As the end of the NBA
season approaches, much of the sports media’s attention is on the race away from the final four seeds in the NBA Eastern Conference and jockeying for playoff position in the NBA Western Conference. However, it is the right time to recognize the great (and not-so-great) players and coaches in the 2006 National Basketball Association regular season.
NBA Most Valuable Player- Guard Steve Nash of the Phoenix Suns. While the NBA is glittering with a slew of burgeoning stars, perhaps the most understated star of them all will win the MVP award. Nash, who is averaging 19 points and 10 assists per game, does not have the star power of a Kobe Bryant or the tremendous promise of a LeBron James. However, he is integral to the Phoenix Suns’ push to the NBA Championship. Nash can do it all, but is best at those skills which many pro basketball players neglect: good passing, sound defense, and a good jump shot. Nash’s playmaking ability will allow the Suns to do better than they did in the 2005 NBA playoffs and will lead them to prominence in the Western Conference for years to come.
NBA Rookie of the Year- Guard Chris Paul of the New Orleans/Oklahoma Hornets. This seems to be a pretty unanimous choice for anyone in the National Basketball Association know as Paul has emerged as one of the best guards in the NBA Eastern Conference in his first year. Paul may have some competition from the likes of the Toronto Raptor’s Charlie Villanueva or the Milwaukee Buck’s Andrew Bogut, but Paul should eclipse all other rookies with his stellar play.
NBA Coach of the Year- Scott Skiles of the Chicago Bulls. While many basketball wonks will promote Avery Johnson of the Dallas Mavericks or Mark D’Antoni of the Phoenix Suns, Skiles has had to keep his Bulls in the Eastern Conference playoff hunt with a group of young and inexperienced athletes. Skiles should have a solid franchise for years to come.
NBA Defensive Player of the Year- Center Ben Wallace of the Detroit Pistons. While Wallace is the obvious choice for defensive player in the NBA awards and others like Bruce Bowen of San Antonia and Gerald Wallace of Charlotte may merit some award attention, Wallace has maintained his strong play of the last five years. It seems unfair to punish Wallace for his steady play at the core of the league’s best team just because he has won the award three of the last four years.
NBA Sixth Man of the Year- Leandro Barbosa of the Phoenix Suns. Barbosa is emblematic of how the Phoenix Suns have been able to win games over the 2006 regular season. Barbosa has provided some solid numbers (13 points in 24 minutes per game) and will be challenged by Speedy Claxton of New Orleans and Alonzo Mourning of Miami. However, the fact that the Suns have parts that are interchangeable does not mean those parts should not be rewarded for their hard work and solid performances.
NBA Most Improved Player- Boris Diaw of the Phoenix Suns. While it seems like overkill to keep giving the Phoneix Suns awards, they have earned such honors in the National Basketball Association. Diaw was rescued from the basketball wasteland Atlanta Hawks in the 2005 National Basketball Association offseason and has provided double digit points and high double digit rebounds and assists as an integral part of the Phoenix Suns’ efforts.
Unofficial National Basketball Association awards- Larry Brown and Isaiah Thomas of the New York Knicks should get the NBA’s “Least with the Most Award,” as they could not use the allure of playing in Madison Square Garden to do better than 20-plus wins in the NBA regular season. The Chicago Bulls should win the “Best Young Team Award” with a promise of returning to some of the prominence they had in the 1990s. Finally, Kobe Bryant of the Los Angeles Lakers should win the NBA’s “Most Indispensable Player Award,” because without him the Lakers would lose to most NCAA Division 1 basketball teams (men or women).