(CBS) As the NBA regular-season wraps up tonight, award ballots are due soon, which means writers’ picks are slowly starting to trickle out to the public.
And the early returns — while not constituting any sample size from which to accurately predict anything — reflect well on Bulls center Joakim Noah, who has submitted a career year and led the Bulls out of a 12-18 hole and into a top-four seed in the East, as well as forward Taj Gibson.
Grantland editor-in-chief Bill Simmons and lead basketball writer Zach Lowe each revealed their award selections in recent days, and both chose Noah for Defensive Player of the Year and Gibson for Sixth Man of the Year.
Here’s Lowe on voting Noah for Defensive Player of the Year over Indiana’s Roy Hibbert:
Noah doesn’t spook players into wild floaters the way Hibbert does, but he’s fast and maniacally precise about timing and positioning. He will make you shoot over his outstretched arms, and when he’s done altering your shot he’s going to turn, knock the hell out of someone, and make sure Chicago grabs the rebound. He does not mess up in pick-and-roll coverage — ever. He does not allow little-guy ball handlers a path to the rim on switches. He is one step ahead reading plays, always moving around to bother cutters and invade passing lanes.
Here’s Lowe on voting Gibson for Sixth Man of the Year over the Clippers’ Jamal Crawford and the Spurs’ Manu Ginobili:
Availability doesn’t kick Ginobili off the ballot, but it does prevent him from winning. Gibson has played 300 more minutes than Crawford and 800 more than Ginobili, and he hasn’t missed a game. (Crawford has missed 13.) He’s not as tall or long as Noah, and not quite as strong a rim protector and post defender. But he’s mobile, he blocks shots, and he’s always in the right place. The Gibson-Noah duo might be the league’s scariest front line, and they pair up in closing lineups that have absolutely blitzed the league in fourth quarters.
Noah has also drawn a Defensive Player of the Year vote from another prominent national writer, USA Today’s Sam Amick.