Sam Smith's 2013-14 NBA awards predictions
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Remember, the awards are about the regular season. Everyone gets a chance, though by now you don’t get much credit for being with a losing team. So taking a look ahead, the best perhaps will look a bit like this:
-- Most Valuable Player: Derrick Rose, Bulls. LeBron James is going for an unprecedented five in six years. He’s terrific. He’s not that good. Kareem won five in seven years; Jordan won five in 11 years; Russell won five in eight years; Wilt won four in nine years. The lament goes now Jordan should have won every year, though you can’t say that about Bird, Magic, Wilt and Russell. It was much more competitive then. I didn’t vote for Jordan every year because there’s never just one great guy. Plus, there’s no precise definition. It’s not for the best player in the league; the award is for the most valuable. Of course, every top player is the most valuable to his team. So it’s basically gone to the best player on the best team. If I’m correct and the Bulls win more games than Miami, Rose should get it. Plus, the Bulls should have a chance at 60 wins. Which makes for a measure: 45 without Rose last season. Plus, LeBron and Kevin Durant play with much better second players than Rose. The way Rose has played in the preseason, he looks like an MVP again and should be.
-- Coach of the Year: Doc Rivers, Clippers. This is like what I always hear about why guys should manage the Cubs: If you win with the Cubs, it’s historic. Perhaps the Clippers don’t have as much tradition, except in misery and incompetence. Rivers won coach of the year once, in his rookie season with Orlando. He got overlooked in Boston as the award was passed around to guys whose teams were better than the media figured: Sam Mitchell, Avery Johnson, Byron Scott. Rivers has become one of the true elite coaches in the game with a voice that commands attention among the best after his great run with the Celtics. George Karl was a great choice last season. Then, of course, he was fired. Within three years of winning, eight of the winners since Rivers in 1999 have been fired. But you wouldn’t miss choosing from among Rivers, Popovich, Thibodeau, Rick Adelman and Rick Carlisle. My potential upset choice is New Orleans’ Monty Williams.
-- Rookie of the Year. Victor Oladipo, Magic. I don’t see him as a big time star as he eventually moves to point guard for the Magic. But he’s likely going to put up big numbers for a bad team. The issue is what happens with Jameer Nelson. If they cannot trade him or he doesn’t come up with a convenient injury, it could confuse the position. The Magic see Oladipo as a surprise Russell Westbrook type who converted to point. Though Oladipo doesn’t have that explosive game. There was a lot of sentiment for Trey Burke in Utah being handed the point guard job, but he won’t return from injury until December. Though he remains a possibility. The 76ers are really bad, so maybe Michael Carter-Williams gets a lot of time. I liked Steven Adams with Oklahoma City, but someone needs to tell Kendrick Perkins the franchise moved. Among rookies I’ve seen, I also like Boston’s Kelly Olynyk, though it’s unclear how much he’ll play. Atlanta’s Dennis Schroder also is getting attention, but should be a backup. As for No. 1 pick, Anthony Bennett, he shoots the ball well for a big man but probably won’t get quite enough offensive chances. Though he looks good as well.
-- Defensive Player of the Year: Dwight Howard, Rockets. I know everyone got mad at Howard for being a baby. But Marc Gasol and Tyson Chandler? Would you rather play against Howard or them? The Rockets have to trade Omer Asik before they continue this crazy experiment of playing them together and watching Howard try to defend on the perimeter and take jump shots. All-defense teams usually are poorly picked since the coaches vote for that and are the most political as they try to get their guys on by voting against competitors. I thought Joakim Noah deserved it last season, but he got hurt late. Gasol was an amazing choice. He’s not even the best defender on his team. The coaches even had Mike Conley second team all-defense. What games were they watching? Tony Allen gets a lot of credit and LeBron James, who can be great but only defends in spurts. Chris Paul keeps making first team, but he overplays the lanes for steals and I could score on him. Rivers is trying to persuade DeAndre Jordan he has a chance. Jordan can be good. But if he can win, then Doc definitely gets coach of the year. There’s some sentiment for Roy Hibbert, but his slow motion game still doesn’t speak athlete to me.
-- Sixth Man: Tyreke Evans, New Orleans. This always is one of the most competitive awards since teams do use scorers this way, like with Jamal Crawford, James Harden and Jason Terry in recent years. It’s a bit early to determine who’ll end up on the bench all season. Taj Gibson with the Bulls is having his best start, but likely won’t score enough. Similarly with Golden State’s Harrison Barnes, who seems headed to reserve with the acquisition of Andre Iguodala. Terry could have an impact with the deep Nets and Crawford with the Clippers, though they have too many candidates. Perhaps Luis Scola with the Pacers, though again he won’t score enough. You never know who’ll be sixth man on teams like Denver. Andre Miller? He could win. Wilson Chandler? Michael Beasley? Would they trust him in Miami that much? Vince Carter? Is he still playing? Marco Belinelli is going to be good with the Spurs. But Evans is a bigtime scorer. True, they have a lot of scorers, but if Evans accepts the role there aren’t many second unit players who can defend him.
-- Most Improved: Eric Bledsoe, Suns. This is the most difficult award to define. I don’t vote for high lottery draft picks since the notion is they were supposed to be good. If I did I would pick Bradley Beal this season. The Wizard guard is a great shooter. Dwight Howard? Heck, after last season you probably could make a case. Don’t! DeMarcus Cousins is supposed to be serious now with his new deal. But he was always projected to be a top player. Though he probably won’t be. The Thunder’s Reggie Jackson especially with Westbrook out should make a big move. And the Clippers Darren Collison, dumped by three teams, is a strong backup. But Chris Paul plays a lot. I think Bledsoe has a chance to be very good. They’ve still got Goran Dragic, but he could be the next to go as the Suns apparently are trying to get every pick in the 2014 draft. Bledsoe, a low first rounder, will probably play with Dragic and should make a big jump this season with regular playing time.
-- Executive of the Year: Daryl Morey. This is one of my favorite awards because it betrays the bias among league officials they accuse the media of having. Pat Riley recruited LeBron James and Chris Bosh, whom everyone chased, and didn’t win. Well, he tied with the Bulls’ Gar Forman. And the Bulls did well that summer reacting on the fly and subsequently in the draft with low picks to win. But they also wanted James. Forman should probably have won instead for draft picks like Taj Gibson and jimmy Butler, which are much more difficult. John Paxson got votes as well that season. Or Forman would have won outright. That split has been changed now with the vote by team. Last season, Morey should have won making the big move to get James Harden as well as Omer Asik and Jeremy Lin. Denver’s Masai Ujiri won, and I’m still not sure what he did. But the GMs don’t like Morey, either. I can understand why. He’s one of those stat guys who likes to give everyone the Billy Beane treatment that he’s smart and they’re all dumb because he has the numbers. Morey was patient. He made about two dozen meaningless trades going nowhere until he had a lot of stuff around and the Thunder panicked with Harden. But lucky is good in sports. The irony, of course, is had the Thunder not dumped Harden on Houston, Howard never would have gone there. Now the Thunder will be hard pressed to beat Houston. But how about a lack of bias, fellas? Just be a good journalist. You could make a case for Billy King in Brooklyn, but that’s mostly Russian diamonds and unlevel playing field spending for aging veterans. Actually, my runner up is Larry Bird for coming back and making some nice moves to improve the Pacers’ bench, their biggest weakness. Rivers gets some credit for loading the Clippers’ bench with shooters around Chris Paul. If the Pelicans can get a center like Omer Asik to take the pressure off Anthony Davis then Dell Demps gets to be involved in deals without David Stern and a contender as well.
And a few more…
There are some awards we generally just know about but aren’t quite official. Here’s a look at some of them.
-- Mike Brown First out the Door: Tyrone Corbin, Jazz. It could be an 0-20 start, after all. Brown, now back in Cleveland where he seemingly doesn’t have to win and, after all, how is LeBron James supposed to be going back there after they fired Brown once to try to keep James? Hello! Corbin has been all over the place starting veterans when he should play kids and who knows what else. They quietly brought back Jerry Sloan as an advisor. Hmmmmmm.
-- Ron Artest First Suspension: Likely J.R. Smith. Soon as he returns from his first suspension and finds out they’re starting Iman Shumpert. Mike Woodson has been among the first waiting to sign up for Obamacare for psychological and mental counseling.
-- Lou Amundsen Suitcase Award. Amundsen was released by the Clippers trying to make his ninth NBA team in eight seasons. They’re not exactly utility players, but look for Omer Asik, Pau Gasol, Arron Afflalo, Marcus Thornton and Rodney Stuckey to be on the move.
-- Robert Parish as a Bull award: Kendrick Perkins. His movements now resemble those of 43-year-old Parish when he was with the Bulls in 1996-97 so Jerry Krause could finally get the player he chased for 20 years. Hey, Krause was right on that one.
-- I’m a Celebrity Get me Out of Here award: Al Horford, Rajon Rondo, LaMarcus Aldridge, Gerald Wallace, Rudy Gay, Zach Randolph, Evan Turner. They’ll mostly be wondering what they are doing there and how they can get away.
-- What Have I got Myself Into award: Brian Shaw. He finally got a head coaching job after telling GMs he believed in the triangle offense and being told no one liked math. Shaw now says he failed geometry. But after George Karl’s 57-win aberration, it’s a long season on the way back to 44 wins.
-- Charlie V/Ben Gordon Grass not Greener award: Josh Smith. You’ve got to give a guy credit for going to Detroit these days. Of course, $13.5 million annually helps you get into a nice neighborhood. But there’s two other big guys around, and if Josh thought he was booed shooting threes in Atlanta, they’re much crankier up north where it’s worse weather.
-- Luc Longley Let’s go Body Surfing Mate award: Andrew Bogut. He gets it for his $42 million extension with the Warriors after only occasionally playing the last five years. As Willie Nelson is now singing, Make sure your kids grow up to be Australian centers.
-- Wishing You had Beards as a Disguise as Well award: Philadelphia 76ers. They’re playing in the famous place where Santa Claus was supposedly booed, though in the football stadium. The 76ers look to be historically bad in a city without much patience for that.
-- Marvin “Bad News” Barnes Anyone need my Nickname award: DeMarcus Cousins. He received his big extension, which basically means don’t talk to him now. Rookie coach and general manager and owner and a lot of guards. And DeMarcus likes to shoot jumpers. That ought to be a fun season.