2011 NBA Awards

Most Valuable Player

1. Derrick Rose
2. Dwight Howard
3. Dirk Nowitzki
4. LeBron James
5. Kobe Bryant

Derrick Rose wins a 3D race for the regular season MVP (Derrick, Dwight, Dirk). I thought, during the season, that whoever among these three Ds can steer his team towards the best record among them should win it, but Nowitzki got injured, and brought his team and his MVP chances with him, and slowed their progress. With Rose and Howard left in the race, Rose’s Bulls pulled away from Howard’s Magic, and actually ended up with the best record in the NBA, made more impressive with all the injuries sustained by his team.

Defensive Player of the Year

1. Dwight Howard
2. Kevin Garnett
3. Ron Artest

Howard has become the undisputed best defensive player in the NBA, and I wonder when he’ll finally win both the MVP and DPOY awards. Garnett, although not the same player of old on both ends of the court, still anchors his team’s championship quality defense (much like Tim Duncan for the Spurs), and that’s the main reason for the continuous success of the Boston Celtics. Now, I don’t know if Artest is a popular choice here, but Artest is the best defensive weapon of the Lakers, and that’s saying a lot with Andrew Bynum and Kobe Bryant in the line-up and the fact that when at their best, the Lakers is one of the best defensive squads in the league.

Rookie of the Year

1. Blake Griffin, Los Angeles Clippers
2. John Wall, Washington Wizards
3. DeMarcus Cousins, Sacramento Kings

Blake Griffin. Are you kidding me?

Most Improved Player

1. Kevin Love
2. LaMarcus Aldridge
3. Dorrell Wright

The meaning of the MIP award is actually quite vague, making the lines between one’s play from the year before to the current year blurry to judge in comparison to others. But I’m not going to get into that here. As a result of that vagueness and blur, some people actually want Derrick Rose to win this award. For my part, I don’t disqualify Rose to win the award here just because he is already qualified to be the MVP, but what I’m going to say is that his overall improvement, as great as it is, doesn’t match Kevin Love’s. Love’s team, the Minnesota Timberwolves, can only dream of the improvement of Rose’s team for now, but it doesn’t take away the historical season that Love has accomplished. His achievements this season cannot be overlooked, and bestowing him the MIP award is a great way to recognize him. As for Aldridge, he has expanded his game (especially in the post) and his role to become the number one option for the Portland TrailBlazers. Dorrell Wright, on his seventh season, developed into a relevant player and a key cog for the Golden State Warriors (for his Cinderella-like story, I actually would cheer for him to win this one). Marcin Gortat deserves mention, as he more than doubled his game when the Phoenix Suns doubled his minutes this season.

Sixth Man of the Year

1. Lamar Odom
2. Jason Terry
3. Glen Davis

It should be pointed out, as some observers will do and use against his candidacy, that Odom started a large numbers of games this year. But any Laker and NBA fan knows that for years, Odom, even though many feel that he has the ability to start for any other team, has been playing the 6th man role for the Lakers. Terry has a good argument, but voters won’t likely give him the award the second time this season. Davis (Celtics), Gortat (Suns), George Hill (Spurs), last year’s awardee Jamal Crawford (Atlanta Hawks) have all been valuable to their team’s respective benches, yet this is actually a thin field this year with Odom and Terry above them. But this is Odom’s year. Possibly the most versatile player in the NBA, but without the all-NBA or all-star accolades, it’s nice that Odom will finally own an individual award to be identified with.

Coach of the Year

1. Tom Thibodeau
2. George Karl
3. Greg Poppovich

Like last year, this season’s coach of the year race was hot. Maybe even hotter. Doug Collins, in his return to coaching, pulled the Philadelphia 76ers out of the dump they were in last year and brought the team into the playoffs. Out west, Greg Poppovich revitalized his ailing San Antonio Spurs dynasty of the past. In a truly heartwarming tale, George Karl beat cancer and coached his Denver Nuggets formidably during and after the Carmelo Anthony trade drama, and now has a team without any all-stars at the No. 5 position in the western conference (in my opinion, it’s really close between him and this next guy). But with all those great coaching performances, Tom Thibodeau’s stands out. Thibodeau had spent 25 years of his career behind a head coach and garnered recognition from experts and insiders as one of it not the best at what he does for the past few years because of his defensive work with the Boston Celtics. He carried his defensive tools over to Chicago, where he has turned Derrick Rose into an MVP, and made Carlos Boozer look the part of a difference-maker between a playoff team and a championship contender.

Executive of the Year

1. Gar Forman
2. Pat Riley
3. Sam Presti

This award is for the general manager who made the best moves for his team this season. Gar Forman of the Chicago Bulls may be up for it. Riley will get noticed because of the formation of the “Super Friends”, which instantly turned the Miami Heat into championship contenders without so much as a single game played. After that, though, Riley had trouble filling out the rest of the line-up. Forman, on the other hand, didn’t have the same luxuries as his franchise failed to land any of the franchise-type players available at the big free agency summer. Instead, he strategically drew out a roster that addressed the Bulls’ biggest issue in year’s past: he assigned Boozer as the team’s main post player, and added a couple more back-ups on the low block. But the most important personnel hired under his management is one Tom Thibodeau, who led the newly-equipped line-up into contention. For the Oklahoma City Thunder, Presti is credited here because of his midseason moves which strengthened the Thunder’s interior and defense (read: Kendrick Perkins), along with their championship hopes.

All-NBA Teams

All-NBA First Team

C Dwight Howard
F Dirk Nowitzki
F LeBron James
G Kobe Bryant
G Dwyane Wade

The first team may be near-unanimously voted, but some press members might find it difficult to pick between Bryant and Wade (who has given Kobe a run for his money as the best shooting guard in the world this year), but my rationale here is simple: Bryant is the best player on the West’s No. 2 team, while Wade is only the second-best player on the East’s No. 2 team (similar records, for that matter).

All-NBA Second Team

C Amar’e Stoudemire
F LaMarcus Aldridge
F Kevin Durant
G Dywane Wade
G Rajon Rondo

While Stoudemire may not be considered technically as a center, he gets the second center spot in the All-NBA teams for his MVP-type work for the New York Knicks early in the season. (Yes, it is within the discretion of voting press members to pick the positions.) Aldridge may actually receive some MVP votes this year. Choosing between Rondo and Westbrook for the second team is the most troubling here, but Rondo is now probably the best player in the Celtics, and with his play (despite slowing down towards the end) and with their record, he has to get a credit.

All-NBA Third Team

C Al Horford
F Pau Gasol
F Carmelo Anthony
G Many Ginobili
G Russell Westbrook

The farther you select down the All-NBA teams, the harder it gets. When you get to the third team, that’s when you encounter the risk of leaving players out. It’s now a matter of determining who deserves the distinction and who deserves it more. It’s tempting to give votes to Griffin and Love with their outstanding and historical seasons, but for this matter I’ll go for the players on the winning teams. There’s a dearth of good centers in the NBA today, and I believe Horford, the only other middle man not named Dwight Howard on the all-star team this year, should make the third team. In spite of the Nuggetts continuous flourishing without Anthony, the high-scoring forward should still get some credit for it and also for his contributions to the Knicks. But Zach Randolph could very well get credited for that forward spot in light of his leadership with the Grizzlies.

All-Defensive Teams

All-Defensive First Team

C Dwight Howard
F Kevin Garnett
F Ron Artest
G Kobe Bryant
G Chris Paul

Artest is my third choice for the DPOY award, but the all-defensive teams and the defensive player of the year award don’t actually go hand -in-hand due to the difference in voters and their point of views. This field remains to be decisions for the coaches to make and it seems appropriate given that the coaches are in the best position to observe this stuff (as opposed to fans and analysts). Given that, coaches will likely still acclaim Bryant’s D even though a fan or even an analyst may not really see that. Elsewhere, Paul anchored the New Orleans Hornets’ defense like no other point guard in the league this year.

All-Defensive Second Team

C Tyson Chandler
F Tim Duncan
F Grant Hill
G Tony Allen
G Rajon Rondo

I’m not sure if defenses, especially individual ones, turned up a notch this year, but the second team is especially exacting to complete this season. I’m not even sure LeBron James, who has become a great defensive player for the past couple of years, will make either teams (his teammate Dwyane Wade is good, too). Andrew Bogut, Gerald Wallace, and Thabo Sefolosha are all noteworthy. But I’ll explain my selections. The Dallas Mavericks made an about-face upon the acquisition of Chandler, who, from a team that some criticize as soft, had become one of the toughest defensive teams in the league (with the help of Shawn Marion, no doubt). Duncan really eased up in his production this year, but not defensively. People overlook that the way he leads the Spurs defense is a major reason for the Spurs having the league’s best record for the better part of the season. Hill was applauded all season long for his defensive work even at 38 years old, against the likes of Kobe Bryant and the best perimeter scorers in the NBA. Allen leveled up this year into one of the premiere perimeter defenders in the league, and I’m going to throw a rare little stat here just for kicks: 4.14 steals per 48 minutes (#1 in the NBA, a full 1.0 more than the next player). Rondo continues to assist Garnett in defense and is another big factor in one of the league’s best defenses.

All-Rookie Teams

All-Rookie First Team

Blake Griffin
John Wall
DeMarcus Cousins
Landry Fields
Greg Monroe

Griffin, Wall, and Cousins are automatic. All three players can hope that their respective team will build around them in the future. Fields is a different type of player for the Knicks, and he sure seems worth keeping as the Knicks did their best to keep him away from the deal that landed them Carmelo Anthony. Outside of Griffin, Wall, and Cousins, Monroe, of the Detroit Pistons, is the most productive rookie this season.

All-Rookie Second Team

Gary Neal
Jordan Crawford
Ed Davis
Derrick Favors
Wesley Johnson

Not many perceived the 2010 NBA Draft to be deep, but these players all have entered their teams’ rotations in their first year. Neal has a chance to score a championship ring as a playing member of the Spurs (could be a first-team member because of that). With their game and productivity warranting it, all these players get more than twenty minutes per game but Crawford, notably, saw his minutes increase by more than twenty when he was shipped to Washington as part of a trade. He now looks to be a viable backcourt partner and/or back-up for Wall.

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