NBA’s Best in 2009-10
Defensive Player of the Year
1. Dwight Howard
2. Josh Smith
3. Rajon Rondo
Another easy award. Howard dominates the paint like no player since Hakeem Olajuwon. (No, Dikembe Mutombo and Ben Wallace were not in the same class.) While some folks are suggesting that LeBron may be in the midst of a string of MVP awards, his competition is closer to him than Howard’s is for DPY.
Josh Smith is getting lots of attention this year for his improved offensive efficiency but he’s improved even more defensively. As good as Atlanta has become, their lack of size at the center position is still a defensive weakness and neither Al Horford nor Zaza Pachulia does much to discourage penetrators from getting to the rim. That’s where J-Smoove comes in to play. His wingspan, hops and aggressiveness improve the Hawks’ interior defense immensely. As a face up defender, he’s done a stellar job against the amazing variety of power forwards in the league despite giving up inches to most. Being a 4 man who can switch out onto quick, short guards, also helps protect the Hawks’ defensively challenged point guard crew.
Rondo has regressed just a little bit this season as his offensive responsibilities have grown but he’s still clearly the best defensive guard in the league. To be fair to Rondo, not only has he done more offensively but with Kevin Garnett’s continuing physical ailments, Rondo’s taken the defensive reins as well. On a team with 3 future Hall of Famers, Rondo was the best and most indispensible Celtic this year.
Most Improved Player
1. Andrew Bogut
2. Rajon Rondo
3. Aaron Brooks
Bogut wins this award for me because he took the greatest leap of any non-star. (Durant’s improvement was the most in the league this year but his potential was so evident as to minimize my level of surprise. Besides, this isn’t the award he wants to win.) Bogut became the main cog on a playoff team that surpassed all expectations. Not only did Bogut score better, but he became a real force defensively. With a rookie point guard and new coach, Bogut moved in one season out of the Top Pick Bust bin into All-NBA consideration.
As I mentioned before, Rondo elevated his game tremendously this season. Every element of his game has improved and next year Rondo has a legit chance to be an All-NBA performer.
Aaron Brooks has surprised me for the entire year. I kept expecting him to fall apart at some point doing the season and it never happened. I thought he’d struggle because of the stellar West point guards, then I thought Kevin Martin’s acquisition would push Brooks to the periphery, then I expected he’d fall apart from overwork during the Rockets’ playoff push. Instead, Brooks has matured and improved enough that he appears to be Houston’s long-term successor to Stevie Franchise.
Coach of the Year
1. Scott Skiles
2. Alvin Gentry
3. Scott Brooks
Most folks think this is the Scott Squared show but Alvin Gentry’s Suns are just as much a surprise as the Thunder. After considering last year’s directions and the talent on the two rosters encourages me to slide Gentry just ahead of Scotty Brooks. These Western squads are both tremendous stories but Scott Skiles’ Bucks are preposterous! I pegged the Bucks to win around 30 games this year but instead they won 46 and would have had a real chance at winning a playoff series had Bogut not been injured. Skiles makes this a rare, easy selection in this category.