NBA Awards Time - NFL Draft: Safeties

OUR JIM SEZ MID-WEEK UPDATE - IT'S AWARDS TIME IN THE NBA

PLUS OUR NFL DRAFT COVERAGE ROLLS ON WITH A CLOSER LOOK AT THIS YEAR'S TOP STRONG SAFETIES

By Jim Hurley:

Folks, here's what we said (word for word) at this exact time a year ago right here in this Jim Sez column -- and it's what we're feeling right now too:

"We know what you're thinking: Thank goodness the NBA's 2010-11 regular season ends on Wednesday night - let's get to the playoffs already!"

Okay, so the pro hoops league sees all 30 teams in action on the final night of regular-season play and who wouldn't be looking forward to the upcoming playoffs that - as we see it - are more wide-open than ever before.

Pin us down right now and we'd tell you that there are as many as seven or eight teams that legitimately could win this year's NBA Championship including, of course, the two-time defending champion Los Angeles Lakers who have been skidding down the stretch. We'll have loads of NBA Playoff coverage beginning later this week when we preview the Eastern and Western Conference Playoffs, so don't miss out and keep in mind there's fresh news and notes every day now right here on this Jim Sez web site.

Now, a quickie reminder:

And now hear this:  Jim Hurley and his Network of Handicappers and Bloggers get you all the NBA and Major-League Baseball Winners each and every day when you either call the toll-free telephone # of 1-800-323-4453 or go online right here: Check-in times are after 11 a.m. ET for weekday afternoon Baseball; after 1 p.m. ET for all weeknight NBA & MLB games; and after 10 a.m. ET on Saturdays and Sundays.

Extra, extra: The NBA Playoffs will swing into action this Saturday afternoon - please make sure you're all signed up for the whole hoops post-season with our NBA PLAYOFF PACKAGE. Just talk to Jim or one of his service representatives today!

Now, it's NBA Awards Time ... and the envelope please:

THE MVP - DERRICK ROSE, PG, CHICAGO - This one falls under the category of absolute no-brainer as the Bulls' mega-star has been the biggest difference-maker in Commissioner David Stern's league and note that Rose entered Tuesday night's game in New York averaging a haughty 25.1 points per game, 7.8 assists per outing and 4.1 rebounds-per-game and note this cat's shooting it at nearly 45 percent a game. P.S., all you had to do was eyeball all of Rose's big shots and big plays at crunch time this season to know full well he's the unabashed league Most Valuable Player. Game, Set, match!

Second Place - Dwight Howard, Orlando; Third Place - Kobe Bryant, Los Angeles Lakers.


COACH OF THE YEAR
- TOM THIBODEAU, CHICAGO
- The one-time right-hand man of Boston boss-man Doc Rivers has really shined in his rookie head as a head coach with his Bulls a nifty 60-20 at press time and that's good enough for the Eastern Conference's top playoff seed. Thibodeau has stressed defense - above all else - and the Bulls have risen above/beyond anything that was predicted for them here in 2010-11.

Second Place - George Karl, Denver; Third Place - Gregg Popovich, San Antonio.


ROOKIE OF THE YEAR - BLAKE GRIFFIN, F, LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS - The NBA's most hellacious dunker also is the only player in the league averaging 20 ppg with 12 rebs and 3 assists per outing. Yes, a slam-dunk winner in his "second" rookie season.

Second Place - John Wall, Washington; Third Place - DeMarcus Cousins, Sacramento.


MOST IMPROVED PLAYER - KEVIN LOVE, F/C, MINNESOTA TIMBERWOLVES - Who else but this double-double machine who winds up being the league's top rebounder and one of the season's real feel-good stories for a franchise that now has a glimmer of hope after a slew of really down years.

Second Place - LaMarcus Aldridge, Portland; Third Place - Eric Gordon, Los Angeles Clippers.


SIXTH MAN OF THE YEAR - LAMAR ODOM, F, LOS ANGELES LAKERS - The 11th-year pro is averaging 14.2 ppg and 8.7 rpg but all you have to do is watch how his energy level always seems to crank up thee Lakers' play and - believe it or not - there's been times he has been the Lakers' MVP over our "bronze medal" winner Bryant.

Second Place - Jason Terry, Dallas; Third Place - Thaddeus Young, Philadelphia.


SURPRISE TEAM OF THE YEAR - CHICAGO BULLS - Nobody saw this improvement coming this fast and note the Bulls are just one of two teams (see San Antonio) with 60-or-more wins in regular-season play. The aforementioned Rose is the numero uno star but everyone has his role here and everyone plays hard every night.

Second Place - Philadelphia 76ers; Third Place - Denver Nuggets.


DISAPPOINTMENT OF THE YEAR - PHOENIX SUNS - No playoffs for PG Steve Nash and Company is an utter disaster in a conference where the likes of Portland, Memphis and New Orleans beat out Alvin Gentry's guys for a post-season berth ... and that's just awful!

Second Place - Utah Jazz; Third Place - Charlotte Bobcats.

 

THE NFL DRAFT: TIME TO CHECK OUT THE BEST STRONG SAFETIES (SS)

Editor's Note: We will continue to have complete and daily position-by-position coverage of the NFL Draft (April 28-29-30) right here and it's all capped off by our annual Jim Sez NFL Mock Draft which will be posted on this website on Wednesday, April 27th: Now, here's a look at the top Strong Safeties (SS):

DeANDRE McDANIEL, SS, Clemson - A three-year starter for the ACC Tigers who registered 14 career INTs, McDaniel figures to get drafted somewhere in the top 75-to-80 picks overall (mid-third rounder) but could climb up or slide down a few pegs depending on how NFL teams see him as a downfield coverage guy. Note that McDaniel didn't register great 40-yard times at recent NFL workouts and there has been some talk that he's actually regressed following his first two years in college. A heady, older player (he's 23) who stand s 6-foot, 213 pounds but, again, he has his share of doubters out there.

TYLER SASH, SS, Iowa - One of the more active defensive players in recent Big 10 history, this 6-foot-1, 210-pounder has that proverbial nose for the football as evidenced by the fact he collected 13 career INTs and ranks fourth all-time in the conference with 392 interception return yards. Sash's defensive coordinator Norm Parker jokingly called him "the luckiest guy I know" based on the fact that the ball often found him on tipped plays, fumbles, etc. and it's worth noting that Sash was one of 10 semifinalists for the 2010 Jim Thorpe Award. The general belief is that this former Hawkeyes star will be picked somewhere in the first three rounds.

Da'NORRIS SEARCY, SS, North Carolina - Here's a potential sleeper at this position as the former Tar Heels D-back was suspended for his club's first three games last year and yet still finished with four INTs and nine passes broken up ... might he have gotten lost in the shuffle among his more hyped UNC defensive teammates? Searcy - whose just 5-foot-11, 223 pounds - is a rock-solid open-field tackler but there remains questions as to his overall athleticism and the "tweener" label has been attached to him by some NFL scouts. He could wind up getting drafted in the latter stages of Round III.

AHMAD BLACK, SS, Florida - This Sunshine State native from Lakeland was the Outback Bowl MVP last year when the Gators defeated Penn State 37-24 and note he finished his career with 13 INTs and 244 total tackles. Black was a three-year starter in Gainesville and anyone that watched this SEC team the past couple of years knows he has a propensity for making the big play at critical times. The major question here is size as Black is just 5-foot-9, 183 pounds but NFL insiders know he packs a real wallop as a tackler. Expect him to go in Round III either right before or after the above-mentioned Searcy.

JOE LEFEGED, SS, Rutgers - Last year's 4-8 Scarlet Knights surrendered 144 points in their final three regular-season games (or 48 ppg) but the 6-foot 212-pound Lefeged wasn't one to blame. In fact, the four-year Big East player had his shining moments including a 19-14 win against Florida International when Lefeged blocked two punts, forced two fumbles and intercepted a pass thus becoming the first player in the conference's history to win Defensive and Special Teams Player of the Week in the same game.
 

NOTE: More NFL Draft Position Previews in the next edition of Jim Sez.

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