Posts Tagged ‘Rookie of the Year’

Award races head into stretch run

By Fran Blinebury,

Four weeks from today the regular season is over. All eyes will be on the playoffs. And that means the final push is on for the 2013-14 awards.

The duel for MVP honors has been a match race all season between Kevin Durant and LeBron James. Michael Carter-Williams jumped out of the pack early as the one to beat for Rookie of the Year. But the other races have been wide open.

Here’s one man’s view as we head into the home stretch:

Most Improved Player

Anthony Davis, Pelicans — This is why the Pelicans were so happy to make him the No. 1 pick in the 2012 Draft. This is what coach Monty Williams says Davis probably could have shown last season if the coach hadn’t kept a tight rein on his prized rookie, limiting his minutes and his exposure to getting overpowered while he built up his slender body. When Davis erupted for 40 points, 21 rebounds, three assists and three steals against the Celtics, it was the culmination of a spectacular sophomore year. He’s been steady and breathtaking at both ends of the court all season, enough to beat out the likes of worthy candidates Goran Dragic and Lance Stephenson in a crowded field of contenders. Also getting votes: DeAndre Jordan, Trevor Ariza.

VIDEO: Anthony Davis was nominated for Kia Player of the Month for March

Sixth Man of the Year

Manu Ginobili, Spurs — Following an injury-plagued 2012-13 season that saw him enter the playoffs last spring looking bedraggled, the player who puts the jolt into the Spurs attack is back playing like a live wire in his 12th season. His field-goal percentage is up and his he’s back to doing all the things at both ends of the floor that make him a disruptive force and a difference maker. Jamal Crawford is the closest contender and has done many of the same things for the Clippers. The deciding factor has to be overall team performance. L.A. is in the top half of the Western Conference standings, but that’s once again the Spurs at the top. The return of Manu to his old form is a prime reason. Also getting votes: Reggie Jackson, Markieff Morris.

VIDEO: Manu Ginobili talks about the Spurs’ season and his play

Rookie of the Year

Michael Carter-Williams, Sixers — He was the sixth guard selected (11th overall) in 2013 and wasted no time showing he never should have lasted that long. He’s put up big numbers even as the Sixers have suffered through what is a historically inept season. If all of general manager Sam Hinkie’s decisions turn out so well, the pain will be worth the price. The fun could just be starting when MCW gets to team up with a healthy Nerlens Noel next season. It’s a long way back to the No. 2 man in the voting for this category, but we’re jumping the more likely pick and going with Tim Hardaway Jr. His hard-charging style has been one of the few reasons to watch the Knicks all year. Also getting votes: Victor Oladipo, Trey Burke. Kia Rookie Ladder

VIDEO: At the All-Star break, Michael Carter-Williams talks about his season

Defensive Player of the Year

Joakim Noah, Bulls — The Pacers spent the early part of the year polishing their reputation as the league’s top defensive team, with center Roy Hibbert starting to clear room on his mantle as the pre-eminent rim protector in the game. But it is no coincidence that the Pacers’ struggles fit with a slippage in Hibbert’s game. The truth is, when you get him just a little bit away from the basket, he’s not so dominant. Meanwhile the Bulls have shrugged off the loss of Derrick Rose and Luol Deng because Noah simply won’t let them stop working and scrapping and competing. He’s the heart and soul of the team, especially that ferocious defense as Chicago charges late and the Pacers try to regain their equilibrium. Also getting votes: Serge Ibaka, Dwight Howard.

VIDEO: Rachel Nichols talks with Joakim Noah about his surge in play of late

Coach of the Year

Gregg Popovich, Spurs — The first instinct is to say that Jeff Hornacek has taken a Suns team that everyone assumed was diving for the lottery — and the Las Vegas wise guys had pegged for 21.5 wins — and turned them into an uplifting story and playoff contender, and that’s worthy of consideration. The next instinct is to say that Tom Thibodeau is like the Black Knight in “Monty Python and the Holy Grail”, virtually getting limbs chopped off and yet ignoring the wounds and keeping right on with the fight. But when you get right down to the meat of things, it’s all about winning games and some how, some way, Popovich keeps doing that better than anybody else. Never mind that Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili are practically senior citizens. Never mind that an assortment of injuries has forced the Spurs to use two dozen different lineups. Never mind all of those lingering mental scars from The Finals last June. Popovich expects the best and his team keeps producing it. Excellence should be recognized and rewarded. Also getting votes: Frank Vogel, Dwane Casey, Steve Clifford.

VIDEO: GameTime delves into how deeply Gregg Popovich’s influence is felt around the NBA

Most Valuable Player

Kevin Durant, Thunder — It’s been a two-horse race between Durant and LeBron James almost from the opening tip. You can almost never go wrong picking James, who still reigns as the league’s best player with his ability. It looked like James might be making a late charge for an MVP three-peat with his 61 point game a couple of weeks ago. But an ensuing slump by both LeBron and the Heat took the steam out of that charge. Durant responded and has raised his game even higher over the past 1 1/2 weeks. We also have to go back to Durant’s body of work without Russell Westbrook for 30 games — and counting — as he keeps the Thunder in the hunt for best overall record and heads toward what should be the first of multiple MVP wins. Also getting votes: Joakim Noah, Blake Griffin. Kia Race to the MVP Ladder

VIDEO: Chris Webber and Greg Anthony debate and discuss the MVP race

Griffin Collects ROY Iron A Year Late

PLAYA VISTA, Calif. — This ceremony was supposed to take place a year ago this time and probably would have if Blake Griffin‘s original rookie season hadn’t been derailed by a knee injury.

Truth be told, Griffin’s coronation as the NBA’s top rookie could have come at any time since Thanksgiving, when it became clear that he was a cut above the rest of the class.

Griffin accepted the Eddie Gottlieb trophy and all the other accolades that come along with winning the 2011 T-Mobile NBA Rookie of the Year award Wednesday afternoon, becoming the first unanimous winner of the award since David Robinson in 1990.

“I’ve had this date on my calendar since the first day I walked into the gym and saw Blake  shooting baskets,” Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro said.

Griffin was a dominant force for the Clippers all season, earning an All-Star nod as well as winning the 2011 Sprite Slam Dunk contest here during All-Star Weekend (there was no Kia anywhere in sight Wednesday, which was a huge relief, his father, Tommy Griffin, joked after the formal ceremony ended). Griffin was the first rookie to appear in an All-Star Game since Yao Ming in 2003 and the first to be voted in by the coaches since Tim Duncan in 1998.

He led all rookies in scoring (22.5), finished fourth overall in the league’s rebounding race (12.1) and piled up 63 double-doubles while finishing the season as the only player in the league to average at least 20 points, 12 rebounds and three assists.

You’d think he’d need a little break right now having done all that, but Griffin’s anxious to get back at it. “Watching all these playoff games is making me itch,” he said. “I can’t wait to get back out there. This is a huge summer for us [the Clippers]. We’ve got a lot of work to do to get to where we want to be.”

That doesn’t mean the magnitude of Wednesday’s even was lost on him. “To accomplish this it means a lot considering where I was last year. I’ve worked hard to get to this point and it feels great.”


Blogtable: Is Griffin top rookie?

If he stays healthy and does what he’s doing, but the Clips stay horrible, is Blake Griffin your T-Mobile Rookie of the Year?

David Aldridge: Probably, though we’ll have to define “horrible.” Is that one game better than the Wizards, for example? ‘Cause if the records are close, I wouldn’t count out John Wall just yet.

Steve Aschburner: Two very big ifs, especially for anyone lugging the curse of the Clippers on his shoulders. But sure, if Blake Griffin keeps this up and stays available, he’s my ROY. That award, less than most of the individual honors doled out each spring, doesn’t get bogged down by a team’s win-loss record. But John Wall doesn’t plan to sit out December through March, last I checked.

Art Garcia: Sounds like a column I once wrote. I’ve got Blake Griffin as the early leader, but weren’t we sold on Brandon Jennings at this point last year? John Wall is going to have something to say about this year’s rookie race, and considering the Wizards figure to dwell in the East’s cellar, I don’t believe a team’s record is going to be the decider factor. (more…)