NBA Awards Watch: Award Winners at the All-Star Break
We are now more than halfway through the NBA season, meaning we have a large enough body of work to judge the successes of most of the players in the NBA. Some players (Paul George, for example) have been surprising; others (former All-NBA selection Andrew Bynum) have been underwhelming at best. While the season isn’t over yet, here are my picks for the NBA’s various end-of-season awards, with a stats-based argument for many of them.
All-NBA Third Team
G Tony Parker, Spurs
My All-NBA Third Team is an interesting mix of players, with two first-timers joining two veteran Spurs. I’m penciling in Duncan as All-NBA for the 14th (and, in all likelihood, last) time owing to the continued dominance of the Spurs behind his ever-present defensive prowess (top 15 in defensive boards and win shares per 48 minutes; top 5 in blocks, PER and defensive rating).
Parker makes the grade by being one of two men to be in the top 10 in total points and total assists while amassing a true-shooting percentage of almost 60 percent. Parker is also in the top ten in the sabermetrical categories of PER and win shares.
Despite the fact that Dwight Howard’s season has been underwhelming at best, he still slides into the All-NBA Third Team slot due to again leading the league in rebounds per game, while also being in the top 5 in blocks and field goal percentage.
Some would say that this is where Rajon Rondo belongs on the strength of his first half, but you cannot realistically expect Rondo to make the All-NBA Team while missing half the season; nor can you expect a player whose team is better without him than with him to be All-NBA.
Rounding out the team are two first-timers from teams that have solid records despite a dearth of superstar talent: Golden State and Indiana. Prior to his solid performance at Sunday’s All-Star Game, George was the leader in defensive win shares while being in the top 15 in a number of diverse categories, including made threes, steals, and defensive rating.
Golden State’s Curry is ninth in the NBA in total points, second in the league in made threes, and in the top 15 in assists.
F Paul George, Pacers
F Tim Duncan, Spurs
G Tony Allen, Grizzlies
G Kobe Bryant, Lakers
On the first team, we have two familiar faces in Paul and Duncan. Joining them are Paul George (the league leader in defensive win shares; third in defensive rating), Mike Conley (second in the league in steals after Paul) and Joakim Noah (leading all bigs in DWS, fifth in total rebounds).
Looking at the second team, Tony Allen, who is leading all guards in defensive rating, should cruise to his third straight All-Defensive selection. Bryant makes the All-Defensive Team for the 13th time due to the fact that he’s often had to guard Steve Nash’s guy as well as his own. Here also we find last year’s DPOY Chandler and perennial cornerman defenders Smith and James.
Tyler Zeller, Cavaliers
This list comprises the ten best rookies in a number of statistics. The five rookies all scoring in double figures (Lillard, Davis, Waiters, Beal and Shved) all made the list, as did most of the players who added the most value to their team (Drummond, Lillard, Davis, Kidd-Gilchrist). The team also features two point guards in Shved and Prigioni who squared off in last year’s bronze medal match.
Sixth Man of the Year: Eric Bledsoe, Clippers
Clippers backup point guard Eric Bledsoe is the bench player everybody wants. Effective at both ends of the floor, Bledsoe is second among guards in defensive rating while shooting 42.9 percent from downtown. Bledsoe contributes per-48 minutes numbers of 21.2 points, 7.3 assists, 3.6 steals, 6.9 rebounds and 1.8 blocks (the last two stats being amazing numbers for somebody who’s only 6’1”).
All-NBA Second Team
In the backcourt we have two former teammates in Westbrook and Harden. The bearded Rocket is leading the NBA in made free throws while being fifth in scoring, second in true shooting percentage, fourth in win shares, and 10th in PER.
Look for this to be Westbrook’s third straight All-NBA Second Team selection. Westbrook is the only man in the NBA to be top 5 in points per game and top 10 in assists per game. Westbrook is also third in the NBA in steals and tenth in win shares.
At the forward slots we have the two best forwards in the NBA after LeBron and KD. Both are two of the 10 players in the NBA right now to have amassed at least 1,000 points this season; both are in the top 10 in player efficiency rating. Griffin is also in the top 20 in both rebounds and steals.
Lopez makes the cut as the man most responsible for the Nets’ resurgence, and also for being the only center in the NBA to average 18 points a game this season. Lopez is the only center in the league to have a PER of 23 or more.
Most Improved Player: Greivis Vasquez, Hornets
There are a number of plausible candidates for the MIP Award. Paul George and James Harden both made their first All-Star appearances while making significant improvements in their game at both ends of the floor.
However, it’s Greivis Vasquez who has the most solid argument. Compared to the 2011-12 season, the Hornets’ point guard is averaging five more points, four more assists and two more rebounds per game this season. He’s also seen his PER increase from a below-average 14.2 to an above-average 16.9.
Defensive Player of the Year: Joakim Noah, Bulls
The DPOY has become, “just hand it to a solid big man” of late. This year, it’s time for the Bulls’ sixth-year Frenchman to take it home. Joakim Noah is leading all big men in defensive win shares, and is in the top 10 in the NBA in a number of other important categories, including: total rebounds, defensive rebounds, blocks, and defensive rating.
All-NBA First Team
At the two forward spots are the two best players in the NBA right now. I needn’t delineate the arguments for having LeBron and KD as All-NBA First Team.
All-Star Game MVP Chris Paul should make his third All-NBA First Team this season. Paul is third in the NBA in assists and is leading the league in steals for the sixth straight season. He’s also third in player efficiency rating behind LeBron and KD.
The Lakers are in the tank right now, but not because of Kobe Bryant. Bryant is posting his best PER in three seasons and his best true shooting percentage in five. He’s fourth in points per game while averaging over five assists a game and coming into the top 10 in win shares.
Chandler is leading the entire NBA in field-goal percentage and offensive rebounds, and all centers in win shares. The fact that he makes All-NBA First Team is a bit of a sad commentary on the fact that this is less and less of a big man’s game nowadays.
Rookie of the Year: Damien Lillard, Blazers
At present, the Rookie of the Year race is a two-person battle between point guard Damien Lillard and big man Andre Drummond. The two are the only two rookies to add more than five wins to their team by Hollinger’s numbers.
Of the two, I’ve decided to give it to Lillard as he is leading all rookies in both points (18.3) and assists (6.5), far outstripping Drummond in the points created category.
Coach of the Year: Mark Jackson, Warriors
The NBA has a habit of giving out Red Auerbach Trophies to young, inexperienced coaches who have skippered their teams to the playoffs. There are three coaches that fit that M.O.: Vinny Del Negro, Frank Vogel and Mark Jackson.
I think the award has Jackson’s name on it. He’s guiding the Warriors to their first playoff spot in six years without superstar talent, and in only his second season of coaching (that’s coaching anything, not just head coaching). The Warriors’ win percentage has improved from 38 percent to 58 percent from last year to this year.
Most Valuable Player: Kevin Durant, Thunder
Though LeBron bests Durant in player efficiency rating, I’m giving it to Durant owing to the fact that he’s leading the league in scoring, the fact that he has more win shares (either offensively or defensively) than LeBron, the fact that OKC has a better record than Miami, and the general fact that he’s due to win one.