We’ve had the Heat’s hot streak, the Lakers’ letdown, the Nuggets’ spurt, the Spurs’ survival, the Thunder’s roll, the Knicks’ rise to relevancy.
And that’s not even the half of it.
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Here are the best (and worst) of the men who made it all happen:
Most Valuable Player: LeBron James, Heat
Is it really possible that this guy was better? Is there anything he couldn’t already do?
Actually, neither of those questions really matter. James was far and away the best player on far and away the best team — again.
In a league filled with superstars, only about six or seven cannot be stopped when it comes to putting the ball in the basket. James is the best of those. Making matters worse (for opponents), he’s also the game’s best passer. So if he’s not going for 35, it’s only because the man has a heart.
As for defense, just see what happens when James steps into a passing lane – an area in which he’s improved each year.
Carmelo Anthony, Kevin Durant and a few others are fantastic. So it’d be hard to describe James in a word, because he’s just better than the best.
Defensive Player of the Year: Tony Allen, Grizzlies
He doesn’t compile big steals numbers and he doesn’t block shots. He doesn’t swipe or bat away passes and he can’t guard power forwards.
So how is Allen the NBA’s best defender?
Easy. He’s always in position, always in your grill, always making the movement of every opposing swingman (and sometimes point guard) a major hassle.
It’s called “position” defense and it comes from the old school of bending your knees, shuffling your feet and actually wanting to do it.
As Allen once said, there’s nothing glamorous about his game. There isn’t a major payday, either — as Allen is the 194th-highest paid player in the league ($3.3 million).
But ask anyone who goes against him, and they’ll make it clear: Allen left his fingerprints on the game. And most likely, all over their body, too.
Rookie of the Year: Damian Lillard, Trail Blazers
Already drawing comparisons to former Pistons great Isiah Thomas, Lillard is a dynamic ball-handler with a deft shooting stroke. He can drive to the basket whenever he wants.
He’s also a classy kid who tends to bring out the best in others — an absolute must for a point guard that’s pushing for a starring role.
Sixth Man of the Year: Jamal Crawford, Clippers
How many times has this guy come off the bench to save a team with two huge stars in Chris Paul and Blake Griffin?
The answer is, too many to count.
Crawford has been a journeyman of sorts, making previous stops in Chicago, Golden State, Atlanta, Portland and New York (twice). But he’s done one thing well in every location, and that’s come off the bench and light up opponents.
Pretty soon, the award should have his name attached to it, because he plays the role to perfection.
Most Improved Player: Paul George, Pacers
Remember at the beginning of the season, when the Pacers were panicked about losing Danny Granger to a knee injury?
Well, they haven’t really missed a beat, and that’s primarily because of Granger’s replacement.
That would be none other than George, who increased his scoring by more than five points per game (from 12.1 to 17.4). He’s also an underrated rebounder and fits in very well with the Pacers’ physical philosophy of trying to beat you by beating you down.
Coach of the Year: George Karl, Nuggets
Raise your hand if you predicted the Nuggets would emerge as the team that won the trade involving Dwight Howard and Andrew Bynum.
The Nuggets got Andre Iguodala in the trade, a nice player but not exactly someone who’s expected to change the course of our franchise.
In fact, the Nuggets didn’t have a single All-Star — yet set the franchise record for wins in a season anyway (56).
Karl has overcome a lot, both in his professional and personal life. As far as the former is concerned, this is clearly his greatest achievement.
Most Underrated: Al Horford, Hawks
The Hawks were supposed to stink. They were even OK with stinking. Horford is a huge reason why that didn’t happen.
He bangs underneath the basket, he scores from out top, he hustles, he brings it on every play in every game. Mostly, he proved that if you plan to stink, you better make sure he’s not on the team.
Biggest Disappointment: Thomas Robinson, Rockets
Granted, he’s only a rookie, and there’s still plenty of time. But when you’re drafted fifth overall, as Robinson was (by Sacramento), then get traded, then still don’t look like anything special in your new city … well, it’s hard to call you anything but a first-year flop.
Basically, about the only thing most observers are saying about Robinson is that he may have Derrick Williams syndrome. We still don’t know if he’s a power forward or small forward, or worse, neither.