Philadelphia, PA (SportsNetwork.com) - The regular season is behind us.
The postseason awaits.
In two short months from now, the NBA will crown its champion, but before then, there are individual honors to be passed out. We shall examine who is most deserving and who will actually win because, let's face it, the two aren't always the same.
Should Win: KEVIN DURANT, OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER
Will Win: Durant
Other Names: LeBron James, Miami Heat
Yes, Durant secured this award awhile ago, but he had to ward off a challenge from James. Durant led the league in scoring again, but his consistently high output was something to behold.
Durant scored 25 or more points in 41 straight games, which is the third- longest streak in NBA history. His season average of 32 points per game is the highest since Kobe Bryant in the 2005-06 campaign.
Durant's other numbers are extraordinary as well. His averages of 7.4 rebounds and 5.5 assists per game made him one of three players in the league along with Joakim Noah and Nicolas Batum to average seven-plus rebounds and five-plus assists.
Oh, and the Thunder were fantastic and Durant was one of the main reasons. With Russell Westbrook, Thabo Sefolosha and Kendrick Perkins all missing significant time, Durant still led OKC to the second-best record in the association.
Finally, don't discount the idea that voters are tired of voting for James, who has won the award the last two seasons and four out of five. That never hurts, but don't trivialize Durant's performance. It was historic and worthy.
COACH OF THE YEAR
Should Win: JEFF HORNACEK, PHOENIX SUNS
Will Win: Gregg Popovich, San Antonio Spurs
Other Names: Steve Clifford, Charlotte Bobcats; Tom Thibodeau, Chicago Bulls; Terry Stotts, Portland Trail Blazers
Hornacek took a team, which I boldly and dumbly picked as the 29th-best in the league before the season, and got them within a game of making the playoffs.
With a rotation of Eric Bledsoe, Goran Dragic, the Morris twins (Marcus and Markieff), Channing Frye, P.J. Tucker, Gerald Green and Miles Plumlee, Hornacek got a 48-34 record.
And he did it in the Western Conference!
Sure, that ultimately cost him a playoff berth and if Phoenix was actually located in Ohio, Hornacek could've gotten the third seed in the Eastern Conference. but missing the playoffs doesn't matter.
When teams with such low expectations start well, people call it an anomaly. Remember, the Philadelphia 76ers opened with three straight wins, then went 1-200 through February and March. Phoenix maintained it all season long.
Also, Hornacek got the most out of players like Dragic and Green (more on them later), and made the Morris twins into a force. It's not just about the record for this award. A major aspect of coaching is development and it's impossible to ignore what Hornacek did with the Suns this season.
DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR
Should Win: JOAKIM NOAH, CHICAGO BULLS
Will Win: Noah
Other Names: Roy Hibbert, Indiana Pacers; DeAndre Jordan, Los Angeles Clippers
Noah is the best defensive player on the best defensive team in the league. The Bulls finished first in opponents' scoring and second in opponents' field- goal percentage and Noah is the biggest reason why.
Noah is a rim protector and rebounder, but what separates him from other rim protectors is that he can move out to the perimeter and still defend at a high level.
Hibbert had a stranglehold on the award, but regressed badly this season. Plus, while he may be a better shot blocker, Noah's versatility gives him the edge.
You know what else is nice about giving this to Noah? He cares about defense as much as offense. Hibbert and Jordan focus completely on defense and have marginal offensive games. Noah didn't sacrifice his offense to be a stud defender.
SIXTH MAN OF THE YEAR
Should Win: TAJ GIBSON, CHICAGO BULLS
Will Win: Jamal Crawford, Los Angeles Clippers
Other Names: Markieff Morris, Phoenix Suns; Manu Ginobili, San Antonio Spurs; Reggie Jackson, Oklahoma City Thunder; Vince Carter, Dallas Mavericks
This is one of those technicality awards that drives me crazy. I'm taking a stand so my vote went to Gibson over Crawford for one simple reason - he came off the bench more often.
Crawford started 24 of the 69 games he played. Gibson got introduced with pyrotechnics and loud music just eight times in all 82 games. Sorry, but that's enough to sway me.
Gibson was very good this season. Crawford is spectacular for the Clippers, but Gibson is more important to the Bulls. Gibson becomes the formidable defensive force with Noah on the interior and Gibson usurped Carlos Boozer as the team's fourth-quarter power forward.
In almost 29 minutes a game, Gibson averaged 13 points and 6.8 rebounds and shot 48 percent from the field. He improved his game to score from the perimeter as easily on the interior.
ROOKIE OF THE YEAR
Should Win: MICHAEL CARTER-WILLIAMS, PHILADELPHIA 76ERS
Will Win: Carter-Williams
Other Names: Victor Oladipo, Orlando Magic
This award is going to be the one where voters outsmart themselves.
See, since the Sixers actively stunk, some pundits are going to hold Carter- Williams accountable and give the honor to Oladipo.
There are two flaws with that rationale:
1. The Orlando Magic, while not quite at the aroma level of the Sixers, also actively stunk. They finished with a 23-59 record, which was four games better than Philly.
2. Oladipo has no statistical claim to the title. Carter-Williams led all rookies in scoring, rebounding, assists and steals. Only three players have led first-year players in scoring, rebounding and assists - MCW, Alvin Adams and Oscar freaking Robertson!
Here's another one - what three players in NBA history averaged at least 16 points, six rebounds and six assists as a rookie? Carter-Williams, Oscar freaking Robertson! and Magic Johnson!
Yeah, Oladipo deserves it so much more than Carter-Williams for his team's .280 winning percentage and infinitely less historic first season.
MOST IMPROVED PLAYER
Should Win: ANTHONY DAVIS, NEW ORLEANS PELICANS
Will Win: Too close to call
Other Names: Goran Dragic, Phoenix Suns; Gerald Green, Phoenix Suns; Lance Stephenson, Indiana Pacers; Blake Griffin, Los Angeles Clippers
Figuring out the Most Improved Player is tougher than overcooked steak.
Here's what I know - I'll never support a player who just gets more minutes and that's the reason his numbers jumped. Goodbye, Green.
I kind of like the idea of bestowing the title on a star who became a superstar, but Griffin is a tough sell. He has improved his overall game and isn't that the point?
Stephenson had some claim to this trophy, but his season went down-hill a little too much.
So what made Davis the choice over Dragic? (Let me be clear, I can make a case for both.)
Davis' numbers improved a little bit more than Dragic's. Davis went from 13.5 ppg to 20.8. His rebounding jumped from 8.2 to 10.0 and his blocks rocketed from 1.8 to 2.8, which led the league. That was the deciding factor - Davis visibly improved on both sides of the ball.
Dragic's scoring leapt up by six from last season, but his assists went down. That's not a deal-breaker, but Davis made a slightly stronger case.
- Again, too much to do, so only the good stuff:
- Movie moment - I am an expert on a few things - "Seinfeld," "Star Wars," some wrestling things, grilling. I'm not an expert on this subject, but I speak with total confidence in saying that making a sequel of "Mrs. Doubtfire" is one of the most galactically stupid ideas in the history of modern civilization.
- TV moment - I'll give "Fargo" of FX a shot. There is so much worthless garbage on television at the moment, it's staggering, so Billy Bob Thornton and a show based on a movie I liked passes as enough to intrigue me.