Over at some little sports website, ESPN.com, they recently did their NBA Award predictions. About 20 sports writers picked whom they believed would win an '...of the year' award. The only Thunder-er (is there a term for this?) to get any nods was semi-surprisingly coach Scotty Brooks, for coach of the year.
This had me thinking, which awards do the Thunder have a realistic shot at winning? The NBA gives '...of the year' awards for Rookie, Most Improved Player, Sixth Man, Coach, Defensive, MVP, Come Back Player and GM ( the last two were not listed by ESPN, so I could be wrong).
Rookie of the Year: James Harden probably won't win this award, but he at least has a s mall chance. It looks like he won't be starting to begin the season; he will likely be first of the bench. I wasn't wow'd by anything he did in the preseason, but he should still get enough looks to give him above average rookie numbers. He will really have to turn on his stroke to average enough points to win this award, and probably have to earn the starting SG spot. How about some other Thunder rooks? Well, if Ibaka channels his inner-Dennis Rodman and averages 14 boards a game then he might get some consideration (I wish). The only award BJ Mullens is winning is 'Most-Likely-to-Bring-Back-Memories-of-Robert-Swift' Award
Most Improved Player: I thought Durant had a legitimate case to win this award last year, didn't happen. So, he's out of the conversation. Jeff Green could have a real shot at this award. He had some considerable jumps last season, if he continues that trend and averages a David West-like 20ish and 8ish a game it would be hard to keep him from the award. However, Uncle may be battling his own teammate, RW0. If Westbrook can keep his points, bring down his turnovers, and ups his assists to 9 then he would be right there with the Green for the award in this dream scenario.
Sixth Man: I'm not sure if they give this award to rookies, but I imagine the Thunders only shot to win this will be via James Harden. It's basically the same case as for ROY, he has to burn the nets down, but in this more unlikely scenario Brooks decides he's a better asset coming off the bench.
Coach of the Year: Wooo, Scotty Brooks already getting some love as I mentioned before. This is simple, the Thunder have to compete for the final playoff spot in the West. I don't even think they would have to make the playoffs, as long as they are right there the entire season. It really depends on if other teams are having surprisingly good seasons. If the Thunder do make the playoffs, well then Mr. Stern, that's Scott with two T's.
Defensive Player: If the Thunder keep defending the perimeter like they did in the last couple preseason games then I'm not even sure if any player deserves a team Defensive Player of the Year award, just give it to Loud City. the Thunder really have almost 0% chance of winning this award. I guess if I had to wager on just one player it would be Westbrook. He's already considered one of the leagues best young defenders. It would just be a matter of getting the numbers. A Dwayne Wade-esque defensive season would be the best shot, then again, even D-Wade didn't win the award. This award is lodged firmly in Orlando
Come Back Player: This is a fun award. It's a great honor to players that have worked very hard to get their careers back on track. It's not hard to imagine Shaun Livingston having an okay season and sweeping this award. His injury was so horrific that it has to be burned into every NBA player, coach, and GM. If he makes a dramatic step forward this season the award is his. I think he will get enough minutes to get some decent stats, maybe sometimes even playing along side Westbrook. If you haven't seen what he had to come back from check it out: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y1VLN2dlbV0.
MVP: I think we can all agree that this should be Kevin Durant's breakout season, a 'Hi, I'm Kevin aka The Durantula, I came here to score on you in any and every way, from anywhere on the floor, excuse me while I embarrass you in front of your girlfriend and mom' kind of season. But, MVP is one of those awards that sometimes is more perception than reality. Lebron, Kobe, and D-Wade are far ahead in that category. It will take a season like we all expect Durant to have before he will be truly considered for this award. Cross your fingers though.
GM: It seems to be a consensus that Sam Presti is doing a great job building this young talented team. He hasn't made any rushed/ forced moves and has amassed what seems to be a budding core around Durant. But, this seems to also be a flashy award as well. Front offices that make ridiculous trades and all of a sudden their team goes from mid-range to contender win this award. Which is hard to really argue against, but shouldn't the idiot GM on the other side of those trades also receive a Worst GM of the Year award (staring down Jerry West and David Kahn). But, once again if the Thunder contend a bit or make the playoffs then Presti would be in the conversation.
I guess the Thunder don't have a great shot at any of these awards. In my opinion I would say Most Improved Player is the best shot for the Thunder, two players chasing the award makes the odds better. It would be nice to see Durant in the MVP conversation, especially after all the plus/minus garbage that came out recently. What do all of you on WTLC think?
Another note: keep this site alive!