So tonight is the last game of the year for the Timberwolves and I thought I should hand out some team awards as well as give my predictions to the NBA Awards race. It's sad to see the season end.
Most Valuable Timberwolf: Ricky Rubio.
As much as I want to put Kevin Love here, this team wasn't the same after the Rubio injury. Rubio showed people he was ready for the NBA game, and despite the turnovers and low shooting percentage he still managed to surprise people with what he brought to the table.
Most Improved Timberwolf: The Godfather, Nikola Pekovic.
We all know Darko sucked it up this year (with the exception to that Clippers game on ESPN where he played like a champ), but Pek seemingly came out of nowhere to post double-doubles on a nightly basis. Posting a Hollinger PER of 21.21 is something that we haven't seen out of a Wolves center in a long time, and despite the late injuries he continued to provide a formidable 1-2 punch in the frontcourt with K-Love.
Best Defensive Player: Ricky Rubio.
I might seem a little biased giving Rubio two team awards, but he earned them this year. Before the injury, he was on pace to finish in the top 5 in the league in steals/game. Also, at 6' 4", he had the length and height necessary to bother shots. He was a huge upgrade over Jonny Flynn. He was also deceptively athletic, and while some thought he wasn't fast enough he quickly proved his doubters wrong.
Least Valuable Timberwolf: Anthony Randolph
I may be giving AR this award because I expected him to get more playing time this year. I'll also give him credit for averaging 2.4 blocks in his past 10 games while filling in for our injury riddled squad, but this just wasn't what I was expecting from him this year. One night he would play 25 minutes then sit the next 3 games. One of the reasons he has been labeled as inconsistent is because he doesn't receive consistent playing time. This guy is just oozing with potential to be great, but we know that potential also means he hasn't done anything yet.
PS- Darko could walk away as the LVP every year, but we don't place very high expectations on him in the first place.
Now on to the league award race, where some categories are pretty much decided on already.
MVP: Kevin Durant, Oklahoma City
To make this argument very simple, I'm going to ask you to imagine how good the Thunder would be without Durant. Now ask yourself how good the Heat would be without LeBron. The Heat still have Dwayne Wade and Bosh. The Thunder have Westbrook and Harden. Although the latter have a brighter future together, I will take D-Wade RIGHT NOW right now over those guys.
Most Improved Player: Nikola Pekovic (MIN)/Andrew Bynum (LAL)
You could throw a lot guys in here (Anderson, Harden, Cousins, Monroe, Ilyasova), but these two have had larger impacts than the rest. I've already made my Pek argument, but Bynum is playing on an entirely different level this year. Aside from the 3-point attempt at Golden State, he has matured greatly. Bynum is also averaging career highs in ppg and rpg, and is providing a steady offensive force with Pau Gasol as Kobe has sat out. He is officially option #2 on the Lakers now, and he has stepped up big late in games as well.
The media probably votes Bynum on this one.
Sixth Man: James Harden, Oklahoma City
Who else are writers going to vote for?
Defensive Player of the Year: Dwight Howard, Orlando
I don't care that people have paid more attention to his soap opera trade ordeal than his actual performance on the court, this award is his to lose every single year. Unlike Serge Ibaka, Howard is actually in great defensive position on almost every play. Tyson Chandler plays for a team that was coached by Mike D'Antoni, so defense doesn't exist there. Kevin Garnett has also been great in a midseason revival, but he also has other great defensive players around him.
Rookie of the Year: Kyrie Irving, Cleveland
Like Dwight Howard, this was Rubio's award to lose until the injury, and quite frankly Kenneth Faried is the only other guy who can come close to matching Irving's play this season. Not too much you can argue here.
Coach of the Year: Tom Thibodeau, Chicago
Most years this award is usually the biggest toss up, but this year Thibodeau has earned it. In a season where the reigning MVP Derrick Rose struggled with injuries, Thibodeau has kept this team together through defensive intensity and team basketball. Because of this the Bulls have one of the best records in the league. You could also say Gregg Popovich for his incredible management of his aging stars and integration of youth, but Thibodeau will run away with this award.