Weekly Wrap-Up: Awards Edition

» April 26, 2009 10:37 AM | By xphoenix87

So, my predictions aren’t looking so hot right now. San Antonio is down 1-3. Portland and Orlando are down 1-2 and New Orleans got blown out twice. Still a long way to go, but things are certainly not looking promising so far.

Anyway, on to the actual point of this post. Just to clarify, this is not necessarily who I think WILL win the awards, but who SHOULD win the awards. So, without further ado, on to the picks!

Most Valuable Player

LeBron James SF, Cleveland

The thing that constantly amazes about LeBron James is how he continues to exceed expectations. Thinking back over all the players we’ve wildly overhyped in the last decade, guys who have been dubbed “can’t miss,” but who folded under the pressure. That’s never happened with LeBron. With the exception of maybe Kareem, nobody has ever entered this league with expectations like we put on James. Yet he continues to exceed every reasonable prediction, and he’s gone from “future Hall of Famer” to “top 50 of all time” to “Good lord, we might be watching the best player of all time.” He’s been head and shoulders above everyone else this year.

As for the rest of the ballot, it’s Wade and Paul in second and third in some order. I’ve got Paul in 2nd, but I wouldn’t argue with Wade in that spot. Kobe and Howard finish out the top 5.

  1. LeBron James
  2. Chris Paul
  3. Dwyane Wade
  4. Kobe Bryant
  5. Dwight Howard

Defensive Player of the Year

Dwight Howard, C – Orlando

There are some interesting candidates for this award, particularly LeBron, who has really become a monster defensively, and this would be a closer race if KG hadn’t gotten injured, but really this award is all about Howard. It’s not just the blocks and rebounds, though the numbers for those are huge, but it’s the way Howard almost single-handedly makes this an elite defensive team. Look at who else plays minutes on this team. Rashard Lewis, Hedo Turkoglu, Courtney Lee, Rafer Alston, J.J. Reddick, etc. Lee is a decent defender (but still a rookie) and Alston is good, but shouldn’t opposing forwards absolutely light this team up with Lewis and Hedo out there? With very little help, Howard made this magic team one of the league’s 3 elite defensive teams (along with Cleveland and Boston). He’s been absolutely sensational.

LeBron and KG take the other two spots on the ballot. Yes, even in basically only 2/3 of a season, KG is third on the ballot. He’s absolutely that valuable.

  1. Dwight Howard
  2. LeBron James
  3. Kevin Garnett

Rookie of the Year

Derrick Rose, PG, Chicago

There just aren’t enough adjectives to describe how good this rookie class has been. We’ve had a huge amount of immediate contributors, and some guys who look on the clear path to stardom. First among these is Rose. It’s a much closer contest than everyone thinks, but Rose has been fantastic. He really came on down the stretch to carry this team to a playoff berth, and well, let’s be honest, did you see him drop 36 on the Celtics?

There were a bunch of other great rookie performances, and a good number of them have a decent case for this award. I’m going with two big men to fill out my ballot. Brook Lopez has been fantastic all year on both ends, and looks like a steal of a 10th pick. I’m also going with the criminally underrated Kevin Love, who is one of the top 5 rebounders in the league right now, and has been fantastic especially since Al Jefferson went down.

  1. Derrick Rose
  2. Brook Lopez
  3. Kevin Love

Sixth Man of the Year

Jason Terry

This award is almost as lopsided as the MVP award. Terry absolutely dominates this award, especially since perennial favorite Manu Ginobili was never able to shake his ankle injury. Terry was, as always, a deadeye shooter who almost never turned the ball over, but he did it this year while taking over a larger part of the Mavs’ offense. With Josh Howard having his worst season in some time, Terry stepped up and helped Dirk lead this team to a playoff spot.

There’s a significant drop after Terry, but we’ve still got some quality bench guys. J.R. Smith has been a terrific scoring threat for Denver, and he’s offering a bit more now than just offense, his rebound rate jumped significantly this year. Everybody seems to be overlooking Leandro Barbosa because Phoenix didn’t make the playoffs, but he had the best season of his career this year.

  1. Jason Terry
  2. J.R. Smith
  3. Leandro Barbosa

Most Improved Player

Brandon Roy SG, Portland

You know, normally the MIP award doesn’t go to guys who were all-stars the year before. Usually, the MIP is a perennial disappointment who finally lives up to his potential, or a role player who breaks out to become a surprise All-Star. This year though, we’ve got three really close candidates who all made the jump to superstar, in varying degrees. Kevin Durant, after a disappointing rookie season, made the jump to being one of the most deadly offensive threats in the league. LeBron James, already one of the league’s greatest stars, made the jump to being, quite frankly, unthinkably good. For my money though, it’s Roy who has made the most groundbreaking strides. A borderline All-Star last year, Roy has become one of the league’s 10 best players, and he’s done it while leading an extremely young Portland team to grab home court advantage in the playoffs. His team has made immense strides, and much of it has to do with Roy, who has achieved the rare feat of making dramatic leaps in consecutive years.

  1. Brandon Roy
  2. LeBron James
  3. Kevin Durant

Coach of the Year

Stan Van Gundy, Orlando

The Coach of the Year award is really the most subjective of all the awards. Is the team winning because of great players or a great coach? How much difference does the coach really make? If guys like Popovich, Sloan and Jackson are such legends, shouldn’t we be voting them into this award every year? Anyway, I’m giving this award to Van Gundy, for a few reasons. First, he did nothing stupid to take away from his team. You may think this would be a given, but NBA coaches do some truly stupid things sometimes (I’m looking at you, Scott Skiles. I’m still bitter about the Ramon Sessions thing). Second, he’s done an incredible job crafting this team into a defensive powerhouse. You look at this roster, and despite the presence of Howard, there’s no way this team should be elite defensively. Third, he kept the ship afloat after his second-best player (Jameer Nelson) went down at midseason. Fourth, I really enjoyed his war of words with Shaquille “The Big Hypocrite” O’Neal.

Rounding out the ballot are Portland’s Nate McMillan and Denver’s George Karl. Karl has done an great job pulling together a talented but volatile Denver team. Sure, the addition of Billups helped the Nuggets, but considering that Karl entered the season on the hot seat and finished it with the second seed in the West, you’ve got to give him credit. He’s gotten solid contributions out of guys like Dahntay Jones, Chris Andersen and Renaldo Balkman. McMillan has done a fantastic job with his young team, and few coaches do as well drawing up junk defenses to throw opponents off.

  1. Stan Van Gundy
  2. George Karl
  3. Nate McMillan

All-Rookie

First Team

  1. Derrick Rose
  2. Brook Lopez
  3. Kevin Love
  4. Eric Gordon
  5. Marc Gasol

Second Team

  1. D.J. Augustin
  2. O.J. Mayo
  3. Greg Oden
  4. Nicolas Batum
  5. Rudy Fernandez

Ah, and now we get to the fun stuff. I seriously deliberated on these teams for hours. The first team really came quite easily. Rose, Lopez and Love are, of course, gimmes. Gordon has been absolutely sensational scoring the ball, and given the team he finds himself on, it’s amazing that he’s been able to score so efficiently. He’s also not a bad on-ball defender. Most of you are probably surprised to see Gasol on the first team instead of his more heralded teammate Mayo, but Gasol has been extremely effective as a rookie center. He scores efficiently, and in a variety of ways, and he’s the rare solid defensive presence on that Memphis team.

On the second team, we’ve got Mayo, who just isn’t an efficient enough scorer to make it on the first team. That’s fine if you bring something else to the table, but scoring is really all Mayo is gonna give you. Augustin has been fantastic off the bench for Charlotte, both as a pure scorer and a distributor. He actually outplayed starter Raymond Felton, but the fact that the rookie got as much playing time as he did with Larry Brown as coach speaks volumes. We finish off the team with a Portland triumvirate. Oden has had limited minutes due to injury, but he’s been a beast when healthy. He’s an absolutely tremendous rebounder, and though we haven’t gotten the shot-blocking we expected yet, his block rate would tie him with Yao at 10th in the league if he qualified. He’s still raw offensively, but when he catches around the rim, he really brings the hammer down on people. Fernandez is quickly becoming a fan favorite, and you can see why. He’s a tremendous shooter, and really runs the floor well in transition either to spot up or look for the lob. He has a tremendous feel for the game, and really is a big part of that league-leading Portland offense. As for Batum, he may not jump off the page, but a guy who starts 76 games for a team that won 54 must be doing something right. Batum is quickly evolving into a Tayshaun Prince-esque wing defender, and he also knocks down open jumpers at a good pace and does a good job at using his athleticism to get out in transition.

Guys I had to leave off in this extremely talented rookie class: Russell Westbrook (just brutally inefficient on offense right now), Michael Beasley (not a good enough defender/rebounder), Marreese Speights (not enough minutes, poor defender), Luc Richard Mbah a Moute (doesn’t give you anything offensively), Anthony Randolph/Morris (Don Nelson Syndrome – no defense and had their minutes yanked around)

All-Defense

First Team

  • PG – Rajon Rondo
  • SG -Andre Iguodala
  • SF – LeBron James
  • PF – Kevin Garnett
  • C  – Dwight Howard

Second Team

  • PG – Chris Paul
  • SG – Shane Battier
  • SF – Ron Artest
  • PF – Anderson Varejao
  • C  – Tim Duncan

I think there were three really obvious first-teamers, Rondo, James and of course Howard. KG gave me pause because he basically only played two-thirds of the season, but in those 57 games, he was so great on the defensive end that I can’t exclude him. If Battier had played the whole season, he’s probably my first-team SG, but instead, Iguodala takes that honor. Though he’s probably more of a small forward than a shooting guard, but he’s played both positions this year, and I needed to get him on the team. He’s been absolutely fantastic this year, using his crazy athleticism to be a major force defensively. His defensive on/off splits (-7.4) are fantastic.

Battier ends up on the second team. He’s one of the league’s best on-ball defenders, and there’s nobody in the league who rotates as well defensively. Say what you will about Paul, but very few players cause as much havok as he does. Sure, he takes a few risks here and there when gambling for steals, but he’s not a reckless defender, and his remarkable quickness and anticipation usually make those gambles worthwhile. I don’t think I need to sell you on Artest. Like him or not, nobody consistently brings it in big matchups like Ron does, and his unique combination of strength and quickness allow him to match up with practically anyone. Varejao often gets overlooked in Cleveland, but he’s a huge part of their defensive success. He’s a tremendous rebounder, and one of the best on-ball post defenders in the league. Duncan rounds out the group. He’s lost a step, and you can see it in his declining rebound and block rates, but he’s still Timmy, and that gets him on the second team.

All-NBA

First Team

  • G – Chris Paul
  • G – Dwyane Wade
  • F – Kobe Bryant
  • F – LeBron James
  • C – Dwight Howard

Second Team

  • G – Brandon Roy
  • G – Tony Parker
  • F – Dirk Nowitzki
  • F – Tim Duncan
  • C – Yao Ming

Third Team

  • G – Chauncey Billups
  • G – Deron Williams
  • F – Danny Granger
  • F – Paul Pierce
  • C – Pau Gasol

One thing I learned from trying to put these lists together: there’s a crapton of talent in the league right now. After the first team, which was really a given, things got really difficult. There were tons of great players that I had to leave off (Chris Bosh, Rondo, Ray Allent, KG, Durant).

The only issue with the first team was meeting the positional requirements. We really have 3 first-team guards, and it would be madness to leave one of them off. So, I shifted Kobe over to SF. It’s a bit of a stretch, but he did play there some, and I’m not leaving him off the first team.

There was one really obvious second-team selection, and that’s Brandon Roy. He’s the one guy sitting in that “not quite as good as the first five guys, but decidedly better than the rest” area. Duncan had his best offensive season in some time as the Spurs called on him to shoulder the load with Manu out, and he maintained a high defensive level (as always). Parker also had the best season of his career, as he and Duncan combined to keep the Spurs afloat. The remaining two guys possess two of the most unstoppable moves in the game (Dirk’s elbow fadeaway and Yao’s turnaround baseline J). Dirk, though he hasn’t approached the level of his MVP season since then, is still an elite scorer who can be downright unstoppable at times. Yao is basically unstoppable if he catches with a foot in the paint, and is one of the rare dominant big men who can also knock down mid-range shots and kill you at the line.

The automatic member of the third team was Gasol, who I considered for the second team before deciding that Dirk was more deserving. Billups and Williams were also pretty easy choices, given their extremely impressive offensive efficiencies. I did consider Rondo here, given his vast offensive improvement and his always excellent defense, but Williams is just better. Pierce is the lone Celtic on my teams, and it’s mainly because of his strong defensive efforts this year. He’s a very good, if overrated, offensive player, but Pierce has really locked in defensively the last two years. Granger gave me a bit of pause, given his team’s poor record, but he’s really been spectacular this year, broadening his offensive game and wreaking havoc on opponents.

So, there they are, my award winners. Let me know what you think, tell me who your picks are.

xphoenix87 is a contributing writer for BallerBlogger.com.


9 Responses to “Weekly Wrap-Up: Awards Edition”

  1. JC Says:

    It’s “Iguodala,” not “Iguadola.”

  2. JC Says:

    It’s “Iguodala,” not “Iguadola.”

    Too wordy.

  3. xphoenix87 Says:

    I prefer to think of it as “thorough”. Alternately, I could give you something wildly informative like this:

    http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/news/story?page=MVP-0809

    It’s even got pictures and everything.

  4. Tsunami Says:

    I like your all-defensive teams.

    You can’t have 3 guards. It’s ok, Kobe doesn’t HAVE to make all first team. He was pacing himself anyway, remember.

    Gasol should be on the 2nd team ahead of Dirk – no question.

  5. xphoenix87 Says:

    Who else deserves to be on the first team though? Dirk? Pau? Duncan? Nobody else has been remotely comparable to those top 5 guys. Kobe did play some significant time at SF, so I feel justified putting him there since there’s such a huge difference.

    I actually originally had Pau as a 2nd team forward, but I just thought Dirk was better once I looked at everything. Obviously, Pau is a more efficient offensive player, but there’s also a whole lot less offensive burden on Pau. He feeds off Kobe and he feeds off their ball-movement to get all kinds of open looks. That’s not to say that isn’t valuable, but Dirk just has to do so much more for his team. Dallas only really has one other serious offensive option (Terry), and one mediocre one (Howard). Other than that, it’s all up to Dirk to make the team run. It’s that great usage vs. efficiency debate that nobody can ever agree on. I just have to give the edge to Dirk though. They’re comparable defenders and rebounders, and Dirk just does more with less talent around him, and despite that lack of help he’s still efficient.

  6. Brandon Hoffman Says:

    xphoenix:

    “Obviously, Pau is a more efficient offensive player, but there’s also a whole lot less offensive burden on Pau. He feeds off Kobe and he feeds off their ball-movement to get all kinds of open looks. That’s not to say that isn’t valuable, but Dirk just has to do so much more for his team. Dallas only really has one other serious offensive option (Terry), and one mediocre one (Howard). Other than that, it’s all up to Dirk to make the team run. It’s that great usage vs. efficiency debate that nobody can ever agree on. I just have to give the edge to Dirk though. They’re comparable defenders and rebounders, and Dirk just does more with less talent around him, and despite that lack of help he’s still efficient.”

    Well said.

  7. Tsunami Says:

    I agree, good argument.

  8. xphoenix87 Says:

    Wow, I thought I’d get a bit more resistance than that :P. You know, sometimes I miss the days of having 3-page comment wars with idiots on FoxSports.

  9. Tsunami Says:

    I pick my battles now.

    i don’t want to badger you because I know you are unbiased, and upon further review, I think I might agree with you.

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