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Joakim Noah for Most Improved?
by Sam Smith
Posted on Oct 28
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Now, this has nothing to do with the Cavs losing to the Celtics on opening night Tuesday. Actually, LeBron James was terrific, if very much alone, in a magnificent fourth quarter in trying to rally the Cavs back in a game the Celtics mostly dominated. Hello, Mike Brown! Are you awake yet? Put in a play. Enough of the LeBron one-on-four.
Anyway, I’m a day late getting to my preseason awards, and I didn’t have James as the league MVP. The Bulls started Bulls TV this week—it’s really good even with my face projected as big as it is–and I was on the record Monday stating my choice of Dwight Howard for MVP. All these awards are questionable, to an extent, because there is no actual criterion. Basically, the MVP generally goes to the best player on the team with the most wins. It’s a bit skewed because of the vagaries of a few wins in the regular season. In any case, if that formula is followed, James will be at a disadvantage because I don’t think the Cavs will come close to that 66 wins of last season. Maybe 52? As Rasheed Wallace astutely noted Tuesday night of the new Shaq Cavs, “They’re not the greatest in pick-and-rolls,” he said. “Just keep running the pick-and-roll and keep moving the ball. You’ll eventually find an open shot someone.” Somewhat less astutely, Wallace said the Celtics could match the Bulls’ 72 win season. So did the Lakers’ Ron Artest. You figure it was those two guys to make that prediction. Anyway, here’s one view of the 2009-10 award winners:
MVP: Howard, Orlando Magic. Lebron, Kobe Bryant, Dwyane Wade, Chris Paul and Howard all are finalists. If you make the argument of who means most to the team, anyone can win because the teams revolve so much around each. But Howard is becoming such a major force and his team looks like it’s going to win a lot of games.
Coach of the Year: Stan Van Gundy, Magic. I thought he should have won it last season, though I may have voted for Rick Ademan. I don’t think anyone had the Magic in the Finals last season, though post season doesn’t count in the voting. The Magic almost is remaking its team after going to the Finals, which isn’t easy for any coach. Yes, he’s got Howard, but all the great coaches have great players: Jackson with Jordan and Kobe, Popovich with Duncan, Sloan with Malone and Stockton, Riley with Magic and Kareem. You don’t become great without great players. Van Gundy gets them to compete, improves seemingly every season and remains demanding. He may even get the best out of Vince Carter.
Most Improved: Joakim Noah, Bulls. This one is almost impossible to pick because there are even fewer standards than with the MVP. I don’t think you should be most improved if you were the top choice in the draft because you were supposed to be a star. But many are predicting Greg Oden, though he had injuries. I usually like to pick guys who were low or second round draft picks because they truly have improved if they gain notice, and the award often goes that way with recent winners including Monta Ellis, Hedo Turkoglu, Boris Diaw and Gilbert Arenas. So Noah is a bit of a reach as he was the No. 9 pick, though the way the NBA draft breaks, usually the top five or six are the sure shots. But Noah could be a double/double guy with this Bulls team, a long way from where he’s been. Others to watch are undrafted Anthony Morrow, Roy Hibbert, Rudy Fernandez and Andrew Bynum.
Rookie of the Year: Tyreke Evans, Sacramento Kings. A week ago I gave this with no runnerup to Blake Griffin. Ooops. He’s injured and this is the third time in a relatively short while he’s out. It doesn’t bode well for the rookie season. Too bad. Evans doesn’t have much of a perimeter shot yet, but he’s tough and strong and physically overmatches most of the guards he’ll play. He’ll get lots of time on a bad team and could produce big numbers. If Griffin returns before Christmas and remains healthy, he might overtake him. But who knows now. After that it’s the little guards like Jonny Flynn, Brandon Jennings and Stephen Curry.
Sixth Man: Ben Gordon, Detroit Pistons. The contenders are mostly the recent winners, including Manu Ginobili, Jason Terry, Leandro Barbosa and Gordon. Perhaps Paul Millsap if the Jazz doesn’t trade Carlos Boozer. Maybe Rasheed Wallace or Rudy Fernandez or Randy Foye or one of those Washington other guards. It looks like the Pistons will play lots of three and even four-guard lineups, so Ben should get plenty of shots.
Defensive Player: Kevin Garnett, Boston Celtics. The general consensus is Howard given rebounds and blocks, though I think Oden also is going to have good numbers there. Ron Artest will get some mention, but he looks a little thicker to me and slower. I like big guys who also can defend the perimeter and Garnett generally is the leader of the league’s best defense.