Mid-Season Awards (Part II)
In Part II, we'll deal with the Defensive studs and Rookie-o-Year candidates.
DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR: This list is a little bit more difficult to assemble because at this point I probably have not watched enough games for certain teams to have a totally comprehensive take on all defensive play (even if you could possibly have a totally comprehensive take on individual def. play anyway). So take this list with a grain of salt at this point.
Camby--Always felt this guy was underrated, it's not just his shot-blocking ability, but the 2.9bpg do help his case. Personally, I think he guards Duncan better than anyone. 2nd in the league in defensive boards. Camby's having an All-Star caliber year, but it will be tough for him to crack the line-up in the West.
Hinrich--This guy usually gets the assignment of defending the opposition's best guard. Works his tail off every nite. No one guards Wade better in my estimation, and that in itself is huge.
Battier--Mr. Fundamental. Combination of great technique, smarts, & dogged determination. Super on-the-ball or as a team defender--one of the best in the league at taking charges. Constantly beats his man to the spot. Every team needs a Shane Battier.
Okafor--It not just the blocks (2.93, 2nd in NBA), its the way he changes numerous shots per game. The amount of the area he covers is amazing. His help & recovery is good as any big in the league. Simply a force in the painted area, and has erased any lingering doubts if he can guard centers. Another guy who works his tail off every nite.
Garnett--Sometimes overshadowed by Ben Wallace, but I always thought he was on the same level, and now that Ben has tailed off, KG can jump back onto the 1st Def. Team instead of Ben. #1 Def. rebounder in NBA.
Josh Howard--The best defender on the Mavs. A great individual defender, but also a tremendous help defender as well. Basically, the Mavs' version of Scottie Pippen. Love those long arms.
Honor Mention: B. Bowen; Ginobili; Duncan; J. O'Neal; Dalembert; Prince; D. Howard; T. Hassell; D. Stevenson; Dev Harris
MY PICK: I am going with Okafor. Every game I watch him, I always come away satisfied with his defensive effort.
ROOKIE-O-YEAR: This has to be most uninspiring R.O.Y. race that I can remember, probably more hapless than the '00-'01 season. This year it's like having to pick the best song by Nickelback, I mean technically one song has to be the best, but really what's the point. I found it really difficult to just come up with 5 guys who deserve consideration; I have no idea how Stern & Co. are going to pick 8-10 guys for the Rookie-Sophs game. The one constant that stood out when sifting thru the Rooks was that they are struggling miserably with their shooting. Well if we have to, here's the list:
Bargnani--Getting a little bit more burn than I expected, & has responded fairly well--3rd in scoring for rookies. You can see where he can be a terror in the high pick/roll for years to come. But no surprise his defense needs works, and rebounds could be better.
Garbajosa--Also getting more burn than I thought, probably better suited as a reserve. But his jack-o-all-trades game has translated well and his vast pro experience has made his transition easier. Might be the best all-around rookie. Averaging 8.4ppg, 5.2 rpg, 2 apg, 1.2 spg and per usual savvy defensive play. Not shooting the ball too well & the NBA 3-pt line seems a little too long for him. Has tailed off the last few weeks.
Morrison--Definitely has been given the best situation to take home the award, but his shooting has been way off the mark--37.7% overall & 32.4% from deep. Is second in scoring for rooks at 13.5, and has recently been looking to pass more, which is nice considering his cold shooting & his underrated passing skills. No surprise that opposing teams look to go right at him when he's on defense.
Foye--If he was on most other teams he'd be seeing more minutes, but on a team with a lopsided roster filled with combo guards, it's hard to get serious burn. Only getting 20 mins. per, but still managing 9ppg & 2.3 apg. His shooting is nothing special, but is not bad compared to other rookies (42.7% overall & 34.5% from 3pt.).
B. Roy--If not for the foot injury, he would most likely be running away with this award. Leading scorer for rooks at 14.7, to go along with 4.3 rpg, 3 apg & 1.3 spg. But like as with every other rookie, his shooting has not been that special (43.7% overall) Can't miss too many more games if he wants to be considered for the ROY award at season's end in my mind. Already missed 20 games.
Rudy Gay--Was my sleeper pick for Rookie of Year & not doing too bad--9ppg, 4 rpg, & 1 spg. But just like everyone else, he can't hit his shots--40% overall & 29% from 3pt. Still think he has the most upside of any player in his draft class.
Shelden Williams--Has been nothing spectacular, but is the leading rebounder among rookies at 6.2 per. But not really having the immediate impact on defense that was wished for by the front office. Never thought he would ever be much of an offensive threat from what I saw at Duke, and looks like he will be a role-playing big, like expected. Not really what you want from a #5 pick, especially with Marcus Williams & Sergio showing glimpes of being special.
*--Special note--Even though they aren't really candidates because of low minutes, I have been impressed with Marcus Williams & Sergio Rodriquez in the small doses they play. I think both PGs can be very good down the road & both guys show great passing ability. Also, Utah's Paul Milsap has been productive in limited minutes and looks like he can be a beast on the boards in the future. But he will never get to take off in Utah as long as Boozer is around.
MY PICK: Like the mid-season Coach-o-Year award, I don't feel too strongly about this pick, but I guess I will go with R. Foye. He has shot the ball slightly better than his counterparts, which gives him a slight edge in my mind. But I think you could easily make a case for Bargnani, Garbajosa, or Morrison. I would definitely give it to Roy if I could, but 20 missed games is too much at the mid-season point. If he can keep his missed games to about 8-10 from here out, he should walk away with the award at season's end.