The NBA will wrap up the first half of its season tonight with games featuring the best and brightest stars in the Association. There’s no better time, except tomorrow or perhaps the day after, to deliver my mid-season awards. Whew. Now that the awkward introduction paragraph is out of the way, let’s get on to some damn awards.
Ladies and Gentlemen, The 2012 Middy Awards!
The Hip Sportsman Award – I figure it’s better than a sportsmanship award or a sportsman’s hip award. After some deliberation, the award goes to Blake Griffin. I was considering Kevin Durant quite seriously. Those glasses! That backpack! Are those skinny jeans you’re sagging? But Griffin’s gonzo Kia adverts and his work with Fun or Die definitely make him hipper than the basketball hipster.
Most Improved Player – Jeremy Lin.
The Coach Award – Awarded for coaching your ass off. There’s some good candidates this year. In Philadelphia, Doug Collins has found an offense and defense that caters to the skills of the team, leading them to a surprisingly dominant first half of the season. In San Antonio, Gregg Popavich has handled aging stars and young talent masterfully, leading the Spurs to the second best record in the West, despite persistent injury problems. In Orlando, Stan Van Gundy has overcome the constant media swirl around Dwight Howard, and the shadow of his imminent departure, keeping the Magic in the top four in the East. All have done excellent jobs. However, none has done more with less than Frank Vogel in Indiana. The seventh best record in the Association is held by the Pacers. They are also one of only 7 teams with double-digit road wins. Go ahead, name their starting lineup if you can.
Best Sixth Man – It’s really hard to pick between Jason Terry and James Harden. Both are key to the success of their team. Both don’t start games, but finish them strong. The numbers provide little separation. Harden shoots ever-s0-slightly better, and grabs two more rebounds and points per game. But it’s James Harden explosive dunks that put the OKC home crowd into a frenzy. And it’s his size, athleticism, and speed combination that make him a slightly better choice than Terry.
Best Defender – It’s still Dwight Howard or LeBron James. Check back on this award in, like, five or six years.
Best Player – Anyone can make a compelling argument for Kevin Durant. But when you break it down, LeBron James is the best player alive. He leads the Association in PER by a wide margin. He leads the team with the best record in the NBA. He’s shooting 55% from the field, 41% from three, and 77% from the line. He plays ferocious defense on 4 positions. He’s improved his game to include post play. Every night, he gives you 28 points, 8 rebounds, and 7 assists. So far, it’s been another season that only LeBron James, Michael Jordan, Larry Bird, Oscar Robertson, Jerry West, and John Havlicek have had.