After the Jazz play the Wizards on Wednesday night, they will have officially begun the second half of the season. After compiling 22 wins against 19 losses, the Jazz are third in their division and on course to be one of the last teams into the playoffs.
With the remaining 41 games ahead of us, it’s time to hand out a little hardware to the deserving individuals – take that, Mr. Hubble.
It’s really difficult to pick against LeBron James, who is leading his team in points, rebounds, assists, and steals. With all the talk of Kevin Durant reaching the 50-40-90 mark, LeBron is nearly at that level as well. Miami is the defending champs, LeBron won the award last year, and the Heat have the best record in the Eastern Conference. He is well deserving, and is probably going to lead his team to another title.
So that’s who I’m going with. Yes, the Heat lost to the Jazz at Energy Solutions Arena, and LeBron didn’t have that great of a game here in Salt Lake City. But, he is well deserving, and is still carrying the same load that he carried in Cleveland albeit with a better supporting cast now. Don’t punish LeBron for his teammates inability to rebound or defend at a high level. You want to know what an MVP does? He has the ability to completely dominate, and that is what I have seen LeBron do multiple times. When the Heat blew out the Lakers in Los Angeles recently, who was guarding Kobe in the fourth quarter? LeBron. Who was making clutch baskets at ease to secure the victory? LeBron.
My pick for MVP of the Utah Jazz? The titan of the third quarter, Al Jefferson. Big Al has improved his defense, is passing at an elite level for a forward, and is the fulcrum of the Jazz offense. It is telling that the offense has not struggled with a variety of injuries or inconsistent starting lineups. It will be interesting to see how the Jazz front office tries to tango with Jefferson and his agent in the upcoming offseason.
Rookie of the Year
Here are some numbers of past top rookies from year’s past and how they performed in their first season in the league. I don’t want to distort numbers by showing advanced stats or per 36 stats, so this is just a per game comparison.
Just from a numbers standpoint, Lillard’s rookie season has to be the second best season on that list. I’d rank the guards as following: Paul, Lillard, Evans, Irving, Westbrook, and Wall. While the order may be debatable, there is no denying that the rookie of the year for this season is Damian Lillard.
Who is even close to him in the competition? Anthony Davis? Even if he had been healthy and not missed any games, the Hornets aren’t in playoff contention (although that team plays hard under Monty Williams, which I respect). Lillard is averaging a crazy high 38.5 minutes per game, and is doing an excellent job running the Trailblazers, who have found a franchise point guard after drafting Nolan Smith (blegh) last season. If you haven’t had the opportunity to watch a Trailblazers game, try to.
Or just watch him score 37 points in his return to his hometown of Oakland against Golden State, where he made 12 straight in the second half.
The rookie of the year for the Jazz? I guess Kevin Murphy wins it, but just by default. He hasn’t been included in any lineups yet, and he was the only draft pick, so he wins. Congrats Murph!
Sixth Man Award
There are a lot of worthy candidates for this award. Kevin Martin, Jarrett Jack, JR Smith, and Andre Miller all play a valuable role for their team off the bench. I could see Martin or Smith making a push to win this title by the end of the year.
But my pick is Jamal Crawford.
He’s a professional sixth man, and seems to thrive in the role similar to Manu Ginobili in recent years. The Clippers are one of the best teams in the league, and A Tribe Called Bench is one of the reasons why. Crawford comes in and keeps the offense clicking. He fits in well alongside Eric Bledsoe and Matt Barnes, who cover his defensive lapses.
For the Jazz, my pick for sixth man of the year is the wing we call Steve – Gordon Hayward. He seems comfortable coming off the bench for the Jazz; why not keep him there and let him guide the second unit, who needs a scorer? Hayward may continue to develop into a player who can thrive in a starting rotation, but for now, he’s doing just fine with the second unit.
Coach of the Year
Seeing how the Lakers are doing now (on pace to miss the playoffs) I don’t see how you don’t give this award to Mike Brown. At least he was 1-5 with an excuse (very little playing time).
To be serious though, my pick for coach of the year is between three candidates – Mike Woodson in New York, Terry Stotts in Portland, and Mark Jackson with Golden State. Woodson benefited from the absence of A’mare Stoudemire, who has helped lead the Knicks to a 4-5 record since returning, but has the Knicks near the top of the conference at the halfway point of the season. Stotts has the Trailblazers as a fringe playoff team while having to gameplan with one of the most shallow benches in the entire league – oh, and he has a rookie point guard, an undersized center, and forwards who play away from the rim in Batum, Aldridge and Matthews. Mark Jackson has improved the Warriors defense without Andrew Bogut on the court, and has integrated three rookies – Harrison Barnes, Festus Ezeli, and Draymond Green – into the lineup to have the fifth best team in the Western Conference.
My pick is Mark Jackson. I believe he is getting the best results from his personnel of any of the coaches mentioned above, and is doing so in his second year as a head coach – ever.
I’m not picking one for the Jazz – it’s a little one-sided, just like the rookie of the year award. I think Tyrone Corbin is doing an excellent job, and Jazz fans need to appreciate this season, because next year has the potential to be bad with a very uncertain roster in the future.
Defensive Player of the Year
My pick isn’t a player that is getting a lot of attention, which is a shame.
This player signed a contract during the offseason, changing conferences and earning a starting nod. When he is on the court, his team has a defensive rating of 101.2. When he isn’t on the court, his team has a defensive rating of 108.2. That’s right, I’m talking about the Turkish center, Omer Asik!
He’s gone from leading the Bulls second unit, which was strong defensively, to leading the Rockets starting unit, which isn’t very good at defense. But hey, if Tyson Chandler can win the award because his teammates help him look good, then Asik should win the award because his teammates make him look valuable too.
For the Jazz, I’m sticking with players from Turkey and selecting Enes Kanter. He doesn’t play as much as Jefferson, Millsap, or Favors, but he has shown to be a valuable piece of the team plans on defense when he is on the court. He nudged out DeMarre Carroll because I value rebounding and blocks over steals and hustle plays. Carroll has made an impact on the attitude of the team, bringing a desire to play defense which some of the players have struggled with in the past.
Most Improved Player
My choice is Jrue Holiday. The point guard of the 76ers has improved in every aspect of his game, and would benefit so much if Andrew Bynum was healthy. Holiday deserves an All-star spot as one of the top point guards in the Eastern Conference, and that wasn’t the case last season.
My pick for the Jazz? Give me two scoops of vanilla, because I’m going with Gordon Hayward. He’s been much more consistent this season, and is beginning to discover his role with the team. I was very impressed with his play against Miami, when he took over in the fourth quarter when the team needed him the most.
Those are my picks, but I’d love to hear your opinion. Tell me what you think in the comments below or on Twitter, where you can find me by messaging @trueDanLewis.