|Posted on May 1, 2012 at 8:25 PM|
Defensive Player of the Year:
I love this award because you can have to really look at statistics and watch a good amount of the games to pick a winner. Without further ado, here are the top eight defensive players of the year, in reverse order.
8. Lebron James, Miami Heat – His suffocating perimeter defense leads to so many fastbreak points for Miami. His 1.9 steals per game is third in the NBA.
7. Kevin Garnett, Boston Celtics – KG turned back the clocks this season and was the defensive anchor for the team whose opponents shot under 42% (lowest in the league). His defensive rebounding % (percentage of all available defensive rebounds that he grabs while he’s on the court) was 26.1%, higher than the vast majority of centers.
6. Tony Allen, Memphis Grizzlies – He always slows down the opposing team’s best perimeter scorer (who, in the Charlotte Bobcats’ case, is either their 48-year-old owner or Gerald Henderson) and ranks fourth in the league in steals. The Grizzlies surrender nearly six points fewer per 100 possessions when he is on the floor versus when he is on the bench. Nevertheless, he will have a tough challenge in the playoffs and will likely face Chris Paul, Tony Parker, and Russell Westbrook in consecutive series (after wondering about this every year when the playoffs come around, I finally found out that the plural for “series” is “series”… I can now watch the playoffs in peace)
5. Tyson Chandler – He averages a solid 1.4 blocks per game, but that’s not the reason why he’s a candidate. The real reason is that, throughout this season, he has had to play with a lineup of Jeremy Lin (weak defender at best, just ask Deron Williams), Carmelo Anthony (often lunges out for steals, then wanders around like he’s a kid lost in an amusement park who can’t find his parents), Amare Stoudemire, and Steve Novak (yikes)! Last season, the Knicks let opponents to the basket by standing there like revolving doors, and yet this season, with Chandler, they have the 10th best defense in the league.
4. Josh Smith – He averages 1.4 steals per game and 1.7 blocks per game (how often does a small forward give you blocks like that!). His defensive rebounding percentage is a whopping 24.8% (more than Al Jefferson, Blake Griffin, Marc Gasol, and Marcin Gortat). Again, he’s a small forward!
3. Omer Asik and Taj Gibson, Chicago Bulls – I packaged them together, because they always come off the bench together at the same time and provide the energy that carries Chicago to their complete demolition of opposing second units. Asik and Gibson block shots (1 per game in just 14.7 minutes, and 1.3 per game in just 20.4 minutes, respectively), and they grab rebounds (Asik’s defensive rebound percentage is 24.5%). But, most amazingly, when Gibson is on the floor, the Bulls allow only 88.6 points per 100 possessions (11.2 fewer than when he’s on the bench), and only 89.7 when Asik is in the game. Over the course of a whole game, that’s about 83 points!
2. Serge Ibaka, Oklahoma City Thunder – He averages a ridiculous 3.7 blocks per game (1.5 more than any other player in the NBA) in just 27 minutes. The Thunder hold their opponents to just 42.7% from the field (3rd lowest in the league), and they allow 3.4 points fewer per 100 possessions when Ibaka is in the game versus when he’s sitting. So why is he only #2? Well, his defensive rebound % percentage is only 17.6% (which is low for a 6-10 power forward who jumps out of the gym) and pales in comparison with that of the man who should win the award…
1. Dwight Howard, Orlando Magic – Say what you want about the way Dwight Howard handled being a sought-after free agent, but this whole saga has made him extremely underrated. If we’re talking about purely the best defender in the league, it’s Howard. He’s 2nd in league in blocks, 13th in steals, and 1st in defensive rebounding percentage with an absurd 31.8%! When Howard is on the bench, Orlando is a horrendous defensive team, allowing more than 106 points per 100 possessions, as opposed to the 99.3 points per 100 possessions they give up to their opponents when Howard plays.
Most Improved Player of the Year:
As always, the race for the Most Improved Player of the Year Award (a subtle insult to the winner) is wide open. Here are the top 10 candidates, in reverse order)
10. Steve Novak, New York Knicks – You have to give credit to the league leader in three-point percentage. However, he didn’t really improve during the season. He went from a dorky shooting-specialist who never dares to set foot inside the three-point arc or dribble twice in a row, to a dorky shooting-specialist who never dares to set foot inside the three-point arc or dribble twice in a row who puts on a belt like Aaron Rodgers when he makes a shot.
9. Ryan Anderson, Orlando Magic – Although he had a great season, he’s basically just a rich-man’s Steve Novak.
8. Greg Monroe
7. Ty Lawson, New York Knicks Denver Nuggets – While his percentages went down, his scoring (16.4 points per game) and assisting (6.6 per game) skyrocketed this year. Remember when the Knicks drafted Jordan Hill over this guy? I do!
6) Nikola Pekovic, Minnesota Timberwolves – One of the most unpredictable happenings of the season was Ricky Rubio turning Pekovic into an average starting center who scores 14 points per game on 56% shooting from the field.
5) Goran Dragic, Houston Rockets – He filled in really nicely when Kyle Lowry got hurt, averaging 18 points, 8.5 assists, and 3.5 rebounds per game on 49-38-84 shooting splits in his starts! He’s always had this in him, ever since the time that he was Steve Nash’s apprentice in Phoenix, he just needed playing time.
4) James Harden, Oklahoma City Thunder – See “Sixth Man of the Year”
3) Ersan Ilyasova, Milwauke Bucks – He’s the winner of this season’s “That Guy’s Actually Good?” Award (last season Dorell Wright). He’s become a monster on the boards, averaging 8.8 per game, while also hitting 46% of his threes.
2) Gordon Hayward, Utah Jazz – After averaging only five points per game last season, the 6’9 shooting guard who doesn’t look like the toughest guy in the NBA, is averaging 17 points, 4 assists, 4 rebounds, 1 steal, 1 block, and 1.5 threes per game in his last 19 games. I love his future more than I love using parenthesis.
1) Jeremy Lin, New York Knicks – When I look back at the Most Improved Players of the Year ten years from now, I want to be instantly reminded of the biggest storyline of the season - Linsanity - not that Gordon Hayward looks like he's incapable of beating up a ten-year-old.
Sixth Man of the Year:
Even after Metta World Peace violently elbowed (wait, that’s not ironic at all) James Harden in the skull, Harden is a no-brainer (see what I did there?) to win the Sixth Man of the Year Award. As a complementary player averaging 17-4-4 who is also leading the league in my “points per possession” statistic (which measures the amount of points a player scores per each possession he uses trying to score), Harden is a perfect fit for an Oklahoma City team with Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant.
Coach of the Year:
This is such a tough choice, that it would be debated all over Sportscenter, if only for the fact that Gregg Popovich and Phil Jackson (who have won 15 of the last 21 championships) have won the award just two times combined, killing the integrity of this award. Anyhow, there are the top nine candidates in no particular order:
• Frank Vogel, Indiana Pacers – The Pacers managed the fifth best record in the NBA without a single top-20 talented player in the league.
• Lionel Hollins, Memphis Grizzlies – His team lost all 260lbs of Zach Randolph to injury and still came up with a #4 seed.
• Tyrone Corbin, Utah Jazz – How are the Jazz a playoff team?
• Paul Silas, Charlotte Bobcats – He survived coaching a team whose best two players are Gerald Henderson and Byron Mullins without (a) getting fired, or (b) lighting himself on fire.
• Mike D’Antoni, New York Knicks (just kidding) – Remember who first inserted Jeremy Lin into the lineup? That’s right... Mike “When I Can’t Coach Steve Nash I Resign” D’Antoni.
• Mike Woodson, New York Knicks – He totally turned around a free-falling team by changing their whole defensive mentality.
• Doc Rivers, Boston Celtics – With all the age, injuries, and trade rumors that the Celtics have dealt with, his team could have easily self-destructed at any point during the season without an experienced coach.
• Tom Thibodeau, Chicago Bulls – He led the Bulls to the league’s best record with last season’s MVP sitting for half the season!
• Gregg Popovich, San Antonio Spurs – Danny Green, Dejuan Blair, Kawai Leonard, and a 36-year-old Tim Duncan are starting on his team… and they have the best record in the Western Conference.
Honestly, as much as I hate to say this as a Steve Nash fan, it has go to Popovich. Look at his starting lineup again; is that not the least intimidating starting lineup ever for a #1 seed?
Rookie of the Year:
The obvious Rookie of the Year is Kyrie Irving from the Cleveland Cavaliers. Averaging 18.5 points, 5.5 assists, and 4 rebounds per game is clearly quite a feat, but it’s his percentages (47% from the field, 40% on three pointers, 87% from the free throw line) that are unprecedented. No rookie has ever averaged at least 18 points per game on 45-40-85 shooting splits.
Check back in a week for my list of the top 10 MVP candidates for this season. Also, please comment on the article and share your opinion.
Categories: Awards & Honors