With the playoffs less than a month away the debate has intensified in regard to the NBA's end of season awards. Here are my own predictions about who will take home the individual accolades in the National Basketball Association.
Most Valuable Player
The 2012 MVP has turned into a two horse race between LeBron James and Kevin Durant. Both players are putting up phenomenal numbers this season but if the season were to end today I would have LeBron James as Most Valuable Player in the NBA.
I have chosen a few statistical categories to define why James deserves the award. These are points per game, rebounds per game, assists per game, player efficiency, team record, offensive and defensive rating. Let's see who is better in each category.
Points per game goes to Durant with 27.5 compared with 26.5 for James.
Rebounds per game goes to Durant with 8.2 with 8.1 for LeBron.
Assists per game goes to James with 6.5, versus 3.5 for Durant.
Player Efficiency which is a measure of per minute production goes to LeBron James with 30.2 compared with 26.5 for KD.
Oklahoma City has a better overall team record than Miami and they lead the Western Conference whilst the Heat are second in the east. This one goes to KD once again.
Offensive Rating is an estimate of points produced per 100 possessions. This one goes to LeBron James, 117 to 114.
Defensive rating is an estimate of points allowed per 100 possessions and this goes LeBron James 98 versus 101 for Durant.
That's 4-3 to LeBron James.
Now we all know it's not all about stats or the most wins a team has. It's all about a players value to their team.
Both James and Durant have great teams but I feel that OKC have more depth to their team and whilst Miami have the big three, they lack when it comes to their big men and second unit.
LeBron James is the most valuable player in the NBA and although the Miami Heat are on a losing streak and James has had a bad week by his standards, his play this season has been second to none.
Kevin Love for his outstanding season.
Sixth Man of the Year
James Harden is a guy who would undoubtedly start on just about any team in the NBA. He has been an integral part of the Oklahoma City Thunder's Western Conference leading team.
His versatility has made him more suited to coming off the bench and the fact that he can play so many positions means he can be used in many different ways.
His numbers are up there with many starters in other NBA teams. He is averaging 16.9ppg, 4.1rpg, 3.8 apg and shooting at 49.3% from the field.
Harden has some competition for the award from the likes of Lou Williams from the Philadelphia 76ers and Jason Terry of the Dallas Mavericks but neither man is putting up numbers as good as Hardens or making the same impact.
Harden has had career highs (all this season) in points, 33 against the Bobcats as well rebounds and assists, 9 boards against New Jersey and 9 dimes versus Dallas.
Whether or not Harden stays a sixth man after this season remains to be seen but one thing's for sure he is the best sixth man in the NBA.
Most Improved Player
Linsanity took hold of the NBA this season. The meteoric rise of Jeremy Lin took the league by storm, literally overnight.
The New York Knicks were in a big slump when coach Mike D'Antoni decided to give the Harvard graduate his first start. Lin repaid the faith by scoring 28 points and dishing out 8 assists against the Utah Jazz in a game they won.
Lin has had huge improvements in just about every statistical category compared with last season. In his 35 games played this season before his injury he has averaged 14.6ppg, 6.1apg and 3.1rpg.
He had a season high 38 points in a win against the Los Angeles Lakers on the 10th February, not bad for a guy who couldn't get a start last season and only averaged 9.8 minutes in the 2010-11 season.
Lin will always have his detractors due to his high turnover rate and the added fact that we have only seen him play 35 games this season, but there hasn't been a player that has improved more in a season than Lin in a long time.
Defensive Player of the Year
Another year and another Defensive Player of the Year award for Howard. Dwight has had an interesting year in 2012.
The drama that surrounded him after he asked to be traded then decided to resign with the Magic would have distracted many players, but Howard has put up stellar numbers for the season even if he hasn't had a great deal of help from his team mates.
He is averaging a career high and NBA leading 10.9 defensive rebounds, is blocking 2.1 shots per game which is third in the league and has a career high 1.5 steals per game, first among centres in the NBA.
His presence in the paint is one that opposing centres dread coming up against.
Physically he is an unbelievable mix of athleticism, size and strength and I wouldn't be surprised to see Howard win this award for the next few seasons.
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