Nothin' but Net: Handing out the hardware

10:39 AM, Apr 17, 2013   |    comments
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Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - The NBA's regular season winds down Wednesday night with all 15 teams in action, so it's time to hand out the awards.

Let's not waste any time.

Here is a list of candidates for each trophy with who will win the award and who should win the award.

MVP

CONTENDERS:

LEBRON JAMES, MIAMI HEAT

KEVIN DURANT, OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER

KOBE BRYANT, LOS ANGELES LAKERS

CARMELO ANTHONY, NEW YORK KNICKS

TIM DUNCAN, SAN ANTONIO SPURS

Who WILL win: James

Who SHOULD win: James

If you don't know why James will or should win this award, I deem you unqualified to continue reading.

COACH OF THE YEAR

CONTENDERS:

ERIK SPOELSTRA, MIAMI HEAT

GREGG POPOVICH, SAN ANTONIO SPURS

KEVIN MCHALE, HOUSTON ROCKETS

GEORGE KARL, DENVER NUGGETS

MIKE WOODSON, NEW YORK KNICKS

WILL: Spoelstra

SHOULD: McHale

Spoelstra guided the Heat to a 27-game winning streak, which is the second- longest in history, and to the best record in the NBA. All the while, Spoelstra has managed a group of stars and even some capable veterans who didn't see much action through the season.

In the absence of a clear-cut candidate, Spoelstra is the safe bet.

But McHale deserves the award. The Rockets imported three new starters to the roster and one, James Harden, came about a week before the start of the season. He took this team, played to their strength as offensive weapons, and guided them to a playoff spot no one saw coming.

While he did all of that, McHale had to endure the agony of losing his daughter, Sasha, to lupus during the campaign. Heartbreak like that is unimaginable, but McHale returned to the sideline and still got the Rockets into the postseason.

Something as harrowing as what McHale went though should not necessarily count in his favor, but it's impossible to ignore.

What separates him from the rest was not only the turnover on the roster, but that was a group that no one saw as overly talented. Jeremy Lin was thought to be a flavor of the month and Omer Asik was seen as a good defender, but not much else.

McHale molded together a group of misfits, maximized Harden's talent and built a winner.

ROOKIE OF THE YEAR

CONTENDERS:

ANTHONY DAVIS, NEW ORLEANS HORNETS

BRADLEY BEAL, WASHINGTON WIZARDS

DAMIAN LILLARD, PORTLAND TRAIL BLAZERS

WILL: Lillard

SHOULD: Lillard

The Weber State product is tied for 12th in the NBA in scoring and will have played every game, assuming he's in the lineup Wednesday against the Golden State Warriors.

Lillard leads all rookies in scoring (19.1 ppg) and assists (6.5). He is 21st in the NBA in free-throw percentage (84.6 percent) and fifth in 3-pointers made (183). The 183 3-pointers are an NBA rookie record and a Portland franchise record.

I don't see this one as close.

DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR

CONTENDERS:

PAUL GEORGE, INDIANA PACERS

TIM DUNCAN, SAN ANTONIO SPURS

MARC GASOL, MEMPHIS GRIZZLIES

LARRY SANDERS, MILWAUKEE BUCKS

JOAKIM NOAH, CHICAGO BULLS

SERGE IBAKA, OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER

WILL: George

SHOULD: Gasol

Marc Gasol has won two games this season by blocking 3-point attempts that could've either tied or won a game. He is the anchor of the league's best defensive unit, which allows just 89.5 ppg and has held 72 of 81 opponents this season under 100 points.

Gasol can do a little of everything defensively and can come out and defend on the wing as well. He rebounds, blocks shots and is always, always in the right spot.

Truth be told, this was probably Noah's prize to lose, but he did just that with missed games late in the season due to plantar fascitis.

Defensive Player of the Year is so hard to gauge and totally subjective. George, James, Tony Allen, Luol Deng and Andre Iguodala are stud on- the-ball defenders and are viewed positively.

Chris Paul and Mike Conley generate steals with aggressive action in passing lanes. Gasol, Sanders, Noah, Duncan, Roy Hibbert and Dwight Howard all protect the rim.

There are a lot of options, so let's reward the best defensive player on the best defensive team.

SIXTH MAN OF THE YEAR

CONTENDERS:

JARRETT JACK, GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS

J.R. SMITH, NEW YORK KNICKS

VINCE CARTER, DALLAS MAVERICKS

JAMAL CRAWFORD, LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS

KEVIN MARTIN, OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER

WILL: Crawford

SHOULD: Smith

This is the best crop of sixth men in the league in quite some time. Carl Landry, Gordon Hayward, Matt Barnes or Andre Miller also could make the list of contenders very easily.

The reason I think Crawford will win is because he has been at the top of this list for most of the season. The Clippers have the best bench in the league and Crawford is one of the NBA's top fourth-quarter scorers. If he won, no one should be terribly overwrought with anger.

But Smith has emerged in the last month as the true winner.

Since March 1, Smith is averaging 22.0 ppg. During such a critical stage of the season, and the time of year the Knicks generally played their best ball since November, Smith has been a huge reason.

Anthony is obviously the best player and the top option, but Smith is second. The Knicks don't have scorers, so Smith's value is high. When Anthony has been shelved, Smith has been the guy Woodson has called on to lead the team. He even has a game-winner or two in there.

Smith isn't the most loved guy in the NBA, but his importance on the Knicks can't be overstated. Tyson Chandler went to the All-Star game. Jason Kidd is going to the Hall of Fame. Amare Stoudemire makes an obscene amount of money, but it's Smith who Woodson values most and who has had a bigger hand in more victories than any other man besides Anthony on the Atlantic Division champs.

MOST IMPROVED PLAYER

CONTENDERS:

JRUE HOLIDAY, PHILADELPHIA 76ERS

LARRY SANDERS, MILWAUKEE BUCKS

PAUL GEORGE, INDIANA PACERS

GREIVIS VASQUEZ, NEW ORLEANS HORNETS

NIKOLA VUCEVIC, ORLANDO MAGIC

WILL: Sanders

SHOULD: Holiday

This is my least favorite of the awards.

Too often, this award should be renamed, "Best Player Who Got More Minutes Than Last Season." Granted, if improvement is shown, then it makes sense to play more.

But players like Vucevic finally get an opportunity, after one season in Doug Collins' Philadelphia dog house, and play well, that doesn't qualify as genuine improvement.

Sanders played more than he did in years past and he's going to be a significant contender for both this award and the Defensive Player of the Year. His stats sky-rocketed this season, but he earned 15 more minutes a game from last season. My grandmother's numbers would jump if she got 15 more minutes of run.

The reason I like Holiday, slightly over preseason pick George, is that Holiday was a starter and heavy-minutes guy for the Sixers last season and outproduced this season. George's minutes per game went up almost nine from a year ago.

Holiday's numbers this season are well above his career numbers, including minutes, but just five more a game. He averaged almost 32 before the start of the season, so he was working up a sweat out there prior to this season.

His scoring (17.9 ppg) is up almost five points and his assists (8.1) are up 2.3 than his career average. Holiday made his first All-Star team and shouldered the load for a depressing Sixers team.

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