NBA Progress Report

andrew liefIt has been an amazing NBA season so far (except for the majority of the Eastern Conference).  There have been many great players and surprises, which has provided a lot of entertainment.

With the season being just past the halfway point and All-Star Weekend coming up this weekend, let’s take a look at the award winners at this point in the season:

MVP: Kevin Durant

Durant was my pre-season pick and he has not disappointed at all this season. He is averaging a career-high 31.2 points per game and 5.5 assists, to go along with 7.7 rebounds.  With the absence of fellow All-Star Russell Westbrook, Durant has taken his game to another level to lead the Thunder to the top of the Western Conference.

Rookie of the Year: Michael Carter-Williams

As a Syracuse fan, I can’t believe how well Carter-Williams is doing in his first season in the NBA.  He is averaging a very solid 17.1 points, 6.4 assists and 5.4 rebounds per game.  If he can cut down on his turnovers, then he can become a dominant point guard in the league. My pre-season pick, Ben McLemore, isn’t living up to expectations, averaging just 7.8 points per game.

Defensive Player of the Year: Roy Hibbert 

Nobody protects the rim better than Hibbert.  The way he holds down the back end of the Pacers’ defense allows his teammates to be aggressive and take some chances while defending their man. As long as Hibbert is healthy and on the court, the Pacers will continue to be a dominant defensive team.  I thought my pre-season pick of Rockets’ Dwight Howard would get back to his form from when he was the Magic, but he’s still not completely dominating games.

Sixth Man of the Year: Jamal Crawford

With Chris Paul and J.J. Redick missing a large portion of the season, Crawford has really stepped up for the Clippers by averaging 18.4 points per game.  His ability to score at any moment, especially in the fourth quarter, has been huge for the Clippers to allow them to stay near the top of the standings. Warriors’ Harrison Barnes was my pre-season pick, and he is going through a sophomore slump.

Coach of the Year: Jeff Hornacek

Prior to the season, everyone expected the Suns to be tanking for the first pick in the draft, not be competing for a playoff spot.  Even without guard Eric Bledsoe, the Suns are playing at an extremely high level.  This shows how good of a job Hornacek has done without any household names. My pre-season pick of Clippers Head Coach Doc Rivers is definitely a candidate because of how much he has helped DeAndre Jordan and Blake Griffin improve, but Hornacek is the obvious choice in this category.

Most Improved: Lance Stephenson

After emerging as a solid rotation player last season, Stephenson has taken his game to another level this year.  He is leading the league in triple-doubles and was snubbed from being selected as an all-star by the coaches.  Paul George and Roy Hibbert are the Pacers’ best players, but Stephenson is the guy that makes them a truly great team.  Prior to the season, I thought Jazz’s Enes Kanter would have a dominant year, but he’s only averaging 11.6 points per game 6.2 rebounds.

Best Team: Oklahoma City Thunder

Led by Durant, the Thunder are the best team in the Western Conference. The Thunder are playing at an elite level. Reggie Jackson has improved tremendously in the time he’s spent replacing Westbrook. Serge Ibaka has become one of the best big men in the entire league.  If Westbrook can come back and stay healthy, there’s no reason the Thunder can’t win a championship this year.

Biggest Disappointment: Brooklyn Nets

The Nets were supposed to be one of the best teams in the league going into the season, but they have certainly not played up to their expectations. Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce have declined tremendously in Brooklyn.  Deron Williams has been unable to stay healthy on a consistent basis and Brook Lopez is out for the season.  They had a nice run in January, but they’re going to have to stay at that level if they want any shot of making a playoff run.