The 2013 NBA All-Star game is but weeks away. You know what that means: sports websites will be bombarding you with their mid-season awards lists. Since you enjoy them so much, Sports Jerks decided to put together one of its own.
There might be a few surprises, and more than a few givens, but it’s all based on expert opinions―our own.
Don’t hesitate to share your thoughts about ours in the comment section at the bottom.
Best Team Of The East:
The New York Knicks
Miami Heat fans and fault-finders thought this year would turn out to be something like that Denzel Washington movie where he’s got to catch a speeding train with no conductor. Instead the Heat’s achilles heels look more exposed than ever. They operate on a level of self-induced slumber at times, so it’s never a good idea to completely paint them out of the championship picture, but their lack of size, rebounding, point guard, and pre-2013 Wade and Bosh shouldn’t get them past the Conference Finals.
If Rose comes back, the Bulls might balloon into contenders, but there’s too many “ifs” involved with them to make a stable prediction. Also, despite improving their scoring punch―with the additions of Belinelli and Robinson, the emergence of Jimmy Buckets, and the appearance of Boozer―they are now Asik-less, so that means their edge over the size-deficient Heat squad is less.
The Knicks are in bit of a limbo right now, but they’ve proven twice this year that they can run the Heat out of any arena. When they played at MSG, the Knicks barraged them with 19 threes. In Miami, the Heat were playing catch-up the whole match, and almost got routed again without the presence of Carmelo Anthony. At the point, Kidd and Felton make a deadly duo that can make the competition backpedal individually or in unison. Chandler, our runner-up for DPOY, will cause Lebron to lose even more hair before his career’s over.
Best Team Of The West:
Oklahoma City Thunder
This one depends on any given week, even day, since the Los Angeles Clippers don’t seem to understand how good they can be (if you don’t count that 17-game winning streak). San Antonio are once again quietly defying logic as they’ve perched themselves atop of the league’s best with an aged and colorless roster. But can they withstand a seven-game series with the Thunder?
OKC, somehow, is stronger than they were a year ago, and the only thing that stopped them then was a 240-pound specimen with Kidd’s court vision, Malone’s frame, and Moses’ physicality. Westbrook continues to be a loose cannon, but he’ll understand his deficiencies before the year’s over. When he does, look out.
Most Valuable Player (MVP)
This prize should be in the bag for LBJ. It has been at major points of the season, notably his domination against OKC on their Xmas day Finals rematch. There’s also no need to mention what being the youngest to score 20,000 points does for his legacy.
But KD gets the nod for reasons that aren’t very hard to describe. 29.6 PPG, 7.4 RPG, 4.5 APG, 1.6 SPG, 1.2 BPG speak for themselves. He also might be only the seventh player to ever join the coveted 50/40/90 club, this while on the cusp of securing his fourth-straight scoring title. For as great a player as LeBron is and has been, it’s scary to see that Darantula seems primed to overtake him on many fronts.
Defensive Player Of The Year
Engine, engine number 13.
Noah is fearless. You have to be to stand your ground against world-class competitors in what has become an NBA that values athletes over players. Noah does it day-in and day-out with a childlike abandon you could see on Pippen back when he used to treat opponents like an old pair of shoes. No one, since perhaps Rodman―which is fitting―has any player gotten so many “I want to slap you” looks from opposing teams. Something that speaks for his ability to frustrate on the defensive end as much as it does for the size of his mouth.
Thing is, no one dares to stand up to his brashness. They might if Noah didn’t back up his words with his All-Star play, or if he didn’t look like he’d be comfortable in an MMA bout.
Most Improved Player (MIP)
In the absence of Danny Granger, George has played out of his 22-year-old mind. It’s insane to think that George has had enough time to improve so considerably given his age, that he’s made the All-Star team this year, and that he was already operating on a high level. If Hibbert ever decides to put the ball in the basket, George might be leading the Pacers to a trophy soon.
Coach Of The Year:
Gregg Popovich and Tom Thibodeau squeeze the ballot box anytime they’re in the mix, and this year is no different. Popovich does a better job of monitoring old age than Japan, and is willing to take on the league to provide sufficient rest for his players. A league best record shows how much Popovich can squeeze out of a rock. Yes, even if that rock comes in the form of a future HOF and a perennial All-Star.
Thibodeau is managing a team without its best player, a former MVP no less, which is somehow surging after having gone through a major makeover. But he’s still operating with a frontcourt that consists of Joakim Noah, Carlos Boozer, and Luol Deng. Not exactly unproven players.
Mark Jackson and Mike Woodson are also operating with a slew of talent on their side, but have exceeded expectations by miles. Mark Jackson has done more with less, but his Golden State Warriors don’t look like a team that will get past the second round of the playoffs (maybe even the first, depending on their opponents).
Woodson has done the unthinkable: gotten J.R. Smith to play consistently and Melo to adhere to a defensive mindset. He’s got a team as deep as the Clippers, which gives him more working pieces to deal with, but has suffered through twice as many injuries. If this record-breaking team can do without their canes for the remainder of the season, Woodson might be able to pull off an Eastern Conference upset.