Award Winners

» April 17, 2009 5:12 PM | By Brandon Hoffman

Coach of the Year

1. Nate McMillan

2. Stan Van Gundy

3. Mike Brown

I had Van Gundy first on my “ballot” until I read this piece by Casey Holdahl. The Blazers won 13 more games than last season, which almost doubles Van Gundy’s 7-game improvement in Orlando. And unlike Van Gundy and Brown, McMillan isn’t blessed with a legitimate MVP candidate on his roster. The Blazers have the second youngest rotation in the league and they secured homecourt advantage in the ultra-competitive Western Conference.

As for Brown, he’s done a phenomenal job. No one expected the Cavaliers to win 66 games and capture homecourt advantage throughout the playoffs, but I’m not convinced that he deserves the lion’s share of credit for the two most important developments in Cleveland. Assistant coach John Kuester is the architect behind the fourth most efficient offense in the league. And while Brown has always emphasized defense, he’s been quick to credit Coach K for transforming LeBron James into an elite defender last summer. Krzyzewski made James Team USA’s defensive quarterback and James brought that mentality back to the Cavaliers.

Executive of the Year

1. Mark Warkentien

2. Danny Ferry

3. Otis Smith

Warkentien traded Marcus Camby for cap space, signed Chris Andersen for peanuts, re-signed J.R. Smith to an NBA contract equivalent to highway robbery (three-years, $16.5 million), and fleeced the Pistons by trading Allen Iverson for Chauncey Billups. Ferry acquired Mo Williams for next to nothing and brought in Ben Wallace, Delonte West and Wally Szczerbiak last season, but the Cavs haven’t exceeded expectations like the Nuggets. Few analysts expected the Nuggets to make the playoffs. Billups or not, no one predicted the Nuggets would capture the Western Conference’s second seed.

Honorable mention: Mitch Kupchack and Donnie Walsh. Walsh erased five years worth of bad trades and free agent signings in a matter of months and got the Knicks under the salary cap for the first time since 1996. Kupchak may have to settle for some type of lifetime achievement award when all is said and done. Kupchak traded for Lamar Odom, Pau Gasol,  and Trevor Ariza, and held on to Andrew Bynum when everyone in Lakers Nation was pushing for him to ship the future of the franchise to New Jersey for Jason Kidd. The results speak for themselves.

Sixth Man Award

1. Jason Terry

2. J.R. Smith

3. Lamar Odom

Terry averaged 19.6 points per game off the bench. Enough said. Smith averaged 15.2 points in 27.7 minutes with the Nuggets, and Odom was instrumental in the “Bench Mob’s” early season success.

Rookie of the Year

1. Derrick Rose

2. O.J. Mayo

3. Brooke Lopez

Rose had more impact than Mayo and Lopez and the Bulls secured the 7th seed in the East. Mayo led all rookies in scoring as the focal point of the Grizzlies, but his efficiency faded late in the season. Lopez shot a higher percentage than Kevin Love and Marc Gasol, and was far more effective defensively.

Most Improved Player

1. Kevin Durant

2. Rajon Rondo

3. Brandon Roy

Kevin Durant has been widely dismissed as a candidate for Most Improved Player because he was the second pick of the 2007 draft. Greg Oden was the #1 pick of the ‘07 draft. More than a few people — myself included — “expected” Oden to start for the Trail Blazers and establish himself as a dominant big man this season. That never happened. Expected or not, Durant improved by leaps and bounds this season.

Points Rebounds Assists FG% 3P% FT%
Durant 5 2.1 0.4 0.046 0.134 -0.011
Rondo 1.3 1 3.1 0.013 0.05 0.031
Roy 3.5 0 -0.07 0.026 0.037 0.071
Granger 6.2 -1 0.6 0.001 0 0.026
Harris 5.9 0 0.4 0 0.029 -0.009

I probably should have adjusted the numbers above for pace, but I think they paint a pretty clear picture. Granger’s scoring efficiency was relatively unchanged. Harris benefited from the freedom Lawrence Frank’s offense afforded him. Roy went from All-Star to All-NBA. Rondo became the best defensive point guard in the league. Durant owns the third largest point increase, and the largest increase in rebounds, field goal percentage and three-point percentage. He went from an average NBA player to one of the most efficient scorers in the league. That shouldn’t be overlooked or dismissed because he was a lottery pick.

Defensive Player of the Year

1. Dwight Howard

2. LeBron James

3. Tim Duncan

Howard led the league in blocks and rebounds, while James emerged as devastating on-ball and helpside defender. Duncan averaged the fewest blocks (1.7) and second fewest rebounds (10.7) of his career, but his rotations are flawless. Duncan’s contributions on defense simply don’t show up in a boxscore.

All-NBA Defensive Team

G: Rajon Rondo

G: Kobe Bryant

SF: LeBron James

PF: Tim Duncan

C: Dwight Howard

All-Defensive Second Team

G: Chris Paul

G: Shane Battier

SF: Ron Artest

PF: Kevin Garnett

C: Kendrick Perkins

Blocks and steals are poor indicators of defensive prowess. I don’t care how many blocks and steals D. Wade accumulated, he doesn’t deserve the nod over Rondo, Bryant, or Battier. Kelly Dwyer said it best: “And for every Scoop Jackson-type that hypes Dwyane Wade as a Defensive Player of the Year candidate mainly because he racks up defensive stats, I challenge them to watch a little more than SportsCenter, and note the sheer amount of times the Heat are put behind the eight ball because D-Wade is leaving his man, trying to shoot the gap, or watching the baseline instead of his own guy who is about to line up for the corner three. Do all those steals and blocks help? You bet. But mixed in with the bigger picture, and all the plays that mitigate, it leaves Dwyane as merely an above-average defender.” I wrestled back and forth with CP3, but I gave him the nod because of his plus-minus rating and because I honestly couldn’t think of a more deserving player. I still think Deron Williams may be a better defender than Paul, but he only played 68 games this season.

All-NBA 1st team

G: Chris Paul

G: Kobe Bryant

F: LeBron James

F: Tim Duncan

C: Dwight Howard

All-NBA 2nd Team

G: Dwayne Wade

G: Brandon Roy

F: Dirk Nowitzki

F: Paul Pierce

C: Yao Ming

All-NBA 3rd Team

G: Tony Parker

G: Deron Williams

F: Pau Gasol

F: Kevin Garnett

C: Shaquille O’Neal

MVP

1. LeBron James

2. Kobe Bryant

3. Chris Paul

4. Dwyane Wade

5. Dwight Howard

Chris Paul gets the nod over Wade on my All-NBA and MVP ballot because he shot a higher field-goal, free-throw, and three-point percentage, and averaged more assists, steals, and rebounds. Paul was also a better overall defender, and the Hornets won 6 more games in a more competitive conference. Bryant’s numbers pale in comparison to Wade’s, but that’s due in part to him sacrificing individually for the greater good of his team. L.A.’s regular season record and the fact that he led the league’s third most efficient offense in points and assists are proof of Bryant’s value. Finally, and I realize this is totally subjective, but I’m just not convinced that Wade made his teammates better. He carried them as far he could during the regular season, but since when have MVP voters overlooked team success in favor of individual production? Shawn Marion and Michael Beasley were All-NBA caliber talents who never quite elevated their games alongside Wade. Maybe I’m nitpicking, but I don’t think Wade was more valuable to his team than Kobe Bryant and Chris Paul were to theirs. I think most analysts were blinded by the six games in which Wade scored 40 or more points in late February and early March and Miami’s 28-game improvement from last season.

I don’t know if the MVP vote is going to be unanmous, but it’s going to be awfully close. ESPN’s Jon Barry is the only NBA analyst who voted for anyone other than LeBron thus far. What can I say about James that hasn’t been said? I’m floored by his ability to meet and exceed expectations. James established himself as the best two way player in the game this season, and helped lead the Cavaliers to the best record in the NBA. He’s been completely and utterly dominant on both ends of the floor. The only criticism I have is that he’s struggled against elite teams. And that’s the one thing that prevents me from crowning him as the best player in the game. I don’t care how good a player is against 25 of the league’s other 29 teams, you’re not the best player in the world unless you’re capable of bringing your “A” game versus top competition. But if the last few weeks of the season are any indication, those struggles may be a thing of the past. LeBron’s jumper has been much improved, and his team is playing with a championship aura. This is just the beginning. The King is blazing a path to basketball immortality.


4 Responses to “Award Winners”

  1. Tsunami Says:

    I enjoyed reading this. Very good insights – I disagree with you on a few things here and there (lil too much love for Duncan and Bryant) but I respect your opinion.

    Like to see more of this from you Hoff – your personal opinions on things.

  2. Erick Says:

    Always great stuff. I wonder what your position is on LeBron as most improved player considering how markedly his defense, jump shooting, and even things he already excelled at have improved this season.

    I also wonder what your thoughts are on Rick Adelman navigating the Rockets through their chaos.

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  4. Brandon Hoffman Says:

    Tsunami:

    Thanks. Kobe and Duncan’s numbers are down a bit, but their value really does extend beyond the box score. This is hard for a lot of people to accept, but Bryant has made his teammates better. Pau Gasol is playing with greater intensity this season. Kobe has taken Ariza under his wing, and LA’s chemistry is much improved. Bryant deserves credit for those developments. He had one poor shooting month, but he still draws a ton of defensive attention and he’s one of the most fundamentally sound defenders in the league. When motivated, he’s capable of locking down just about any player in the league.

    You really have to watch Duncan a lot to fully appreciate everything he brings to the table. He’s not a shot blocker, but he prevents and alters a ton of shots at the rim. He plays GREAT team defense.

    Erick:

    LeBron was already one of the top two players in the league last season so it’s hard for me to consider him for MIP.

    His shot mechanics have definitely improved. He’s not fading away as much and he’s keeping his elbow locked in. But his mid-range game still needs some work, and that could back to haunt him against Orlando or Los Angeles.

    Defensively, I think most of his improvement has come off the ball. He was a pretty good on-ball defender last season, but he’s really dialed in at all times now, especially when he’s positioned on the baseline. He wreaks a lot of havoc down there.

    I like what Adelman has done in Houston. I’d still like to see him implement more facets of the offense he ran in Sacramento. I know this would take Yao away from the basket, but I’d like to see him run some high-low action with Yao and Scola. Yao is a really good passer when he’s allowed to face the basket and Scola doesn’t get enough touches down low. Divac and Webber had a lot of success with those sets in Sacramento.

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