Allen- The NBA all-star break is finally here and it has been a fairly predictable season. It's time for mid-season awards, which have had some surprises. The only major surprise so far other than the major injuries has been the abomination of Los Angeles Lakers this season. The super team has struggled for most of the season with their being no chemistry. Don't expect them to win much of anything in this column or anything in 2012-2013 season. Before I get into the choices, I'm here with Michael Ryne to discuss the awards.
Michael- Outside of a few categories, this NBA season has been pretty cut and dry for me in terms of who should receive the respective accolades. Maybe it means I have grown some stronger convictions or perhaps some players in the league have really stepped up and shined, while I can't help but notice them. Either way, these are my guys who have made the most noise on the court during the first half.
Allen- LeBron James (Runner-up: Carmelo Anthony)
I've been really impressed with Carmelo Anthony this season and he has really taken his game to the next level in terms of being a team leader. Despite his great regular season, I have to take LeBron James here. The fact that he's attempting 18 shots a game and is averaging 56% from the field is unbelievable. Those are historic numbers and he's become a better three point shooter at 42%. He continues to evolve his game from hitting the mid-range jump shot consistently last year to hitting three pointers consistently this year.
Michael - LeBron James (Runner-up: Kevin Durant)
Earlier this week, I wrote an article documenting the historic shooting run LeBron has had here in the month of February. He's head and shoulders above the rest of the NBA and as much as I would like to award the MVP to Kevin Durant or talk about Carmelo Anthony, I just can't justify not giving it to the most impressive player to hit the NBA in 15 years.
Rookie of the Year
Allen- Damian Lillard (Runner-up: Bradley Beal)
There shouldn't be any debate here. Lillard has developed into a star on Portland and he's brought optimism to Portland, something that the franchise has lacked for a few years. It was expected for him to contribute to Portland, since he was going to be a starter but he has exceeded expectations so far averaging 18 points per game. Most rookies have had their moments this year, but nobody else has really stood out. I'm leaning towards Beal as the runner up, since he's started to stand out the most after a slow start.
Michael - Damian Lillard (Runner-up: Bradley Beal) This was an easy choice. In a year where almost all of the rookies have had growing pains and issues, Lillard has been the most consistent contributor since day one. Bradley Beal has come on as of late and Andre Drummond surprisingly has the best PER rating of any rookie, but this is a no-brainier for me.
Defensive Player of the Year
Allen- Joakim Noah (Runner-up: Serge Ibaka)
Noah has always been a workhorse, but he's stepped up this year when Chicago needed his defensive presence the most. Without Derrick Rose, the Bulls knew that they were going to have to win games by playing elite defense. They are 4th in the league of defensive efficiency and Noah has led the way. He averages 11 rebounds a game with 2 blocks and a steal per game. Ibaka has become an enforcer at 3 blocks per game, while Oklahoma City is still one of the best defensive teams in the league.
Michael- Joakim Noah (Runner-up: Serge Ibaka)
Tom Thibodeau gets much of the credit in Chicago for leading one of the best defensive teams each year, but Joakim Noah is the anchor on the floor. He's average a career-high in blocks and challenges any shot that comes near him. He's also one of the best rebounders in the NBA.
Coach of the Year
Allen- Mike Woodson (Runner-up: Gregg Popovich)
I've always felt that Mike Woodson was an underachiever in Atlanta with a talented roster, but his team never did anything notable in the playoffs. Now he's doing a fantastic job in New York with an old roster, along with getting big years out of Raymond Felton and Tyson Chandler. I'm not sure if anyone had the Knicks as the second seed going into the all-star break, which makes this even more special. As for Popovich, the fact that the Spurs are 42-12 going into the all-star break with an old team is remarkable. I've been waiting for the past three years for the Spurs to decline, yet they are consistently in the top 3 in the Western Conferences year in and year out.
Michael- Mike Woodson (Runner-up: Tom Thibodeau)
It's difficult to choose just one out of many worthy candidates. Thibodeau has a painfully average roster in a transitional year in Chicago and they're still winning. However, this time last year, the New York Knicks were a middling average Eastern team who couldn't play a lick of defense. Now, they're at the top of the Conference and Carmelo Anthony is an MVP candidate. A ton of credit goes to Mike Woodson for turning this team around and giving the heralded franchise a true direction.
Sixth Man of the Year
Allen- Jamal Crawford (Runner-up: Kevin Martin)
This is a two man race for me. Many people are putting J.R Smith in the hunt, but he's too inconsistent to win this award. It comes down to two players, but I'm going to pick Crawford. He's averaging 17 points per game, while giving the Clippers a major upgrade in the six man role after their bench struggled last season. Martin has averaged 43% from three point range and has been just as good as James Harden was last season for Oklahoma City.
Michael- Jamal Crawford (Runner-up: Kevin Martin) There's four big names this year for Sixth Man of the Year. Jarrett Jack and J.R. Smith have been spectacular for their teams, but it's between Kevin Martin and Jamal Crawford for me. He's the perfect high volume scorer off the bench and fits in tremendously with the Clippers.
Most Improved Player
Allen- Paul George (Runner-up: O.J Mayo)
Indiana has lost their franchise player to Danny Granger for a long period of time, yet they are still 32-21 as a 3rd seed. The improvement of Paul George has kept them afloat and he's given Indiana a true number two option. He's taken the role of being Danny Granger for the past few months by being an all-around playmaker, which gives him this award so far. Mayo has been an underachiever so far in his career, but going to Dallas was the best move of his career. He is averaging a career high in field goal percentage, three point percentage, and assists while proving Mark Cuban smart for taking a chance on him.
Michael- Paul George (Runner-up: Greivis Vasquez)
Paul George is so good that within the next two years, we'll be discussing him as an MVP candidate rather than Most Improved. He made his first All-Star team this year and is averaging a career-high in points, steals, rebounds and assists. He's only 22-years old and is going to get much better. Greivis Vasquez has been a saving grace for an awful New Orleans Hornets team this year and not many people realize he's almost averaging a double-double.
Most Surprising Team
Allen- Golden State Warriors (Runner-up: New York Knicks)
The Warriors had a lot of talent going into this season, but I was skeptical of them because they had a few notable injury prone players on their roster. Stephen Curry has shaken off the injury bug and has put together an all-star caliber season. The Warrior are eight games over 500 and I didn't expect them to be that good into the all-star break. The Knicks were going to be around a top four seed, instead they are close to the fist seed. I'm still surprised they have shown signs of an elite team and they could be a legitimate threat to beat the Heat in the playoffs.
Michael - Golden State Warriors (Runner-up: Chicago Bulls)
A lot of people were mention the Denver Nuggets, but I actually expected them to be very good this year and said so in my NBA preview. The Warriors, however, I did not think would be one of the better teams in the West. Stephen Curry was the biggest All-Star snub this year and David Lee should have started over Dwight Howard. The Chicago Bulls cut half their roster looking forward to the future and Derrick Rose has been out all season long, while still playing great basketball. They deserve recognition.
Most Disappointing Team
Allen- Los Angeles Lakers (Runner-up: Boston Celtics)
This is probably the easiest pick out of all of them. The Lakers have been a complete disappointment with Dwight Howard becoming a diva and Pau Gasol becoming completely underutilized. Instead of contending for the championship, they are trying to contend for a 7th or 8th seed. It has been an absolute disaster and they are already waiting for the off-season to come. The Philadelphia 76ers have been a disappointment, but they get a pass because Andrew Bynum has been injured. Even though they have improved, Boston was healthy in the early part of the regular season and they were under .500. That is unacceptable for a team that was one game away from the NBA Finals last season.
Michael- Los Angeles Lakers (Runner-up: Philadelphia 76ers)
You can't not choose the Lakers. Adding Dwight Howard and Steve Nash along with a plethora of bench talent and it has been a disaster. The 76ers quietly became a joke in the East just one year removed from a playoff run.
All-NBA Team 1
G- Chris Paul
G- Kobe Bryant
F- LeBron James
F- Kevin Durant
C- Brook Lopez
It was really hard to keep Carmelo Anthony off the list, but Kevin Durant and LeBron James are having better seasons. Brook Lopez may be a surprise for not only staying healthy, but actually having a productive season. No center has been as good as him this year. The guard positions aren't debatable and have been the best at their respective positions.
G - Chris Paul
G - Kobe Bryant
F - LeBron James
F - Kevin Durant
C - Brook Lopez
You've got three guys in LeBron, Durant and Paul who should be unanimous choices for the first team. Kobe Bryant will have to fend off Dwyane Wade while Brook Lopez is quietly having an extremely good year for the Nets and really has established himself as the top center in the NBA.
All-NBA Team 2
G- Kyrie Irving
G- James Harden
F- Carmelo Anthony
F- Blake Griffin
C- Al Horford
Similar to Carmelo Anthony, it was really hard to keep Tony Parker off the second team. James Harden has made Houston into a possible playoff team, while becoming an all-around leader. He has made more of an impact more than Tony Parker. The rest of the choices were easy, although some may be surprised by Horford. He's almost averaging a double-double and has been very efficient this season.
G - Kyrie Irving
G - Tony Parker
F - Carmelo Anthony
F - Blake Griffin
C - Joakim Noah
Despite this being the second team, we still have two viable MVP candidates with Carmelo Anthony and Tony Parker. I thought Irving should have been the starting PG in the East over Rajon Rondo and Blake Griffin continues to flourish thanks to having the best PG in the NBA setting him up perfectly. Joakim Noah made his first All-Star team this season and could be on his way to making his first All-NBA team as well.
All-NBA Team 3
G- Russell Westbrook
G- Tony Parker
F- Paul Pierce
F- David Lee
C- Tyson Chandler
Tim Duncan has missed too many games to be on the list, which makes David Lee the next viable pick. Lee has been his usual consistent self this season, along with the Warriors being involved in the playoff race. I refuse to take Dwight Howard over someone like Tyson Chandler. Chandler has been a workhorse this season and has been more involved offensively this year. Howard has been a complete disappointment and needs to make a change whether it's to take the rest of the season off due to injury issues or his character.
G - Russell Westbrook
G - James Harden
F - Paul George
F - Tim Duncan
C - Dwight Howard
You have three incredibly dynamic players on this team. Westbrook, Harden and George are the future of the NBA while Duncan continues to pad his Hall of Fame resume and has a legitimate shot to win another Championship. Dwight Howard barely made this team for me over Tyson Chandler.
G- Dion Waiters
F- Anthony Davis
C- Andre Drummond
You would think the team would be tough to pick, but their hasn't been much competition. Lillard, Beal, and Drummond were locks to make the team. Davis has been playing better and looking more like a number one pick after having some injury issues earlier in the season. Dion Waiters has averaged 14 points per game, while giving much needed support to Kyrie Irving for Cleveland.
It has been a tough year this season for rookies as many of them have struggled outside of Lillard. Still players like Beal and Waiters have finally showed flashes of their talent and Anthony Davis has begun looking like the number one overall pick. As I said earlier, Andre Drummond has the PER rating of any rookie and it's unfortunate his minutes get limited by players like Jason Maxiell.
Michael - So often the second half can completely derail all the assumptions we built up during the first. A team can come out of nowhere and take the league by storm with a random player you may have never have suspected could get a shot to make a name for himself and he does so. With the trade deadline coming up, a huge shift in the NBA could happen. Always exciting to see what can take place. Thanks to Allen for having me collaborate with him on this piece. This outro was sorely needed simply because I didn't want my last words in the article be "Jason Maxiell."
Allen - Jason Maxiell, 60% of the readers are saying who? I'm expecting Josh Smith to join the Nets to make them a complete juggernaut. They could make a push towards the second seed if they make that move. This is where will see teams go on six game winning streaks or four game losing streaks. It's time to make the playoff push after experimenting rotations. It's critical to get at least one round of home court advantage. That is all for now and I'm sure both of us will talk again soon, as the season gets closer to the playoffs. Thanks for reading.
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