Wednesday, April 16, 2008

playing NBA pundit again

The NBA season is about to come to a close. It's been pretty wide open the past couple of years, and it's been no different this year; I honestly have no idea who will be crowned champions come June. The Boston Celtics have the best regular season record and probably deserve to go into the playoffs as slight favourites, if only because their role players have done well to complement the Big 3 of Garnett, Pierce and Allen. I'm especially happy for Pierce, who has stuck out 9 seasons of mediocrity for this. Anyone who's smart will never discount the Spurs, but they might be too old to repeat - they're the AC Milan of the NBA. On the other hand, the other veteran core of Pistons still have it, with a talented if youthful bench to boot. The Lakers are to be taken seriously after pulling off the trade of the year to land Pau Gasol; they now have one of the best, if not the best, starting fives. Flying lower under the radar than in years past are the Suns and Mavs. The Suns wanted to see if an aging Shaq would get them over the hump - I don't think so. The Mavs have been less consistent this year but maybe not having to carry the tag of favourites for once might help. The Jazz, Hornets and my team, the Magic, who have had a good season, aren't quite there yet I think to go all the way. Cavs got to the Finals a season ago on the back of Superman Lebron; he won't repeat the trick.

End of season awards:

MVP: Well, this is the year Kobe deserves to win it. It's a little surprising that he hasn't got one already, he's so good he's taken for granted. Kevin Garnett was the MVP for the first half of the season and I wouldn't begrudge him a 2nd MVP, but it's more likely Kobe will be rewarded. Lebron is the only other serious contender but he's got plenty of time to collect a few before he's retired. Same with Chris Paul.

Most Improved Player: Wow, there's lots of candidates this year for this one. LaMarcus Aldridge of the Portland Trail Blazers had a great sophomore year, and the improvement in his stats is quite something. Chris Kaman of the Clippers had a breakout year and made lots of fantasy basketball fans happy. Chris Paul has even been mentioned, since no one figured he would make the jump from star to superstar so fast, but historically the award has been given for those who make the jump from potential to good/very good. It's a close call for me between the Lakers Andrew Bynum, who was derided a year ago but has shown the mental toughness to take criticism in his stride and become a force down low, and Hedo Turkoglu, a former supersub with the Kings who has become quite a clutch all-rounder for the Magic. As I'm a Magic fan, I decide that my bias should win here and I'll give to Hedo.

6th Man: Talk about key subs and a few come to mind: Jason Maxiell has done really well for the Pistons, and last year's winner Leandro Barbosa still makes an impact whenever he's on the court. Jason Terry came off the bench enough times to qualify for this award, and was the leading candidate for this in the first 3rd of the season. But in the end, really, it has to be Manu Ginobili of the Spurs, who has made the transition from starting lineup to sixth man effortlessly and has become the sparkplug of their offense.

Rookie of the Year: Once Greg Oden went down, we all know this belongs to Kevin Durant of the Sonics, who's done well on a struggling team, although like all non-Center rookies, the field goal percentage isn't great. Honourable mentions should go to Al Horford, who will be a useful power forward on many teams, Al Thornton on the Clippers, who showed his potential once he was given the minutes, and Jamarion Moon of the Raptors, a defensive hustle type of guy with a nice feelgood story of making it in the NBA after years of toil.

Executive of the Year: Well, this boils down to Mitch Kupchak of the Lakers for his trade of the year to steal Paul Gasol, and Danny Ainge, who took a chance and got both Ray Allen and KG to come to the Celtics, but more importantly, managed to get important role players such as James Posey and drafting Glen Davis.

Defensive Player of the Year: I pick Marcus Camby to repeat based on his ridiculous stats - check out his averages for blocks and steals. Competition is likely to come from Josh Smith, who has only slightly less ridiculous stats. Although Kevin Garnett will also come in for consideration based on the fact that the Celtics have really tightened up since he arrived.

Pick for winner? Well, I've got it wrong the last few times, so take my prediction with a pinch of salt, but I think whoever wins the Celtics-Pistons matchup goes on to take it all.

Oh, and I struggled this year in Fantasy NBA, spending the first 2/3s of the season in the bottom half of the table before managing a bit of a run after that. Had a team with too many guards, an injured star player and not much else. Tonight will determine whether I finish in the top half of the table or not. :)

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