Forecasting This Year's NBA Top Honors
Christina previews who she thinks will get this year's top NBA honors.
With the National Basketball Association playoffs set to start in about three weeks, here's a preview of who I think deserves the league's top accolades.
Most Valuable Player: Derrick Rose, Chicago Bulls
When ESPN NBA analyst Ric Bucher made a bold prediction in December that Rose was this year's Most Valuable Player, many thought he was crazy. There was a method to his madness, however. The humbled point guard has emerged as the frontrunner for the prestigious honor. Rose ranks in the top 10 in two major statistical categories – scoring (24.9 ppg) and assists (7.8 apg) and has improved the only question mark in his game – shooting. At No. 6, Rose's efficiency in field goals made has highlighted what hard work and extra shots in the gym can do. And to wonder if Rose had improved his jumpshot in his only year at Memphis.
An absolute terror to guard, Rose makes opponents guarding him pay. Whether it is driving, dishing, or pulling up for a jump shot, his quickness is enough to get any defender offset.
Defensive Player of the Year: Dwight Howard, Orlando Magic
The Magic's head coach Stan Van Gundy already voiced his dissatisfaction that the media has already handed Rose the MVP trophy. Let's not get carried away here-- there are still a lot of games left and anything can happen. Bulls could have a late season slump; Orlando can go on a surge-- you never know.
Howard is a close No. 2 behind Rose for MVP honors but has the Defensive Player of the Year Award on lock for the third consecutive year. Howard is second in the league rebounds (14.2 rpg) and in blocks (2.44 bpg). He is just outside the top ten in scoring with 23.1 ppg, too.
Where point guards are plentiful, Howard is a like a dying breed: a legitimate big man at the center position. Last year, I was critical of Howard, stating that he needed to be more serious on perfecting his game. Howard worked with one of the best in Hakeem Olajuwon during the summer and gained array of post moves.
Rookie of the Year: Blake Griffin, Los Angeles Clippers
The first pick overall in the 2009 NBA draft, Griffin missed the entire season after suffering a non-displaced stress fracture of his left patella during the Clippers' last preseason game against the New Orleans Hornets. This year's debut has been anything but disappointing. Dunks have been electrifying and a resurgence of a young Clippers team has been evident.
I agree with Charles Barkley that when Griffin actually learns how to play the game of basketball, he will be even better. Right now, he is going off of pure talent and athleticism.
Sixth Man of the Year: Lamar Odom, Los Angeles Lakers
The Six Man of the Year is down to a two-man race: Odom and Dallas Mavericks' Jason Terry. Odom is the Jack-of-all-trades, big and strong enough to bang the boards but has the ball handling skills and the ability to knock down the tri-factor. He is shooting 54.3 percent from the field and immediately offers another defensive impact on the floor.
Most Improved Player of the Year: Kevin Love, Minnesota Timberwolves
The only way I see Love not getting this award is because he is on a not-so-good team. At 17-56, the Timberwolves are in last place in its division and nowhere near making the playoffs this season. However, Love's numbers can't be ignored.
His double-double streak ended at 53 games against Golden State when he had just 12 points and six rebounds. It was the NBA's longest streak since Elvin Hayes did it in 55 consecutive games in 1973-74.
Love is No. 1 in rebounding averaging about 15.4 boards and 20 points a game.