NBA Awards Predictions ’12-13
Dishing out awards for the upcoming season—both real and fake.
by Leo Sepkowitz | @LeoSepkowitz
MOST VALUABLE PLAYER: LeBron James, Forward, Heat
As much as I wish a guy like Kevin Durant or Chris Paul could get in the MVP discussion for competition’s sake, LeBron is clearly the best player in the NBA. In 23 post-season games last year, he averaged 30.3 points, 9.7 boards, 5.6 assists, roughly 2 steals and a three per game. He was playing on a level rarely seen in the NBA, and while the case can be made that he’s not be the “most valuable” to his team because Miami could succeed with a core of Wade and Bosh, LeBron’s just too good not to win.
Runner Up: Kevin Durant, Forward, Thunder
SIXTH MAN OF THE YEAR: James Harden, Guard, Thunder
Harden is not the prototypical sixth man since he’s significantly better than OKC’s starting shooting guard. In fact, the only 2s clearly ahead of Harden across the League are Kobe Bryant and Dwyane Wade, and he’s closing the gap on both of those guys. Calling Harden a sparkplug is an insult—he’s a lot more than that. He can rebound (4.1 boards), pass (3.7 dimes), play D (1.1 steals), and of course, score (16.8 points per game on 44.4 percent shooting to go along with 1.8 threes last year).
At times he looks like OKC’s second-best player, and, once in a while, their very best. This could be the year Harden really takes off (20/5/5?), as his production has increased in nearly every stat for three consecutive seasons since entering the League.
Runner Up: JR Smith, Guard, Knicks
DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Josh Smith, Forward, Hawks
Since the ’91-92 season, the DPOY award has gone to a non-center just three times (The Glove in ’96, Artest in ’04 and KG in ’08). Despite those numbers, I love J-Smoove this year. Last season, he averaged 1.7 blocks and 1.4 steals to go along with a career-high 9.6 boards.
Now entering his free-agent year, I expect bigger numbers in ’12-13. Centers like Tyson Chandler and Dwight Howard (who combined own the past four awards) are always solid candidates, but I’m going with the high-flying Smith.
Runner Up: Omer Asik, Center, Rockets
ROOKIE OF THE YEAR: Anthony Davis, Forward, Hornets
Davis is an easy pick, but it’s only because he’s the most dominant player to come out of the Draft in a long time. By now you know all the numbers—14 points, 10.5 boards, 4.7 blocks, 1.5 steals and a 62.3 field-goal percentage in his only season at Kentucky—but it’s time for him to prove it against the pros. He’ll get all the minutes he can handle on a young but lacking-depth Hornets team, and will get to play forward rather than center thanks to the acquisition of Robin Lopez.
He blocked at least two shots in every game last season (wow), and should, at the very least, be a great source of boards and blocks. If his offensive game can come together quickly—and with his sweet jumper, it should—he could have a rookie season for the ages.
Runner Up: Damian Lillard, Guard, Blazers
COACH OF THE YEAR: Frank Vogel, Pacers
There are obviously a bunch of candidates here (more or less every Playoff-caliber team’s coach minus the inept Vinny Del Negro), but Vogel and his Pacers top the list. Indiana has a deep team with a perfect mix of youth and veterans. The starting five figures to feature George Hill and Paul George in the backcourt and Danny Granger, David West and Roy Hibbert in the frontcourt. DJ Augustin, Gerald Green, Ian Mahinmi and Tyler Hansbrough will be the main guys off a revamped bench. They’ve got outside scorers, inside scorer and great defenders, and are primed for a big year after getting knocked out by the Heat in a thrilling six-game series last season.
With Derrick Rose slated to miss at least half of the upcoming season, there’s an opening for the No. 2 seed in the East behind Miami. Do not be surprised if Indiana fills that slot.
Runner Up: George Karl, Nuggets
MOST IMPROVED PLAYER: Evan Turner, Guard-Forward, 76ers
Most Improved is very difficult to predict, since it often goes to an out-of-left-field guy like Ryan Anderson or Jeremy Lin. It’s nearly impossible to guess a true shocker like those guys correctly (Patty Mills comes to mind). And at the same time, a guy who produced too much last year won’t win, either (Paul George comes to mind).
So I’m going with a somewhat proven guy with miles and miles of potential ahead of him. Turner averaged 9.5 points, 6 boards and 3 dimes last year in varying roles for Philly, but could explode this year. The Sixers traded away Andre Iguodala to Denver and allowed Lou Williams to walk to Atlanta, and replaced them with inferior talents in Nick Young, Jason Richardson and Dorell Wright. That should open up minutes for Turner, who has succeeded when he gets a real opportunity.
In 17 starts at guard last season, he averaged 12 points, 6.5 boards, 3 assists and a steal. In three starts at forward, he averaged a big-time 17 points, 8.7 boards, 3.7 assists, 0.7 steals and 1.3 blocks. Both are fairly small sample sizes—especially the latter—but it’s clear Turner can play. He can contribute all over the floor and Philly will need someone to step their production up without Iggy and Williams, who were their two best late-game scorers. There’s no reason Turner can’t be that guy.
Runner Up: Derrick Favors, Forward, Jazz