Now at the midway point of the season, with the 2013-2014 All-star weekend in New Orleans set to begin Feb. 14, let me tell you who I think is deserving of the NBA’s coveted awards.
Sixth Man of the Year
Rodney Stuckey, SG, Detroit Pistons
It’s honestly a toss up with this one. Jamal Crawford would get the nod as he regularly provides a spark off the bench, but he’s basically been a starter this season with J.J. Reddick recently returning to the line-up after sitting out six weeks due to torn ligaments in his wrist. My next choice would be New Orleans Pelicans guard Tyreke Evans, who is playing well averaging 15.8 ppg in Pelican’s wins this season, but they likely won’t make the playoffs in the ultra-competitive Western Conference, which would eliminate him, as well as missing a few games due to injury. After signing a 4-year $44 million contract in the offseason, why is Evans coming off the bench anyway?
Eliminating Evans and Crawford has led me to the combo guard in Stuckey. The sixth year guard is currently third on the team in scoring (14.5 ppg) and shooting 83 percent from the free-throw line. Unlike the Pelicans, who have a 16-25 record in the West, Stuckey and the Piston’s are a game and a half back of the eighth seed in the East with a 17-25 record. The Eastern Conference is horrific aside from Miami and Indiana, but if the Detroit can swindle its way into the playoffs, a piece of the credit goes to Stuckey.
Most Improved Player
DeMar DeRozan, SG, Toronto Raptors
The athletic swingman and former McDonald’s All-American is having a breakout year averaging career highs in points (21.8), minutes per game (38.0), 3-point percentage (.296), rebounds per game (4.6), and assist per game at 3.7. The Raptors leading scorer has become the vocal point of the offense, fresh off a 40-point performance against the Dallas Mavericks.
Toronto is currently the fourth seed in the Eastern Conference, and that doesn’t look to change barring any major setback, per se, DeRozan was injured. But let’s not wish that on anyone, especially not this underrated star.
Defensive Player of The Year
Roy Hibbert, C, Indiana Pacers
The immovable object that anchors the No. 1 defense in the NBA is Roy Hibbert. Teams are shooting a meager 40.9 percent at the rim against Hibbert, and the Pacers are giving up a league’s best 89.2 points per game. Hibbert is also second in the league in blocks, averaging a hair under three block per game. It shouldn’t come of any surprise that the league’s top defense is also the top seed in the East leading LeBron James and the Heat by 3 1/2 games.
Rookie of the Year
Michael Carter-Williams, PG, Philadelphia 76ers
The long and rangy point guard took the league by storm in the 76ers opening game of the season against the Heat as he was one steal shy of a triple-double with 22 points, 12 assist and 9 steals. He is the rookie leader in scoring, assists, rebounds and steals, but his play has slowed a bit as of late, dealing with fatigue as he leads all rookies in minutes per game at 34.6. Philadelphia depends on the rookie guard day in and day out, but with a 14-28 record, and a need to improve his perimeter shooting, his team is going no where this season.
Coach of the Year
Frank Vogel, Indiana Pacers
It’s no clear cut favorite to me. After a rocky start to the season and the infamous Spillgate, the Nets have won 8 of its last 10 games behind player-to-coach in one year in Jason Kidd. If Brooklyn steadily escalate in the seeding, he will garner strong consideration. Phoenix Suns coach Jeff Hornacek has done more with less with their prized acquisition on Eric Bledsoe, who is out with a torn meniscus. The Suns are currently the 7th seed in the West with a 24-17 record, and fresh off giving a 24-point beat down to the Pacers.
But, I’m giving this award to the coach whose team has the best record in the NBA (33-8), the most hungriest team in the NBA who was one game away from reaching the Final last season, and perhaps a darkhorse in the MVP race in Paul George.
Most Valuable Player
Kevin Durant, SF, Oklahoma City Thunder
We are all a witness to one of the most lethal scorers in NBA history. “KD” or the “Slim Reaper” as others like to call him, has scored over 30 points in nine straight games, and gone over 45 points in the month of January. In January alone, he’s averaging a staggering 37 points per game. It was only a week ago when Durant bombed 54 points on Golden State. It’s no stopping the runaway favorite right now, well, that’s unless LeBron James (who’s shooting close to 60 percent from the field by the way) has something to say about this. But, Durant’s historic run has to come to an end sometime, right? By the way he’s shooting, that day doesn’t look like it’s coming anytime soon.