The 2011-12 NBA season is still in its adolescent stages, but like the Oscars, it's never too early to hand out some early season awards. We've watched the Celtics turn seemingly geriatric instantaneously, John Wall regress, Kobe Bryant make his case for reclaiming the title of Best Player in the World, LeBron continue his 4th quarter yips, Kevin McHale show that he's a far better coach then he ever was as a general manger, and Kevin Love stake his claim as the best pure power forward in the NBA.
Meanwhile, Ricky Rubio may very well be the second coming of Pistol Pete, David Stern made Tony Soprano look like a dove with his "fair" handling of the Chris Paul situation, and Phil Jackson is probably already having backroom conversations with Glen Grunwald (and probably Isiah Thomas) about suplanting Mike D’s spot on the Knicks bench. Philadelphia, Denver, and Indiana might be debunking the whole "you need multiple superstars" myth, while after nearly three decades of misfortune, the Portland Trailblazers are the best team in the NBA from top to bottom.
But I digress. Without further ado, here are your 1/3 of the year awards.
Kobe "I hate that no one is talking about me as an MVP" Bryant
Until further notice, the Black Mamba is still the NBA's most Alpha of Alpha Dogs. Kobe leads the league in scoring at 30.5 points per game, still gets to the free throw line at a phenomenal rate of 8.1 times per game, and his PER is up 3.05 points from last year. Yes, the Lakers are being considered the second best team in L.A., and yes Andrew Bynum has to end up on the injury report, but aside from Kobe, would the LakeShow be anywhere close to ten wins? Until LeBron can overcome his late game shortcomings, the Mamba is the front runner for MVP.
Rookie of The Year
Kyrie "I told you I was NBA ready" Irving
Other rookies have scored more points, grabbed more rebounds, and dished out more assists, but none of them have been able to put all together on a team whose third best player is…who? Seriously, of the these names — Anderson Varejao, Alonzo Gee, Ramon Sessions, Tristan Thompson, and Omri Casspi — do any of them make any of your sphincters tighten? I didn't think so. Truth be told, I thought Derrick Williams was the better more ready NBA player, and the safer pick in last year's draft. However, to date Kyrie Irving has proven any and all skeptics wrong.
Irving is shooting over 50% from the field, and is NOT making the rookie mistake of being a turnover machine — sure over three a game is high, but all things considered, it isn't egregious. Comparatively, his 3.6 TO/G ranks him 13th amongst all NBA points guards, and his PER of 21.54 leads all rookies. Make no mistake, Norris Cole should also be mentioned as he plays crunch time minutes on a team loaded with talent, seems unafraid of the big moments, and if the Heat win the title this season, he will certainly have played a bigger role than any would have thought on draft night. But for now, the award is Irving’s to lose.
Most Disappointing Team
New York "We hope Baron can make everything all right" Knickerbockers
The myth in Gotham last year was that if only the Knicks had a legit 7-foot center to defend the rim, all of their worries would alleviated. Enter the 29 year-old Tyson Chandler with a sign-and-trade with the Dallas Mavericks, and yet alas, the New York Knicks are barely hanging on to the 8th seed in the Eastern Conference. The new myth here in New York is that Baron Davis (or any true point guard) will be the secret elixir to the Knicks’ early season hiccups.
Tyson Chandler is one of the best defensive big men in the NBA, and even with him the Knicks are giving up just over 95 points a night. New York is tied for 27th in TO/G, and they rank 20th in the NBA in opponents’ FG percentage. They can't defend the arc (opp. 3-point percentage of 39.3, 29th in the league), and in true Mike D’Antoni style have taken the third-most threes, and only hit 31percent of them.
The problems in New York are very real, and not over exaggerated, and far too great for Baron Davis to fix by himself. Amar'e and Melo aren't meshing on the court, which is illustrated by Amar'e's PER of 15.86 (down 6.92 points from last season's 22.78) — that's entering Rashard Lewis 2010 territory in terms of a drop-off. Now speculation has begun (again) about Amar'e's future with the Knicks. If the team can't put a hot streak together quickly, D’Antoni might be exiting the Garden stage left sooner rather than later.
Most Surprising Team
Philadelphia "Don't call us upstart" 76ers
If you reside in Philly and still can't bring yourself to get over the Eagles’ horrid season, or the fact that the hated Giants and Eli Manning will be playing for a chance at a second Super Bowl ring, you need a feel good story. And strangely enough, it's your Philadelphia 76ers. Yes, any team can defend their home court — which Philly has done to the tune of 8-1, but they have also played to an even record (4-4) on the road, and have won seven of their last ten.
In other words, try as we may to dismiss them, Philly is no fluke. They've won in close games, they've won in blowouts, they have out-run teams, and they've out-slugged teams. Philly is devoid of a superstar — or even a star for that matter — but what they have is a roster 1-9 that is limiting opponents to just 88 ppg, while offensively they are the third highest scoring team (99.9) in the league. We knew Jrue Holiday could get them up and down court, but the real sign that this team could be legit is the pace at which they play. They rank right in the middle of the league in terms of possessions, and rank second in offensive efficiency, averaging 105.6 per 100 possessions.
If NBA history has taught us anything it's this: the teams who can effectively slow the game down and make good shots tend to do well in later in the season. The big test in Philly, though, will be starting January 30 with the Magic, and ending February 10 against the Clippers. During that 10-day stretch, the 76ers have a murderer's row of a schedule with games against the Magic, Bulls, Heat, Hawks, Lakers, Spurs and Clippers. The upside? Only their matchup against Atlanta is on the road.
Speaking of Atlanta…
Fan Hub Action
Michael T Carr May 16th
Another good article, Craig Lowell.
Charlie Lobosco May 1st
This is a very compelling story because Mr. Collins is a very passionate, tough, intelligent, athelete taking on some additional responsibliity to help others as…
Scott Cohen May 1st
Charlie.. very well said.. he does have guts
Scott Cohen May 1st
but it shouldn’t require guts. .like you said it’s nobody’s business but his own
Hisham Zameeth April 30th
best player ever…..
Kareem Musa Mayowa April 29th
We don’t need to be hopeless about the situation bryant his. Because even david villa situation also up to the level of his own to…
Maritess Lim April 28th
I still believe in KOBE’s power…… He is still the best…… He will make it possible no matter what……
mimi_aragon84 April 28th
I feel no pity for him. First of all, it is EAGLE, COLORADO, not Eagleton, secondly he enjoyed success and adulation from fans from 2003…
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