Coach of the Year
Rick Adelman, Minnesota Timberwolves
This is a tough award to predict because the winner is usually the coach of a team that overachieves. And that’s the point. Even without Ricky Rubio and Kevin Love for an extended time, the T-Wolves have a fairly talented roster. If Adelman can steer them to the playoffs—which is possible if they can stay afloat until both Rubio and Love are at full strength—he’d have a shot at the award.
The problem? A lot is ultimately going to fall on the shoulders of Brandon Roy, Andrei Kirilenko and Derrick Williams. Two of those guys weren’t in the league last year and one didn’t look worthy of the second overall pick in the 2011 draft. But if anyone can get the most out of this team, it’s Adelman, who’s probably one of the most underrated NBA coaches in history.
Executive of the Year
Danny Ainge, Boston Celtics
Obviously, this is Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak’s award to lose… But if he does lose it, Ainge may be the man to take it from him. Despite being capped out and despite losing Ray Allen, the Celtics somehow managed to get young, deeper and better this past offseason. Jerry Terry will fit in seamlessly for Allen while Courtney Lee provides a younger slasher at the 2-spot. Jeff Green, Jared Sullinger and Fab Melo will help solidify their front court and Darko Milicic will clog the paint. Ainge even managed to get Leandro Barbosa to accept a minimum deal to basically be an insurance policy in the event that one of the other guards goes down.
So long as the Celtics play defense, they can win games even without superhuman efforts from the likes of Rajon Rondo, Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce. If Doc Rivers is able to manage the rotation and maximize the talent on this roster, Ainge will end up looking very good.
Most Valuable Player
Chris Paul, Los Angeles Clippers
Some would argue that Paul should have won the NBA MVP award over Kobe Bryant back in 2008 when his Hornets finished the season 56-26, just one game behind Bryant and his 57-25 Lakers. This time, if Paul is able to lead the Clippers in a similar way, he would merit serious MVP consideration. As I wrote back in July, the Clippers did very well this past offseason. With Paul, Eric Bledsoe, Chauncey Billups, Jamal Crawford, Caron Butler, Grant Hill, Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan, Ronny Turiaf and Lamar Odom, it’s hard to not like their 10-man rotation, even if Odom is looking rather pudgy these days.
Paul’s will to win is insatiable and he’ll galvanize his team. And it’s not like anyone around here never voted for him for MVP. If they can manage to stay healthy, stay in shape, and win upwards of 55 games, he’ll have a shot. Obviously, that will be tough, but so was the 27-point deficit Paul helped the Clippers erase in last spring’s playoffs against the Memphis Grizzlies. Believe in that man.
Bill Russell NBA Finals MVP
Kevin Garnett, Boston Celtics
It’s difficult to have a dark horse for the Finals MVP mainly because the winner of the award is usually from the team that wins the finals. So—sorry Anthony Davis—I don’t think you have a chance. In all, there are probably between six and eight teams that have a real shot at winning the NBA Finals, and obviously the Lakers and the Heat are the favorites to represent their respective conferences.
But both the Thunder and the Celtics have a chance to score an upset, and if the Celtics manage to win the East, Garnett could help lead the Celtics to an improbable championship. If forced to match up against the Lakers, Garnett, Brandon Bass and Darko Milicic could limit Howard’s effectiveness since he’s not a dominant back-to-the-basket player and Rajon Rondo is one of the few guys that can stay in front of Steve Nash.
If the Celtics managed the improbable upset, Garnett could find himself hoisting the Bill Russell NBA Finals MVP trophy.
Moke Hamilton is a Senior NBA Columnist for SheridanHoops.com. Follow him on Twitter.