2010-2011 NBA Midseason Awards

For basketball purists, this has to be one of the best seasons since… well since Michael Jordan was still in the league. You have transcendent superstars (see Kobe Bryant) dominant players (see Dwight Howard), grizzled veterans (see Kevin Garnett) and up-and-coming youngsters (see Blake Griffin). Now all those examples are just one of many choices you could make from an extremely deep list.

This is possibly the toughest year in recent memory to actually pick winners for awards because of the exorbitant talent level across the NBA.

Because there are so many potential choices for each of these awards, I thought it best to have two options/opinions on our awards so the spectrum of deserving players can be diversified.

Last night while Gambo was channeling his inner Tom Gugliotta and I was doing my best to honor the great Tom Chambers in some pick up basketball, we realized it was midseason in the NBA and we started discussing who is deserving of some NBA hardware.  We learned we had different view points and figured it would be nice to share them with our faithful readers.

All NBA Third Team

Gambo:

Dwight Howard

Blake Griffin

Paul Pierce

Dwayne Wade

Derrick Rose

Scottie:

Pau Gasol

Kevin Love

Paul Pierce

Manu Ginobli

Russell Westbrook

All NBA Second Team

Gambo:

Amare Stoudemire

Dirk Nowitzki

Kevin Garnett

Manu Ginobili

Deron Williams

Scottie:

Dwight Howard

Dirk Nowitizki

Kevin Durant

Monta Ellis

Rajon Rondo

All NBA First Team

Gambo:

Pau Gasol

Kevin Durant

LeBron James

Kobe Bryant

Chris Paul

Scottie:

Amar’e Stoudimire

Blake Griffin

LeBron James

Kobe Bryant

Derek Rose

All-Defensive Team

Gambo:

Dwight Howard

Kevin Garnett

Rudy Gay

Kobe Bryant

Russell Westbrook

Scottie:

Dwight Howard

Kevin Garnett

Corey Brewer

Tyreke Evans

Chris Paul

All Rookie Team

Gambo:

DeMarcus Cousins

Blake Griffin

Greg Monroe

Landry Fields

John Wall

Scottie

DeMarcus Cousins

Blake Griffin

Gary Neal

Landry Fields

John Wall

Executive of the Year

Gambo: Pat Riley

As much as you might hate the Heat, the “architect” himself was responsible for putting together a big-three that will contend for years to come. It took some time but the studs in South Beach seem to have it all figured out now. Runner-up: Danny Ainge, for keeping the Celtics together for another year.

Scottie: Pat Riley

I hate Pat Riley.  I hate the Heat. But there is no getting around the roster moves he made in the off season making the Heat a sure fire force for years to come.  Just saying that last sentence leaves a bitter taste in my mouth.

Sixth Man of the Year

Gambo: Serge Ibaka

Now he probably should be starting for the “Zombie Sonics,” but Serge does the majority of his damage off the bench. If the Thunder want to challenge the Lakers, Spurs and Mavs in the West, they will need his size and shot-blocking down the stretch. Other deserving candidates: Jason Terry, Jamal Crawford and Glen Davis.

Scottie: Glen Davis

I am picking Glen Davis and it has zero to do with him being on the hometown team.  No one brings more energy or is more valuable to his team off the bench than Davis is for the Celtics.  He is averaging 12.5 ppg and grabbing 6 boards a game.  As of January 19, he has taken 34 charges! With that absurd number he has basically created a new stat! He has developed a nice outside jumper that forces defenses to respect him and he is not getting blocked nearly as many times as he did last year.  He is finishing around the rim and is punishing his opposition with a sweet little spin move reminiscent of Antoine Walker.  Give Big Baby the 6th man of the year award right now.

Most Improved Player of the Year

Gambo: Raymond Felton

There are a lot of good choices out there with players such as Kevin Love, Rudy Gay and Eric Gordon, but Felton is player I almost completely wrote off last season. Now, he is the quarterback of D’Antoni’s offense and a borderline All-Star. Not bad for a guy who was more-or-less run out of town by Larry Brown.

Scottie: Eric Gordon

I was debating between Kevin Love, Michael Beasley, and Eric Gordon here.  Gordon has improved his stats from last year (16 points a game to 23 a night) and has been able to handle different tasks assigned to him.  When Baron Davis was out with an injury, he stepped right into that role and played well.  It is clear his summer with Team USA has made him a better player. Beasley and Love were also picked higher than Gordon and they should be playing as well as they are. I don’t think anyone ever expected consistent production out of Gordon.

Coach of the Year

Gambo: Greg Popovich

Coming into the season the Spurs had a ton of question marks with age, declining play and young players in bigger roles. “Pop” has done a great job of tailoring everyone’s new role while pushing Ginobili into starting lineup and monitoring Tim Duncan’s minutes.

Scottie: Tom Thibodeau

The Bulls are in line for the 3 seed in the Eastern Conference at the mid point of the season. Their front court has been decimated by the injury bug with Joakim Noah and Carlos Boozer playing in about half the team’s games. Sure, Derek Rose is an MVP candidate but this is largely the same team Vinny Del Negro had one year ago. Other than Derek Rose and Luol Deng this team doesn’t really have any key contributors that have gotten them to their 29 wins.  The reason for their success is because of Coach T.

Defensive Player of the Year

Gambo: Dwight Howard

No one changes opponents’ game plans on both ends of the floor as much as Howard. A force in the middle that clogs the lane and deters players from driving the lane; he also possesses amazing quickness for someone his size.

Scottie: Kevin Garnett

Call me a homer but is there anyone more valuable to his team on the defensive side of the ball than KG? He is the most intense player in the NBA hands down and he brings out that intensity on the defensive side of the ball.  He missed nine games and in those nine games it was apparent how much the Celtics missed him.  He may not stuff the stat sheet on the defensive end but teams that play the Celtics don’t generally put up a high field goal percentage.  That can be attributed to KG.

Rookie of the Year

Gambo: Blake Griffin

Entering the season, there was a question if John Wall or someone like DeMarcus Cousins could challenge Blake for the top rookie honor, but it quickly became clear that Mr. Griffin is head and shoulders above the rest.

Scottie: Blake Griffin

Not only is Blake Griffin hands down the Rookie of the Year, if the MVP vote was made on stats alone, he would be getting some votes. At the time of this writing the Clippers are 7-3 in their last 10 games and there isn’t a player in the NBA that’s on more of a hot streak than Griffin.  He routinely has 3 posters a night as he takes out all his aggression on the rim when he drives to the basket.  More importantly he has improved outrageously over the course of the last 3 months.  Here’s some stats to take in: October:  16.7ppg and 11.0  rpg. November:20.9  ppg and 11.7 rpg. December:23.0 ppg and 13.5 rpg. January:27.8 ppg and 13.6 rpg. Sick and wrong.

MVP

Gambo: Dirk Nowitzki,

Prior to his injury he was a shoe-in for the award. Dirk is the only guy out there right now that is doing it without at least another boarderline superstar. I know Scottie will say Kevin Durant, which you can easily make an argument for, but Westbrook definitely helps more than a quickly-aging Jason Kidd. Boston, Miami, Los Angeles and San Antonio all split votes, so Dirk it is. Runner-up: Kevin Durant

Second Runner-up; Derrick Rose

Scottie: Amar’e Stoudimire

Last year I argued (and will continue to do so) that Kevin Durant was the MVP of the 2010 season.  When I think valuable, I think of how good the respective team of the MVP candidate would be if they weren’t on the team.  With that being said Amar’e is far and away the MVP of the first half of the NBA season.  Last season the Knicks were a joke.  This season they are nearly a lock to make the playoffs because of Amar’e.  He is second in the league averaging 26.4 points a night, 8 rebounds, and 3 assists.  More importantly he has put people back in the seats of Madison Square Garden. He had one stretch of ten games with over 30 points.  There is no one playing better ball than this man right now.

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He is the Best in the World

This weekend he solidified what I have known all along.  On this very blog I wrote about how he was the true MVP of the NBA this past season.  This past weekend he led Team USA to the gold medal in the FIBA World Championships.  Many called this USA squad the “B” team.  They didn’t have LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, or Carmelo Anthony.  They didn’t need them.  They had someone better.  They had someone that can carry a team alone on his back and win.  He has done it in college at the University of Texas, he has turned around a franchise in Oklahoma City, and now he has carried a nation on his back winning a gold medal.

This weekend, Kevin Durant showed the world that he is the future of the NBA.  The man can score at will.  No one can stop him. Better yet he is a better face of the NBA.  He is not a baby.  Never has he cried about the team he is on.  Never has he complained about the lack of talent around him.  In fact the before LeBron made his “decision” on ESPN during prime time, Durant extended his deal with Oklahoma City Thunder with hardly anyone noticing.  Durant hasn’t requested a trade a la Carmelo Anthony or Chris Paul.  He just enjoys the game of basketball.  He loves lighting it up night in and night out.  It won’t be long before the Thunder will be a marquee team in the ultra competitive Western Conference because of him.

Kevin Durant is the best player in the world.  It’s not even an argument.

LeBron James is the 2010 NBA MVP

LeBron James is about to be awarded his 2nd consecutive MVP Award for being the best player in the NBA and when you look at the numbers it is easy to see why.  James came in 2nd in PPG with 29.7, this is relevant because it seems to have become the focal point for most people when they say that he should not win the award giving way to Kevin Durant, but let us also keep in mind that LeBron sat out for what now seems like the last quarter of the season. Not only did he average close to 30, 8, and 7 respectively, he could also be counted on for providing a game changing block when necessary that was sure to make the Sportscenter top ten.

When you watch LeBron play you cannot help but come to the conclusion that without him Cleveland is still a bottom dweller in the East longing for the days of Price, Ehlo, and Nascar’s own Brad Daugherty. Without LeBron that city would even love living in a repetitive world of Jordan celebrating on their home court year after year making a free throw line jumper over Ehlo, but LeBron has become the one shining light through all professional sports teams in Cleveland. That being said, the makeup of an MVP has changed in the last few years through debate about what “most valuable” really means. In different sports it contains different components, some more important than others. I have a short list here of what makes an NBA MVP*:
1) Games Played – starting with the obvious. You should never be considered for an MVP Award without playing in, at the very least, 65 of the 82 regular season games, and to not play in 17 games in a season means you need some substantial numbers.
2) Averages – MVP’s have to be need in the top 5 in scoring for the season, preferably the top 3 depending on disparity. PPG being the most important of the averages obligates an MVP candidate to have a minimum of either 4 in any of the other major categories (assists, rebounds, steals, or blocks)…as previously stated LeBron has around 8 and 7 respectively for the first two.
3) Game changing – a MVP candidate has the ball in his hands at EVERY crucial point in a game, and lives up to the task of coming through for his team…it took LeBron a few years but he finally has become this player.
4) Record – it is more VALUABLE to score just under 30 ppg and have the best record in the league than to score just over 30 ppg and finish 8th in the West.  Although this is an NBA MVP discussion, one must bring up Alex Rodriguez playing for the last place Texas Rangers and winning the MLB MVP, which would be compared to Chris Bosh winning the award this year after missing the playoffs.  That just does not happen in the NBA.

**Kevin Durant will have his time. He is young player who in his third year has shown that he will be a perpetual force in the league, always in this discussion. But, those who really try to make a better argument for Durant over LeBron are either fooling themselves or are foolish Texas homers…

If you take Durant off the Thunder and you take LeBron off the Cavs then you are left with the same result for both teams: trying to win the draft lottery.  The great thing is that we do not have to take these players off of their teams.  Seeing as we are not forced to do that there is one major point to be made to settle this arguemnt…If the Thunder met the Cavs in the finals and it went 7 games, they would be playing 4 in Cleveland because LBJ did work, 11 more games worth of work…LeBron is approaching Oscar Robertson numbers…and LeBron is the 2010 MVP.

*(feel free to add to or subtract from this list)

**(2nd place gets a smaller picture)

Kevin Durant is the 2010 NBA MVP

Read the title again and let it sink in.  No I didn’t misspell LeBron. To be honest I didn’t even think of Kobe.  When I was asked this question recently I did not even hesitate to answer.  Kevin Durant is the MVP of the NBA this year.  It is so blatantly obvious that he is the most deserving player of this award that I shouldn’t even have to support my argument.  But for those critics out there I will delve into my reasoning and prove without any reasonable doubt that Durant is the man.

First,  Noah Webster defines valuable as being of considerable use, service, or importance.  Based on what the word valuable means, Kevin Durant is the illustration of this definition.  Jump into your Delorean and travel to the beginning of the NBA season.  Take a look at your favorite team’s schedule and tell me that you did not circle whatever date they were playing the Oklahoma City Thunder as an automatic "W."   The Thunder won 23 games last season.  It is fair to say that they are a young team and an improvement over that win total from a season ago should be expected.  But to win more than double the amount of games they won last year? That is absurd.

The Thunder play in the Western Conference in the NBA which is the varsity conference compared to the "jay-vee" Eastern Conference.  Or as my co-writers love to say, "The Big East and then the rest of the NCAA."  While this argument is seemingly as old as time it still holds water.  Consider this: At the time of this writing, the Toronto Raptors hold the eight seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs if the season were to end today with a record below .500 at 35-37.  On the other hand,  the Portland Trail Blazers have the eight seed in the West with a 45-29 record.  In the East, Portland would be a five seed!

The point of these facts are that the Oklahoma City Thunder play more competitive teams more often thus making it more difficult to do what they are doing.  The Thunder have the stranglehold on the 6 seed in the West and are 3.5 games out of the 2 seed. Their ring leader? Kevin Durant.

The elephant in the room pertaining to this argument is LeBron James.  There is no doubt that LeBron is the best player in the NBA.  But I argue whether he is the most valuable.  Would Cleveland be a number one seed without Lebron? Hell no.  Actually would anyone know that Cleveland was a city without LeBron? Debatable.  I am willing to bet however, that without LeBron, Cleveland would still be good enough in the East to at least make the playoffs.  If Kevin Durant was not a part of the Thunder, they would be more likely to be entering the "John Wall-Evan Turner" sweepstakes come June.  Instead they are looking at potential match-ups with Denver or Utah making their draft position of little importance.

Now while the biggest winner of the genetic lottery known to man (LeBron James) is putting up stats make Dick Vitale speechless, (29.8 ppg, 7.2 rpg, 8.6 apg) Durant is doing more with less around him.  Durant’s stat line is nothing to sneeze at either (29.6 ppg, 7.5 rpg, 2.7 apg.)  Compare LeBron’s supporting cast to Durant’s.  LeBron is surrounded by players with unique skill sets and experience. He gets solid guard play and 3 point shooting from Mo Williams, Anthony Parker, Delonte West, and Daniel Gibson.  The Cavs acquired a legit second option for LeBron in Antwan Jamison.  Sideshow Bob Anderson Varejao is a player that opposing teams have to hates because he will get every loose ball, irritate the opposition to the point of getting them T’d up, and brings energy off the bench.  JJ Hickson has proven to be more than a solid contributor who will rebound and work hard defensively as well.  Oh yeah, then the Cavs have a wide load coming back from injury in future Hall of Famer, Shaq.  The team is quite and is the best in the NBA and it’s not even close.

Durant’s Thunder? Yeah, they have Russell Westbrook who will might be developing into another Chris Paul or Deron Williams right before our eyes.  After that? Look at this roster and don’t laugh. I dare you.  Jeff Green is ok at best. Then Nick Collison? Nenad Kristic? The more I list off names the more perplexed I become thinking how the Thunder are as good as they are.  Then I remember. Kevin Durant.  He has played in all 72 games so far this season because he has no other choice.  Oklahoma City does not have the luxury that Cleveland does of sitting LeBron down a few games just to rest him. (LeBron was able to sit for 2 games last month for rest. They went 1-1 beating San Antonio and losing to Milwaukee.  Jamison dropped 30 and West 27 against the Bucks.)

Take LeBron off the Cavs and they are still a formidable team although not great.  Take Durant off the Thunder and expect them to be in the draft lottery every year.  It is not opinion. It is a fact. Kevin Durant is the 2009-2010 NBA MVP.