Midseason Worst of the Worst NBA Awards
It is customary for some websites to hand out midseason awards to celebrate the best individual achievements in the first half of the NBA season. However, nobody has ever handed out hardware to commemorate the year's low points.
The seven awards that will be handed out here represent the polar opposite of the traditional trophies you've come to know, love and debate over. You can consider these basketball's own version of the Razzies.
With your help, this could become our own yearly staple. Sure, it's a bit negative, but the worst of the worst deserve recognition, too. This is all in jest and not made to slander any player, team or fanbase.
As always, reader participation is encouraged. If you feel like there is a more deserving candidate for these awards or take issue with any of the winners, feel free to politely make your voice heard in the comments section.
Least Improved Player
Here Is Your Winner: Jan Vesely, PF, Washington Wizards
Several players have put together a strong first half en route to a potential breakout season.
Washington Wizards forward Jan Vesely is not one of those people.
Vesely is currently averaging 3.6 points per game (which is up from last year's 2.5 PPG) while logging around 16 minutes a night. Midway through his third season, the 23-year-old has 325 fouls compared to 494 points.
This couldn't have been what the Wiz were expecting when they selected Vesely with the No. 6 overall pick in the 2011 NBA draft. Here are some names of guys taken after the Czech Republic phenom:
- Klay Thompson (potential star for the Warriors)
- Markieff and Marcus Morris (developing into solid role players in Phoenix)
- Kawhi Leonard (future star for San Antonio)
- Nikola Vucevic (one of the league's rising young big men in Orlando)
- Iman Shumpert (solid overall player when healthy)
- Kenneth Faried (Denver rebounding machine)
- Reggie Jackson (filling in admirably for Russell Westbrook in OKC)
- Jimmy Butler (future star for the "rebuilding" Bulls)
Vesely, meanwhile, has played in 28 of the team's first 44 games. He's currently sitting behind guys like Nene and Trevor Booker. If or when Al Harrington returns from a knee injury, he's likely to dip into Vesely's playing time as well.
At this point, the once-coveted European prospect looks like a lost cause.
Worst Coach of the Year
Here Is Your Winner: Larry Drew, Milwaukee Bucks
This could have gone in a number of directions. Brooklyn's Jason Kidd took a ton of early bumps, including being called "the worst coach in the NBA" back in November by ESPN's David Thorpe, but has since improved (8-2 in the Nets' last 10 games).
Orlando's Jacque Vaughn has had his struggles as well. The Magic currently post the second-worst record in the NBA at 12-34. Neither take the cake quite like Bucks head coach Larry Drew.
Drew inherited a Bucks team that backed into the playoffs last year as the eighth seed and turned them into the worst team in the NBA. Milwaukee currently sits at the bottom of the standings at a putrid 8-36. This is despite having a roster that isn't completely devoid of talent.
Brandon Knight and O.J. Mayo form a promising-yet-inconsistent backcourt. Center Larry Sanders, while injured for much of the year, is one of the league's emerging big men. Forward John Henson is having a breakout year and rookie Giannis Antetokounmpo has shown a ton of potential.
Still, the Bucks are dead last in scoring (91.1 points per game) and 25th in rebounding (41.2 boards per contest). They are 1-9 in their last 10 games and have won two of their last 17. With the No. 1 pick well within their grasp, it's unlikely that the Bucks do much to jeopardize their draft status. (The Magic are 5.5 games ahead of them.)
The only question becomes whether Drew will be around to reap the benefits from this magnificent tank job.
Worst Sixth Man of the Year
Here Is Your Winner: Gerald Wallace, SF, Boston Celtics
Even though he has found himself in the starting rotation lately due to injuries, Gerald Wallace played enough minutes off of the bench to warrant consideration for this award. Sure, he may or may not be the team's designated sixth man, but that's semantics at this point.
Regardless of what you consider him, we can all agree he hasn't been good in his first season with the Celtics. Wallace is logging a little over 23 minutes per game and averaging 4.7 points a night. He's also contributing 3.3 rebounds per contest.
In his two most recent games (both starts), Wallace posted a plus/minus of minus-27 (Jan. 28 at the Knicks) and minus-14 (vs. the Nets on Jan. 26), respectively.
Those numbers combined with his large salary ($10.1 million this season with a little over $20 million owed in the next two seasons) help give him the nod for this award. The Celtics are less effective when he's on the floor, and his decline weighs the team down regardless of what role he plays.
Worst Defensive Player of the Year
Here Is Your Winner: Andrea Bargnani, PF, New York Knicks
As with any of these awards, you could make the case for a number of candidates in this spot. Houston's James Harden has struggled on defense this season. The same for guys like Cleveland's Kyrie Irving, Portland's Mo Williams and Minnesota's Nikola Pekovic.
Inevitably, Andrea Bargnani is the pick. For all of his offensive skill, the former No. 1 overall pick struggles on the other end of the court. He doesn't come up with a ton of steals (14 this season). He isn't a huge shot-blocker and he doesn't rebound well (or, at least, as well as he should for his size).
Opponents also seem to score at will on the tall Italian. According to 82games.com, Bargnani has an effective field-goal percentage allowed of 52.7 percent when he's on the floor. When he's off the court, that number shrinks down to 50 percent.
When you add all of that up, you get a big man that has become a walking turnstile on defense. Making matters worse, the big man is dealing with a torn ligament in his elbow that will keep him out indefinitely, according to ESPN's Ohm Youngmisuk.
It's the latest setback in what has been a tough year for the Knicks.
Rookie Bust of the Year
Here Is Your Winner: Anthony Bennett, F, Cleveland Cavaliers
It hasn't been a great year for rookies so far. With the exception of Philadelphia's Michael Carter-Williams and Utah's Trey Burke, very few of this year's crop of freshmen have made an immediate impact in the season's first half.
With that being said, naming Anthony Bennett the worst of this year's draft class was the closest thing to a no-brainer in this entire article. The No. 1 overall pick has struggled mightily in his debut season. He's averaging 2.8 points and 2.4 rebounds per game, while shooting a horrid 28 percent from the field.
He scored more points (15) in his career game against New Orleans on Jan. 28 than he's had in all of his January games combined (13 points in seven games).
"That includes Greg Oden. Oden was injured all the time, but when he played, he at least looked like a No. 1 pick."
There hasn't been much to change that perception (unless you believe his big night against New Orleans is a sign of things to come). Bennett's struggles have been a combination of a lack of playing time and just overall ineffectiveness.
He hasn't found a natural position, nor has he been able to find a comfort zone offensively when he's on the floor. He doesn't defend well enough to play power forward, and his poor three-point percentage (19 percent) make it tough to play him at the 3.
Bennett has said he's open to playing in the D-League, according to Yahoo! Sports' Eric Freeman, but the Cavs have been reluctant to send him (which is mind-boggling). With so many forwards on the roster and the team looking to make a playoff run now, there seems to be little room for growth on this Cleveland roster for the former UNLV star.
It's still too early to close the book on the 20-year-old. However, from what we've seen so far, the future doesn't look very promising.
Least Valuable Player
Here Is Your Winner: Royce White, F, formerly of the Philadelphia 76ers
This inevitably came down to Royce White and Andrew Bynum. Both are currently unemployed. Both seem to have a lack of interest in being professional basketball players. Both have never taken a regular-season dribble as a member of the Philadelphia 76ers (albeit in different seasons).
The fact that both are still unemployed, despite a number of potential suitors that could use their services, speaks volumes about both men. Bynum signed with Cleveland in the offseason, but was suspended in December for conduct detrimental to the team, according to ESPN's Brian Windhorst.
Inevitably, the Cavs shipped Bynum to Chicago along with some draft picks in a deal for All-Star forward Luol Deng. The Bulls eventually waived the ex-Lakers center, and he's been on the market ever since.
Meanwhile, White kicked off this season by getting traded to Philadelphia for future draft considerations. This came after a tumultuous first year in Houston in which he played zero regular-season minutes for the Rockets.
Like Bynum, White was eventually waived, lasting just three months with his new team. While the result was the same, the difference in compensation is what gives White the nod over Bynum.
For as disappointing as Bynum's first two months in Cleveland were, the team at least got something out of him in the form of both production (8.4 points, 5.3 rebounds, 1.2 blocks per game) and assets (a half-season rental of Deng).
Philadelphia, while giving up very little to get White, got nothing in return for kicking the tires on the troubled forward. Furthermore, the man who drafted White, Rockets GM Daryl Morey, couldn't shy from throwing a few jabs at his former draft pick.
"I take some sort of pride that you could argue that Royce White is the worst first-round pick ever," Morey said in an interview with ClutchFans' Ben DuBose. "He's the only one that never played a minute in the NBA that wasn't just a foreign guy staying in Europe."
There have been plenty of guys who have been dead weight for their respective teams this season. Bynum is certainly one of them. It's tough to make the case that any of them were less valuable than Royce White though.
He may have cost the team very little, but he somehow managed to give them even less.
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