The NBA regular season has come to an end and it’s time to break down the end of year awards. As always, let me know what you think.
Rookie of the Year
Winner: Blake Griffin
This is the easiest ROY vote in a long time. The most explosive player in the league averaged 22.4 points and 12.1 rebounds per game for the lowly Clippers and the scary thing is he has so much room to improve.
Runner-up: John Wall
Wall averaged 16.5 points, 8.4 assists and nearly two steals per game. It’s not his fault he doesn’t have anybody to play with.
Honorable Mention: Landry Fields
Fields led all guards in rebounding (not just rookies) and was a solid contributor for a playoff team. Not bad for a second round pick.
Quote of the Year
Winner: David Stern
After a Magic game last month coach Stan Van Gundy criticized referees for not calling flagrant fouls on players who whack his star Dwight Howard and singled out Commissioner Stern, who he referred to as a dictator.
The commish fired back:
“I see somebody whose team isn’t performing, whose star player is suspended, who seems to be fraying,” Stern said of Van Gundy. He then added, “I would venture a guess that we’re not going to be hearing from him for the rest of the season,” Stern said.
He added, “I think when he stops and reads what he said, realizes what he did, he will say no more. … I have a feeling some modicum of self-restraint will cause Stan, and the team for which he works, to rein in his aberrant behavior.”
Don’t mess with the commish!
Runner-up: Carmelo Anthony
Modest Melo’s take on the trade rumors swirling around him: “I take my hat off to myself for dealing with all this stuff that’s going on and still be able to go out there and play at the high level that I can play at. I really don’t think an average person can walk in my shoes. I don’t think that.”
Most Improved Player
Winner: Derrick Rose
MVP candidates aren’t generally considered for this award, but why shouldn’t they be. Last year Rose was a very good player on an average team; this season he emerged as a superstar and carried his team to the best record in the NBA. His vastly improved his defense and three-point accuracy have made him an all around threat and one of the top six or seven players in the league.
Runner-up: Russell Westbrook
In his third season, Westbrook made the leap to NBA All-Star and at times was the best player on the floor for a Thunder team that includes Kevin Durant. His scoring average jumped from 16.1 to 21.8 points per game and he significantly improved his shooting percentage from the field, the line and behind the arc.
Aldridge was the Blazers go-to player in the absence of Brandon Roy and was probably the biggest All-Star snub, while Love averaged an eye-popping 15 rebounds per game.
Best Hair Style: Brandon Jennings
Where have you gone Moochie Norris? It was a weak season for hair dos in the NBA, so Jennings is the winner by default. The Bucks point guard has worked several old school styles this season, from the mohawk to the fade.
Runner up: Zydrunas Ilgauskas
How many 7-foot-3 white boys do you know who can pull off a shaved head?
Worst Hair Style: Andrei Kirilenko
I recently heard a writer refer to AK47’s mop as a “He-man do.”
He should have stuck with the Drago look of his younger years.
Runner-up: Joakim Noah
His fluffy ponytail is no match for daddy’s dreads.
Which would make a better Sideshow Bob?
Coach of the Year
Winner: Tom Thibodeau
The Bulls were a .500 team last year and the only major addition they made was Carlos Boozer. Thidodeau brought his defensive approach and winning attitude with him from the Celtics and the Bulls vaulted to 62 wins and the best record in the NBA.
Runner-up: Gregg Popovich
Everybody thought the Spurs were on the decline. They hadn’t one a championship since 2007 and the Big 3 are getting up their in years, especially Tim Duncan. Pop changed things up by making Parker and Ginobili the focal point of the offense and pushed the tempo, resulting in the best record in the Western Conference.
Honorable Mention: Doug Collins and George Karl
Nobody picked the 76ers to make the playoffs this year, but Collins’ young team to played hard every night and he managed to get something out of Elton Brand. Karl kept the Nuggets focused despite the Melodrama hanging over their head all season and quickly assimilated the new parts together after the big trade.
Executive of the Year
Winner: Pat Riley
Riles pulled off the biggest free agency coup in NBA history, landing LeBron, Wade and Bosh last summer. Unfortunately he wasn’t able to provide additional pieces around them, but hey, nobody’s perfect.
Runner-up: Donnie Walsh
Walsh’s patience and long term plan to get the Knicks under the cap finally paid off when he landed Amar’e last summer and Carmelo at the trade deadline. Chauncey is nothing to sneeze at and don’t forget his selection of starting shooting guard Landry Fields in the second round.
Best Fans: Portland
The Trailblazers have endured devastating injuries to two potential franchise players in Greg Oden and Brandon Roy, yet their fan never wavered in their support. The Blazers are the only professional team in town and the fans embrace them with a vigor typically reserved for college crowds, making the Rose Garden one of the biggest home court advantages in the league.
There’s a buzz in the United Center this season reminiscent of the Jordan era. There may be other cities that show their teams greater love in difficult times, but these awards are for this season only and no arena has been louder than the United Center this year.
Honorable mention: Oklahoma City and Boston
OKC knows they have something special in Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. Boston fans are among the most knowledgeable fans in the league and have embraced the historic significance of watching the Big Three in action.
Worst Fans: Miami
Miami simply doesn’t deserve the “Big three.” It’s not a basketball town. They have two of the three best players in basketball, one of which is possibly the greatest athlete to ever step foot on a court and they don’t even fill the arena. Those that do show up are about as rowdy as the fans at Wimbledon’s All England Club.
Runner Up: Atlanta
The Hawks won 44 games this year, are the fifth seed in the Eastern Conference and the city of Atlanta barely noticed. There are loads of empty seats during almost every Hawks home game and the only time there’s any noise in Philips Arena is when the public address announcer chants “De-fense.”
Winner: Oklahoma City Thunder
OKC knew they needed to get tougher and improve their interior defense and that’s exactly what they did when they acquired Kendrick Perkins from the Celtics. Now Ibaka can play the four, where his athleticism is better utilized. The Perkins acquisition was the final piece that will eventually put this team over the top. Don’t be shocked if they make the NBA Finals this year.
Runner-up: New York
The Knicks gave up three very good players for Carmelo Anthony, in Wilson Chandler, Danilo Gallinari and Raymond Felton, but they had to assume that Anthony wouldn’t make it to free agency. Management was all in the moment they signed Amar’e and his creaky knees to a five year $100 million contract. Melo and Amar’e give them a formidable duo to contend with the Heat and Bulls in the years to come.
Worst Trade: New Jersey Nets
I understand why the Nets gambled on Deron Williams. They need a marquee player for their move next year and are hoping that other players will want to come to Brooklyn to play with one of the best point guards in the league. The problem is it’s unlikely that D-Will will re-sign next year when his contract expires, in which case they’ll have traded solid building blocks in Derrick Favors, Devin Harris and two first round draft picks and have nothing to show for it.
Doc Rivers was fond of saying that the Celtics hadn’t lost a series over the past few seasons when their five starters were healthy. Then they traded starting center Kendrick Perkins, ostensibly to improve in the future. When your three stars are in their mid thirties you play for now. The Celtics calling card was tough interior defense and they gave up one of their two best inside defenders.
Best Sixth Man
Winner: Lamar Odom
Statistics alone don’t capture Odom’s value to the Lakers. He was the second most valuable player on the team this year and played at an All-Star level when starting in place of an injured Andrew Bynum. His versatility enables him to guard multiple positions, rebound, shoot from outside and bring the ball up the floor.
Runner-up: Jason Terry
Terry keeps rolling along at age 33. The sixth man plays starter minutes and is one of the leaders of the Mavericks. He’s the second scoring option on the team and takes his game to another level in the fourth quarter.
Honorable Mention: George Hill
Pop’s favorite player has improved every year he’s been in the league and provided the Spurs with a spark off the bench all season.
Dunk of the Year
Runner-up: JaVale McGee
McGee dunking on two different baskets at the same time during the Slam Dunk Contest was much more difficult than most people realize. It also get’s a high grade for originality.
A slew of Blake Griffin dunks, most notably his 360 slam over Danilo Gallinari in the same game as the dunk over Mozgov. Derrick Rose also victimized the Knicks with a monster two-hand jam early in the season and Serge Ibaka‘s foul line dunk during the dunk contest didn’t receive enough love.
Pass of the Year
This is no contest. I’ve never seen anything like D-Wade’s full court alley-oop to LeBron against the Indiana Pacers.
Defensive Player of the Year
Winner: Dwight Howard
The big man will bring home the award for the third year in a row. He averaged 2.4 blocks a game and that doesn’t include the shots he alters through sheer intimidation. His impact is all the more impressive because the rest of the players in the Magic’s rotation are decent defenders at best and there’s no other big man to help him protect the rim.
Runner-up: Tony Allen
Allen is the unsung hero of the Grizzlies success this season. He brings an intensity level on that side of the ball that is contagious among his teammates and Coach Hollins matches him up against the opponent’s best perimeter player night after night.
Honorable mention: Kevin Garnett
It’s a pick-and-roll league and nobody defends it better than KG.
Best Individual Statline
Winner: Kevin Love
Love’s 31 points and 31 rebounds against the Knicks in November was the first time a player had gone 30 and 30 since Moses Malone did it in 1982.
Runner-up: LeBron James
LBJ dropped 51 points, to go with 11 rebounds and 8 assists in a Heat win over the Magic in February.
Worst Individual Statline
Winner: Chris Bosh
The Heat’s “fake tough guy” (as Kevin Durant referred to him) shot 1 for 18 in a loss to the Bulls.
Most Valuable Player
Winner: Derrick Rose
Rose ran away with the MVP as the Bulls surged ahead of Miami and Boston to secure the number one seed in the Eastern Conference. He’s one of the quickest players in the league and a master of improvisation around the basket. This year his dramatically improved shooting, made him virtually unguardable. Rose also sets the tone for the Bulls with his tireless work ethic. His true value was most apparent when Joakim Noah and Carlos Boozer missed significant amounts of time early in the season and the team didn’t miss a beat.
Runner-up: Dwight Howard
It’s easy to take the Big Man for granted and his team did drop off a bit this season, but look at who he’s playing with. Who’s the second best player on the Magic, Hedo Turkoglu? Jameer Nelson? Jason Richardson? It’s his presence in the middle that enables those shooters to spread the floor and knock down threes and other than Howard the Magic have no inside presence whatsoever. Take Dwight off this team and they’re in the lottery.
Honorable Mention: Dirk Nowitzki
Similar to Howard, Dirk doesn’t have another great player on his team. He carries the scoring load for a team that often seems to be playing three against five offensively.
Least Valuable Player
Winner: Eddie Curry
The last holdover of the Isiah era, Curry made over $11 million this season and didn’t suit up for one game for the Knicks before he was traded to Minnesota who quickly released him. He wasn’t hurt, he just didn’t care enough to get himself in shape.
Runner-up: Gilbert Arenas
It’s clear that there’s no explosiveness or elevation left in Agent Zero’s surgically repaired knees. Arenas averaged a paltry eight points per game and shot 34% from the field and 27% behind the arc since joining the Magic. That’s not the kind of production you expect in return for over $17 million. The Magic are on the hook for $60 million more over the next three years.