Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Random Awards

The regular season is coming to an end rather quickly. I'm preparing some pretty in-depth (boring?) playoff previews, and that's taking a lot of my analytical time. So in the meantime, I decided to just start handing out end of season awards. These are just my opinion and for the most part I won't be offering much to back them up, but thought it might be fun. If you disagree or think of another award that needs giving, go ahead and leave it in the comments.

1) Lebron James
2) Chris Paul
3) Dwyane Wade

Everyone will be arguing for the next couple of weeks about how to define MVP. For me, I'm not picking the best player, or the guy who if you took him off the team they would suffer the most. Instead, I'm just looking at who did the most. That's it. Lebron James did the most. If we take search trends to be a proxy for popularity, then it appears that fans have caught up to that fact, as Lebron James has really pulled away in the last week:

(Why aren't we making a bigger deal about Dwyane Wade?)

Rookie of the year
Winner: Brook Lopez
Runners-up: Kevin Love, Derrick Rose

It took me a long to come around on Lopez, but better late than never, right?

6th Man
Winner: Jason Terry
Runner-Up: Nate Robinson

Most Improved Player
Devin Harris seems to have this award wrapped up already, and deservedly so. I'm pretty sure Danny Granger will get a few votes, as well. So instead, I'm making up this award:

Player who should get more Most Improved Player Award votes than he actually will
Winner: Tony Parker

Parker has played out of his mind all season. His footwork and finishing ability in the paint is as strong as ever, his mid-range shooting has been acceptable, and he's taken on way more of the Spurs offense than ever before in his career, partly due to injuries. Despite taking on more of the offense, his shooting percentages remain quite high.

Reason you should pay for League Pass
Winner: Gerald Wallace
Runner up: Kevin Durant

Wallace is unique and quietly had a strong year in Charlotte. He's a total possession monster, what a hustle player would be if hustle players had superstar length and athleticism. And it's not just that he is constantly creating extra possessions for his team, but that he's restless and always coiled and ready to get out in transition. In football, announcer sometimes talk about "hidden yards" like special teams yardage and penalty yardage. Gerald Wallace is all about hidden points -- creating a fast break or two off of a defensive rebound, blocking a shot and keeping the ball in play for his team, stealing a routine entry pass, sneaking in behind the defense for an easy dunk . . ..

Guy we'll be talking about a lot more than we have this year
Winner: Anthony Randolph

What a treat to watch. Hopefully things will go well, he'll get more minutes next year, and he'll win the Gerald Wallace award.

Best basketball writers
Britt Robson ("On The Ball" column about the Timberwolves for Secrets of the City)
Kevin Arnovitz (ClipperBlog)
Ryan Parker (Basketball Geek)

Best second rounder (or best unexpected performance)
Winner: Luc Richard Mbah a Moute
Runner up: Mario Chalmers

7th man of the year
An award for bench guys whose minutes are more limited than those of 6th men, but who provide a lot.

Co-Winners: Chris Anderson, Carl Landry

Biggest storyline that didn't receive enough attention
1) Yao Ming's health
2) Lebron's 2010 shoe company free agency

Assuming he plays out the last 7 games of the season, Yao Ming will have played 78 games this year, which is 20 more games than he's played in any one of the last three seasons. This is after he appeared in the Olympics over the summer. People seem shocked at how well the Rockets have done despite the loss of Tracy McGrady this year, but Yao Ming playing almost every single game is a huge part of that -- I doubt anyone would have predicted he'd be healthy all year before the season began.

Meanwhile, with all the attention being paid to Lebron James' impending free agency in 2010, somehow the fact that his contract with Nike expires in the summer of 2010, also. His last contract was worth $90 million over 7 years. What will he make this time around? And how much will the 2010 deadline be on his mind this year and the next as he tries to win a championship before all these decisions get made?

Best off the ball offensive player
Kobe Bryant

There are lots of great shooters in the league who play great off the ball, and Ray Allen is probably near the top of that list. But Kobe's non-stop working and his ability to be a threat from so many different places on the floor makes it impossible to deny him the ball and really tough to force him into a bad spot. Since Andrew Bynum went down, he's been even more insistent than before on taking smaller defenders down into the post and it has paid off handsomely, as he's having one of his best years ever in terms of mid-range shooting percentage.

Best bounce pass
Deron Williams

Best high post offensive player
Dirk Nowitzki

Best pull-up jumper
I think this was Jameer Nelson before the injury. Now? I don't know. Deron Williams might be in the running.

Best hesitation dribble
Brandon Roy

Best step-back jumper
Even though he missed a lot of games, and wasn't his usual self for several more, Manu Ginobili still (to me) has the most dangerous step-back jumper, in terms of efficiency and range, in the league. Don't sleep, though, on Deron Williams at the top of the key, particularly in the fourth quarter.

Best/Most unexpected direction changes
I'll give this one to Dwyane Wade for this year, although the award itself should be named after Manu Ginobili.

Best example of the boxscore not telling the full story
According to the boxscores, Carmelo Anthony has been having a down year. But anyone who's been watching the games can tell you that he's actually having his best all-around year, having improved particularly on the defensive end. (Runner up: Lamar Odom, for the same reasons).

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