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Petrilli Looks at Award Candidates

Now with the much-anticipated NBA season rolling in, we have gotten a taste of what’s in store as preseason has ended. For each individual accolade there’s no clear frontrunner heading into the season, but there can be strong cases made for many players.
Most Improved: Winner- Jonas Valanciunas/ Other Candidates- Iman Shumpert, Harrison Barnes, Eric Bledsoe
Jonas at the tender age of 21 is entering his sophomore season in the NBA and I expect to see a drastic improvement in his overall game. As a rookie he played in 62 games and started 57 of them, so he has gone through the growing pains of a full season in a new country and tailoring his game for the NBA. He averaged 8.9 points per game, while also grabbing six rebounds. Over the summer, he helped his national team, Lithuania, get a silver medal in the FIBA Euro Basket. His footwork and low post presence has improved, while also being looked on as the anchor of the Toronto Raptors defense. With his 7-foot frame and good leaping ability he is constantly altering shots and should develop into a Marc Gasol-like player.
Sixth Man of the Year: Winner- Jamal Crawford/ Other Candidates- J.R. Smith, Tyreke Evans, Lance Stephenson
This year, Jamal Crawford will reclaim the title after falling just short last year, losing only to J.R. Smith. This year Jamal will be coming off the bench, but I believe see starter like minutes. He has shown throughout his NBA career he can score and provide a much-needed surge to a team. His PPG jumped three points from Portland to playing for the Clippers and with Eric Bledsoe. With the Suns there are more minutes and points to be had and he will consume the majority. He is the second or third best scoring option on the team, and with running a high tempo offense, he will be looking to score around 20 PPG.
Executive of the Year: Chris Grant (CLE)/ Other Candidates -Billy King (BKN), Dell Demps (NO), Kevin Pritchard (IND)
The Cleveland Cavaliers will make the playoffs this season for the first time since they saw LeBron lose to Boston in 2009. They will do that with the multitude of first round picks they’ve stockpiled over the past three drafts. With Kyrie Irving en route to superstardom, and this year’s first overall pick Anthony Bennett looking like a stud in preseason, the Cavs are primed to make a run. Grant also brought in Jarrett Jack, who is going to be a vital sixth man that will bring a spark to the team when coming off the bench. The Cavs only won 24 games last year and will improve that by 20 games this year.
Coach of the Year: Frank Vogel (IND)
Vogel took over in 2011, as interim coach. He led the Pacers to the playoffs for the first time since 2006. Vogel was officially named Pacers’ head coach on July 6, 2011. Coming into the second season as full-time head coach, the Pacers will compete for the top two seeds in the East. He has been considered the past two seasons, but with the Pacers winning 50 plus games this year, he will finally win.
Rookie of the Year: Anthony Bennett/ Other Candidates- Trey Burke, Ben McLemore and Victor Oladipo.
Anthony Bennett was the first overall selection in this year’s draft, with the Cavs turning heads with that selection. He played his college basketball for the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV). Bennett is a  6-foot-8, 256-pound power forward with a very good skill set and explosiveness. He has already been on Sports Center top 10 a couple times this preseason with his spectacular play. With a point guard like Kyrie Irving, who distributes the ball well, Bennett will be fed the ball effectively and put many in good posittions to score to go along with his stellar defense.
Defensive Player of the Year: LeBron James/ Other Candidates-Dwight Howard, Tony Allen, Serge Ibaka.
LeBron James is a tenacious defender who uses athletic ability and basketball IQ to shut down top scorers. He may not be able to defend the center position top notch but you cannot overlook the entire picture. He finished with the most votes for the All-Defensive First Team in 2012-13, and with a three peat in sight, the King will be even more focused and engaged on winning and bringing his best at both ends of the floor.
MVP: LeBron James, Miami Heat
LeBron James will be the first player to win Defensive Player of the Year and MVP in the same season since Michael Jordan and Hakeem Olajuwon pulled it off. Coming into the season, LeBron reiterated how much better he got over the offseason and how he wants to continue that throughout the season. It’s hard to fathom how the reigning league MVP could get any better, but if anyone could do it, it’s him. There’s no question he is in the prime of his career, and with a better team around him, he will be able to showcase his talents even more.
-Robert Petrilli

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