Hollinger's award picks. I'm assuming this will be of interest to a lot of people here. Here they are, along with all the Bulls-related quotes (there's quite a bit, as you probably could've guessed) for all of you without insider.
Rookie of the Year (player): Blake Griffin, Clippers
Rookie of the Year (announcer): Matt Harpring, Jazz
(Uh, who cares?)
Coach of the Year: Tom Thibodeau, Bulls
The Bulls are the best story of the 2010-11 season, and while there are untold reasons for that, a heavy dose of credit has to go to the orchestrator, Thibodeau. Want proof that his defensive system works? How about this: The Celtics, who still use the system he put in as their top assistant, are second in the NBA in defensive efficiency … and his Bulls are first.
Thibodeau's ability to prod and push his young team was a huge factor in their unexpectedly rapid success, both on defense and in the Eastern Conference standings, and his decision to hire another defensive wizard -- former Thunder assistant Ron Adams -- also proved wise.
Sixth Man: Lamar Odom, Lakers
Most Improved Player: Darrell Arthur, Grizzlies
Second place goes to Derrick Rose of Chicago; as you may have heard, he's had a pretty good season. An improved jumper, more free throw attempts and a better defensive effort have been the primary motors, but he's improved across the board.
Defensive Player of the Year: Dwight Howard, Orlando
Executives of the Year: Gar Forman and John Paxson, Bulls
Forman and Paxson, on the other hand, nailed everything this summer, and that's how they were able to improve their win total even more than the Heat did. Needing to hit a home run in the coaching search after neophyte Vinny Del Negro bombed, they did with Thibodeau. And after Plan A failed when the LeBron/Wade/Bosh sweepstakes didn't net them a superstar, they nabbed a nice consolation prize in Carlos Boozer.
But in the end, it was all the little stuff that put them over the top: subtle roster-building moves like drafting Omer Asik two years ago and bringing him over this year; signing Ronnie Brewer when the market for him became unexpectedly cheap; nabbing inexpensive backcourt help (C.J. Watson) and veteran defenders (Kurt Thomas, Keith Bogans); and resisting the urge to trade Asik for Houston's Courtney Lee at the trade deadline. Yes, winning the Rose lottery in 2008 was a huge help, but the Forman-Paxson team built on that fortune by making all the right moves since.
Trade of the Year: The Carmelo Anthony deal
Free Agent of the Year: Tony Allen, Grizzlies
And now what you've all been waiting for...
Most Valuable Player: Dwight Howard, Orlando
I explained this in a lengthy column earlier this month, and while my logic has clearly displeased certain factions, it hasn't changed any of the facts. The most notable one is that the three Florida stars -- Howard, LeBron James and Dwyane Wade -- were the league's three best in the league by a fair margin, whether you want to use numbers, the much-beloved eye test or any other standard.
Howard has no chance in real life, however. For some reason, the concept that the league's best player could be on an also-ran team remains an insurmountable hurdle (for reference, see also Kobe Bryant in 2006 and Kevin Garnett in 2005).
James and Wade land second and third on my ballot; you could reverse the order of those two and I couldn't muster a strong argument against it. You could also call it a tie, theoretically, but I'm told the league doesn't allow that.
Fourth and fifth is where it gets interesting for me. I had Chris Paul and Bryant in these spots a week ago. CP was leading all point guards in player efficiency rating and led the entire league in adjusted plus-minus by a wide margin entering Sunday's games. But he was so ineffective in the most important game of the Hornets' season Sunday -- going scoreless for the first time in his career -- that he played his way off my ballot.
Similarly, Bryant is barely hanging on, as his main résumé bullet point was the Lakers' 17-1 record after the All-Star break. Er, make that 17-6. Dallas' Dirk Nowitzki -- who has both an enormous plus-minus and a résumé of big shots -- is making a hard push to replace him at No. 5.
And at No. 4? Derrick Rose, who moved himself up two spots on my list with a strong final week, continuing his penchant for blowing up in national TV games and precipitating an avalanche of tweets in my direction from his MVP supporters. Of course, these games don't count extra in the standings -- and looking at the 82-game body of work, the three Floridians still have him trumped.
I'll throw in two side points that may interest only me, but what the heck. First, as near as I can tell, Rose has not spent a single second campaigning for this award, which I haven't seen anyone write about but which is a pretty remarkable display of maturity for a 22-year-old.
Second, presuming he does win, I would not consider it a mistake on par with the Allen Iverson vote in 2002 or the second Steve Nash win in 2006. It would be more similar to Nash's win in 2005 -- a down year for MVP candidates overall, allowing the figurehead player on an emergent 60-win team to ride a wave of momentum. It may look a little weird a couple of years down the road, because it's unlikely to be Rose's best season, but it could easily be his only MVP award. Further, I can't say I'm encouraged by the way we ended up here. But in the big picture, there have been far worse votes than this one.