By Dennis Berry
We have reached the halfway point in the NBA season. Let's take a shot at who we think will be taking home some awards at the end of the season.
Right now this is the easiest award to hand out. When the Trail Blazers picked Lillard during the sixth overall pick in the 2012 NBA Draft, NBA fans who do not follow college basketball were probably saying, "Who?" College basketball followers knew that the Blazers got a great point guard. Lillard leads all rookies in minutes played (38.5), assists (6.6), and scoring (18.3). He has Portland in the playoff hunt this year after they finished 11th in the Western Conference last season.
When Blatche was a Washington Wizard he had an up and down sevens seasons in the nation's capital. The end came when the Wizards sent him home and asked him not to come back. You know things are tough when the Wizards don't want you around. He moved on to Brooklyn and appears to have recommitted himself to the game. His minutes are down this year, only averaging 20.4 minutes a game compared to 24.1 mpg last season, but his production is up. He is averaging 11 points a game and 5.9 rebounds.
Chicago is one of the best defensive teams in the NBA and Noah is a big reason why. He is in the Top 10 in blocks (2.1 a game) and Top 15 in defensive rebounding (7.1 a game). Another reason that Noah is so good is that he is able to cover so much of the floor. His athleticism makes him great at defending pick and rolls and he is able to make up lost ground if he gets beat. He is a big reason why the Bulls are in the playoff hunt without Derrick Rose.
This is probably the hardest award to pick. The league is full of great players that come off the bench and help their teams. You got to go with a sixth man who plays on the best team in the NBA and that is Crawford. He is one of the top scorers for the Clippers averaging 16.6 points a game. He brings instant offense off the bench and the Clippers do not lose anything when he enters the game.
Not many people picked the Warriors to do much this season. They were looked at as a young team that was still a couple of seasons away from making some noise. Mark Jackson did not get the message. He has been able to get his team to become a better defensive team, only giving up 99.4 points a game. Last season the Warriors were hit hard by injuries, but the roster is almost fully healthy, Andrew Bogut should be back soon, and the Warriors are going to be a dangerous team come playoff time.
The MVP should be given to the best player on the best team. Right now that is the Clippers and their best player is Chris Paul. He has been the main reason why the Clippers are the top team in the Western Conference. He is their unquestioned leader on and off the court. When you watch the Clippers play (click to here to get Clippers tickets) you see that Paul runs the offense and sets his teams up to succeed. When it gets into the fourth quarter and the Clippers need a basket, Paul is there to rise to the challenge.
We are headed towards a rematch of the 2012 NBA Finals. The Thunder did not lose anything when they traded James Harden to Houston as Kevin Martin stepped into his role perfectly. Kevin Durant is still the best young player in the league and leads the NBA in scoring. The key for the Thunder's strong play has to be Russell Westbrook, who seems to have grown into the point guard many thought he could become. He does not force shots like he used to and he has improved in running the offense and setting his teammates up.
The Heat are still the NBA Champions and have the best record in the Eastern Conference. LeBron James is still the best player on the planet. The road to the NBA Finals in the East is not as tough. They have the experience and talent to make it to the Finals again.
Who will win the 2013 NBA title? The Miami Heat.