NEW YORK, NY - MAY 03: LeBron James #6 of the Miami Heat looks on in the first quarter against the New York Knicks in Game Three of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals in the 2012 NBA Playoffs on May 3, 2012 at Madison Square Garden in New York City. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)
The SB Nation team site managers got together and picked through the winners for *6 of the 7 NBA season awards, as handed out by the Basketball Writers Association. There were a few surprises in the bunch, at least among those who finished in second or third place, but none really at the top.
Here is a look at who won each award and how I voted. I know I'm in for a little hometown hating, but... I picked with my head, not my heart.
*Note: We did not pick a Most Improved Player because, well, let's let Tom Ziller explain:
I did not present Most Improved Player for a vote, because the award does not deserve consideration. It's a sham award. No offense to Ryan Anderson, who is a fine young player I would love to see on my team. But this award is the Hologram Tupac of the NBA.
(Some wise guy did add the category to our group ballot, and three people voted on it, so let the record show that technically we had a three-way tie between Ersan Ilyasova, Kevin Durant and David Stern.)
Sixth Man Award
Winner: James Harden, OKC
My pick: James Harden
Harden won unanimously, as expected. This one probably wasn't even close, in terms of consideration. I don't think there's a team out there who wouldn't love to have the luxury of brining a star talent like Harden off the bench. Must be nice.
Rookie of the Year
Winner: Kyrie Irving, CLE
My pick: Kyrie Irving
Irving picked up 16 of 18 first-place votes, with two votes going to Kenneth Faried (one of which came from a Nuggets blogger, but...). I think Faried had a fine season, but really this one didn't even seem close as far as I was concerned. Irving was spectacular for the Cavs in his rookie season, posting 18.5 points, 5.4 assists, 3.7 rebounds, 1.4 threes and 1.1 steals in just over 30 minutes. Not bad for a 20-year-old kid. He's a superstar in the making.
Defensive Player of the Year
Winner: Tyson Chandler, NYK
My pick: Tyson Chandler
I know, I know, I'm supposed to give love to Tony Allen as the DPOY, and I 100-percent stand behind him as a Top 2 candidate for this award, but I had to go with Chandler here. Sorry, guys! (I'll make up for it later... and then lose you all again with another one of my picks...). Chandler just had an overwhelming effect on the Knicks defense this season, turning them into one of the more respectable interior defensive teams, get this, ALL BY HIMSELF. Allen is, without a doubt, the best perimeter defender and on the ball defender in the game. And while he is the face of our defensive identity, he's not the sole proprietor of it. Mike Conley, Marc Gasol, Dante Cunningham and even Rudy Gay all had a great impact on this team defensively. That shouldn't take away from the Allen argument all that much, but when you consider that there are only two players on the Knicks who probably even know what it means to play defense -- Chandler and Iman Shumpert -- I think you have to give Chandler a lot of credit for being the identity of that team, and the only reason why they were so successful (Number 1 overall in the NBA) at limiting points in the paint.
Executive of the Year
Winner: Larry Bird, Indiana Pacers
My pick: Larry Bird
Oh, great, you guys hate me again! I know that Chris Wallace definitely deserves consideration here. And he got it. He unfortunately didn't get a single vote among the bloggers, but he was part of the consideration. Deservedly. This one was close with Bird picking up six total votes and R.C. Buford (Spurs) nabbing five.
The reason I picked Bird, and I think people overlook him for the same reasons they have overlooked Wallace in the past, is because he made patient, under-the-radar types of moves, essentially staying the course. Consider these: he brought in Frank Vogel as the team's coach, he hired Kevin Pritchard, he brought in David West at a reasonable price, he brought in Leandro Barbosa, Louis Amundson, George Hill (OK, so he traded Kahwi Leonard in that deal...), etc. He didn't make any "all-in" moves, but he made smart moves, remaining patient. Again, similar to what we've seen Wallace do -- Pondexter, Speights, Cunningham, Pargo, Arenas, Hudson, etc.. He easily could have considered moving Danny Granger and started over, but instead he stayed course and went for it. And here his Pacers are, probably sitting as the second most talented team in the East (now that Derek Rose is out). It's not the flashiest choice, but I really like what Bird has done, overall, to improve the Pacers over the last year.
Coach of the Year
Winner: Gregg Popovich, Spurs
Have I won you back? Maybe? OK, so I was the only one who picked Hollins to win the award, though I do know for a fact that a few of my SB Nation blogger brethren had given him consideration. Maybe Pop was the right choice, but I had to give Hollins the nod here simply because he took a somewhat choppy situation, while coming off the biggest 'high' in Memphis history (not related to Elvis, of course) and coached the Grizzlies to their best season in franchise history. With Rudy Gay coming back, Zach Randolph going down, Darrell Arthur out, Speights/Pondexter/Cunningham/Selby/Pargo/Arenas all in the rotation.... With steady improvements by Conley and Gasol, to boot, Hollins, as we say, "done coached" this team. Seriously, I just can't say enough about the job that Hollins did this season. Sure, I seem homer-ish in my decision, but I'll stand by it 100 percent!
Most Valuable Players
My pick: LeBron James
No real flash here. He got 15 of the 18 votes, with Tony Parker getting two and Kevin Durant getting one. LeBron really just had an unbelievable season, there's no denying that. Even when Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh missed games, LeBron took an underwhelming cast of so-sos and carried them on his shoulders. I see the appeal in Parker and Durant, but no way would they get my vote over LeBron.