The Works: Midseason Matters
Today in The Works: Who will win the awards?
Who Gets The Gold?
Eric Freeman: It seems like the voters often decide on their MVP several months before the season ends, so this is as good a time as any. LeBron James has the Heat riding high after a shaky start, and he could end up the winner. But it seems like Derrick Rose's year -- he's stepped his game up and the Bulls are looking like contenders. Sometimes, that's enough to win this award.
Bethlehem Shoals: It seems like everybody is riding high, the way you talk about it. Look, I'm going to give it to you straight: LeBron James is the best player in the game. And after that shaky start, he's really made that Heat team his own, or at least found a way to assert himself so that every lesser player -- including that dynamo Dwyane Wade -- ends up following his rhythms. And that's not a bad thing. James, contrary to popular belief, isn't a selfish jerk, he does a lot of things on the court and only really takes over when it's execution time. Derrick Rose? You've lost it. Nice year, nice team, but they aren't there yet. It's called Most Valuable, not Most Improved.
EF: I only said that I think Rose will win the award, not that he should. LeBron is the best player in the league and anyone who argues differently probably burned his Fathead over the summer, but sometimes voters get tired of voting for the same guy. Remember Karl Malone?
BS: Do I ever. Great player. Great rebounder. But was he Michael Jordan? Hell no. I didn't even think he was Charles Barkley. To each his own, though, as the Good Book says. So you think Rose is the sentimental favorite, while I'm on the side of justice. What we really need is a new superstar in this league. In that sense, John Wall has been a huge disappointment. What do you think?
EF: He has certainly not captured our imaginations and become the League Pass MVP like I'd hoped. But 14.7 ppg and 9.1 apg are pretty good numbers for a rookie point guard. By comparison, Chris Paul went for 16.1 and 7.8, albeit with much better efficiency stats. Wall has been a very good rookie. It's just that Blake Griffin has been a firestorm, and he's overshadowing every other rookie around.
BS: And let's not forget about Kevin Love. Great, great player. If he can continue to stay ahead of Griffin defensively, he's the next great power forward in this league. Okay, let's move on to Rookie of the Year. You want some fries with that?
EF: I thought we just did move on to Rookie of the Year. And we decided it. Are you saying that DeMarcus Cousins will ascend like the reborn phoenix after the break?
BS: I don't know, I just don't. We have seen some crazy things happen with rookies. Remember how hot Brandon Jennings started last season, with that 55-point game? Or how Steph Curry started out slow? Looking back, who would you have pegged as the future star after those early returns? These aren't animals, man. These are human beings. You never can tell.
EF: I'd say that Griffin would have to get hurt to lose Rookie of the Year, but that seems too simple. He would have to lose his legs and then keep trying to play. And I think he would still pull off some cool dunks. Or LaMarcus Aldridge.
BS: Also very true. He's having a great year, and a lot of people are sleeping on him.
EF: Let's talk about Coach of the Year next. On paper, this seems to belong to Tom Thibodeau. He's made the Bulls into a very good defensive team, and that certainly didn't happen because they signed Carlos Boozer. Any other contenders?
BS: I would really have to look at my notes to get down to business on that one. A lot of people didn't know if Thibodeau could hack it on the offensive end, but luckily, he's got Derrick Rose to make things easy. Eventually, though, Rose is going to have to trust his teammates more, and the rest of that team is going to have to step up on the offensive end. And Thibodeau has got to step up as a coach there. That's what he learned him in Boston. That's what they're paying him to do!
EF: That is a lot of necessary stepping-up -- it's almost like you're talking about the dance movies! What if they gave the award to Jerry Sloan as a lifetime achievement award? It'd be like when the Oscars have to give an award to an old person because they never honored them for their earlier, better movies.
BS: It's kind of the right thing to do. I mean, the guy gave his heart and soul to this game, to that league, to that city. And never a Coach of the Year. Even without Stockton and Malone, he kept going. Deron Williams had better be thankful, since that man made him into the great player he is today.
EF: I mean, why not Gregg Popovich, too? The man has done it for years and the Spurs have the best record in the league. Underestimating a team's talent at the beginning of a season doesn't mean that the coach did all the work, guys.
BS: You make a great case for Pop. The Spurs are on top of the world, and this is a team going through some changes. Pop is definitely putting all the pieces together, and with amazing results. Sloan, by contrast, was supposed to have his best team in a while (on paper, at least), and it all fell apart. It's almost like he wanted to make a mediocre team good, but not a good team great. Like he was afraid to sprout wings and fly. Pop, he's an eagle. He hunts for salmon in the night.
EF: The only two real awards left are Sixth Man and Most Improved. The latter has the murkiest meaning of all, so we might be better off debating which NBA player has the nicest hair.
BS: That must be why we saved so much space for it. Let's start with Sixth Man. A lot of people are saying Nate Robinson. He's definitely not the same Nate Robinson we saw with the Knicks. But is he really the best sixth man in the league?
EF: Lamar Odom has started 32 of his 56 games. I don't know if he'll end up eligible, but if he is, then he should win.
BS: I've always wondered, though, what to make of guys who do some really good work as starters, then end up coming off the bench. We're supposed to be rewarding them for what they do coming off the bench, not some aggregate of starter play plus the other stuff.
EF: You could say the same thing about Manu Ginobili. He starts now, but when he came off the bench he was his team's second-most important player. They only deployed him as a reserve because he was more effective that way. I see your point -- we need to get this award back to its roots.
BS: Really, if you want to talk about roots, this is supposed to be an award for the working guy, the little dude, the energy player off the bench. Not a borderline All-Star relegated to the bench by line-up considerations. Manu? That's just not right. Nate Robinson is where there's peace and justice.
EF: Why does it have to be a guy who scores? How about a Serge Ibaka?
BS: That's what I'm saying. If you really want to take it back to the essence, then you know, give it to a guy like Ibaka. He's earned it.
EF: So do we have to talk about MIP? Can we just give it to LeBron James? Last May everyone thought he was a hopeless loser. Now look at him!
BS: Or for that matter, Chris Bosh. Over the course of this season, he's gone from a massive disappointment to a valuable, versatile four.
EF: But the award usually goes to a sorta good player who became very good. That's Jrue Holiday, right?
BS: I still think that kid is really underrated, and that team isn't doing him any favors. I think you need to look at an unfamiliar face who maybe got a little bit of All-Star consideration.
EF: Would LaMarcus Aldridge count? He has really blossomed with Brandon Roy in injury purgatory.
BS: That might be the right pick. He's gone from a disappointment, in my mind, to one of the best young big men in the game. And everyone's too busy worrying about Roy.
EF: Cool, I'm glad we decided it. Now we just have to hope nothing important happens over the next two months.
The Works is written by Bethlehem Shoals (@freedarko) and Eric Freeman (@freemaneric), who also contributes regularly to Ball Don't Lie. Their Undisputed Guide to Pro Basketball History is now available.