Awards and Bizarro Awards
First-team All-NBA: Steve Nash, Kobe Bryant, Lebron James, Elton Brand, Dirk Nowitzki
Picking this team was easy this year. Every single one of these guys was a cut above the rest. Nash is the league's best PG. Kobe carries what might be the league's worst team without him. Lebron is gonna win his fair share of MVPs before he's done. Elton Brand lost weight, worked on his jumper, and became the league's best traditional PF. Dirk is the unquestioned stud on what might be the West's best team.
72nd-team All-NBA: Orien Greene, Sasha Vujacic, John Salmons, Scott Padgett, Brian Scalabrine
If you've never seen any of these guys play before, you're lucky. Orien Greene and John Salmons are perfect examples of NBA scouts' inexplicable love for tall guys who can play PG, even if they can't do anything other than be tall and not dribble off their own foot. Sasha Vujacic is just horrific. I honestly think he leads the NBA in air-balls this year. Does anyone keep track of that kind of stat? As for Scalabrine, his selection to the squad is due to the fact that he gets paid $15 million dollars by the Celtics to (in the words of my friend Rookie) "bring nothing to the table but his tangy, Irish breast-milk". That leaves my nemesis, the dreaded Scott Padgett. I have had a burning hatred for Scott Padgett since the first time I saw him play at Kentucky. First of all, I hate his goatee. That thing just gets under my skin. Second of all, he has managed to convince basketball coaches and scouts on all levels that he can actually shoot, just by shooting a lot. He's not a good shooter! In fact, he's a very mediocre shooter. He just keeps shooting, and then he acts all upset when he misses. Why do people buy into it? Are they mesmerized by the goatee?
Most Valuable Player: Steve Nash
I evaluate this award by answering a question: "Who is the most indispensable player on a good team?" Nash is my choice again this year, ahead of Dirk and Kobe. Nash was the best player in the league last year, and he took it to a whole new level this year. I didn't even think this team could make the playoffs without Amare, Q, and Joe Johnson, but Nash turned guys like James Jones and Raja Bell into scoring machines. And I don't care that he doesn't rebound or play lock-down defense. His effect on that offense is clearly a net positive over any negative effects he has on their defense. And why should Nash's rebounding matter? It's not his job. Nobody complains that Tim Duncan doesn't shoot 3's.
Least Valuable Player: Antoine Walker
Who is the most dispensable supposedly good player on a good team? It's gotta be Antoine Walker. It's kind of sad to give this award to Antoine, because he had so much potential when he came into the league to become a dominant Point-Forward. But his lateral quickness eroded each year he's been in the league, it doesn't seem like he's worked too much on his ball-handling, and he fell in love with the 3-pointer in Boston. Now he just stands around the perimeter and heaves 3-pointers with one hand while cashing paychecks with the other.
Most Improved Player: Boris Diaw
Diaw gets this award over Gerald Wallace (only player in the league to average 2+ blocks and 2+ steals per game, and he's only 23!). My roommate and I used to watch Hawks games sometimes just to rip on Diaw's phenomenal lack of production. We used to send each other Hawks box scores whenever he put up lines like: 32 minutes, 0-for-1 from the field, 2 assists, 2 rebounds, 1 steal. Last year, he might have been the MVP of my 72nd-team All-NBA squad. Now he's the best Point-Center in the league. Go figure.
Least Improved Player: Stromile Swift
I was always a Stromile apologist. I thought he just needed to get out of Memphis and go to a team where there weren't so many players crowding the rotation. At some point, a player with potential becomes too old to be considered anything other than a bust. I think it's about that time for Stromile. Well... unless the Rockets fire Jeff Van Gundy and the new coach gives Stro more PT. He just needs a coach that will let him play in an up-tempo system. It's the coach's fault right? The coaches are holding Stro back!
6th Man of the Year: Mike Miller
Mike Miller has quietly developed into one of the league's best long-range shooters. When he comes off the bench feeling it, there's nothing you can do to stop him. Just ask the Wizards (30 points) and the Nuggets (41 pts).
12th Man of the Year: Sean Marks
I'm not really sure what the bizarro equivalent of a 6th man is, so I'm just going to use this award to give a shout-out to the league's most underappreciated 12th man, Sean Marks. Raise your hand if you know who Sean Marks is? Nobody? Well, did you know that Sean Marks has been in the NBA for 6 years?! Well done Sean Marks. Well done.
Rookie of the Year: Chris Paul
Not much to say here. Nobody else is even close. That's why I'm gonna give out a 2nd ROY award...
Long-term Potential Award: Andrew Bynum
The league's youngest player showed that he belongs in the NBA, and he's still growing! By the time he's done, he'll be Shaq-sized, and he has a soft touch, great attitude, and excellent feet. Barring injury, this kid should develop into a perennial All-Star, and sooner than you might think.
Worst Rookie of the Year: Marvin Williams
Okay, so maybe he hasn't been the worst rookie in the league. He's just been mediocre. But the Hawks should have picked Chris Paul, so Marvin Williams is going to be judged against Paul for the rest of his career. Hawks fans are hoping that he develops into an All-NBA stud at the 3, but I'd put my money on Josh Smith before I'd put it on Marvin.Defensive Player of the Year: Trenton Hassell
I think this is the hardest category for the average fan to evaluate. Typically, people base their choice on 3 things: stats (blocked shots and/or steals), reputation (i.e. media hype) , and watching guys try to guard Kobe or Lebron one-on-one (on ABC, just about every Sunday). In reality, most people have no idea who's really playing the best defense within their team's concept. Some guys might be racking up steals or blocks by gambling. Other guys get a rep for being defensive stoppers because they don't do much else (Bruce Bowen) or because they run their mouths (Ruben Patterson). So, since I'm not really sure who actually is the best defensive player in the league, I am going to choose who I think is the best defensive player never to get any credit for it, Trenton Hassell. He's the real Kobe Stopper, but you never hear anyone mention it. He was phenomenal against Kobe in the playoffs 2-years ago. I've honestly never seen anyone cover him better. And check out Kobe’s stats versus the T-Wolves this year. The only teams he scored less against were Utah and Orlando, and those were both smaller sample sizes.
Worst Defender of the Year: Ricky Davis
Ricky probably isn't the worst defensive player in the league, but he gets this award because he's a worse defender than Wally Szczerbiak, and nobody seemed to realize it! After the Wolves-Celtics trade at the deadline, the sports media was talking about how this was a great trade for the T-Wolves, because they were going to instantly improve their defense. I would like to thank the sports media for proving once again that they don't actually watch NBA games that don't involve the top 5 teams in the league. Wally is slow-footed, and he's not a good defender, but he plays smart team defense, he's always in the right place, and he knows his limitations. Ricky Davis on the other hand, is an atrocious defender. His favorite defensive maneuver is to body-up on the opposing team's best scorer, talk trash to him, follow about 2-feet behind him as the player easily cuts open to catch the ball, bend down and slap the floor while talking more trash, stand flat-footed while turning and watching as the player goes right by him, and then acting all upset and confused that it happened. It's the Scott Padgett appraoch to defense. He's also a big fan of jumping wildly into the passing lanes 10 times a game, giving up layups 90% of the time, just to get 1 steal that he can turn into a fast-break dunk at the other end. It only took about a month for T-Wolves fans to realize what they got themselves into.
Coach of the Year: Mike D’Antoni
I waffled back-and-forth between D'Antoni and Avery Johnson, but in the end, I had to pick D'Antoni and his amazing mustache. The style of play that he has brought back to the league has produced some of the most entertaining NBA basketball in decades, AND he's winning doing it. That deserves to be celebrated. Now I just need the Suns to win a championship so the whole league will copy their style of play, and then Jeff Van Gundy will get fired for good, and the Heat/Knicks basketbrawl era will officially be dead. Good riddance.
Worst Coach: Larry Brown
What a freaking disaster.
The 2nd Best GM Award: Larry Harris, Milwaukee
Joe Dumars owns this award for as long as he wants it, so I figured I'd just name it after him and move on to other candidates. I briefly considered the Clippers' Elgin Baylor, until I realized that he may actually have been worse than Wes Unself for a solid 15 years, and you can't just ignore that. So, I'm going with Harris instead. The Bucks seemed to be on the verge of disaster just a year ago, with Michael Redd demanding a huge contract from a notoriously cheap owner and TJ Ford's career potentially over. Now, they're one of the best young teams in the league, with a core that has big-men, ball-handlers, and shooters (Ford, Mo Williams, Redd, Bobby Simmons, Andrew Bogut), none of whom are older than 26.
The Rob Babcock Memorial Worst GM Award: Billy Knight, Atlanta
I would have given this award to Rob Babcock, except Toronto unceremoniously canned him halfway through the season. Unfortunately, I'm pretty sure the Raptors are still paying Alonzo Mourning and Alvin Williams, and they face Vince Carter several times a year, so they won't forget Rob Babcock in Toronto for a long time. Since Rob couldn't make it, Billy Knight will gladly accept the award in his stead. Unless Billy knows something we don't know, the "5 Small Forwards" line-up will never be a winning strategy in this league.
And just for fun, one more category...
Most Overrated Players: Dwyane Wade, Tony Parker
That's right. I said it. Dwyane Wade is one of the league's most overrated players. Now don't get me wrong, Wade and Parker are both very good players, but they aren't as good as the hype they are getting. I mean, comparing Wade to MJ??? COME ON. I don't want to hear that kind of stuff until Wade gets into the gym and develops something I like to call a "jump shot". I can specifically remember all 3 times I've ever seen Dwyane Wade hit a shot beyond 10 feet. As for Parker, he's still a very one-dimensional player. He is very fast and he has a quick release and great touch around the basket (thus his 50% FG percentage), but that's his entire game at this point. He's still not a great passer, and like Wade, he really needs to work on his jumper. Honestly, would you take Tony Parker over an underappreciated PG like Mike Bibby? Bibby would shoot 50% from the field as well if he never took a shot beyond 15 feet, but Bibby takes 3's because he can make 3's.
Most Underrated Players: Manu Ginobili, Raymond Felton
Everyone knows that Manu is a good player, but it's a little known secret that he's a top-20 player, because he has such an unconventional style, and his statistics aren't gaudy. Manu does absolutely everything well, and he's one of basketball's premier winnners (both in the NBA and internationally). He can take over the game in so many ways, and it's different from game to game, whatever it takes to win. Do you know who the top 5 players in the league last year were in terms of net +/- (on-court vs. off-court)? Tim Duncan, Jason Kidd, Manu, Dirk Nowitzki, and Steve Nash. And, despite struggling a bit this year with injuries, Manu's PER (John Hollinger’s "Player Efficiency Rating") ranks 18th in the league, between Chris Paul and Carmelo Anthony.
In all the hype over Chris Paul, Raymond Felton's stellar rookie season has gotten lost. If you haven't been paying attention, take a look at Felton's post All-Star performance: 16.4 points, 7 assists, just 2.5 turnovers, and 40% shooting from three. Those #'s are just a tick under Paul's over the same period (17.5 pts, 8.2 ast, 2.3 to) and Felton's 3-pt shooting has been far better than Paul's (27.5%). And if team performance is more important to you when evaluating a PG, it's worth noting that Paul's team has gone 9-17 during that stretch, basically the same as the Bobcats (8-16).