In any sport, on any level, nothing boosts confidence more than recognition, and this could be accepted in many different ways: in written articles through the media, championship banners, and landing a spot on ESPN SportsCenter’s Top 10 Plays, to name a few. For individuals, aside from championship rings, nothing spawns more respect than season-ending awards.
It’s no secret that most of these will be easy to predict, so instead of sharing who I feel will win, I’ve decided to point out who should take home each award.
There’s no better individual trophy than the one that reads, “Most Valuable Player,” so it’s only fitting that I begin with it.
MOST VALUABLE PLAYER: LEBRON JAMES, MIAMI HEAT
I feel I need to take time to define this award. The way I view it, votes should go to the best player in the league that leads a team winning 50 or more games. Is that how the league feels? Absolutely not, because as we know, players like Steve Nash, Dirk Nowitzki, Kevin Garnett, and Derrick Rose were not the overall best in the league when their names were etched into history.
If it is handed to the most valuable player to his team, you have to consider Kobe Bryant. Add a restriction of just 50-win teams, and Carmelo Anthony is your top candidate. All of this can be compared to the “Kobe and Shaq” effect, who possess a combined two MVP awards because, simply put, their dominance as a duo eliminated their votes as individual MVP candidates.
However, the MVP trophy should, and will, go to LeBron James, for many reasons. The Miami Heat did come away with the best record in the NBA, by six games, and also won the East over the New York Knicks by 12 games. The 27-game win streak, the efficiency, and the overall game can’t be ignored here, and while players like Kevin Durant and Chris Paul made things interesting, most will claim it’s not even a race.
DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR: PAUL GEORGE, INDIANA PACERS
Generally, big man defensive anchors will get the nod here, so if I’m asked who I expected to win, I would have said Roy Hibbert.
Let’s pretend we’re done picking from the list of big men, though. The league’s elite perimeter defenders include Tony Allen, Avery Bradley, Luol Deng, Andre Iguodala, and a standout named Paul George. The easiest way I can explain this pick is by stating that the current Indiana Pacers squad is ranked in the top 10, of all time (eliminating lockout teams, because offensive and defensive numbers were haywire), among all defensive teams according to opponent field goal percentage. Not only did they hold opponents to an average of just 42 percent shooting, but they also limited them to a league-best 32.7 percent from beyond the arc. Those statistics compare to the 2008 Boston Celtics, who ended up winning the NBA championship that season.
The combination of George’s elite defense on perimeter players, and Hibbert’s presence in the paint, has propelled Indiana from 9th on the defensive end (last season) to 1st in many major defensive categories. Hibbert protects the paint, but George takes the toughest assignments night in and night out, and finds success against most.
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