Mid-Season Awards (Part I)
Since most NBA teams are at the 40-41 games played mark & we are in the middle of entertainment industry award season, I thought I would slap together some mid-season award lists. I broke this up into a 3-part opus that will deal with the MVP & Coach-o-Year candidates today. Then I will deal with the Rookie-o-year, Most Improved, Defensive, & 6th-Man later. Time to crack open the bubbly & toast the nominees. But since it's only mid-season it does not deserve Dom, something a little bit more mid-range like Korbel will do. Nash can toss back a Molson, which basically is the champagne of Canada.
*--(Records & stats are as of Monday)
MVP: (Alpha order)
Arenas--Has had some explosive performances & also a handful of game-winning shots so far. Shooting the 3-ball great (39.3%) & 2nd in the NBA in scoring. But has not been quite as consistent throughout the year like you would like a MVP-candidate. Don't forget the first month of the season he was awful on the road, and he recently had a subpar week before returning to form last week.
Boozer--Alongside Nash & Dirk, might be the most consistent player game-in, game-out this year. What goes underreported is what a terrific passer he is & he is a wonderful facilitator of a Jazz offense that moves the ball only second to the Suns. 4th in the NBA in rebounds (11.8) & 8th in FG % (56.2).
Bryant--Another MVP-caliber season for Kobe even though the knee surgery seems to have robbed him a little bit of his hops. 4th in the NBA in scoring with 28 per & dropping 5.5 apg & rpg. Really has embraced his leadership role with Odom out and is basically the wise elder statesmen for the Lakers.
Duncan--Seems to be purposely pacing himself waiting for the playoffs, and Pop seems to be encouraging this mentality by limiting his minutes to 34 per. His scoring is down to 19.8ppg, but he is shooting close to 54% & is 7th in blocks. Gets bonus points for being the best defender on this list; still goes woefully underappreciated as a defensive player.
KG--Even though the Twolves are .500, KG has done what he is suppose to do on both ends of the floor. Leads the league in rebounds and the Minny fans can count on him every night. Also, averages 4.3apg, 2bpg, & 1.2spg.
James--Not sure why he has been getting passed over in MVP conversation lately, not sure how you can put Gil ahead of him. His scoring is down a few points from last year but his shooting percent is nearly the same as last year. Although, has scuffled a little bit lately and has been inconsistent with his shot in January.
Nash--Some people might not be ready to except the idea of 3-time MVP from the Great White North, but he's playing as good as ever and his 19.3 scoring average is his highest of his career. His ridiculous shooting percentage of 53% overall & 49% from 3pt are also career bests. No surprise he's the NBA assist leader (11.5), but also 2nd in the NBA in 3pt. FG% & 13th in FG%, which the highest for a guard. Also, Jackie Earle Haley's recent surprise Oscar nom could be a good omen for Nash.
Nowitzki--I would say he is hitting his peak. Looking to pass the ball more this year & is shooting at a 50% clip (his highest of his career). Not the defensive liability he's made out to be, has become an adequate defender the last few years under Avery; better in the post. Best player on the best team.
Wade--Playing just as well as last year, if not better, and is just as good as Arenas & Bron. A fair amount of media types are not mentioning Wade enough because the Heat are below .500. But it be will funny when the Heat get on a roll when Shaq gets back, & Wade's name will start to be back in contention in their minds, but his production will probably be the same as now. Turnovers do need to come down & his 3pt shooting is still a sorespot, but he wisely does not try to jack up too many.
MY MVP PICK: Dirk, but Nash is nipping at his heels. Then I would bunch together Arenas, Bron, Kobe, & Wade in any order you want right below Nash . Can't really separate those 4 at this point. Then I would have Boozer followed by KG, then Duncan.
COACH-of-YEAR: Right now there is no coach who has really distinguished himself above the fray; I can't think of a team who has wildy exceeded expectations. Dwayne Casey would have been on this list but the Wolves' brass inexplicably fired him. Let's look at the candidates:
Brian Hill--The Magic have been slightly better than one would expect and have been one of the East leaders for most of the season until a recent cold snap. Have to hand it to Brian Hill for being able to grind out wins with significant time missed by Jameer, Hill, & Hedo. Coach Hill has slowed the tempo knowing he does not have much offensive firepower even when healthy & relied on tough defense based around his bigs, which is the key to their early success.
P. Jackson--Has the Lakers currently at 27-15, which would be the best record in the East right now. He has done this with Odom & Kwame missing a ton of time. Although, he has been helped by having a schedule skewed toward home games. The Lakers have one of the deepest teams in the NBA in my estimation, which has made things easier on Phil. One knock against Phil is that the defense has not been that great, and the quality will vary wildly from game-to-game.
Sam Mitchell--How bout a little love for Sammy. Although Sam seems to be a lame duck coach, he needs some props for having his Raps playing near .500 ball & fighting for a Sh-Atlantic title. Consider he had to integrate alot of new players around Bosh--4 of his starting 5 is new arrivals, and don't forget about Bargnani & Fred--and the defense has slowly improved throughout the year. Also, the Raps have played 4 more road games than home so far and Bosh sat out 12 games.
Bryon Scott--Might be doing as good as job as last year by having the Hornets only 3.5 games out of the West 8-seed. Injuries have ravaged the Hornets as bad as any team in the NBA: David West (30 games missed), Peja (26), Paul (12), & Bob Jackson (21). I thought the Hornets did not have much of a bench at the start on the season, but guys like Rashual Butler, Pargo, & D. Brown have really stepped up their play.
Sloan--Doing the typical things that Sloan teams do--great ball movement, good shot selection, and gritty defense. Although, the defense is a little too gritty--the Jazz have a great Def FG%, but they sort of cancel that out with fouling way too much (Utah is #1 in fouls committed). Having his roster much healthier than last year explains some of the Jazz's early season success, but I think the Jazz are somewhat better than I expected even with a healthy roster.
Van Gundy--Another solid job by one of the best coaches in the NBA. Yao has now missed about a month, & McGrady has missed 8 games and once again he gets max effort from his squad on the defensive end, where the Rockets are clearly the best defensive team. Van Gundy does this every year no matter the talent he's dealt. Currently the Rockets are 25-16 and have played 5 more road games than home.
MY PICK: I guess I am going with Sam Mitchell, believe it or not. This pick might be slightly loony, but then again I can't really make a strong case for any other coach. Like mentioned above, Sam has had to get use to 4 new starters, his best player missing 12 games, & playing a schedule with 4 more road games so far. All of this with the rumors that he's just warming the seat for Marc Iavaroni. Brian Hill is my close runner-up.