It’s that time of the year folks. TNT presents 40 games in 40 nights. The NBA playoffs are just around the corner. Will we see a repeat of last year’s historic Lakers-Celtics showdown in the Finals? Or are the Finals more likely to feature new blood like OKC and the Bulls? Will FromMontanaToCrabtree’s prediction that the Lakers will be champions hold true? Only time will tell. In the meantime, I give out my year-end awards and then offer some playoff predictions.
MVP: Derrick Rose. BK (Basic Knowledge). There’s absolutely no doubt in my mind that D-Rose is the MVP. He is THE main reason the Bulls finished with the best record in the NBA. And his numbers are just plain stupid. He’s 1 of 5 players in NBA history (the others being LeBron, MJ, Oscar Robertson, and John Havlicek) to rack up 2,000 points, 600 assists, and 300 rebounds in a single season. ‘Nuff said.
Most Improved Player: Kevin Love. Again, a no-brainer. If K-Love played for a contender instead of the T-Wolves, he would be in the MVP debate. Anyone who can put up 53 straight double-doubles in this day and age is amazing. His average of 20 points and 15 boards is right up there with Dwight Howard (who averaged 23 points and 14 boards this season).
Coach of the Year: Tom Thibodeau. Alright, so maybe there’s some debate about this one, but I still think T2 is the run-away winner. Granted he inherited a talented team with MVP D-Rose, but that being said, any time you can have the best record in the league in your first season as head coach of a team, you deserve COY Honors. Compare what he did to what Spoelstra did in Miami with an All-Star cast of LeBron-Wade-Bosh, and it’s even more incredible. Honorable mention shout-outs to Monty Williams, Gregg Popovich and my boy Doug Collins.
Defensive Player of the Year: Dwight Howard. Dwight finished the season top-10 in points, rebounds, FG%, and blocks. Impressive. You might argue he should give D-Rose a run for his $$ in the MVP race. Unfortunately, a 4th-place finish for the Magic won’t cut it. BUT, Defensive POY, for sure – 2nd in boards (behind K-Love) and 4th in blocks, give him the nod.
Sixth Man of the Year: Lamar Odom. Despite the Kardashian distraction, LaMAYOR averaged 14 pts, 8 boards, and 3 assists for the Lake Show off the bench. Without Odom, the Lakers could not win the Championship this year, and would be a 4-seed at best.
Buzzer-Beater of the Year: Tyreke Evans over the Grizzlies. Incredible. Watch this.
Winner: The Los Angeles Lakers. I’ll have to side with FromMontanaToCrabtree on this one, although I don’t share his degree of conviction in making this call. Especially after Bynum went down a couple nights ago, I thought the Lakers were in serious trouble and was about to change my pick. BUT, all that being said, I have faith in 2 people – Phil Jackson and Kobe Bryant – and I am confident these two will lead the Lakers to the Championship. All of this, of course, is contingent on the health of Andrew Bynum. Even though Bynum’s numbers in the playoffs haven’t been impressive in the last two years, his presence on the court does so much for this Lakers team. With Bynum out of the starting line-up, Odom moves into the starting rotation, and the bench begins to look anemic. So, provided Bynum is healthy enough to be on the court for the entirety of the playoffs, I have the Lake Show coming out of the West.
1st-Round Upset: Portland over Dallas in 6. Despite being a Mavericks fan, I really think this is going to happen. There’s no reason to believe that the “soft” Mavs will be anything but soft. And Portland is one of the more dangerous 6-seeds that we’ve seen in a while. A team that features Wallace, Roy, Aldridge, Miller, and Batum is not one I would want to face in Round 1. Look for the Blazers to snag 1 of the first 2 in Dallas and then wrap things up in a Game 6 at the Rose Garden. Maybe if the Mavs still had K-Hump, the result would be different.
Western Conference Finals: Lakers v. Thunder. You say, what about the Spurs? Friends of mine tell me that this Spurs team is different from the older Spurs teams that feature Duncan as the primary scoring option and ran a more balanced half-court offense. But with the addition of Perkins, I think the Thunder have the size to deal with the Spurs, and give me the Westbrook-Durant duo any day of the week over Parker-(injured)Ginobili. As for the Lakers and Thunder, this one should be a nail-biter. At the end of the day, I think the series will go 7 games, but I just feel like the experience and size of the Lakers will prevail at the end of the day. I’m not sure that anyone in the league has the personnel to deal with the front court of Bynum-Gasol-Odom in a 7-game series.
Winner: The Chicago Bulls. I know the Heat have more talent, and I know the Celtics have more experience, but the Bulls are the best “team” in this Conference. And they play better defense than anyone else in the league. In Noah and Boozer, the Bulls have a solid front court that rebounds and plays good defense. In D-Rose, they have the MVP, and do not forget about their bench, which features Gibson, Korver, and Warriors discard CJ Watson, to name a few.
1st-Round Upset: Atlanta over Orlando in 6. Atlanta leads the regular season series 3-1. The Magic will surely resort to their jump-shooting ways, instead of running the offense through MVP candidate Dwight Howard. Howard getting frustrated + J-Rich/Hedo/Arenas underperforming = Atlanta upset, on the shoulders of Josh Smith and Joe Johnson. Atlanta will be able to feel a little better about that contract they gifted Joe Johnson at the beginning of the year.
Eastern Conference Finals: Bulls v. Heat. Given how they ended the season, I am so tempted to pick the Heat to win this. But I think they’ll have a grueling series with the Celtics, and their lack of size will ultimately haunt them against the Bulls. It’ll go 7, but it’ll be the strong team defense of the Bulls, and not the star-power of the Heat, that’ll prove to be the difference in this one.
FINALS PREDICTION: LAKERS OVER THE BULLS IN 6.