The end of the season is near, and we all know what that means. Hardware will be handed out soon. With that said, here’s a look at my predictions for this year’s awards.
MVP – LeBron James
LeBron will take home his fourth regular season MVP award this season. “The King” has been unreal this year in every aspect of the game. He has been Miami’s best perimeter defender while averaging 26.9 points, 8.1 rebounds, and 7.2 assists per game.
If that isn’t enough, James has shot 56.3% from the field up until now. For a non-post player, that clip is through the roof. His efficiency has never been better than it has been, and taken his team’s success, this award has probably been locked up for a while now. In a year with the Heat’s 27-game winning streak, Miami has been the league’s best team, and LeBron has been the league’s best player. It really is scary for the rest of the NBA that James is improving steadily. He added a back to the basket game along with improving his jump shot. Size, strength, and speed are the keys to his game so with his ability to transition from the perimeter to the post, the guy can’t be stopped. After improving his three-point shot on a yearly basis since entering the league, LeBron made a huge leap this season. He is currently shooting above 40% from beyond the arc. With all of that taken into consideration, LeBron James is this season’s Most Valuable Player.
Rookie of the Year – Damian Lillard
The Rookie of the Year was supposed to be a lock for the Hornets’ Anthony Davis before the season began, but when Damian Lillard started to impress and Davis got hurt, it became Lillard’s award to lose.
The Blazers’ rookie point guard has averaged 18.8 points, 6.5 assists, and 3.2 rebounds per game. For most rookies, consistency is the biggest issue, but not for Damian Lillard. He scored in single digits just five times all season, while hitting big shot after big shot for Portland. Lillard is blazing quick, which allows him to get past his man into the paint at ease. When most rookies struggle at times with decision-making, Lillard was prepared from day one. The future is bright for the Blazers and their point guard.
Offensive Player of the Year – Carmelo Anthony
For some, Carmelo Anthony is an MVP candidate. Regardless, he will get consideration for this award. It is basically a two man race at this point between Melo and Oklahoma City’s Kevin Durant. Anthony recently took over the league’s leading scorer role after going on the stretch of his career. The Knicks’ forward scored 50, 40, and 40 in three consecutive games, and has carried his team to a 13-game winning streak. New York is now viewed as the only threat to the Miami Heat in the East. Carmelo has been more efficient than ever this season from all over the court. He’s shooting over 45% from the field and above 38% from behind the arc. For his career, he’s shooting just over 33% from three, and has been much maligned for forcing perimeter jump shots over his career. That criticism has been put to rest after this season though. Anthony has been a scoring machine, but has improved his shot selection. He may take more threes now than before, but he has added that to his game, and has proven that it’s here to stay. Offensive Player of the Year will go to Carmelo Anthony or Kevin Durant, but I’m going with Melo.
Defensive Player of the Year – Larry Sanders
Shot blockers are known to win this award more often than not. Whether it’s Dwight Howard, Marcus Camby, Ben Wallace, or Dikembe Mutombo, this award has always been about the big guys. In this case, it’s more of the same for Defensive Player of the Year. Milwaukee Bucks’ center, Larry Sanders, is averaging almost 3 blocks per game. He has been the premier shot blocker in the league from the very beginning of the season. It’s not all about blocking shots for Sanders though, he contest and alters just about every shot. Smaller guys change their shot before Sanders even rotates because they know he will be there to challenge the shot. His length and mobility make it very difficult to get shots over him, especially in the paint. All season long, he has been the anchor of the Bucks’ defense. Sanders possesses the rare ability to block shots with either hand, which makes him even more dangerous at the defensive end of the floor. In my opinion, what makes Larry Sanders the Defensive Player of the Year for the 2012-2013 season is that every time that a team faces Milwaukee, they do their best to know where he is at all times and make a conscious effort to keep the ball away from him.
Sixth Man of the Year – Jamal Crawford
Jamal Crawford has been the favorite for this award from very early on. He quickly proved himself to be one of the best off-season acquisition from last summer. The Clippers’ sixth man is the best at what he does, just ahead of J.R. Smith of the New York Knicks. The picture to the left just about sums up what Crawford is capable of. His ability to make defenders look like middle-school children with his incredible handle and isolation moves coupled with his ability to make circus shots on a consistent basis separates Crawford from the rest of the pack. Time after time, he used his famous crossover to leave his man in the dust as he either pulled up for a mid-range jump shot or took it all the way to the basket. Crawford can finish at the rim with either hand and although it may not look like it, is always in control. The veteran guard also has the ability to pull up off the dribble and knock down a jumper like no other. In transition is where Crawford is at his best though, hence why he blends in so well with the Clippers in Lob City. He is the unquestioned leader of the most dynamic bench in the game today. With guys like Grant Hill, Lamar Odom, Eric Bledsoe, and Matt Barnes, Jamal Crawford runs the show. Consistency is what makes Crawford stand out from the rest of the pack when it comes to guys coming off the bench. There’s just nobody else like him in the game.
Most Improved – James Harden
To be completely honest, James Harden has always been a special player in my opinion. He was overshadowed by the superstardom of Kevin Durant and Russel Westbrook in Oklahoma City, but did manage to win a Sixth Man of the Year award while with the Thunder. Before this season began, Oklahoma City shocked everyone by shipping Harden to the Houston Rockets. Up until this year, the most impressive thing about James Harden was his beard. Let’s face it, while he has always been a serviceable guy, he was no superstar before this season. While his beard is still impressive, his offensive game has gone to the next level. What always impressed me about Harden in OKC was his ability to create for himself and others in a crafty manner. He doesn’t possess elite athleticism, speed, or strength, the guy is just a baller. Fundamentally, he’s as sound as they come, and his basketball IQ is off the charts. Harden is averaging 25.9 points, 4.8 rebounds, and 5.9 assists for the Rockets this season. As the numbers indicate, he does a lot more than just score this basketball, which is quite rare from a guy that averages almost 26 points per game. Last season with the Thunder, Harden averaged 16.8 points, 4.1 rebounds, and 3.7 assists per game off the bench. When a player goes from a sixth man to one of the best players in the game, there is no question that he deserves the Most Improved Award.
Coach of the Year – George Karl
George Karl’s Nuggets are up to their usual tricks. Denver has been one of the hottest teams in the NBA to finish the season. As impressive as Karl’s career has been, this may be his best coaching performance yet. The Nuggets are one of the best teams in the league, and they do not possess a star player that they can throw the ball to and count on for 25 points on a nightly basis. Everything that Denver does is predicated on the team. It doesn’t matter who beats you on a given night, someone most likely will. With a young, athletic core, Karl has his team playing as well as anyone. The team has bought into his system, and play as hard as any team in the NBA night-in and night-out. Denver is currently the 3rd overall seed in the Western Conference, and would face the Golden State Warriors in the first round of the playoffs if the season ended today. Unfortunately for Karl and the Nuggets, their toughest obstacle may be ahead of them. Danilo Gallinari tore his ACL and is done for the year. Regardless of what happens in the post-season, the job that George Karl has done with this team is nothing short of remarkable.
Topics: 2013 NBA Awards, Carmelo Anthony, Coach Of The Year, Damian Lillard, Defensive Player Of The Year, George Karl, Jamal Crawford, James Harden, Larry Sanders, LeBron James, Most Improved Player, MVP, Offensive Player Of The Year, Rookie Of The Year, Sixth Man Of The Year