Wednesday, April 17, 2013

NBA Season Awards: The Year Of The Mostly Obvious

He's a Happy King
With the NBA season coming to a close tonight, I thought I'd weigh in with my picks for the NBA's regular season awards. Feel free to agree or chastise, as always, in the comments.

MVP: LeBron James, and it's not close. (Sorry, Kevin Durant, Chris Paul and, shockingly, Carmelo Anthony; you are all playing in the wrong era.) James is the best player in the league at both ends of the court, and makes a 50-win Heat team the odds-on favorite to win it all again this year, next year, and for three to five years after that. Assuming a lack of injury or boredom, this is how it's going to be for a while, provided Durant doesn't develop point guard skills and has Russell Westbrook killed. Enjoy it, I guess, if only because future generations are going to ask you a ton of questions about what it was like to watch the best player ever. (Yes, I'm going there, if only to make Michael Jordan come back again and hurt himself.)

Rookie of the Year: Damian Lillard, and it's even less close than the James for MVP pick. This is the first time that the Rookie of the Year also takes up the entire first team All-Rookie Team. (Well, OK, no, but you get the idea.) Runner up is Anthony Davis, who will probably be the better long-term pro, in that I suspect Lillard has already hit his ceiling, but so be it.

Sixth Man: J.R. Smith, who seems to have, all of a sudden, completely forgotten how to be a head case. I can't tell you how disappointing that is, really. Runner ups include Jamal Crawford, which is kind of silly given how deep the Clipper bench was, and Kevin Martin, under the theory that the Thunder need to have a Sixth Man of the Year candidate in the back court every year, since they start Thabo Sefalosha and win a lot of games. (Please, everyone, stop dissing Thabo. He's good!)

Most Improved Player: Finally, something with a hair of intrigue to it. MIP is always hard to determine, because it hardly seems fair to give it to a guy who just gets minutes due to trade or return from injury (aka, Brook Lopez), and it's way too easy to give it to a guy who just goes to a weak team where he becomes a volume player (Greivis Vasquez). You also have to discount for being a teammate of a guy who will get you overrated (the Steve Nash Effect), or just being a guy on a team that's good, but won't win any other awards. Last and not least is the fact that most of the candidates aren't good from start to finish, because they aren't ready for this kind of minutes.

So... with all of that said, I'm going with Paul George of  Indy, with apologies to Jrue Holliday and, shockingly, Kevin Durant. Without George's emergence on both ends of the floor as the Pacers' best player, Indy falls apart and doesn't emerge as everyone's ugly pick to lose to Miami on the road to the Finals. You can improve and still not be good enough, folks.

Coach of the Year: Tom Thibodeau of the Bulls, and to me, this one also isn't close. Thibs kept his team focused through the year-long Derrick Rose Sideshow, never let them get down to the point of even having a 4-game losing streak, and broke the Heat and Knicks' streaks with little more than home court, Nate Robinson and duct tape. The streaks will get this award in the hands of Erik Spoelstra, Mike Woodson or George Karl, and you can vote for Gregg Popovich every year for no other reason than the abuse he doles out to sideline reporters, but no one did more with less this year than Thibodeau.

Defensive Player of the Year: There seems to be a lot of movement to give this to either Tony Allen or Marc Gasol of the Grizzlies, under the theory that you can't have their record without some kind of recognition. There's also always some temptation to give it to the defensive anchor on the best slowdown team; this year, that's Joakim Noah and Tyson Chandler. But I'm giving it to James, under the theory that there is no else in the NBA who can provide a lockdown cover on any player, 1 through 5, and the stuff that he's doing now in transition is straight out of a video game. I always judge DPOY under the guise of who I'd pick if I needed a one on one stop. That's James.

And now, some awards of my own.

Least Valuable Player: Andrew Bynum. Oh, dear God in Heaven, where to begin? It wasn't just the off-again off-some-more-again injury hijinks, of course. Had it just been that, this would have just been tragic. Rather, it was how, with each passing day, this trade got worse and worse, and Bynum's only answer was to do something stupid with his hair. As a Sixers fan, I've lived through Roy Hinson, Jeff Ruland, Shawn Bradley, Chris Webber and Jerry Stackhouse: I *know* disappointment. Bynum brought it to another level, to the point that I can't compare him to athletes, only real life tragedies. (The MOVE debacle, specifically.) If news came down today that he had been hit by a bus, Sixer Fan would beg for the footage, then yell at the driver for not going faster the first time, or neglecting to put it in reverse and come back for more. Runner ups: Dwight Howard, Pau Gasol and Joe Johnson.

Head Case Of The Year: DeMarcus Cousins. How do you pull down 17 and 10 while leaving everyone wondering what's wrong? Be DeMarcus, who has single-handedly achieved the ability to personify the end-times Maloof Goof Era in Sactown through indifferent play, fighting with teammates, coaches, refs and, seemingly, himself. If Cousins worked in a metro market where people paid attention, he'd have been put in an institution by now. Runner ups: JaVale McGee and Westbrook.

Anti Coach Of The Year: Doug Collins. It's too easy to give this award to a guy who has a terrible team, or whoever Jordan or Donald Sterling is paying right now. (Yes, Vinny del Negro is still a terrible coach. Luckily for the Clips, Paul does that job along with point guard.) Instead, let's go to the man who buried his young players in a waste year, pined for the young players who were dealt away worse than a WIP caller, devised an offense that would have seemed ill-suited for any era of the pro game, let alone one with a three point line, and kept his team playing hard enough to even ruin any chance of collecting lottery balls. Thank God he's leaving. Runners up: Portland's Terry Stotts (somehow went the whole year without figuring out anyone's minutes, and the team quit on him) and LA's Mike D'Antoni (way to not adjust your scheme to your talent).

Most Fun Teams To Watch: Denver, Golden State, OKC

Least Fun Teams To Watch: Philly, Boston, Dallas

First Team All-NBA: Stephen Curry, Paul, Anthony, Durant and James

Second Team: James Harden, Kobe Bryant, Tim Duncan, Marc Gasol and LaMarcus Aldridge

Third Team: Kyrie Irving, Westbrook, Serge Ibaka, Al Jefferson and Noah

All Rookie: Lillard, Davis, Harrison Barnes, Jonas Valanciunas and Bradley Beal

All Defense: James, Allen, Marc Gasol, Noah and Andre Iguodala

Tomorrow, we'll get into playoff predictions. Come on back?


Snd_dsgnr said...

Hey, settle a bet. I had an argument the other day with a Duke fan friend about Ty Lawson. I said that if they did the 2009 draft again with the benefit of hindsight that Lawson would go no later than 7th. He says I'm nuts. What say you?

DMtShooter said...

Here's that draft up to Lawson, to make things easier. (There isn't anyone after him that's better.)

1) Blake Griffin, LAC
2) Hasheem Tabeet, MEM
3) James Harden, LAC
4) Tyreke Evans, Sac
5) Ricky Rubio, MIN
6) Jonny Flynn, MIN
7) Stephen Curry, GST
8) Jordan Hill, NYK
9) DeMar DeRozan, TOR
10) Brandon Jennings, MIL
11) Terence Williams, NJN
12) Gerald Henderson, CHA
13) Tyler Hansbrough, IND
14) Earl Clark, PHX
15) Austin Daye, DET
16) James Johnson, CHI
17) Jrue Holiday, PHL
18) Ty Lawson, DET

The easy ones out are Thabeet, Flynn, Hill, Williams, Hansbrough, Clark, Daye and Johnson. That already gets him into the top 10, and of the remaining picks, I'd much rather have Lawson than Henderson, Evans or DeRozan, both of whom have only proven to date that they can put up numbers on terrible teams... and then it comes to a matter of preference on him over Rubio or Jennings to get him into the top 5 or 6. Obviously, his stock would rise if Denver goes deep this spring, but of everyone on the list, I think you can only take Griffin, Harden, Curry and Holiday over him, and I'm probably overrating Holiday since I'm a Sixers fan.

Long story short, you win this bet. Easily.

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