The NBA Playoffs are finally here after a compressed 66-game schedule and so it's time for the basketball world to make their annual pilgrimmage to TheBostonInsider's blog to see who will hoist the Larry O'Brien Trophy at the end of the Finals.
Before we get to the predictions, here is my call on the NBA award winners for the abbreviated 2011-2012 season:
Coach of the Year: Doc Rivers, Celtics
The Celtics were lost and Danny Ainge was ready to pull the trigger on trades for Ray Allen and Paul Pierce but Rivers once again regrouped his team and has guided them back into championship consideration.
Most Improved Player: Andrew Bynum, Lakers
Jeremy Lin was the big story before he got hurt but even if he stayed healthy, I would be voting for Bynum. Watching the talented Lakers center transform himself into a legitimate monster in the low post has given the Lakers a weapon that could carry them to the Finals. I would NOT trade Bynum for Dwight Howard because of Bynum's growth as a player this year.
Rookie of the Year: Kyrie Irving, G, Cavaliers
Irving has given the fans a reason to come back to Cavaliers games, which is no small feat in Ohio.
6th Man of the Year: James Harden, G/F, Thunder
Harden's role in the Thunder's success often gets over looked because of Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook but the country will see his value during the playoffs.
Defensive Player of the Year: Tyson Chandler, C, Knicks
Chandler's defense is just as big of a reason as Carmelo Anthony's offense as to why the Knicks could be a sleeper in the East.
Most Valuable Player: LeBron James, F, Heat
James will join Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Larry Bird, Wilt Chamberlain, Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan, Moses Malone, and Bill Russell as the eighth player in NBA history to win at least three MVP awards but he is the only one among them to not have an NBA championship and that will not change in June.
Eastern Conference First Round
(1) Chicago Bulls over (8) Philadelphia 76ers
(4) Boston Celtics over (5) Atlanta Hawks
(3) Indiana Pacers over (6) Orlando Magic
(7) New York Knicks over (2) Miami Heat
Western Conference First Round
(1) San Antonio Spurs over (8) Utah Jazz
(4) Memphis Grizzlies over (5) L.A. Clippers
(3) L.A. Lakers over (6) Denver Nuggets
(2) Oklahoma City Thunder over (7) Dallas Mavericks
Eastern Conference Semifinals
(4) Celtics over (1) Bulls
(7) Knicks over (3) Pacers
Western Conference Semifinals
(4) Grizzlies over (1) Spurs
(3) Lakers over (2) Thunder
Eastern Conference Finals
(7) Knicks over (4) Celtics
Western Conference Finals
(4) Grizzlies over (3) Lakers
Memphis Grizzlies over New York Knicks