It’s Mid-Season Awards Time!

KD ham

Yesterday, the Bulls finished off the Lakers to move to 25-25 and on the season. 50 games in and less than a week from the All-Star Break feels like a good time to check in around the league and make some predictions. You may remember my NBA Tipoff Preview Extravaganza, but many things have changed since October. Some of my predictions were solid (Durant as scoring champ, Washington and Dallas to make the playoffs, etc.), while some of been quite ugly (Portland finishing 10th in the West, Derrick Rose and the Bulls embarking on a storybook season). Regardless, it’s a hell of a lot easier to make informed predictions 50 games in than it is to guess off of meaningless preseason games and offseason quotes. Let’s jump in once again.

Eastern Conference Standings

  1. Indiana Pacers
  2. Miami Heat
  3. Atlanta Hawks
  4. Toronto Raptors*
  5. Chicago Bulls*
  6. Brooklyn Nets
  7. Washington Wizards
  8. Detroit Pistons
  9. New York Knicks
  10. Charlotte Bobcats
  11. Cleveland Cavaliers
  12. Boston Celtics
  13. Orlando Magic
  14. Philadelphia 76ers
  15. Milwaukee Bucks

*-even if Chicago finishes ahead of Toronto, winning the Atlantic Division yields the Raptors the four seed

I’m expecting much of the same for the last chunk of the season. The one team I think will surely miss the playoffs is Charlotte, to be replaced by either Detroit or New York.

Western Conference Standings

  1. Oklahoma City Thunder
  2. San Antonio Spurs
  3. Los Angeles Clippers
  4. Portland Trailblazers
  5. Houston Rockets
  6. Golden State Warriors
  7. Dallas Mavericks
  8. Memphis Grizzlies
  9. Phoenix Suns
  10. Minnesota Timberwolves
  11. Denver Nuggets
  12. New Orleans Pelicans
  13. Utah Jazz
  14. Sacramento Kings
  15. Los Angeles Lakers

Memphis will reclaim its playoff spot, probably at the hands of Phoenix. I also could see the Lakers sliding all the way down to last in the Western Conference (which would be terrific for them).

NBA Finals

If Russell Westbrook can return and stay on the floor, I like the OKC Thunder over Indiana. Miami has a legitimate shot at four straight Finals and a three-peat, but an aging roster and an increasing reliance on Wade, James and Bosh has to be alarming for Pat Riley. The Pacers are young and healthy, and every win moves them closer to home court advantage. Out West, the Thunder have inexplicably been the best team by a decent margin, mostly without Westbrook. Assuming Durant can keep up his MVP levels of play, integrating Westbrook back in would make for a vicious attack. Plus, my biggest issue with the Thunder in the 2012 Finals was Scott Brooks refusal to have Kendrick Perkins ride the pine. This year, Brooks is more willing to experiment with small lineups and better plus-minus guys like Nick Collison and Steven Adams. If this keeps up into the playoffs, the whole NBA better be on notice.

MVP

  1. Kevin Durant
  2. LeBron James
  3. Paul George
  4. Steph Curry
  5. LaMarcus Aldridge

For what it’s worth, my choice for MVP is LeBron James. Kevin Durant has a perfectly logical case this season, but my reasoning is as follows: if you consider Durant to be a 10/10 on offense, LeBron is still an 8.5 or 9 at WORST. On defense, LeBron is a full 10/10. He can cover every position with ease. Even if Durant has improved rapidly on that side of the floor, I think you would be hard-pressed to argue that Durant’s defense is good as LeBron’s offense. And if you disagree with that logic, you should probably watch LeBron’s defense more carefully next game. Anyway, KD’s probably gonna win this one. Voter fatigue + best record + historical offensive season. No complaints.

Defensive Player of the Year

  1. Roy Hibbert
  2. LeBron James
  3. Andrew Bogut
  4. Joakim Noah
  5. Dwight Howard

Hibbert is the best defender in a ridiculously, historically, mind-blowingly good defense in Indiana. Anyone that’s watched Roy play (especially against Miami last ECF) gets it.

Sixth Man of the Year

  1. Reggie Jackson
  2. Taj Gibson
  3. Jamal Crawford
  4. Tyreke Evans
  5. Manu Ginobili

This one is a real toss-up this year. Jackson has the best numbers but he’s started a lot of games with Westbrook out so he may not end up being eligible. Taj Gibson is turning in a career year that’s finally convinced everyone in Chicago that he is much, much better than Carlos Boozer. Crawford is having another excellent reserve season while Evans and Ginobili have fought injuries to try and keep their teams’ bench units strong.

Coach of the Year

  1. Terry Stotts, Portland Trailblazers
  2. Frank Vogel, Indiana Pacers
  3. Mike Budenholzer, Atlanta Hawks
  4. Scott Brooks, Oklahoma City Thunder
  5. Gregg Popovich, San Antonio Spurs

The rare season where I don’t instantly hand off the award to Pop or Thibs. While Pop has a legitimate case (nearly NBA’s best record with a slew of scrubs playing huge minutes due to injuries), Thibs’ .500 record leaves a little to be desired. Stotts has been a revalation in Portland, turning playoff-hopefuls into home court advantage if they can hold on. Vogel continues to architect the NBA’s best defense, while Budenholzer (a Popovich student) has done a terrific job with a goofy roster in his first year in Atlanta. Brooks has shown that he’s able to adapt and maintain an elite record.

Rookie of the Year

  1. Michael Carter-Williams
  2. Victor Oladipo
  3. Trey Burke
  4. Tim Hardaway Jr.
  5. Giannis Antentokounmpo

Carter-Williams wasn’t even on my pre-season list, but he’s in the driver’s seat now (although he has fallen off a bit). Oladipo has quietly put together a promising campaign while Burke and Hardaway Jr. have played key roles for their teams. Giannis has a long way to go, but he may be the most promising rookie.

That’s all I’ve got for right now. Feel free to comment, tweet, or email me with your own predictions, whether you agree or not. Enjoy the rest of the season–soon enough we’ll only have baseball!

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