The first-ever National Basketball Players Association Awards were handed out Sunday in Las Vegas, but the results of the voting were revealed in a nationally televised broadcast Tuesday evening.
While the league's official hardware was doled out following the conclusion of the 2014-15 regular season, the NBPA Awards provided a chance for players to cast votes and recognize their peers for accomplishments made throughout one of the most entertaining campaigns in recent memory.
NBPA Executive Director Michele Roberts explained the rationale behind the event in an official press release back on April 27:
Our players have long wanted to recognize greatness from within their own ranks, and with the first-ever Basketball Players Awards we have created a vehicle for them to do so. The level of participation from players in the voting process has been overwhelming so far and we are looking forward to unveiling all of the results this July in Las Vegas.
While the evening's festivities gave conventional awards like MVP, Best Rookie and Best Defender, the players also handed out trophies for Best Home Court Advantage, Player You Secretly Wish Was on Your Team and Clutch Performer, among others.
However, as Grantland's Zach Lowe observed, the wording of one award could use some tweaking:
"We as players want the opportunity to recognize our peers," Carmelo Anthony said, according to the NBPA press release. "We are making that happen with our own award show."
Here's a look at the complete list of winners from the inaugural event:
|2015 NBPA Award Winners|
|Most Valuable Player||James Harden, SG, Houston Rockets|
|Best Defender||DeAndre Jordan, C, Los Angeles Clippers|
|Man of the Year||Ray Allen|
|Hardest to Guard||Stephen Curry, PG, Golden State Warriors|
|Clutch Performer||Stephen Curry, PG, Golden State Warriors|
|Coach You Most Want to Play For||Gregg Popovich, San Antonio Spurs|
|Game-Changer Honor||Allen Iverson|
|Oscar Robertson Visionary Award||Chris Paul, PG, Los Angeles Clippers|
|Best Homecourt Advantage||Oracle Arena (Golden State Warriors)|
|Player You Secretly Wish Was on Your Team||LeBron James, SF, Cleveland Cavaliers|
|Source: BET Broadcast|
Best Defender: DeAndre Jordan
Kawhi Leonard bested DeAndre Jordan for Defensive Player of the Year honors at season's end, but Jordan exacted a bit of revenge at the NBPA Awards by nabbing the Best Defender hardware.
It's not hard to see why.
En route to being named to the All-Defensive First Team, Jordan averaged 2.2 blocks and one steal, making him and Anthony Davis the only players to boast that accomplishment last season.
According to SportVU player-tracking data, Jordan held opponents to conversion rates 2.7 percent lower than the league average inside of six feet. Overall, opponents shot 0.7 percent below the league average with Jordan as their primary defender.
With spring-loaded legs and a knack for altering shots at the rim, Jordan has emerged as one of the league's most respected defenders, even if he's yet to establish himself as a master of advanced analytics.
Hardest to Guard: Stephen Curry
BET passed along confirmation of Curry's victory:
Players, your thoughts?
"You can't really stop him," Pelicans point guard Jrue Holiday told ESPN Insider's Jeff Goodman on Jan. 18. "Obviously, you slow him down. He likes 3s a lot so you try and run him off the line. You either just got to play it right or have him make a mistake."
How about another ringing endorsement?
"You can't," Chicago Bulls floor general Derrick Rose said of stopping Curry, per Goodman. "You just have to contest. That's the God's honest truth. He's got a God's gift with his touch."
Not only did Curry lead the league with 286 three-pointers, but his efficiency in pull-up and dribble-drive situations was staggering.
SportVU player-tracking data indicates Curry nailed 44 percent of his total pull-up shots, including a bewildering 42.3 percent from beyond the arc. Furthermore, Curry converted on 53.4 percent of his drives, per SportVU, which ranked No. 7 overall among players who attempted at least five drives per game.
And let's not forget the passing.
Curry averaged 7.7 assists throughout the 2014-15 season, and that number put him in some impressive company.
"Curry, ever the master of the one-handed pass off the bounce, improved his assist-to-turnover ratio—a big knock on him in 2013-14—and now stands as one of the top 10 dime-dropping MVPS of all time," Bleacher Report's Adam Fromal wrote.
With arguably the most aesthetically pleasing game in the league, Curry's prime should be a joy to watch unfold over the next few seasons.
Most Valuable Player: James Harden
Incidentally, the nominees for Hardest to Guard and Most Valuable Player were identical.
But the winners were not.
Harden took home NBPA MVP honors after a standout 2014-15 season that saw the bearded 2-guard average a career-best 27.4 points, seven assists and 5.7 rebounds while shooting 44 percent from the field and 37.5 percent from three.
The Rockets' official Twitter account congratulated Harden on the triumph:
Simply put, the Rockets were helpless without Harden.
According to NBA.com, Houston's offensive rating dropped by 14 points per 100 possessions when Harden was on the bench. Numerically, that means Houston scored 107.7 points per 100 possessions with Harden on the floor and 93.7 when he sat. Had that mark of 93.7 spanned the entire season, it would have ranked ahead of only the lowly Philadelphia 76ers.
Throughout the course of the 2014-15 season, Harden could be found carrying the Rockets on his back thanks to his flair for isolation theatrics.
According to Synergy Sports play-type data, he compiled 576 isolation possessions last season—118 more than LeBron. During those possessions, Harden scored the rock at a 1.01 point-per-possession clip, which put him in the 89th percentile for isolation scoring.
Harden only received first-place nods from 20 percent of voters on this year's official ballots submitted by the media, but in the eyes of his fellow players, Harden's performances were consistently the most game-changing.
When all was said and done, the NBPA Awards offered a unique twist on a conventional process.
It was a ceremony for the players and by the players, and their votes revealed a great deal about how those on the inside view the game.
And while there's still no perfect formula for selecting award-winners—whether they're done by the players or media—the NBPA honors can continue to act as a check and balance on the traditional system and offer the players an even greater voice.