Top 5 Candidates for Comeback Player of the Year
Comeback Player of the Year Candidates
Before you grab your pitchforks and torches, let me explain that I understand the NBA does not have an actual Comeback Player of the Year award — not since 1986 anyways — but it is one they should bring back.
The NBA awarded the Comeback Player of the Year starting in 1980 and did so through 1986. It was then changed to the Most Improved Player award and given to players who had the biggest year-to-year change in performance, mainly those who became starters after playing off the bench the previous year.
Having a separate Comeback Player of the Year award would be nice, especially when the NFL and MLB have the award. Since the NBA changed it to Most Improved Player award, only two players have won while playing 40 or less games the previous season. Isaac Austin won in 1996-97 after playing overseas the two previous season and Alan Henderson won in 1997-98 after playing only 30 games the previous year.
Every season, we see big name players go down with injury and you expect them to come back the next season with a chip on their shoulder. Most of the time, the players injury costs their team a chance at making the playoffs or even being true championship contenders.
We saw this last season when the NBA lost many of their stars to injury. One was Kobe Bryant who was injured near the end of the season, which affected the Los Angeles Lakers chances at upsetting the San Antonio Spurs in the first round of the playoffs.
I did not put Bryant on this list because he played almost the entire season, but the five who made the list played less than half of last season. Check out the list and let me know your thoughts in the comment section.
5. Andrew Bynum
Andrew Bynum missed all of last season after injuring both of his knees. The Philadelphia 76ers had traded for him during the offseason, but never got the return on their investment. Now Bynum is in Cleveland where he will try to restart his once budding career. He comes in at No. 5 because he will share playing time with Anderson Varejao and Tyler Zeller while not being the team's best player by a long shot. He actually has to stay healthy for once.
4. Rajon Rondo
Rajon Rondo should have no problem coming back and being the same player he was before he tore his ACL in January. During the offseason, the Celtics traded Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Jason Terry, leaving Rondo as the lone veteran on the team. He finishes fourth because while he will be the Celtics best player and leader, he will not be able to lead them anywhere. One has to imagine Celtics GM Danny Ainge will do anything in his power to make sure the Celtics end up with the No. 1 overall draft pick in 2014.
3. Kevin Love
The Minnesota Timberwolves were expected to battle for a playoff spot last year, but those talks were sidelined along with Kevin Love. Love played in only 18 games due to wrist and knee injuries. Now the Timberwolves could have a healthy Love and Ricky Rubio for the first time in their careers and will be vying to make the playoffs for the first time in 10 years. While Love playing is essential to the Timberwolves making the playoffs, they still need Rubio to stay healthy and that's why he finishes third. He could have an amazing season, but if the Timberwolves fail to make the playoffs, then his season becomes forgettable.
2. Danny Granger
Had Danny Granger played last season, the NBA may not have seen the emergence of Paul George and Lance Stephenson. Granger missing all but five games last year was secretly a blessing in disguise for the Indiana Pacers, but it also cost them a chance at their first NBA championship. The Pacers lacked offense at certain times that Granger would have been able to pick up the slack for. Granger is expected to return healthy and should be able to put up solid numbers across the board. So why is he second? Because the Pacers could, theoretically, win a championship without him, but the player at No. 1 is more essential to his team's success.
1. Derrick Rose
The Chicago Bulls pulled together and played as one of the best teams in the NBA last season, all without their franchise player, Derrick Rose. The Bulls made the playoffs, upset the Brooklyn Nets in Round 1, and put up a fight against the Miami Heat. With Rose back on the floor, the Bulls are even more scary. Like Danny Granger, Rose is the piece of the puzzle his team was missing when it came to making a championship run, but unlike Granger, the Bulls can't win a championship without Rose. It appears Rose has been physically healthy for quite some time, so he should be able to lead his team like he did before his injury. If anyone was to win the reincarnated Comeback Player of the Year, it would be tough to give it to anyone but Rose.