Inside the NBA

As NBA season winds down, here’s how I would vote ...

rbonnell@charlotteobserver.comApril 6, 2013 

I’m a voter for the NBA’s various post-season awards. Here’s how my ballot looks as the season winds down:

Most valuable player (vote for five in order of preference):

1. LeBron James. 2. Kobe Bryant. 3. Kevin Durant. 4. Carmelo Anthony. 5. Tony Parker.

Toughest omission: Chris Paul.

Thoughts: I don’t know that anyone has had a better or more impactful season than James in a long time. He wins games in a multitude of ways and he actually got better after his MVP season a year ago.

Coach of the year:

1. Gregg Popovich. 2. George Karl. 3. Frank Vogel.

Toughest omissions: Vinny Del Negro and Larry Drew.

Thoughts: Pop could be coach of the year any season – he’s just that good. But holding open the Spurs’ championship window in a loaded Western Conference is a feat. Karl (Nuggets) and Vogel (Pacers) have maximized their talent impressively.

Defensive player of the year:

1. Serge Ibaka. 2 Joakim Noah. 3. Tony Allen.

Toughest omission: Chris Paul.

Thoughts: I define the best defender as the guy who makes every scorer in the league look over his shoulder before he attempts a shot. Ibaka is that guy and Noah is close to that description. Allen is fantastic guarding on the ball.

Most Improved Player:

1. Larry Sanders. 2. Kemba Walker. 3. Nik Vucevic.

Toughest omission: Jrue Holiday.

Thoughts: These three guys made the jump from prospects with talent to impactful NBA players with big futures. Holiday had a great season, but I’m not sure his jump from last season to this one was as big.

Rookie of the year:

1. Damian Lillard. 2. Anthony Davis. 3. Dion Waiters.

Toughest omission: Bradley Beal.

Thoughts: Portland point guard Lillard is already a borderline All-Star. First-pick Davis is still a major prospect who had a variety of rookie injuries.

Sixth man award:

1. Jamal Crawford. 2. J.R. Smith. 3. Ramon Sessions.

Toughest omission: Louis Williams.

Thoughts: All three of these guys embraced coming off the bench this season and excelled at what they do. Who starts is far overvalued among both players and fans.

All-NBA

First team: G Bryant, G Parker, F James, F Durant, C Dwight Howard.

Second team: G Paul, G James Harden. F Anthony, F Zach Randolph. C Noah.

Third team: G Russell Westbrook, G Stephen Curry, F David Lee, F Tim Duncan. C Brook Lopez.

Toughest omission: Kyrie Irving.

Thoughts: Howard wasn’t a great player this season, but he was the best center. Randolph, Harden, Lee and Curry were each essential to their teams getting to the playoffs.

Five passing thoughts on the NBA and the Charlotte Bobcats

• I appreciate Charlotte fans’ frustration that they paid big money Friday, yet didn’t get to see the real Miami Heat, with James, Dwyane Wade and Ray Allen not playing. Frankly, that’s the risk you take when you buy tickets to see a great team this close to the start of the playoffs.

• I’ve questioned whether the Lakers would get their act together this season, but their performance in blowing out the Dallas Mavericks in a must-win kind of game last week was impressive.

• Maybe I’m not close enough to the situation to understand the nuances, but I really don’t know why Byron Scott’s job would be in jeopardy in Cleveland. I see a young team learning how to win, and I think those players respond well to Scott’s approach.

I can’t see any good reason for Sessions to play again this season with the Bobcats. Why risk re-injuring that sprained knee in games with no tangible stakes?

• It’s beyond me why ESPN chose to show Friday’s Bobcats-Heat game, rather than the Oklahoma City Thunder versus the Indiana Pacers.

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