|Posted on April 14, 2014 at 4:35 PM|
I can probably rattle off the last ten Sixth Man of the Year winners but hesitate in recalling who won the NFL MVP just two months ago. Why do we care so much about individual awards in basketball? For one, there’s a lot less randomness than in football (fewer games) and baseball (one play can decide the outcome). Secondly, individual players matter more than in football (too many positions) and baseball (even Miguel Cabrera only bats three or four times an afternoon). Lastly, we idolize superstars much more in basketball. So here we go. I matched up each actual NBA award with an Oscar category, and added a few fun ones.
Best Actor in a Leading Role (MVP)
Nominees: Kevin Durant, LeBron James, Joakim Noah, Stephen Curry, Dirk Nowitzki, Blake Griffin, Chris Paul, Paul George, Kevin Love, Carmelo Anthony
This isn’t just me getting tired of seeing LeBron hoist the hardware (although I am really tired of seeing LeBron hoist the hardware); Durant has legitimately been better this season. He’s the second best passing forward in the league (5.5 assists per game), scored more points than LeBron on equal efficiency, and been more reliable defensively (LeBron has developed some ball-watching habits and regularly exhibited lack of effort helping out or getting back to stop fastbreaks, causing his blocked shots to plummet). But Durant’s had to deal with a lot more. Russell Westbrook went down for two long stretches (as well as Sefolosha and Perkins missing time recently), his coach’s only crunch-time strategy is giving him the ball, and he’s regularly denied the ball by two defenders. And with all that, his team has a better record than LeBron’s, and in a more competitive conference.
I think Noah is the obvious third place choice (more on him later). In terms of fourth place, I’ve really enjoyed watching Curry turn into a premier passer in the league while still single handedly winning games by catching fire and proving Michael Scott’s theory that basketball is like jazz.
For fifth place, you could go a lot of different directions, as long as the direction is NOT James Harden. He costs his team games with his poor defense. On this play, he literally makes every defensive mistake imaginable. He’s not in his stance, watches the ball and not his man, over-helps, leaves his feet, jogs back to his man, reaches for a steal he has no chance of getting, and doesn’t box out.
Blake Griffin has blossomed as a ball-handler and passer, especially when Chris Paul was injured, but we still don’t even know if he’s the most valuable player on his own team, much less top five in the league, so I’d go with Dirk for the final spot. He’s taken a team of washed-up veterans whose old teams didn’t really want them (Monta Ellis, Devin Harris, Vince Carter, Shawn Marion, Samuel Dalembert) and turned that into 50 wins. He takes all the clutch shots, makes his teammates better (you think Dirk’s three-point shooting has something to do with Monta Ellis leading the league in drives to the basket?), and is hundredths of a percentage point away from a 50-40-90 season.
Best Actor in a Supporting Role (Sixth Man of the Year)
Nominees: Taj Gibson, Reggie Jackson, Manu Ginobili, Jamal Crawford, Markieff Morris
This is close, but Gibson has been the most consistent of all these players, is the best two way player of the bunch (one of the top rim-protectors in the league in terms of opponents' success at the rim, and plays for the top defensive team), and backs up the newest member of the All-Fallen-Off-The-Map Team, Carlos Boozer, who I determined is in fact alive after a solid 15 minutes of intense googling.
Best Director (Best Coach)
Nominees: Mike Woodson (just kidding), Gregg Popovich (Spurs), Tom Thibodeau (Bulls), Jeff Hornacek (Suns), Terry Stotts (Blazers), Rick Carlisle (Mavericks)
2. The Spurs’ fourth most used lineup this season is Patty Mills, Manu Ginobili, Marco Bellineli, Boris Diaw, and Jeff Ayers, which outscores opponents by 14 points per 48 minutes.
3. In Duncan’s old age (three #1 seeds and one #2 seed in four years), Pop became the first coach in sports history to coach the regular season perfectly. His teams just look prepared night in and night out (they only lost two games by more than 14 points this season), he’s unbelievable at resting guys when necessary, and they simply get higher percentage shots in a half-court offense than any other team.
4. I’ve never seen any coach manage minutes the way he does. He got through this whole season with better records than Durant and LeBron, while not playing a single guy more than 29 minutes a night!
5. Okay, back to that first video of the teamwork plays. One of those plays has Patty Mills, Nando de Colo, some dude named Malcom Thomas, and Corey Joseph touching the ball, and Pop still gets them to play his brand of basketball. Unbelievable.
6. If you and your basketball-watching friends are ever bored, try playing the “Come Up With the Worst Possible Team to Put With Duncan and Popovich that Could Still Compete for a #1 Seed” game. It’s really fun.
7. If you want to vote for Thibodeau for dragging a team that looked like it was tanking to winning nearly 50 games, that’s fine. If you want to give the award to Hornacek for over-performing and getting his team to run and shoot threes – the perfect style for that team - that’s fine too, I guess, but just understand that Pop brings way more value to his team (although this offensive set by Hornacek is one of the most creative I've seen all season)
8. I don’t know if this play is a better case for Pop to win Coach of the Year or for Kevin Love not to make an All-NBA team, so I’ll let you decide.
Best Visual Effects (Best Highlights)
Gerald Green (highlights)
Click on the links to view some of the players' highlights, and vote for the winner on the sidebar.
Best Short Film (Best Game)
Nominees: Carmelo Anthony (62 points, 13 rebounds), Lebron James (61 points), Terrence Ross and Corey Brewer (51 points), Kevin Durant… pick any of the following games (54-6-4, 51-7-12, 48-7-7, 48-7-5, 41-10-9, 32-10-14), Joe Johnson (11 threes)
It’s been a really weird season for the Knicks, starring…
--- lots of Mike Woodson staring blankly at people
--- lots of Carmelo (arguably having a better season than last year… look at the numbers)
--- lots of Tyson Chandler failing to finish layups over players a foot shorter than he
--- Metta World Peace playing for a month and then disappearing from the face of the Earth
--- Pablo Prigioni leading the league in three-point percentage
--- Clyde Frazier uttering the words, “And the Knicks will bring Amare, their defensive specialist, off the bench”
--- and This
Best Foreign Film (Best International Player)
Nominees: Andrea Bargnani (just kidding), Goran Dragic, Dirk Nowitzki, Serge Ibaka
I know, I know. I put Dirk on my MVP ballot but didn’t even give him this award, because I really just want to talk about Dragic. He’s my hands-down pick for Most Improved Player of the Year, and if you were to argue for him to make the All-NBA team, I would at least listen. His defense is about two tiers ahead of Stephen Curry (the “It’s best not to think about it, let’s just enjoy watching him play offense’” tier), three tiers ahead of Damian Lillard (the “Treats regular season games like All-Star games tier”), and about seven tiers ahead of James Harden (the “Takes naps during games, gives up 51 points to Corey Brewer” tier).
In nearly 40 games without Eric Bledsoe, Dragic kept the Suns in the playoff hunt by going over .500. The improvement in his shooting from average to the highest percentage among all guards not named Dwyane Wade* has been remarkable. Same goes for three point shooting percentage, which he increased by 10% since last season! His decision making is also starting to kind of live up to the Steve Nash comparisons from five years ago.
* Wade is eight in the league in shooting percentage, the only guard or small forward in the top 25… I don’t care if he’s treating this season like the Olympic short track speedskaters, that’s damn impressive.
While we’re at it, let me finish up with the other awards I haven’t mentioned yet:
Not that Joakim Noah isn’t a deserving Defensive Player of the Year (in a game against the Heat earlier this year, he impressed me by repeatedly shutting down LeBron after switching on pick-and-rolls), but stats don’t really back up his case to win the award (shit, Noah’s probably not even the best defender on his own team). The stats back up Roy Hibbert, who is among the league leaders in opponents’ field goal percentage at the rim and blocked shots, but he has many flaws on D, the biggest of which is his tendency to hang out in no-man’s land on pick-and-rolls, allowing slashers to get deep into the paint (like this play and this play).
But I don’t care if we have to make up an award to ensure Noah gets some hardware for his work this season. In a two month span, the former MVP Derrick Rose went down for the season and his best teammate both on and off the court, Luol Deng, was traded away. Noah went into total FU Mode, and it was fun to watch. In the second half of the season he averaged 14 points, 7 assists, 12 rebounds, 1.7 blocks, and 1.3 steals a night, nearly leading his team in every statistical category, while playing point guard on offense and center on defense - Bill Walton esque.
As for Rookie of the Year, I really don’t what to make of it. We have Michael Carter Williams, who’s been instructed to intentionally lose games; Victor Oladipo, who’s trying to win games and failing miserably; Tim Hardaway, who’s probably going to win third place for doing nothing but standing in the corner shooting threes; and #1 overall draft pick Anthony Bennett educating many basketball fans that it is possible to have a negative Player Efficiency Rating, a statistic designed so that you can take a lie down and take nap at midcourt, not record any stats, and get a 3.5. Yet for the first two months of the season, Bennett was in the negatives! Is it too early to declare him the worst #1 overall pick ever?
[… Googling Kwame Brown’s stats]
[… watching this video]
[... and this one]
… Yea, it’s too early. I vote Oladipo for Rookie of the Year, but only if we give him the broken Rising Stars Challenge MVP trophy instead of a full-sized one.
Best Picture (Best Team)
Nominees: New York Knicks (just kidding), San Antonio Spurs, Miami Heat, Oklahoma City Thunder, Indiana Pacers, Los Angeles Clippers
The Spurs currently have a .775 winning percentage. Of teams that finished the regular season with at least a .770 winning percentage and were the only team that year to do so, 13 won the title, 2 lost in the Finals, and only 4 didn’t reach the Finals - a pretty convincing historical statistic. The Spurs have gotten hot at the right time, when EVERYONE else is struggling. I could go on and on about why I’d be really cautious about picking the Heat, Pacers, or Clippers to win it all, but that’s another article for another time (like, later this week… check back soon for my Playoffs preview article)
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Categories: Awards & Honors