With the 2013-14 NBA regular season over, Stephen Anderson, Michael De Leon, John Diaz, Jeff Garcia, Jose Grijalva, Aaron Preine and Quixem Ramirez predicted the results of the six major awards.
1. Who is the NBA’s Most Valuable Player this season?
Stephen Anderson: Kevin Durant. He had one of the best offensive seasons in recent memory. He leads the NBA in scoring with 31.9 points per game, while shooting over 50% from the floor. Durant also led the Thunder to a 59 win season and the second seed in a very tough Western Conference.
Michael De Leon: Kevin Durant wins this one by a landslide. LeBron even recently said Durant was playing like an MVP and I can’t argue with that. Aside from the scoring run/streak he went on, he’s had an outstanding season.
John Diaz: Kevin Durant. Here’s the thing: LeBron James could and probably should win this award every year. But voters get tired of voting for the same guy every year and will give it to just about anybody within reason (See: Nash, Steve.) But there’s no denying Durant’s 32/7/5 averages, while shooting over 50% from the field. The Slim Reaper has reached a whole new level of unfair.
Jeff Garcia: Kevin Durant. KD has been on a scoring tear and with Russell Wesbrook out for some game due to injury, Durant steadied the Thunder to the second best record in the NBA.
Jose Grijalva: LeBron James. The main and only option on a completely one dimensional team and without his wing man for stretches, James kept the Heat competitive the whole season. He was the main reason why Miami almost nabbed the number one seed in the East and look to be favorites to return to the Finals.
Aaron Preine: Kevin Durant. LeBron James is still the best player but Durant had a spectacular season. He led the NBA in scoring with a career best 32 points and went an insane 41-game stretch of games with 25-plus points. Durant carried his team during Russell Westbrook’s knee recovery and won his 4th scoring title in the last 5 seasons. KD also produced efficiently at a high volume – 50.3 FG%, 39.1 3P%, and 87.3 FT%. The man was a best and is the clear winner of the 2013-14 MVP.
Quixem Ramirez: Kevin Durant. Because he had one of the best seasons in NBA history since the 3-point line was introduced.
2. Who is the Coach of the Year this season?
Anderson: Gregg Popovich. We all know Pop’s record, but this has to be one of the most impressive coaching performances out of his 18 years at the helm. After a devastating NBA Finals loss, Pop led the Spurs to the NBA’s best record while sitting his star players to ensure they’ll be healthy for the Playoffs. Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili were all on the floor for 15% of the season and San Antonio still claimed the No. 1 seed.
De Leon: Steve Clifford. Please don’t put me in a firing squad for not picking Pop, but awards voters love a good story, and there’s nothing like a team going from being bottom dwellers to becoming a playoff team that will tug at the heartstrings of the voting panel. While the Bobcats are in the less competitive conference, you can’t deny how Clifford is breathing new life into the Bobcats and has made them a defensive team.
Diaz: Jeff Hornacek. Raise your hand if you had Phoenix being a playoff contender this year. Put your damn hand down. Though what Popovich has done this year has been absolutely remarkable, the Suns finished one game out of the 8th spot. There is no doubt in my mind if Dragic would’ve been healthy these last couple weeks, or if Bledsoe’s health hadn’t betrayed him, we would be looking at a fun playoff team. But the foundation is there for next season.
Garcia: Gregg Popovich. A 19-game winning streak, steadying an aged core, multiple different line ups, and mentally preparing the Spurs to have another successful regular season after a disappointing 2013 NBA Finals, there is no doubt Pop deserve the trophy. Though he probably doesn’t care if he wins.
Grijalva: Jeff Hornacek. Pop has the best team in the NBA, but he started the season with a team that went to the Finals. Hornacek helped the Suns shine with team play and playing at a competitive level on both sides of the floor. He definitely helped Phoenix overachieve this season.
Preine: Gregg Popovich. In the season following a gut-wrenching Finals loss, Coach Pop managed his players, none who averaged 30 or more minutes, through a barrage of injuries and 29 different starting lineups to a league-best 62 wins. Just name the award after him. (Note: This is the first season in NBA history that a team featured zero players with 30-plus minutes.)
Ramirez: Gregg Popovich. If you give Gregg Popovich a lemon, he’ll make you a steak. Somehow.
3. Who is the Defensive Player of the Year this season?
Anderson: Joakim Noah. Noah has had one of the best seasons of his career. He held opponents 46.7 percent field-goal percentage and has been a force in the paint with block shots and stellar defensive play.
De Leon: Joakim Noah. This is probably one of the easiest selections of all the awards. You could argue that Noah is a MVP candidate for what he’s done since losing Derrick Rose and with Luol Deng being traded. Many may have written the Bulls off after that, but due in large part to Noah’s work on both ends of the court, although especially on the defensive end, the Bulls are a playoff team.
Diaz: Joakim Noah. Derrick Rose went down, Luol Deng got traded, and in the midst of it all, Joakim Noah stood right there: Blocking, rebounding, and being an all around force for Chicago. Not to mention, Roy Hibbert and the Pacers absolute collapse after the All Star Break opened the door for Noah’s well deserved appreciation.
Garcia: Joakim Noah. He is a rock on the defensive end for the Bulls. And with no Derrick Rose once again, Noah was able to step it up and be that missing piece for Chicago.
Grijalva: Joakim Noah. His aggressive play and ability to shoulder the responsibility on a Chicago team earns him my pick. His 11rpg is a good stat but Chicago’s defense allowing only 91ppg in a high scoring league is a huge accomplishment that he’s been at the center of.
Preine: Joakim Noah. Statistically, Noah outguns Roy Hibbert in rebounds, rebounding percentage, blocks, and opponent turnovers but you have to really watch the game to see the real reasons why Noah wins this award. Noah’s energy and intensity is the driving force behind Coach Thibodeau’s defense and the man is always ready to fire on all cylinders. I’m a Hibbert fan but when was the last time you’ve seen Noah mentally cave in on himself like Roy has done this season? Noah is the best big man at covering pick and rolls and is the number one reason why the Bulls are still near the top despite missing their “franchise player” for basically a second consecutive season.
Ramirez: Joakim Noah. The Bulls’ defense barely took a hit when he was off the floor this season, but that shouldn’t undermine his terrific defensive season. He was fifth in FG% allowed at the rim and his lateral mobility is unrivaled at the center position. Give this man an award.
4. Who is the Sixth Man of the Year this season?
Anderson: Manu Ginobili. He may not have played a lot of minutes this season, but he has made an incredible impact in his time on the court. He is he averaging 12.4 points and 4.3 assists per game,which is up on last season and has slowly becoming the spark off the bench Spurs fans have known him to be.
De Leon: Manu Ginobili. This is going to be a tight race and it was a tossup for me especially considering the season Jamal Crawford has had. Taj Gibson has also made a case as well, but considering the minutes Manu plays and what he does on both ends of the court, it’s really hard to deny him the honor here. When he’s out on the court, he provides the second unit with a leader, a scorer, setup man and tenacious defender.
Diaz: Jamal Crawford. Arguably the best sixth man in the NBA. As the Clippers third leading scorer, J-Crossover has never met a shot he didn’t like, and his 18.6 points per game helped keep the Clippers afloat when Chris Paul and JJ Redick got hurt.
Garcia: Manu Ginobili. After a disappointing performance in the 2013 NBA Finals, Manu looked refreshed and ready to exorcise his demons and naysayers. He provided a spark off the bench for San Antonio and looks raring to go in the postseason.
Grijalva: Manu Ginobili. He’s Manu Ginobili. Stats don’t do him justice. He’s a superstar who puts his ego aside for the team and comes off the bench. He can pass, score, shoot, and plays underrated defense. The Spurs are most dangerous when he’s out on the floor. The scary part? He can play 3 positions. What other 6th man can say he can do all the things Ginobili does?
Preine: Taj Gibson/Manu Ginobili. Yes. I copped out here. After a dismal 2012-13 season, Manu Ginobili has reemerged as a bench power to be reckoned with. Manu looks quicker, stronger, and has obviously has more spring in his 106 year old legs. With a 20.1 PER, Manu averaged 12.4 points on 46.9% shooting along with 4.3 assists and a return to form on the defensive end (99.3 defensive rating). But Chicago’s Taj Gibson has been an incredible talent off the bench as well. Flip a coin – you can’t go wrong with either guy.
Ramirez: Manu Ginobili. The Spurs’ offense crept up into uncharted territory when Ginobili was on the floor this season — they scored 112.4 points per 100 possessions, which is basically NBA Jam level domination.
5. Who is the Rookie of the Year this season?
Anderson: Michael Carter-Williams. Carter-Williams has been shown trust by his teammates, showing development and a sense of poise rare for a rookie. His scoring average was a glimmer of hope in a horrible season for the Philadelphia 76ers.
De Leon: Carter-Williams. While I hate to give it someone on a team that clearly tanked, and decided to make their situation worse once they had some early success, it’s hardly Michael Carter-Williams’ fault and you can’t look past what he’s done. The fact the he led all rookies in points, assists and rebounds tells the story, but he also proved a ton of naysayers wrong.
Diaz: Michael Carter-Williams. Despite Philly’s record, there is no denying what kind of talent Brett Brown has been blessed with in MCW. The 6’6″ point guard is only the sixth rookie in NBA History to average at least 16 points, six assists and five rebounds, joining the likes of Oscar Robertson, Penny, Magic, Steve Francis and CP3.
Garcia: Victor Oladipo. Victor brought excitement, offensive punch and hope for a rebuilding Orlando team still struggling after the Dwight Howard drama.
Grijalva: Michael Carter-Williams. He had a great rookie campaign despite being a part of one of the worst teams….ever. His 16.7ppg, 6.3apg, and 6.2rpg on a team that really didn’t do much of anything and was willing to shoulder the load for the season says a lot about his play. Plus, you have to give the Sixers something for trying right?
Preine: Michael Carter-Williams. MCW leads all rookies in points, rebounds, assists and steals per game. Michael struggled with his shooting percentage but without him the Philadelphia 76ers wouldn’t have even broken double digits in the season win column.
Ramirez: Michael Carter-Williams. He was the best-looking girl at an all boys school, basically. There aren’t many better choices.
6. Who is the Most Improved Player of the Year this season?
Anderson: Patty Mills. He has proven himself to be a solid back up to Tony Parker. With hitting key shots and slimming down during the offseason, he has improved beyond being a towel waver on the bench last season.
De Leon: Patty Mills. While I know people will say I made the homer pick here over Dragic, looking at Mills’ transition from an end-of-the-bench player known more for his various towel-waving methods to becoming a key rotation player and Tony Parker’s primary backup is exactly what the Most Improved Player award is about. Patty also doubled his scoring average from last season and saw an increase in his numbers pretty much across the board.
Diaz: Goran Dragic. Dragic has gone from bench fodder to absolute stud in the last two seasons. The former Spurs second round draft pick set career highs in points, field goal percentage and three point percentage, all while leading the Suns to a 48-34 record. It’s a shame he won’t see any playoff time. Other great candidates for MIP: Lance Stephenson, and of course, Patty Mills.
Garcia: Patty Mills. From towel waver to first back up to Tony Parker, Mills proved his worth this season by dropping weight and coming in focused and ready to be more than just a bench cheerleader. When Parker was out with injury, Mills stepped in and gave the Spurs comfort knowing he can take the point guard reigns and guide the Spurs.
Grijalva: Goran Dragic. With 20ppg and 5apg this season, he’s become the new leader of a team with new hope that he’s helped create. His improvements had the Suns eyeing the playoffs instead of their pre-season projections of being on the bottom of the Western Conference standings.
Preine: Anthony Davis. Everyone knew Anthony Davis was going to be a star in the NBA, most of us just didn’t expect a near 21-10-3 (PTS, REB, BLK) season performance in just his second year. Every stat you want in a talented big man jumped up and Davis, at 20 years of age, knocked out a season PER of 26.5. Bow to the Brow. (Note: Patty Mills and Gerald Green deserve recognition for a rather subjective award).
Ramirez: Anthony Davis. He was very good last year, but he wasn’t THIS good. For context: Davis’ 26.5 Player Efficiency Rating is the highest by any 20-year-old in NBA history. That isn’t easy to do.