Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - No player in the NBA wants to come forward
and say, "I want to win the MVP, or the Most Improved Player" award.
It's tacky. It's dotty. Just bad form as some would say.
Basketball is a team sport and the end goal is, for every guy in the league,
an NBA championship.
But these individual awards exist and someone has to win them.
Here's a hunch at those winners. Much like the Oscars, we'll sprinkle some of
the bigger awards throughout to peak your interest.
ROOKIE OF THE YEAR - ANTHONY DAVIS, NEW ORLEANS HORNETS
The No. 1 pick in the draft is not always a clear path to this piece of
hardware. Three of the last four Rookie of the Year winners went No. 1, but
since 2000, only one other top overall pick, LeBron James in 2003-04, won this
Davis will walk into the NBA and become an impact defensive force. He's that
good and his instincts are such around the basket that he should finish in the
top five in blocked shots.
But Davis' offense has already improved. Hornets head coach Monty Williams
intends to play Davis at all three front court positions, including small
forward thanks to a deft mid-range touch.
"He's shown some things that I started to see in workouts that I didn't see in
college," Williams told the (New Orleans) Times Picayune. "He's got a nice
handle and he can shoot the ball. I think someday he's going to be able to
shoot for range consistently."
Davis has averaged 13.4 points per game in the preseason and grabbed 10 boards
a game. With a defensive game ready for the NBA and an offensive game already
improving, Davis will get the Rookie of the Year award.
Also in the mix: BRADLEY BEAL, WASHINGTON WIZARDS; DAMIAN LILLARD, PORTLAND
TRAILBLAZERS. Dark horse: MAURICE HARKLESS, ORLANDO MAGIC
COACH OF THE YEAR - GEORGE KARL, DENVER NUGGETS
Would it shock you to learn that with 1,000 career wins and eight division
titles, Karl has never won this honor?
The award generally goes to the coach of the team who either a.) had the
biggest turnaround in wins from the prior season, or, b.) had such a
remarkable season he couldn't be ignored.
Karl fits neither.
Since Karl took over the Denver Nuggets with 40 games to go in the 2004-05
season, his team is 134 games over .500. He has won the Northwest Division
three times and finished second the other five. The problem for Karl is, in
those eight seasons, Denver has advanced past the first round once.
This is a regular-season award and the Nuggets are built to win a lot of
regular-season games. They play in the same division as the reigning Western
Conference champions, the Oklahoma City Thunder, but Denver will win 55 games
without a single All-Star.
Karl will fall head over heels in love with the newly acquired Andre Iguodala
and has a roster littered with high-energy, defensive-minded athletes. You
will marvel at how good the Nuggets can, and will, be.
Also in the mix: MARK JACKSON, GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS; MIKE BROWN, LOS ANGELES
LAKERS. Dark horse: MONTY WILLIAMS, NEW ORLEANS HORNETS
DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR - DWIGHT HOWARD, LOS ANGELES LAKERS
It's not a monumental leap to choose the guy who won this award three straight
years before a late-season injury cost him the honor last season.
The first two seasons Howard won this award, he led the NBA in rebounding and
blocked shots. The one season he didn't lead the league in either, the 2010-11
campaign, he still averaged 14.1 boards and 2.4 blocks.
When healthy, Howard owns the paint. He will have to this season or the Lakers
will give up 130 points per game. In front of Howard this season are Steve
Nash and Kobe Bryant. Once upon a time, Bryant was a great defender, but not
anymore. Never upon a time was Nash a great defender.
Guards will be able to get by those two on the perimeter and Howard will be
waiting to swat the shots to Jack Nicholson's loafers.
Want another reason to like Howard for the award? He's angry he didn't get it
"I thought I should have won it last year, to be honest with you," Howard told
reporters after practice Monday. "I was a little bit upset about that."
A Superman possessed is a dangerous Superman.
Also in the mix: TYSON CHANDLER, NEW YORK KNICKS; ANDRE IGUODALA, DENVER
NUGGETS. Dark horse: JOSH SMITH, ATLANTA HAWKS
SIXTH MAN OF THE YEAR - JASON TERRY, BOSTON CELTICS
Over the last five NBA seasons, Terry has finished third, second, second,
third, first and third in Sixth Man of the Year voting. He did it all from the
bench of some great Dallas Mavericks teams.
This season, "The Jet" is headed to Boston to essentially replace Ray Allen,
who bolted for Miami in the offseason. Terry is just a perfect fit for the
veteran Celtics. His intensity is such that he could end up fist-fighting
Kevin Garnett in practice over a loose ball.
Terry is a great fourth-quarter player and 3-point shooter. He suits up every
night and is a prolific scorer who can handle, pass and torment. Honestly, you
can't create a better replacement for Allen, for the Celtics, in a lab.
Rajon Rondo led the NBA in assists last season. He penetrates at will and
loves kicking out for 3s. Who benefits from that the most? Jason Terry.
Also in the mix: JAMES HARDEN, OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER; LOU WILLIAMS, ATLANTA
HAWKS. Dark horse: ALLEN, MIAMI HEAT
MOST IMPROVED PLAYER - PAUL GEORGE, INDIANA PACERS
This award is so hard to predict. It should be renamed the "Player who got
more minutes and played decently award."
George is the choice and it's strictly based on his talent and the upward
trend in his brief career.
As a rookie in the 2010-11 season, George played 20.7 minutes per game, scored
7.8 points, grabbed 3.7 rebounds and had 1.1 assists. The next season, George
started all 66 games, played almost 30 minutes a night and the totals jumped
to 12.1 ppg, 5.6 rpg and 2.4 apg.
Why wasn't he the winner last year? Well, Ryan Anderson had better numbers, but
George is going to get even better. He is the starting shooting guard on a
real good Indiana Pacers team and might get to that 33-minutes-per-game mark.
Like the Sherminator, confidence is high for George.
Also in the mix: KAWHI LEONARD, SAN ANTONIO SPURS; TRISTAN THOMPSON, CLEVELAND
CAVALIERS. Dark horse: JIMMER FERDETTE, SACRAMENTO KINGS
MVP - KEVIN DURANT, OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER
Durant is the pick based on a theory that has nothing to do with Durant
LeBron James has won this award three out of the last four seasons. The Heat
finally won the NBA title. This choice is based on the hypothesis that voters
will tire of choosing James.
Durant makes the most sense to replace James' name on the Maurice Podoloff
Trophy. He is the best player in the league without an MVP. He finished
second, fifth and second in voting the last three seasons and his Oklahoma
City Thunder made the NBA Finals last season and will be just as good again
Durant has led the league in scoring the last three seasons and his numbers
almost across the board increased in 2011-12. He averaged more points,
rebounds, assists, steals and blocks than the season before. Durant's 8 rpg and
3.5 apg were career highs.
The Thunder will give the Miami Heat a good run for best record in the NBA.
Durant is obviously the main reason for that and, because voters are tired of
James, Durant will get that first MVP.
Also in the mix: JAMES, MIAMI HEAT; CHRIS PAUL, LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS.
Dark horse: CARMELO ANTHONY, NEW YORK KNICKS
The Sports Network