A Daily Babble Production
Some may claim prematurity (by all of 24 hours), but with the final day of the NBA's regular season upon us and playoff previews for the East and West on tap for tomorrow and Friday, the time of reckoning has come.
Nearly three months ago in this space, we (read: I) posted our mid-season awards with the promise -- and threat to self -- that we would be back to evaluate said awards at the season's conclusion. At long last, with all sixteen playoff berths clinched and the top seeds for each conference locked in, judgment day has come at CelticsBlog.
Let's rewrite history. Starting now.
Most Valuable Player
What we said: Chris Paul, New Orleans
What we meant: The other thing we said here, which came in the runners-up section: "It's going to be a great MVP race." I've changed my vote on nearly a daily basis since putting the CP3 pick in writing back in January. Truth be told, I actually considered devoting half of this week to writing a column per day making the case for each of the four big-time candidates, but this was nipped in the bud when the realization struck that a Kobe-for-MVP column embedded in the hollow coding of CelticsBlog had roughly a 108.4 percent chance of causing Roy Hobbs' head to explode.
So since the easy way out isn't an option, we'll let heart show the light of truth. In a year with three top-of-the-line MVP candidates and one more just a half-step behind (the only thing I know for sure is that Bron has dropped to fourth on my ballot), the pick goes to Kevin Garnett. Yeah, yeah, we know: "Best player on the best team isn't necessarily the MVP." Well, no, not necessarily. But here's a novel thought: Sometimes the best team is the best team because of the impact its best player had on the entire organization from top to bottom. With no disrespect to the three-runners up, Garnett has just meant too much to this Celtics team from start to finish. He is the reason why six-time All-Star Paul Pierce is a legitimate candidate for Most Improved Player. He is the primary reason why the Celtics vaulted from sixteenth to first in defensive efficiency this season and a big part of the cause behind the assembly of most of the roster. Hard to imagine that Eddie House, James Posey and Sam Cassell come to town without Garnett's presence leading the way. This guy initiated an overhaul of the basketball culture of an entire town. In the best MVP campaign we've witnessed in a long time, it's admittedly a pleasure to give the Big Ticket the nod. Runners-up: Kobe Bryant, LA Lakers; Chris Paul, New Orleans; LeBron James, Cleveland
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Player Who Probably Won't Get Serious MVP Consideration But Still Means a Whole Heck of a Lot to His Team
What we said: Stephen Jackson, Golden State
What we meant: Antawn Jamison, Washington. Caron Butler missed 23 games. Gil Arenas missed 68 games. The Wizards now sit at fifth in the East and are being widely regarded as the conference's dark horse. Meanwhile, this dude was one of four players in all of basketball to average 20 points and 10 boards this season, yet he can't seem to get a word of national pub. Chances are, the way to rectify the fact that no one else is even really close in this category would be for Jamison to have actually gained some serious consideration as a fifth-or-sixth-place MVP candidate. But alas, he takes home the hardware here. Runners-up: (Empty)
Least Valuable Player
What we said: Kirk Hinrich, Chicago
What we meant: Zach Randolph, New York. I've waxed on and on about this already and don't need to spend any more word space on this guy this season, except to say that I can't think of a guy I would less want on my team under any circumstances. Throw out the numbers completely. Z-Bo is an atrocity. Runners-up: Ben Wallace, Cleveland; most of team, New York
Rookie of the Year
What we said: Al Horford, Atlanta
What we meant: For a change, exactly what we said. This is a dude who stepped in right away and averaged 10 points, 9.6 boards and 50 percent shooting in the pivot for a playoff team, albeit a bad one. He gave the Hawks a much-needed injection of winning attitude, class and professionalism and is set to be a big deal in this league for a long time. Runners-up: Kevin Durant, Seattle; Luis Scola, Houston; Joakim Noah, Chicago
Coach of the Year
What we said: Nate McMillan, Portland
What we meant: Eddie Jordan, Washington. For all the injuries his team has suffered and the generally bizarre nature of its cast of characters, that the Wiz are about to go into a series in which they are expected by many to beat nemesis Cleveland is truly amazing. Great work keeping the troops together, Ed. Runners-up: Maurice Cheeks, Philadelphia; Rick Adelman, Houston; Doc Rivers, Boston
A note on Doc: Back in January, we gave him his own "Jury still out" distinction. But despite some remaining lingering doubts about Rivers' aptitude as we head to the postseason, the man has clearly earned his props for his role in the team's success this year. The team has largely cruised to 65 wins and has never even had the slightest inkling of a chemistry problem. The fellas love playing for this guy, and they keep coming to work for him every day. While it's been well-documented that I haven't historically been Doc's biggest booster, he can't be omitted from the discussion here, and I couldn't be happier about that.
Defensive Player of the Year
What we said: Marcus Camby, Denver
What we meant: Kevin Garnett, Boston. While the addition of assistant Tom Thibodeau to the coaching staff certainly played a role, this guy remains the reason the Celts are the league's top defensive unit, which is the biggest reason they are a championship contender right now. Individual statistics can't even come close to quantifying this guy's impact. Runners-up: Shane Battier, Houston; Camby
Most Improved Player
What we said: Dwight Howard, Orlando
What we meant: Hedo Turkoglu, Orlando. In a year littered with excellent candidates for this award, Turk takes it away. He could do it on the numbers alone, which are absolutely outstanding -- six points per game up from last year (five above his season high) at 19.7, clear career highs in 5.8 boards and 5.0 assists -- but as loyal reader Who points out in a great forum thread on this subject, the numbers don't do Turkoglu justice. Since it was his eloquent explanation, let's have Who tell it to you:
"His statline doesn't tell the story. It doesn't tell you how he's gone from being a borderline starter to Orlando's closer. It doesn't tell you how he's 5th in the league in 4th quarter points. It doesn't tell you that Orlando have the worst backcourt of any playoff team in the league and that the reason they can get away with it is Hedo Turkoglu. He's their best playmaker, their best passer, their best penetrator and their best ballhandler. None of these things were remotely true last year. Most Improved Player: Hedo Turkoglu.
There was a previous post that said he benefited greatly from his supporting cast. All players do. The difference is reliance or over-reliance on their performance for your effectiveness. Simply not the case for Hedo. He's their closer. He's the go-to guy down the stretch of games."
Yep, Hedo will take it away. But we're warning you now that our runner-up list is absolutely huge here. Ready, go. Runners-up: Monta Ellis, Golden State (yes, again!); Stephen Jackson, Golden State; Paul Pierce, Boston; Dwight Howard, Orlando; Chris Kaman, LA Clippers; Mike Dunleavy, Indiana; Amare Stoudemire, Phoenix
Most Exciting Player to Watch
What we said: Kobe Bryant, LA Lakers
What we meant:
Ramon Sessions, Milwaukee. Exactly that. Just a more dynamic individual performer than anybody else. It really is what we said back in January: The completeness of this guy's skill set just never ceases to amaze. He has the stone-cold killer look that Bron is still mastering, and now that he seems to be having fun with this Lakers team, he has only grown more dangerous -- and more compelling. What a complete 180 I've done on this guy from last summer. Runners-up: LeBron James, Cleveland; Chris Paul, New Orleans...and somewhere in our top ten (yes, after multiple requests, this column is coming soon), Monta Ellis, Golden State (yep, reader nazzbo and I unabashedly love this guy)