April 19, 2016, 2:18 pm
It’s that time of the year again where players and coaches are getting hardware to show off and add to their legacies. Ballots are already finished and the association is releasing awards so let me take you through my votes:
MVP: The Race for Second Place
- Stephen Curry
- LeBron James
- Kawhi Leonard
- Chris Paul
- Kevin Durant
Let’s get the easy one out of the way: Stephen Curry was the most dominant player this year and took headlines nearly every week. Here are a couple of the feats he recorded this season:
Best player on 73-win team
1st player to make over 300 and 400 threes
1st player with 50-40-90 and 30 PPG
8th best PER in a season (31.56)
5th player to lead the NBA in total steals in back-to-back seasons
There isn’t much of a discussion around this award.
The real discussion is around who gets second place. Personally, I think that coaching should factor into who deserves the award. Gregg Popovich finds ways to put his players in a position to succeed. LeBron James takes on more responsibility than just about any other NBA player does today. He is constantly coaching, making teammates better and trying to get everyone involved in the offense. He recognizes when people need touches and when it is time for him to take over. Over the last few months of the season, James went into playoff mode and showed the NBA why he is consistently one of the greatest forces we have ever seen. Surprisingly, LeBron also played more games than Kawhi Leonard this season.
Chris Paul deserves to be fourth on this list because he took on more responsibility from December 26th to March 31st than just about anyone in the NBA. During that stretch, the Clippers were 30-15 with the 6th-highest win percentage in the league.
The last spot was a tough one because Russell Westbrook deserves a look as well. He recorded the most triple-doubles in a season since the times when Wilt Chamberlain and Oscar Robertson would record them every couple of games. The analytics guy inside of me sees what Kevin Durant did this season and sees that he had the second-best PER and thinks that there is no way that he doesn’t make the top-5.
Others receiving consideration: Russell Westbrook, Kyle Lowry, Damian Lillard
Rookie of the Year: The KAT is out of the Bag
- Karl-Anthony Towns
- Kristaps Porzingis
- Nikola Jokic
- Devin Booker
- Justise Winslow
I have documented my passion for Karl-Anthony Towns multiple times this season. He is a special player and the Minnesota Timberwolves are lucky to have him. His season has been up there with the great rookie seasons of Tim Duncan, Shaquille O’Neal, David Robinson and Hakeem Olajuwon. There is no question that he is the unanimous Rookie of the Year.
The rest of the field is not as easy. I struggled with Nikola Jokic vs. Kristaps Porzingis but Porzingis carried a larger load for more of the season than Jokic. Both are phenomenal players who have all-star potential in this league.
After that, it was tough to leave Jahlil Okafor off, but I wanted to reward the guys who played most of the season. Devin Booker looks like the next Klay Thompson with more playmaking ability offensively. Booker was asked to carry the load for a long stretch this season when Eric Bledsoe and Brandon Knight suffered injuries. He took it in stride and averaged 3.5 assists from the time that he recorded his first start to the end of the season. Unlike Thompson, he still has a ways to go defensively.
Justise Winslow didn’t do anything eye-popping on the stat sheet but he was an excellent defender and contributor for the third seed in the East. He has a lot of untapped potential and I expect him to take a big leap next season.
Others receiving consideration: Jahlil Okafor, D’Angelo Russell, Myles Turner, Emmanuel Mudiay