Predicting the 2009 NBA year-end awards

The end of the NBA season is almost upon us, so it’s time to hand out a few year-end awards.

Rookie of the Year
Early on, this was a battle between Derrick Rose and O.J. Mayo, but a few other players – namely, Russell Westbrook, Brook Lopez, Kevin Love and Marc Gasol – played their way into the conversation over the course of the season. Still, this award should go to Rose, who was immediately asked to run the Bulls and handled the job admirably. He averaged almost 17 points per game to go with six assists and shot almost 48% from the field. More importantly, he never hit the rookie wall, and his fine play in April (19.0 ppg, 6.8 apg, 55% shooting) helped Chicago sneak into the playoffs. The rest of these guys are heading home for the summer.
My choice: Rose
My prediction: Rose

Most Improved
This is always a tough one. Usually, it goes to a player that entered the league without a lot of pomp and circumstance (i.e. they were non-lottery picks) that makes the jump from role player or starter to star or superstar. The last eight winners are: Hedo Turkoglu (16th pick), Monta Ellis (40th), Boris Diaw (21st), Bobby Simmons (42nd), Zach Randolph (19th), Gilbert Arenas (31st), Jermaine O’Neal (17th) and Tracy McGrady (9th). A few of the names being bandied about are Devin Harris (5th), Danny Granger (17th), Kevin Durant (2nd), Nene (7th), Thaddeus Young (12th), Brandon Roy (6th) and Roger Mason (31st). Durant, Harris, Roy, Young and Nene all came into the league as lottery picks, a fact that works against them in this case. They’ve all made leaps this season, though I think everyone was expecting Durant, Harris, Roy and Young to make those jumps. Nene is more of a comeback player than an MIP. He’s been battling injuries his entire career, so the fact that he’s playing well while healthy is no surprise. The last few winners indicate that the MIP usually goes to a player who makes an unexpected leap, so I think it will go to Danny Granger, though his late season run in 2007-08 works against him. He averaged 22.4 points in March of ’08, and 24.8 ppg in April of ’08, so if you dig into the numbers a little, his play this season isn’t as big of a surprise. Still, I don’t think that he had the same expectations as Durant, Harris and Roy, so I think he’s our guy. Mason might be the darkhorse.
My choice: Granger
My prediction: Granger

Sixth Man
This award seems to come down to Jason Terry, Manu Ginobili, Nate Robinson, Lamar Odom and Travis Outlaw. Ginobili only appeared in 44 games, so he’s probably out. Odom’s numbers are inflated by a 32-game starting stint where he produced 14.0 points and 11.2 rebounds. Take those numbers out of his totals and on the whole, he struggled coming off the bench. Terry and Robinson are big scorers, and Outlaw’s numbers just don’t compare. Terry is on a playoff team and Robinson is not, so I think Terry will be the guy.
My choice: Terry
My prediction: Terry

Coach of the Year
For a time, it looked like this award was destined to go to Stan Van Gundy. No one was really expecting the Magic to finish with the fourth-most wins in the league, and the fact that Orlando is 22-11 without its All-Star point guard (Jameer Nelson) only supports Van Gundy’s case. But two other teams are just/almost as surprising. Cleveland wasn’t supposed to be good, but the Cavs league-best record is surprising. And the Rockets’ 53 wins are pretty shocking, especially considering that they’ve been without Tracy McGrady for much of the season. Given the Cavs’ success, I think Mike Brown will win it, though if I had a vote, I think I’d cast it for Rick Adelman.
My choice: Adelman
My prediction: Brown

Defensive Player of the Year
Dwight Howard leads the league in blocks (2.92) and rebounds (13.9) and is second in the league in defensive rebounds (9.6). Fourteen of the last 17 DPOYs have been centers, so Howard seems like a shoe-in for the award.
My choice: Howard
My prediction: Howard

MVP
This was a two-horse race for much of the season, which makes sense considering LeBron James and Kobe Bryant are the best players on the two best teams in the league. Dwyane Wade joined the conversation with a stellar run over the second half. (He averaged better than 33.5 ppg over the last two months of the season.) But this is about LeBron and Kobe, and LeBron has the inside track. His team has the better record, his assist and rebound numbers are better, and he’s playing with the lesser supporting cast. LeBron set career highs in FG%, 3PT% and FT%. He deserves it. (Besides, Kobe won it last year.)
My choice: LeBron
My prediction: LeBron

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