January 05, 2010
We're two months into the season and a week into the "2010" portion of the 2009-10 campaign. With a solid chunk of games under our belt, let's dip back into the nonsense that is the NBA ranking system and hand out a few midseason awards.
Most Valuable Player
The game's best player just continues to roll along at a rate nobody can touch. Almost 29 points, eight assists and seven rebounds per game, stats compiled on the league's 26th-fastest team (which denies him the chance to stat pad). He's averaging 2.5 combined blocks/steals, too, with 50 percent shooting.
Playing just under 32 minutes a game, Duncan's per-game averages of 20 points, 10 boards, two blocks and three assists may not dazzle ... but think about that. He's doing that in 32 minutes per game. Six and a half fewer than LeBron and Kobe, while topping both of them (by far) in defensive impact. And LeBron and Kobe are no slouches on that end.
Bryant's per-minute stats are slightly worse than Chris Paul's(notes) and Chris Bosh's,(notes) but missed games for the former and iffy defense for the latter move Kobe Bean ahead. He gets no extra points from us for amazingly playing through that busted hand, but you don't really need them when you average 30 points per game on 49 percent shooting, with 5.6 boards, 4.6 assists and two steals.
Defensive Player of the Year
Most would agree that since his final year in Indiana, Ron has sometimes hurt his teams defensively. He either obsesses over defending his own man at the expense of help D, or he gets into petty "no layup" battles that cost his teams free throws and Ron's ego absolutely nothing.
This year? He's been perfect. Shutting down small forwards while helping a Lakers defense that has been ranked among the top one or two teams for most of the year. Los Angeles is a whopping 13.6 points per 100 possessions better defensively when Ron is on the court.
It's not just flops and flashy rebounds with this guy. Varejao moves his feet expertly, and the Cavaliers are a much better team when he's on the floor.
An all-around stopper on a middling defensive team, Webster is a beast on that end.
Most Improved Player
1. Zach Randolph(notes)
Randolph is essentially coming through with the same per-minute stats (and we use per-minute stats, here, which is why Joakim Noah(notes) misses the cut — he's the same player this year as he was last year, he's just finally getting the minutes he deserves), but it's the way that he's compiling these stats that's winning games for Memphis.
Finally, Randolph is making quick decisions with the ball. He's not holding the ball after defensive rebounds, he's actually playing a bit of defense, he's going into his moves quickly, and he's not trying to act all Divac-like when it comes to passing. The ends didn't justify the means with this guy for years, but in 2009-10 he's turned it around.
It may not be the flashiest name, but Beno has gone from a point guard that can hurt his own team to an above-average contributor. It's all about the jump, not the landing, and though he's not an All-Star, that doesn't mean Udrih hasn't improved considerably.
We dug Gasol's game last year, but even given the typical second-year jump, Gasol has improved considerably and at a rate that his rookie year stats and play didn't suggest.
Coach of the Year
1. Lionel Hollins
Some may balk at Hollins' placement above Paul Westphal (or his inclusion over several other coaches, as this is always the hardest award to vote on because of so many deserving candidates). And I can't argue against that, but I should point this out. It's not that hard to get the typical Sacramento King to work hard, because that team is loaded with guys who give maximum effort.
The Grizzlies? With Randolph and Rudy Gay(notes) and the Allen Iverson(notes) debacle and those tiny crowds? Lionel Hollins got his team ignoring everything but his message, and, man, is that impressive. Somehow, this is a .500 team (and these were the only guys that expected it).
2. Paul Westphal
They can't defend a lick, but who cares when Westphal has made the Kings so fun?
3. Rick Adelman
Fill in any number of coaches at the three (or two or one) spot, and I could not disagree. With that in place, Adelman's done a masterful job in Houston this year.
Rookie of the Year
I wasn't smitten with his shot selection early on, and am still nervous about the "move" to "point guard" for Tyreke, but this kid has been an absolute joy to watch so far. He's averaging 20 points with a combined 10 assists/rebounds, as the Kings continue to "surprise."
He's been sitting out some fourth quarters, and talking about a cursed run to 55 points in that Warriors debacle last November, but let's settle down a bit — 19 points per game, six assists a contest, a 2-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio and a 41 percent stroke from long range. The kid is fine.
He's shooting 50 percent, 47.4 percent from long range, and averaging about 13 points and 4.6 rebounds in only 27 minutes a contest.
Sixth Man of the Year
He's averaging 16.4 points and 5.7 rebounds in only 26 minutes a game. Right now, it's not even close.
Look who's rounding into shape. Ginobili is averaging 12.8 points and 7.4 combined rebounds/assists in 25 minutes per contest. Once he plays more games, we'll have a race.
You might not like his defense, even when he plays defense, or his me-first instincts. But you still can't deny almost 18 points per game in 28 minutes, while coming off the bench for 20 of 31 contests.