NBA Awards 2012: Which San Antonio Spurs Are Potential Winners?
Popovich is only one member of the Spurs roster who could walk away from this season with a new trophy to add to their case. The Spurs legendary season brought out the best in all of their players, making many of them potential award winners.
As a team, the Spurs proved to be one of the best, but individually, there certainly were a number of standouts. Here's a list of those players who might find their names in the record books.
Danny Green, Most Improved
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While one NBA guard's breakout season seemed to dominate the news everywhere, another one quietly put together his own remarkable campaign.
UNC-product Danny Green found himself in the starting roster after beginning the year riding the bench. When Manu Ginobili first went down with an injury in January, the Spurs experimented with multiple substitutes before deciding on Green.
Since, Ginobili's return, Green has continued to hold the starting position, allowing Ginobili to give them an offensive spark off the bench.
Drafted in 2009 by the Cleveland Cavaliers, Green rarely played during his only season with the Cavs, averaging a mere 5.8 minutes and 2.0 points. Before the 2010-11 season, Green was waived, then claimed by the Spurs. Early on he failed to impress and was cut before being brought back by Gregg Popovich near the end of the season.
Previously unable to secure a role with Cleveland and San Antonio, Green entered the 2011-2012 season as a question mark.
However, Green took advantage of a golden opportunity this season, his play landing him a prominent spot in the Spurs rotation. Green is one of many rags-to-riches stories that have developed under Popovich, who shared his thoughts on the matter.
"[He]‘s an NBA player and he’s playing with confidence. He’s been through a lot of trials and been denied many times over the last several years. He’s a great example of sticking with it, not getting down on oneself, continuing to play, improve, listen, and right now he’s playing well and has been a significant part of what we’re doing.”
While his stellar breakout performance has been overshadowed by the Linsanity in New York, Green definitely deserves consideration as the Most Improved Player.
Kawhi Leonard, Rookie of the Year
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Kawhi Leonard was passed on by almost half of the NBA before hearing his name called on draft night last June. His original destination was Indiana, but he was quickly rerouted to San Antonio as part of a trade that sent George Hill to Indiana.
As with other draft steals like Manu Ginobili, DeJuan Blair and Tony Parker, Leonard has exceeded expectations. While his statistics don't jump out at you, the contributions that he made this year to his own team's success were unmatched by any other NBA rookie.
His work ethic showed in his improved perimeter shooting. His defense and continuous hustle stood out even amongst other Spurs players.
And he took little time to learn his role.
After Richard Jefferson was sent to Golden State, Leonard was given the starting opportunity where he continued to impress.
Kyrie Irving may be the clear choice for Rookie of the Year, but Leonard's name certainly should be in the discussion.
Tony Parker, Most Valuable Player
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The league's most prestigious individual award may very well end up in the capable hands of Spurs guard, Tony Parker. After making solid contributions to the team every year, this season Parker put the entire team on his back.
Not only the team's best player, Parker emerged as was one of the top players in the entire NBA. While many consider LeBron James and Kevin Durant to be in a league of their own when discussing MVP candidates, Parker's unstoppable performances night in and night out certainly deserves him a few votes.
His offensive spark was unlike anything that we had seen from him before, and his ability to distribute made him one of the best point guards—if not the best—in the league.
His numbers may not be gaudy as other candidates, but no player meant as much to his team's success as Tony Parker.
San Antonio Spurs, NBA Champions
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As great as individual success is, nothing is quite as important as the success of your team. While Kyrie Irving may walk away with a Rookie of the Year award, he'd likely trade that in for a chance at a ring.
As inspiring as the individual play has been, the Spurs' overall team performance impressed us, too. Despite entering the season with the words "TOO OLD" plastered across their chests, the team surprised everyone and quickly emerged as one of the league's best.
Their run continued throughout the regular season, where they tied for the best record in the NBA and entered the playoffs as the West's No. 1 seed. Now, after taking Game 1 of their first-round matchup against Utah, the Spurs look like one of the favorites to win a title.
Holding up their fifth Larry O'Brien trophy will be more important—and more impressive—than any individual award.