April 11, 2014

Roundtable: NBA Award Season

The days of the NBA regular season are dwindling down, and the intense and ferocious nature of the NBA Playoffs dawns upon us. The NBA Playoffs are a monster that conquers many, as the game slows down and the meaning of each and every possession heightens. In this roundtable discussion, we discuss which players regular season dominance has them deserving of the several NBA awards that are handed out at the conclusion of the season.

1. Who is the Coach of the Year?

John Lava (@JGBHoops): Gregg Popovich. Somehow Pop has only won one Coach of the Year award despite being among the league's top head coaches for his entire career. The thing that makes him the clear winner to me this year is the way the Spurs held on to the top West spot while missing Kawhi Leonard, Tony Parker, and Manu Ginobili for long stretches of the season.

B.J. Boyer (@wc_boyer): The field for COY is extremely deep, but to me it's Phoenix Suns head man Jeff Hornacek who has done a commendable job this year for PHX. The Suns were projected to win 21 games this season, but their tenacious, cohesive and hard nosed play has them parked as the 8th seed in the brutal western conference. They've doubled their expected win total with 47 victories, and have emerged as a frightful foe to many western conference opponents without an all-star. The traits this team possesses mimic those of their coach when he played for the Utah Jazz, and they have found these traits produce an incredible recipe for success.

Alex Fischbein (@Sixers_RunWitUs)Tom Thibodeau gets the vote for Coach of the Year. This Bulls team has been decimated by injury and Rose has missed yet another season. Despite the injuries however, Thibodeau has coached this team to his defensive standards and has kept this team contending in the eastern conference. He has done the most with what was given to him and his defensive genius can not be denied. 

Martin Soaries (@marley_mcfly)It's been a great season of storylines for NBA head coaches. Jeff Hornacek in Phoenix, Dwayne Casey in Toronto, Terry Stotts in Portland, Jason Kidd in Brooklyn, and even Doc Rivers’ in his first gig as head coach of the Clippers are all worth acknowledging. I’ll say first that this is an award I feel Gregg Popovich should be frontrunner of every year because of the Spurs’ grand model of consistency, but my pick this season goes to Chicago Bulls’ coach Tom Thibodeau. Thibs not only lost Derrick Rose (again) but came into the season without Nate Robinson and Marco Belinelli, who helped the Bulls maintain at least some semblance of individual scoring without Rose last season. Despite those losses, Thibs’ gritty, defensive-minded team is still top four in the conference without a star player, which I largely attribute to his mentality and philosophy as a coach.

Cyril Mpacko (@Cee_Armel): (Jeff Hornacek) Coach of the year has been a tight race all year in my personal opinion. But ultimately if the Phoenix Suns hold onto a playoff spot I believer Jeff Hornacek should come away with the award. Not only has he navigated his ball club into a prime playoff position in his first year at the helm, he's done so with a very exciting and intoxicating brand of basketball. Gerald Green and Goran Dragic are having MIP-worthy seasons not to mention the suns have stayed the course with their franchise player (Eric Bledsoe) missing the bulk of the regular season.

2. Will this be Durant's first MVP? If so, how many more does he end up with?

Lava: Yes. I think he will win this season and win 2 more, but not next year- next year I think LeBron goes into the regular season with something to prove.

Boyer: Yes, Durant will be awarded his first MVP this season, and will be the recipient of 2 more in his career. Youth favors the former Texas standout as he's only 25 years old, but the leagues influx of talent may make it tough for him to maintain supremacy in the MVP category year in and year out. Along with Durant,  LeBron James, Blake Griffin, Chris Paul and James Harden will all compete for the award, attempting to steer the MVP race in their favor.

Fischbein: Yes, Durant will win his first MVP this year. He deserves it, he has been the most dominant player this entire season. If Durant keeps playing like he is now, or gets even better then I see him ending with five MVP trophies. Yes, you read that correctly, I'm going with FIVE!

Soaries: This will be Kevin Durant’s first MVP season and I find it somewhat hard to believe it will be his last. The basketball stratosphere has shown us it’s axis, and it will revolve around LeBron James and Kevin Durant for the foreseeable future. I don’t think this will be the last time we see KD and LeBron duke it out for the league’s Most Valuable Player as both have seemingly entered their prime, but Durant is still younger, likely giving him more ample opportunities to win the award.

Mpacko: (Kevin Durant) In any other year, Kevin Durant's historic January would have won him the MVP award outright, then and there. Any other year that featured the NBA without that fellow down there in south beach. Lebron soared back to the top of the MVP charts with an historic February of his own. However, Miami's downslide in March coupled with Durant's 41 game streak of scoring over 25 points have been too much to overcome and tilt the mvp race back in Lebron's favor. Durant will come away with the award; which I believe will be his first of 3 such MVP awards, as well as another scoring title. Career Highs in PPG, Assists, FG % as well as carrying the load while Westbrook recovered from injury will be regarded as the key contributors to his crowning moment (void of an NBA title at present). 

3. Jamal Crawford or Reggie Jackson for 6th man?

Lava: Taj Gibson. And my runner up would be Manu Ginobili. And yeah, I'm biased on Taj, but a bunch of NBA experts who aren't Bulls fans agree with me here. Gibson has added to his offensive game, is rebounding much more consistently, plays crunch time over Carlos Boozer in every game, and is a candidate for 2nd (or even possibly 1st) team All-Defense. Meanwhile, Manu has had a resurgence after his performance last season convinced us all he was done. But if I have to choose from Crawford or Jackson, I'll choose Crawford just because Jackson's main impact has come from a starting role, not off the bench.

Fischbein: Reggie Jackson all the way! When you lose a guy like Westbrook for a while, no one expects a guy to step in and play like him. Reggie Jackson took the opportunity to come into the starting role and he played with the same type of energy and intensity as Westbrook would. Plus, in case you missed it, he put up some impressive stat lines too.

Boyer: Crawford. He provides the Clippers with a potent scoring punch off the bench, and his reliability in crunch time is imperative for the Clippers and their offensive attack. Crawford is third in 4th quarter scoring behind the likes of LeBron James and Kevin Durant, which simply highlights his importance to the Clippers as their games dangle in the balance. He's third on the team in scoring 18.6 PPG, and his veteran leadership and calm demeanor quells any hostility this Clippers team may face internally or from the opposition.

Soaries: Manu Ginobili is now the only sixth man with a PER over 20 thanks to his better play as of late. Vince Carter has also joined the discussion in this category. But between Jackson and Crawford, two guys I feel would also be deserving, I’m going with Crawford on the adaptability factor. Jamal Crawford is a scorer first and everything else later, so adjusting to Doc Rivers and a more specific system has shown his willingness to submit and show compromise with Rivers’ desired offense. Between the Clippers and Crawford’s continued success under new leadership, I give him the nod.

Mpacko: (Reggie Jackson) The 6th man of the year award is another one that has been tightly contested by a few regulars as well as a newcomer to the race. Regulars: Jamal Crawford and Manu Ginobili have both had stellar years, with the former carrying the load for the Clippers (along with Blake Griffin) all while CP3 was sidelined with a shoulder injury. In the same breath, Reggie Jackson has been somewhat of a revelation for the Oklahoma City Thunder. Filling in nicely in the starting lineup for the oft-injured Westbrook, Jackson has helped ease the burden placed on Durant's broad shoulders. More importantly Jackson has seemingly filled the void left by James Harden's departure prior to the 2013 season. Jackson in the end will hold off Jamal Crawford and Ginobili and come away with the 6th man crown.

4. Who is the most improved player?

Lava: Goran Dragic. This is the toughest award to pick for me because it's impossible to say who should be a candidate. For example, I would say Anthony Davis improved the most this season, but since he's a former number 1 overall pick in his second season, you kind of expect a big leap and therefore I can't give him the award. Dragic helped pull this Suns team that was supposed to tank into a playoff possibility, especially as he carried the team during the two month absence of Eric Bledsoe. Dragic has gone from a decent starting point guard to a third team All-NBA candidate, and no one was expecting it, which to me makes him the MIP.

Boyer: Goran Dragic. I wanted to go with Anthony Davis, but the odds defeating season Dragic has had urged me to give him the nod. Dragic is 3rd in scoring among shooting guards at 20.5 a game, and promises efficiency with his scoring punch, as he shoots 51% from the field and 42% from three. These unexpected gaudy numbers, paired with the fact that these are all career highs for the 27 year old as he hopes to lead Phoenix to the postseason, and it's easy to see why he's deserving of this award.

Fischbein: Lance Stephenson gets the nod for Most Improved. Got to give the guy credit, he's been doing everything well this season. He might not be giving the Pacers 30 points a night, but he is giving them triple-doubles and hustle points night in and night out. He puts it all on the line when he's on the court, and he has definitely been producing this year.

Soaries: Gerald Green. Before this season we only saw the extraordinary dunk highlights from Green, but we’ve seen him make a noticeable confidence leap as the primary two-guard for the Phoenix Suns. He’s seeing the floor more than ever in his career (29.1 minutes per game) and his 15.6 points per game is also a career best. I like Green because of his emergence after such streaky struggles in Boston, Dallas, Minnesota, and Indiana, only to put teams like Oklahoma City on full notice this year, who got 41 from Green last month.

Mpacko: (Gerald Green) The most improved player award is the one I'm the most torn over. Isaiah Thomas has been a player who's had a career year on a terrible team and made the biggest jump from year 2 to year 3. Outplaying many opposing guards on a nightly basis. Sacramento's inability to escape the basement of the western conference will single handedly rule him out of this race. Two Phoenix Suns have found themselves in the thick of the race in recent months. Gerald Green and Goran Dragic have both had career years and have led the Suns' charge into the postseason. Another player who has immersed himself into the conversation is Anthony Davis who is quickly emerging as one of the NBA's premier big men. But he too plays on a team devoid of regular season success. We always knew Dragic was a serviceable guard, but no one saw his evolution into a top tier all-star caliber player coming this soon. In the same token the evolution of Gerald Green has been a sight to see. The high flyer has rounded out the rough edges of his game and transformed himself into an offensive mismatch for opposing defenses. His developed outside shooting has been key for the suns all year. In a hotly contested race I believe Gerald Green comes home with this one. 

5. Who is the Defensive Player of the Year?

Lava: Joakim Noah. Believe me, I hate to look like I'm making two homer picks here, but after looking carefully through all the candidates Noah stands out to me. He's an efficient defensive leader on an outstanding defensive team. If the Pacers hadn't fallen apart the last two months this award would be Roy Hibbert's, but since they couldn't Joakim gets it instead.

Boyer: Joakim Noah. Noah has been outrageous this year, avoiding the downward spiral many assumed couldn't be for this Bulls team after Derrick Rose went down with another knee injury, and Luol Deng was shipped to Cleveland. The Bulls offense isn't always dazzling, but they combat their anemic offensive output with defensive pressure that has the opposition squirming all game long. At the helm of this defense is Noah, who's intensity, communication and underrated ability to switch pick and rolls and do a respectable job on wing players keeps the beautiful Bulls defense fluent and intact. 

Fischbein: Defensive player of the year goes to..........Anthony Davis! 10 rebounds per game, 2.8 blocks per game, and 1.3 steals per game. If you ask me, he's more than deserving of this award. It's only his second year in the league and he's becoming a force on not only the defensive side of the ball, but the offensive side as well. He's already a feared force in the paint, and guards are starting to respect him as one.

Soaries: Joakim Noah. Give it to him already. This guy has the best motor in the league. Defensively he’s the most versatile center in the NBA with his ability as a help defender. He’s able to switch on ball screens comfortably to defend perimeter players because he contains with his length and foot speed. It’s Noah’s impact on both sides of the floor that has kept the Bulls afloat, but his anchoring defense is what helps Thibodeau’s team compete with anyone. Give it to him already.

Mpacko: (Joakim Noah) No singular player has been as responsible to his team's success as has Joakim Noah. The Bulls were an afterthought when Derrick Rose went down again with another injury following his highly publicized comeback dubbed as "The Return." Noah has once again anchored the Bulls and on most nights been there best player on both ends of the floor. He is no question the heart and soul of a Bulls team that lost Luol Deng to a trade as well as key guys such as Nate Robinson and Marco Belinelli from last year's playoff team. The Bulls are back to playing typical Tom Thibideau defense, protecting the paint and limiting offensive possessions for opponents.

6. Which ROY candidate would you rather build around, MCW or Oladipo? 

Lava: Oladipo. Victor Oladipo to me is about as sure a thing as there is in the NBA. If nothing else, he'll at least be Tony Allen, a valuable, elite wing defender, with potential to become much more. Though MCW could become much better than Oladipo, there's always the valid worry that he's learned bad habits from being on this Sixers team and jacking up shots constantly with no one to pass too. If I'm building a team, I want my first piece to be as safe as possible rather than risk losing it all by building around Carter-Williams and watching him not develop the way it seems like he would. 

Boyer: Michael Carter-Williams. The Sixers have spent the bulk of this season in the depths of despair. They endured a 26 game losing streak, traded former 2nd overall draft pick Evan Turner, and have been shunned by the bulk of fans in the city of Philadelphia. Amongst all of this turmoil, has been a kid who has showed franchise altering promise and his name is MCW. MCW leads all rookies in most major statistical categories, and even though this may be a product of him playing on a bad team and having access to an plethora of shots and opportunities, he's shown flashes of brilliance that I have yet to see from Oladipo.

Fischbein: Both players are great candidates to build around, but MCW would be the better choice in my eyes. He's a pass first player that can make the players around him better through his play. His length is great on both sides of the ball and after gaining some more experience he could be a walking triple-double like Rajon Rondo.  

Soaries: Michael Carter-Williams. I was excited about both rookies coming into the season and I’m glad they both showed why. I think they’re both studs, but Carter-Williams is a little more of what I would want for my team’s brand of basketball. He’s a true point guard at 6’6 with a smooth feel and understanding for the game. I like his versatility and I think he continues to grow as a decision-maker. I would love to build around that ability, length, and speed at the point guard position.

Mpacko: (MCW) Many pundits, myself included, thought the Sixers were insane to trade away an all-star guard (Jrue Holiday) on draft night for unproven picks. Boy were we all wrong. MCW has been the lone bright spot on an otherwise horrendous Sixer season that started with much promise after they knocked off the defending champion Heat. Oladipo has been no slouch himself, showing glimpses many a night of the promise he exuded at Indiana University. MCW has stood alone at the summit of the rookie ladder for what has seemed to be the duration of the season. His length, passing and scoring ability have been on full display. If Nerlens Noel comes back healthy next season, and the sixers add some valued pieces to their roster next year, building around MCW would all the more be completely justified. So far so good in year one.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Share your thoughts: