OMG IT’S THE END OF THE SEASON! It’s crazy! It feel like it flew… naw, it felt exactly 82 games long. I mean, did you see how this past month was kinda dragging? Anyway, instead of the standard end of the season awards, we’re going to do this season-ending RTOE how we do. Ian, Brian, Derek, Curtis, Kyle, Jared, and Jordan: go for it (CONNECT FOUR!).
1) The award for the guy who only played about 15 minutes per night, but this team really needed him goes to:
Ian: Tyler Hansbrough. The Pacers’ bench was an absolute disaster this season, but Hansbrough was surprisingly, reasonably reliable. Without his scoring the second-unit offense in Indiana would just be Gerald Green trying to pass the ball to himself off the backboard for an alley-oop.
Brian: Chris Andersen.
Derek: I didn’t know who Greg Smith was before this season, but at 6’10 he’s got legitimate size for a center, and has shot 61% on the season. His 4.5 rebounds per game may be underwhelming, but his 10.4 per 36 minutes are not. He’s been a pleasant surprise for a Houston team that was still facing questions by some who felt that Houston still wasn’t a playoff team after the Harden trade with his help off of the bench.
Curtis: Patrick Beverley! The little point guard engine that could!
Kyle: Chris Andersen. The Heat do a lot of things well, but where would they be without the Birdman? His defense and intensity are tough to quantify statistically, but he drives Miami’s second unit. It was the shooting of Shane Battier last year and it very well could be the play of Andersen this year that plays an underrated role in the Heat’s playoff push.
Jared: Chris Optimus Copeland.
Jordan: Ed Davis. Though Lionel Hollins was reluctant to use Davis at first, be it out of dislike or spite, he eventually relented. Davis gives the Grizzlies a different, more athletic look on both ends of the floor. While the offense remains relatively the same with him on the court (the Grizzlies have an Offensive Rating of 103.4 when Davis is off the court, versus 103.9 with him on), his impact is felt on the defensive end of the floor, as the Grizzlies sport a Defensive Rating of 94.3 when he is on the court.
2) The award for the most entertaining guy on any roster goes to:
Ian: Lance Stephenson. I cannot oversell how much I enjoy watching Stephenson play this year. He is spectacular in success and nearly as spectacular in failure. There’s also something so intriguing about a player with literally no fear.
Brian: Also, Chris Andersen.
Derek: Is this entertaining as in “Wow, how did Rubio make that pass?!”, “OMG LEBRON!” or “LOL #TeamPierre”? So many possibilities here since so many teams have a lot of entertaining players right now. Okay, that’s my cop-out for this RTOE, but I think that sums up how I feel about how much fun it is to be a basketball fan in 2013.
Curtis: Andrea Bargnani was definitely entertaining given the reaction he engendered from Toronto fans during games.
Kyle: Basketball purists are entertained by the greatness that is LeBron James, but let’s face it, the public loves them some JaVale McGee. The 25-year old plays with a passion we can all admire and his glaring flaws make him seem more human to us. Throw in the fact that he is plays for a team that likes to get up and down, thus giving us more chances to see the good and the bad McGee, and you’ve got yourself a dynasty in the making when it comes to winning this award.
Jared: Tony Allen.
Jordan: Ricky Rubio. I love passing. It’s my favorite part of the game. And while CP3 is the undisputed Point God, hallowed be his name, Paul’s passes seem to be fueled by his competitive fire, whereas Rubio’s are driven by rainbows and candy and joy.
3) The award for the “well, we kinda had to keep this guy around, if nothing else but for good karma” goes to:
Ian: Welcome back to the NBA, Juwan Howard.
Brian: People probably expect me to say Kirk Hinrich, but I’ll pull a shocker and go with Jerry Stackhouse. Also maybe Chris Andersen (somehow).
Derek: Brandon Roy. I would have felt nauseous to see him dumped in a salary dump even though I would have understood that it would be a business decision. I’m not sure Karma makes that distinction from a business decision or not. He’s a good guy to just have around and fans everywhere root for him and support him.
Curtis: I guess it’s too late to answer Stephen Jackson for this…
Kyle: Kevin Garnett. The Boston Celtics could have easily thrown in the towel after Rajon Rondo was lost for the season and sent the future HOF on his way to a true contender. But after the way KG treated Ray Allen in his first game as a member of the Heat against the Celtics, could you have imagined the curse he would have bestowed upon Boston had they let him go? He always talks about loyalty, and karma has got to be in your favor for a keeping a guy like that around. O yea, him leading the team in blocked shots and rebounds doesn’t hurt either.
Jared: Rasheed Wallace.
Jordan: Jeff Green.
4) If tattoos and talent were equally weighted, then ____ would get the TALENTTOO award!
Ian: J.R. Smith? DeShawn Stevenson? Chris Anderson? Any other neck tattoos out there?
Brian: Chris Andersen. Or Wilson Chandler.
Derek: Has to be Birdman, right? And if this is the case, Nerlens Noel should just be awarded next season’s ROY now.
Curtis: DeShawn Stevenson for that Abe Lincoln Tattoo. EMANCIPATION NATION!!!!
Kyle: Kevin Durant. The man is one of the most gifted players on the planet and is still improving every aspect of his game, so I’d say he ranks pretty high on the “talent” scale. His near full upper body tattoo is one of a kind, as most tattoo-alcoholics (see Martin, Kenyon) want you to see every new addition. He ranks below Andrei Kirlenko on the tattoo scale and LeBron James on the talent scale, but his cumulative rating is as good as it gets.
Jared: Four way tie between Birdman, JR Smith, Wilson Chandler and Luke Walton.
Jordan: It’s J.R. Smith. Wait, are we talking about basketball talent or salsa talent? Doesn’t matter, he still wins.
5) If you had to pick one team to come out of the East that’s not the Miami Heat, who would it be and why?
Ian: The Pacers. Their defense is such an incredibly consistent crutch to lean on and gives them the potential to win games even when things are going horribly wrong offensively. (See 85% of their wins this season). They have some real enmity built up with the Heat and won’t back down an inch. Their chances are slim, just like everyone else’s, but I think they have the best mix of ingredients.
Brian: The Knicks, by proxy of simply being the second best team. I desperately want to go with the Pacers, but I just don’t trust their bench. Like, at all. Not even to watch my dogs. If either of these teams had Chris Andersen they’d probably have a better shot.
Derek: I mean, I doubt it, but I remember thinking a couple weeks ago while watching the Knicks and Thunder that the Knicks have the potential to be that team that gets ridiculously hot from three for a month (again). Of course this is contingent on their health, sticking to small ball and a number of bench guys catching fire, but I wouldn’t be entirely surprised if they were able to make a run this way. Is it likely? Probably not.
Curtis: The 1986 Celtics because I found a time machine.
Kyle: It almost has to be the Pacers for a few reasons. One, they have had some success against Miami and two, they wouldn’t see them until the ECF. I’m assuming Indiana is a common answer, so I’ll jump on the Nets bandwagon. They’ve got a reasonable “Big Three” of their own and they’ve got a better rebounding but less explosive Chris Andersen off of their bench in Reggie Evans. Brooklyn would need a HUGE series from Brook Lopez to make this happen, but if Gerald Wallace is 100% healthy, the Nets have a good combination of size and athleticism on the perimeter that could provide some issues for the Heat.
Jared: The New York Knicks because I want to be happy for once.
Jordan: The Pacers. Their late-game offensive woes aside, Indiana sports a defense and style of play that could potentially (emphasis on potentially) give the Heat troubles.
6) Lots of people are poo-pooing on the scoring title. But it’s still kind of a cool award, right? If nothing else, friends of stats should like it because it’s the only objective award.
Ian: This isn’t a question. But I’ll poo-poo it anyway. My problem is that it recognizes quantity not quality. Scoring in volume is not nearly as challenging as scoring efficiently, and sufficient inputs can level the talent playing field. Give Brian Scalabrine enough shots and he could be in the running for the scoring title.
Derek: I think it’s a cool award when it’s this close and it’s actually a race. I don’t place a ton of stock into it, though. It was interesting working a game for a Thunder blog and hearing their fans say that they were willing to sacrifice the win if it meant Kevin Durant sealed the scoring title. So, yeah, it’s kinda cool.
Curtis: It’s a neat thing to note for one’s career after it’s all said and done, but no one metric ever truly captures the essence of a player.
Kyle: To me the scoring title is still relative, but “objective” doesn’t feel like the right word for it. On definition alone, sure, it is objective as it is based on numerical data. But so is batting average in baseball and we saw Jose Reyes sit out games just to win the crown. The award means more to Carmelo Anthony and he is trying to win it, while Durant is more worried about the postseason in my opinion. I guess that makes me a poo-pooer.
Jared: It’s not an award. It’s a thing that happens. Someone leads the league in scoring every year.
Jordan: Cool? Maybe. Fun? Absolutely.
7) There are always tons of complaints every year about how the standard awards (MVP, DPOY, ROY, MIP, 6MOY, COY, EOY) are given to the wrong people every year. Usually, this is a mixed product of voter subjectivity and people’s love of complaining. However, which of these awards do you think is regularly awarded to the “wrong” person? And do you think the awarded person is often undeserving of recognition?
Ian: Most Improved. This one bothers me in particular because people get lost on both the “Most” and the “Improved” fronts. It usually goes to people who deserve recognition for playing more minutes and maintaining a consistent level of production. But that’s not an achievement that would call improvement. Players at the top of the scale like LeBron James aren’t considered. Players at the bottom of the scale are also excluded. It just ends up going to such a narrow band of players who exhibit such a narrow band of statistical change that it strikes me as an entirely silly exercise.
Brian: It’s a bit of a copout to say MIP, but it’s generally true. MIP is almost always awarded to a guy who simply got more minutes and produced relative to that minutes increase. No one should be surprised Paul George upped his scoring by 5 PPG when he’s playing eight minutes more. That falls in line with expectations.
I don’t think the person who is awarded is “undeserving,” because a good player living up to the expectations of production is an admirable thing. I just think MIP should go to someone who was not a good player beforehand. Nobody really thinks James Harden just suddenly got better once he put on a Rockets uniform. At least, I hope they don’t.
Derek: I think MIP is the most frequently mis-awarded, but DPOY is the one it feels like we fall into the trap of giving to the same guy over and over until there’s an obvious new contender. This is nothing against Dwight who, when healthy, is certainly deserving, but rarely do we even hear perimeter players in the conversation. Maybe that’s because the public narratives and discussion factor into those decisions– which can happen since humans can be influenced by outside things that may not matter as much. It seems that as of now we see a defensive center and automatically put them at the top of the conversation, yet a guy like LeBron who defends multiple positions well doesn’t get as much talk. That could be that maybe what he does somehow means less than, say, Larry Sanders.
My main point is that I’d like to see the field widen more. I do know from talking to fans that they believe defensive playmaking (steals and blocks) are mutually exclusive with being a good defender, but even Darko Milicic blocked his share of shots some years. To me, I would factor in defensive versatility more and awareness, like being able to use a baseline or sideline as an extra defender to essentially double team a defender without leaving another offensive player open. Phil Jackson talked about how great players have that oncourt awareness in his book “Sacred Hoops” and I really agree with that assessment. That’s why I don’t think that we should automatically consider it to be a center who can block shots, but if they are truly the most deserving candidate, then by all means, give them the award.
Curtis: Each of these awards has its problems. MVP is titled too much toward offense. DPOY is tilted waaaaay too much toward centers nowadays. ROY is… actually, this one is the most accurate of the bunch. MIP is usually a joke and goes to the guy who got the biggest bump in minutes. 6MOY is another name for who gets buckets off the bench. COY is too damn hard to choose from every year, but the winner is almost always deserving. EOY is total piece of… wait, no one actually cares about EOY award. Moving on.
Kyle: “Most Improved Player”. This always seems to go to a player who seemingly came out of nowhere to have success. But does that mean that player was that much better than the year before? Or did he just have a larger role or play in a different system. Kevin Durant is significantly better than he was last year, but will not receive a single vote. James Harden is doing the same things he did last year, just getting more minutes and thus inflating his numbers, but will get plenty of votes. Don’t get me wrong, Harden is better than he was a year ago, but his situation has had a great impact on his spiking statistics. Coming in a close second is the sixth man of the year award. I don’t care if you come off the bench, there should be a minutes cap on this award. A “sixth man” who leads his team in total minutes played (JR Smith) should not be in consideration for this award. Again, he is a very solid player who happens to start the game on the bench, but calling him a “super sub” is kind of crazy, as he plays roughly 70% of the game.
Jared: MIP is almost always awarded to a guy who just played more minutes, so yeah. Probably.
Jordan: Most Improved, because it is the most abstract in terms of guidelines. Should we give it to the person whose increased productivity is a result of more minutes, or to the person who went from borderline rotation player to key cog on a playoff team? Maybe we should give it to the person who finally justified his massive contract, but then again, what about the guy who focused on his one real skill, honing it until it made him a force on the court? Too many questions, and too often, the answer never satisfies.