Blog Entry

Baseline Award Predictions for the season to come

Posted on: February 27, 2012 6:36 pm
Edited on: February 27, 2012 8:10 pm
Derrick Rose will play big minutes in the second half and could steal a second MVP from LeBron James. (Getty Images)

By Matt Moore 

As the NBA catches its breath after a hurried rush to the season and a whirlwind All-Star Weekend, we turn our attention to the NBA's stretch run, the second half. We're at the point with the trade deadline looming two weeks away where teams will begin to make moves to either ramp up for a playoffs run or bottom out in rebuilding projects. Will the Heat keep up their pace? Can the Bulls finally get healthy and if so, how good can they be then? Are the Thunder legitimate title contenders? Are the Spurs "back" once again?

So many questions, so little time.

A huge element in the second half of the season is going to be minutes. The best teams will rest their players while desperate teams will have to play to the bone. The Bulls are somehow a great team and a desperate team. They want every advantage including homecourt advantage, and below we'll tell you how that could impact the MVP race.

So we present the Baseline Awards second-half predictions, focused on who will be taking the various trophies for the second half of the season.

Projected Eastern Conference Player of the Second Half: Derrick Rose

LeBron James is the runaway MVP leader, the best player on the planet, and was nearly flawless in the first half, despite the end to that All-Star Game. So why isn't he here? Because the Heat will have a top-two seed locked up by early April, and then you're going to see James take more and more games off as the Heat rest him for the playoffs. What he does between now and then will determine is MVP, but in the meantime, Tom Thibodeau plays his players 35 minutes a game even when they're hurt. Assuming that the All-Star rest helped Rose recover from the back and leg injuries that hampered him this season, he'll get the minutes, he'll get the production, he'll get the win. I expect big things from the reigning MVP in the second half.

Projected Western Conference Player of the Second Half: Kevin Durant

It's terrifying that a kid, a 23-year-old kid, can lead the league in scoring two years in a row and then make the leap. But that's what Durant has done. Everything is better. His efficiency. His productivity. His team. His leadership. His clutch play. And his defense. It's a phenomenal streak the kid's on and there's zero reason to think he'll slow down in the second half. The West is just competitive enough for the Thunder to keep Durant playing nightly and yet not good enough to challenge the Thunder for the top spot in the West (though San Antonio's making a good show of it).

Most-Likely to Succeed: Miami Heat

They have it together. They have no discernible weaknesses, outside of "Can LeBron James succeed in the clutch?" and that's not a regular season concern. The offense is clicking, their chemistry is good, they've had fewer distractions, they're playing at an elite level on both sides of the ball and their injuries haven't been significant. It may be sickening, but it doesn't change the fact that this is the baddest team in the land until further notice.

Least-Likely to Succeed: Charlotte Bobcats

Here's the worst thing about the Bobcats. They don't even have anything of value to firesell. Tyrus Thomas is having a terrible season, Corey Maggette has been injured, D.J. Augustin is just good enough to be their best player and not good enough to draw huge offers on the market. Gerald Henderson may be their best asset and he's too good to move. If they keep this team, they'll be horrible. If they sell off the parts for future components, they'll be terrible. If the lottery doesn't help this team, it's going to be classified as negligible cruelty.

Best Dressed: Indiana Pacers throwbacks

These jerseys are awesome. (Getty Images)

Those blues and yellows are just sharp as all get out.

Worst Dressed: Memphis Grizzlies throwbacks

This, not so much a crime against fashion as a crime against humanity. (Getty Images)

Let us never speak of these again.

Class Clown: JaVale McGee

Runs the other direction, denies things he's said into tape recorders, goes for triple-doubles in blowouts, makes ridiculous goaltends and has somehow failed to get better with John Wall on his team. McGee is funny. But someone really needs to get into his head and straighten things out or a world of potential is going to be lost.

Projected Defensive Player of the Year: Luol Deng

Andre Iguodala deserves it, but Deng may end up winning it simply based on reputation. If Deng is healthy, he's the best perimeter defender in the league. Dwight Howard has struggled at times and hasn't been as dominant. If the coaches really vote this one right, Deng should win as long as he continues to get healthy and Tom Thibodeau doesn't run him into the ground.

Smoke and Mirrors Award for False Relevance: Atlanta Hawks

Always a top-six team in the standings, never a top-six team in the conference. The Hawks have managed to survive a drop-off from Joe Johnson and the injury to Al Horford. The team is supremely in need of a complete makeover but none seems imminent. So they will continue to drift through the season, winning games and getting no credit, losing games and getting hammered, never going up or down. Consistency in this league is often heralded as success. But with the Hawks, it's always seen as evidence of either a mediocre student over-achieving or an excellent student never living up to potential.

Most Likely to Blow It Up: Boston Celtics

The holes have not been plugged. They have not rounded into shape. They have not righted the ship. The experience has not come through. The casual approach to conditioning has not yielded the results they want. They did not coast, they stumbled. They did not cruise, they crashed. They are alive only because of Rajon Rondo and the weakness of the Eastern Conference. The time has come to end this and move on. Sentimentality is not worth wasting time, because if the big free agents get re-aligned and the Celtics have nothing to move forward with, they'll be back in the stone age they were in before the Big 3 arrived.

Carmelo Anthony Award for MeloDrama: Dwight Howard

"I want a trade! But I love it here! But I want more input on decisions in the front office! But I'm just trying to play! I'm not talking about free agency! Except to talk to you about how much I'm not talking about it! I love my teammates! But I love Deron Williams! I love New York! But I love Orlando! I love my mom! But I make my own decisions!"

It's like watching a teenage girl decide between four boys while the one she's with can't figure out what he did wrong.

Projected Rookie of the Year: Kyrie Irving

Ricky Rubio's a nice story. Neat passes. Irving should have been an All-Star and is going to be an elite player in this league over the next decade. Cleveland's rebuild is on its way, just 19 months removed from "The Decision."

Most Likely to be Traded: Stephen Jackson

Steve Nash could go. Dwight Howard might go. Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum, Josh Smith, Rajon Rondo, Jose Calderon. But Jackson is owed a lot of money, the Bucks don't need him, and he and Skiles hate each other. He's a bad fit in the locker room and a bad fit on the floor. It's .50 cents on the dollar time in Milwaukee for CapJack.

The 2012 Version of the 2011 Memphis Grizzlies:

The Houston Rockets. I'm starting to buy into Houston as a surprise team. Memphis used team play, star power from Zach Randolph and a unique matchup with San Antonio to get into the second round. Houston has a Should-Be-All-Star in Kyle Lowry and world of versatility in lineups they can deploy. Throw in the work that Kevin McHale has done and the fact they're 4-4 this year against division opponents (three of which are likely playoff teams) and you've got a great shot at Houston making a surprising, if ultimately futile, run. Hurray, another mid-first-round lottery pick!

Most Likely to Hit the Rookie Wall:

MarShon Brooks. Brooks is going to be a terrific scorer in this league for a long time. He's got an elite set of offensive skills and tremendous length. He can play in an offense, too. But his game is predicated on shooting percentages and that's the kind of thing that can drop off when it hits the rookie wall. I full expect to have jinxed Brooks and he will now go out and win Rookie of the Year. His play in the win over the Knicks last week was superb.

Most Likely to Make Himself a Name by Season's End: Paul George

Should have won the dunk contest. Played Rose great last year. The Pacers are better than last year and are primed for a playoff run. Getting them out of the postseason is going to be a serious job, and George is going to be a huge part of it. More versatile on offense, better on defense, athletic, explosive, with range. George isn't going to score 40. But he's going to be a part of a lot of playoff wins for Indiana and is going to be that guy in the playoffs that make sports bars of opposing teams groan "Not that guy again!" time and time over. By the way, I've started calling him Mega-Man because it seems like every game he picks up a new ability he didn't have before.

Since: Feb 5, 2009
Posted on: February 28, 2012 10:18 am

Baseline Award Predictions for the season to come

I'm a Bulls fan and I love Derrick Rose, but no one will beat LBJ for MVP this year.  Every NBA analyst is already sitting with a brown nose after the 1st half after sticking them up LBJ's behind.  LBJ is great and so is Miami, but they are ripe for a take down in the playoffs.  So as a Bulls fan I want the attention to be on Miami that way the more they are pumped up the farther they will fall when they disappoint in the playoffs, and they will disappoint in the playoffs. 

Since: Oct 22, 2007
Posted on: February 28, 2012 9:45 am

Baseline Award Predictions for the season to come

whitetrash, Rondo, Garnett, Allen and Pierce have all been talked about all season in trade rumors.

As for Rondo, there are a lot of concerns about his maturity level and ability to be a leader both on and off the court who they can build an team around. The thinking is if they don't think he "the" guy who will assume that role from Pierce, then it's better to get rid of him now while his value is still very high.

KG, whether he's traded or not, won't be back next year. His contract is up and they'll use that money elsewhere to rebuild. He would be a very useful piece on the Celtics' (or another team's) bench for a lot less money than what he currently makes, but I'm not so sure he'd want to do that and I'm guessing he'll retire.

Ray Allen is a tough one....he still produces and doesn't cost an obscene amount of money for what he brings to the table, and he would probably still bring back a nice return in a trade. However, there are off-court issues surrounding the health of his son, who has diabetes and receives his care from the world-renowned Joslin Diabetes Center in Boston. While many would argue that shouldn't matter when it comes to the business of basketball, I'm not so sure the Celtics feel that way, so if they do trade him, I imagine it would only be with his blessing.

As for Pierce, I don't even want to think about him on another team. I'm not saying he shouldn't be traded from a basketball business standpoint; I just hate the idea of him on another team and love the idea of him retiring a Celtic and seeing #34 raised to the rafters the following year.

Since: Nov 27, 2006
Posted on: February 28, 2012 9:19 am

Baseline Award Predictions for the season to come

Not even a mention for Ibaka for Defensive Player of the Year?  He completely changes the way teams play OKC, not saying he is a shoe in to win the award, just that he is in the discussion.

Since: Dec 29, 2011
Posted on: February 28, 2012 8:01 am

Baseline Award Predictions for the season to come

what I meant to say was he won't do anything to endanger his chance OF WINNING the MVP.

Since: Dec 29, 2011
Posted on: February 28, 2012 7:59 am

Baseline Award Predictions for the season to come

When it comes to Lebron's ego, I assure you, he will not do anything to endanger his chance of not winning the MVP, even after they have clinched home court advantage throughout the playoffs.

Since: Feb 25, 2008
Posted on: February 28, 2012 7:58 am

Baseline Award Predictions for the season to come

I dont understand why they keep sayingblow up the Celtics,but the only player in trade rumors is Rondo. Wouldnt you want to keep Rondo since hes the youngest, under contract, and there best player? Makes more sense to just trade Garnett and Allen. There has tobe alot of teams who would give up alot for just Allen alone. Plus if Ainge trades Rondo and then they lose Allen and Garnett they would be worse then they were back in 2006-2007 season

Since: Mar 10, 2010
Posted on: February 28, 2012 7:23 am

Baseline Award Predictions for the season to come

As a lifelong Celtics fan and appreciative of what Pierce, Allen and Garnett have done for the team I cannot bear the thought of seeing one of them dealt away. Perhaps by not doing so they will be shooting themselves in the foot but I would think that if they were willing to go into the season with this roster then they would see the season through with the same veterans while playing the youngsters more often. Wouldn't that be more productive than trading one or more of them away for a band-aid to get a higher playoff position? I would not be happy if, as you put it the Celtics "blow everything up".

Since: Mar 1, 2011
Posted on: February 28, 2012 5:00 am

Baseline Award Predictions for the season to come

Highly doubtful overrated DRose is given another gift mvp like last year. 

Since: Jan 25, 2012
Posted on: February 28, 2012 3:47 am

Baseline Award Predictions for the season to come

Whew, love the enthusiasm regarding Rose. I don't think Rose will be able to top King James though. I agree with almost everything written here..I think josh smith will for sure get traded. Matt moore, you are by far the most talented writer on CBSSPORTS.

Since: Feb 27, 2008
Posted on: February 28, 2012 2:32 am

Baseline Award Predictions for the season to come

Was that an article that did not mention Jeremy Lin?

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