The 2012-13 NBA season is reaching its conclusion, and we’re gaining a clearer perspective on who may win the awards.
There has been the 28 point per game, 50/40/90 season of Kevin Durant; Carmelo Anthony’s league leading scoring average and resurgence of the New York Knicks; the overall dominance of LeBron James; and Chris Paul leading the Clippers to contention while posting his usual efficient line.
Damian Lillard and Anthony Davis were considered a two-man race for ROY since day one.
The Sixth Man award is wide open, with Jarrett Jack, J.R. Smith and Jamal Crawford all up for consideration.
Dwight Howard won the DPOY three times straight before Tyson Chandler won it last year, but it seems new blood is destined for the award this year, while a number of teams’ surprise success render a lot of choices for the Coach of the Year award.
ROOKIE OF THE YEAR
Damian Lillard was said to have franchise player potential early in the 2012-13 season. He’d impressed coaches and scouts with his performance in the summer league in addition to dominating early in the preseason. Fast forward six months, and Lillard is averaging 18.8 points per game and 6.5 assists while playing 38 minutes per night as a rookie. He’s not committing many rookie mistakes, and his 2.9 turnovers aren’t that great, but a 2:24:1 A/TO ratio isn’t all that bad either.
Anthony Davis has had a decent season, but the New Orleans Hornets have dwelled near the league’s cellar all season, and Davis still has a long ways to go. Lillard was on the cusp of being an All-Star this season, and the Portland Trail Blazers are confident about their future pairing Lillard with LaMarcus Aldridge.
MOST IMPROVED PLAYER
James Harden went from being a No. 3 option to a No. 1 option, and it seemed right from the start that his confidence was blooming exponentially. In his first two games as a Rocket, he scored 37 and 45 points, and he’s currently ranked fifth in the league in points per game. Harden has had 20 30-plus point games, and he’s about to set the league’s all-time record for free throws attempted.
Harden has averaged 10.1 attempts from the line per game, and he averages 2.2 threes per game.
His PER of 23.3 ranks second behind only Dwyane Wade’s 24.1. Harden also has the third highest true shooting percentage (.606) and he ranks third in usage rate. He’s the heart and sole of the Rockets, and he has them on a quick course to contention. Fear the Beard.
Others who warrant consideration are Larry Sanders, Greivis Vasquez, J.J. Hickson, Nikola Vucevic, Nikola Pekovic, Kemba Walker and Jrue Holiday. Vasquez, in particular, has shown an immense amount of growth, and averages over nine assists per game in addition to 14 points.
Sanders is one of the league’s top defensive players (more on him later); Hickson is averaging a double-double, same applies to Vucevic, while Nikola Pekovic is establishing himself as one of the league’s better true centers.