up from last season. There are other stats that have caught my eye that may get overlooked. Griffin was a 66 percent free throw shooter last season. He’s shooting over 70 percent this season. He’s not only better from the free throw line. He’s getting there more often. In 2013, Griffin made 3.5 trips per game to the line, which is very low for a power forward. This season, he’s making over 6 trips to the line per game. He’s also shooting over 28 percent from three-point range. These stats show, that not only is Griffin working on his game as the improvement from the line would seem to suggest, but he’s also more aggressive. The increased trips to the free throw line prove that. The Clippers also haven’t missed a beat since Chris Paul has been absent. To me, Griffin beats out players like Lance Stephenson and Goran Dragic, and he’s even comparable to a certain extent with Durant and Lebron for MVP. He won’t win that, but still a great season so far for Blake Griffin.
Defensive Player of the Year:
ROY HIBBERT (INDIANA PACERS) – This award is a little tougher decide on. I’ll give Roy Hibbert the nod, simply due to him the anchor of the Pacers defense, which has been the best in the league so far. Hibbert, gets strong competition from New Orleans Pelicans forward Anthony Davis, and Oklahoma City power forward Serge Ibaka. In fact, Hibbert has less blocks than both these guys, but the Pacers overall defense centers around Hibbert. The Pacers center isn’t too shabby averaging 2.6 blocks per game. Slightly below Davis at 3.1 and Ibaka at 2.8. The Pacers are still one of the more interesting stories around the NBA, as they continue on their quest to deny the Miami Heat a chance to three-peat as NBA champions.
Sixth Man of the Year:
TAJ GIBSON (CHICAGO BULLS) – Although, he’s already started more games than he did all of last year due to injuries to Carlos Boozer, Taj Gibson has pretty much made a name for himself over the years as being an enforcer coming off the bench for the Bulls. Gibson, falls perfectly in line with Tom Thibodeau and the Bulls blue-collar style of play, but he’s also improved offensively. He’s averaging a career high 12.9 points per game so far, while still performing well defensively and on the boards. In fact, I would say Gibson is more important to the Bulls than Boozer, who has been rumored to be on his way out of the Windy City for a while now. While I would go with Gibson for Sixth Man right now, don’t look for him on this list after this season. A spot in the Bulls starting 5 may be his permanently starting next season.
Coach of the Year:
JEFF HORNACEK (PHOENIX SUNS) – Raise your hands if you thought the Phoenix Suns would be 30-21, in 7th place in the rough Western Conference, and be one of the more exciting teams to watch on a nightly basis. OK. Keep them raised if you thought the Suns could do this with their star point guard, Eric Bledsoe sidelined for the rest of the season due to injury. If you’re still raising your hand, you’re either not telling the truth or you’re auditioning for the next deodorant commercial from Right Guard. Seriously, the job Jeff Hornacek has done in the desert is nothing short of amazing. The Suns up tempo style is not only exciting to watch, but it’s a style that fits players like Goran Dragic and Markieff Morris very well. Which brings me to another reason beyond their win/loss record, as to why Hornacek is the Coach of the Year so far. Goran Dragic and Markieff Morris. These are two of the players that are leading the way for the Suns resurgence. There aren’t any superstars. There aren’t even many true veterans on the roster, as the Suns are one of the NBA’s youngest teams. They will receive a lot of pressure from teams like Memphis, Dallas, and maybe even Minnesota to hold on to that spot, but regardless of how this season ends, Hornacek has made himself into a hot commodity and he has the Suns looking like one of the better up and coming teams in the NBA.
So, there you have it. The mid-season NBA Awards as I see it. These obviously can change as the season comes to an end over the next couple of months. What do you think? Whether you agree or disagree. Let me know about it. Comments are always welcome and also feel free to follow me on G+, Twitter and Facebook.