Let’s keep this simple. I’ll list the All-First Round teams for each conference, along with a MVP for each. I’ll offer up a sentence or two making my case. Then, on the next page, I’ll show you my All-First Round Team comprised of both West and East players and explain why I picked Player West over Player East or vice versa. I’ll also pick an overall MVP. Got it? Good, let’s begin. And let me know if you agree or not.
Point Guard: Deron Williams, Utah Jazz – He was killing them softly all series. No Mehmet Okur and no Andrei Kirilenko, and how did the Jazz beat the Nuggets again? Oh yeah, the best point guard in the league took control early. He made me forget Chauncey Billups was the 2004 NBA Finals MVP. Yes, Carlos Boozer was terrific, but Williams was the conductor, and he was brilliant.
Shooting Guard: Kobe Bryant, Los Angeles Lakers, – Bryant’s hot third quarter – he scored 16 before getting in foul trouble – put the Lakers in perfect position to squeak out a series-ending win against the Thunder. He finished with 32 points and seven rebounds. Though not his best playoff performance, he almost single-handedly ensured there would be no game seven and that the defending champs still have a shot at defending their title.
Center: Amare Stoudemire, Phoenix Suns – He’s not the Amare of old, but he’s still pretty damn good. He averaged 20.5 points and 5.5 rebounds per game and did an admirable job on the young Portland bigs. I barely gave this to Amare of Pau Gasol, but I think the Suns are dreadful without Amare, especially with Robin Lopez injured.
Small Forward: Kevin Durant, Oklahoma City Thunder – Great first-time performance in the playoffs with 23.5 points per game. He does need to take better quality shots, though. He only shot over 36 percent in two games. But you gotta love a player who told his team after the season-ending loss. “‘Next season starts now.”
Power Forward: Carlos Boozer, Utah Jazz – Sorry, Carmelo. You had a big Game 1, but peaked too early. Meanwhile, Boozer was the only player in the first round to average 20 points and 10 rebounds. He also had two huge games. First, his 31 points, 13 rebounds, and five assists in Game 4, and then his 22 points, 20 rebounds and five assists in the series-clinching Game 6.
MVP: Deron Williams – Without Mehmet Okur and Andrei Kirilenko, the Utah Jazz shouldn’t have even won two games, let alone win the series. Williams is the reason (though Boozer was terrific).
Point Guard: Derrick Rose, Chicago Bulls – OK, so his team was beaten soundly by the top seed in the playoffs, but Derrick Rose showed he’s one of the top 5 point guards in the league right now. He averaged 26.8 points and 7.2 assists per game. He also averaged 42.5 minutes per game, more than anyone else in the first round. They might not have a coach next year, but they have one hell of a point guard.
Shooting Guard: Dwyane Wade, Miami Heat – He was the sole reason I incorrectly picked the Heat to upset the Celtics. I just didn’t anticipate the rest of his team completely disappearing. Can’t blame Wade, though. His averages of 33.2 points, 5.6 rebounds and 6.8 assists per game are downright gaudy. AND he shot 56.4 percent from the field? Damn.
Center: Dwight Howard, Orlando Magic – Despite a ton of fouls and poor offensive performance, he still managed to help his team sweep the Bobcats. He also averaged 9.8 points and 9.3 rebounds, which was best among East centers. The big stat, though? Five blocks per game. In the next round, I believe he’ll watch his fouls and, with more minutes, he’ll pick up his scoring.
Small Forward: Joakim Noah, Chicago Bulls – I don’t actually like Joakim Noah, but you have to admit, he’s better than you thought he’d be as a NBA player. He always seems to be around the ball and under the opponent’s skin. He averaged just under 15 points and 13 rebounds, while shooting at a 53 percent clip. Big mouth, but big impact too.
Power Forward: LeBron James, Cleveland Cavaliers – 31.8 points, 9.2 rebounds and 8.2 assists per game in a relatively easy dismantling of the Chicago Bulls. He recorded a triple-double in Game 2, and missed it by one assist in Game 1, two assists in Game 3, and two rebounds and assists in Game 4. Game 5 he struggled(?) with 24 points, six rebounds and five assists. Ha.
MVP: LeBron James – While I was leaning heavily towards Wade, I had to admit I was overcomplicating things a bit. I mean, LeBron almost averaged a triple double in the first round. Yeah, it was against the 8th seed, but still. The more (or less) I thought about it, the easier a decision it became.
Check out the next page for the All-First Round Team made up of both East and West players, and find out who was the overall MVP of the first round.
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