NBA Season Awards

17 04 2009

Well it’s the end of the NBA regular season so it’s time for my awards:

MVP: LeBron James

Runner up: Dwayne Wade

Most commentators are seeing this as a no contest – LeBron James has been the best player on the best team and at the same time has been utterly dominant. But to me this disguises the fact that he had a pretty good supporting cast. While none are exactly stellar (and yes I know Mo Williams was an All Star) they are all skilled role players and love playing with LeBron. Whether it’s the energetic pesky defence of Anderson Varejao and Delonte West or the spot up shooting of Zydrunas Ilgauskas and Wally Szczerbiak this is a team built to complement LeBron. What also can’t be underestimated is having virtually the entire team together for a season and a half. They know how to play together and the results have shown.

But for me what Dwayne Wade has done with the Miami Heat, leading them to the fifth spot in the East is just as astounding. Who else on the Heat is comparable to LeBron’s supporting cast?  Udonis Haslem is capable of accomplishing a Varejao kind of role and Michael Beasley has the potential to be an All Star but there is little else other than those two. You stick LeBron with Wade’s crew and I expect you’d see roughly the same record.

There are other notable candidates, especially Chris Paul with New Orleans who has almost as bad a supporting cast as Wade, Dwight Howard with Orlando, Paul Pierce with Boston (how Boston have been able to claim the second seed in the East with so many injuries is astounding) and of course the perennial Kobe Bryant with the Lakers.

But in the end LeBron wins it. He’s the best player, playing for the best team and doing it in such a dominating fashion – both defensively and offensively.

Coach of the Year: Mike Brown

Runner up: Stan Van Gundy

A few weeks back this award was going to go to Jerry Sloan for the way he got his team to compete despite all the awful injury luck they had. Then they limped their way to the playoffs, losing 7 of their last 10 games. So that forced a rethink and that means, Mike Brown, step on down. He coached the Cavs to 66 wins and a fearsome 39 – 2 record at home. This award should almost be as slam dunk as LeBron for MVP. His runner up: Stan Van Gundy for getting the Magic to 59 wins, about 9 wins more than what many expected.

Rookie of the Year: Derrick Rose

Runner up: Brooke Lopez

Derrick Rose had the pressure of being the number 1 pick AND playing in his home city and he didn’t disappoint. He managed to lead a flawed Chicago team to the playoffs in only his first year. He gave a tantalising preview of what should be a stupendous talent in years to come. In a deep draft Brooke Lopez showed that being drafted 10th was several positions too low. Lopez proved to be the centre the Nets were looking for both the present and the future.

Defensive Player of the Year: Dwight Howard

Runner up: Dwayne Wade

With Kevin Garnett and Tim Duncan limited with injuries and the catching up of time, Dwight Howard stands out as the obvious candidate in this category. He lead the league in rebounds and blocks and while no one will mistake him for Bill Russell (would it hurt Howard once in a while to block the ball to a team mate?) he was the lynchpin on which the Orlando Magic defence relied. Dwayne Wade had a spectacular season (see the MVP runner up above) on offence AND defence. He was second in the league in steals and an astonishing (for a guard) 16th in blocks.

Most Improved Player: Kevin Durant

Runners up: Rajon Rondo, Devin Harris, Paul Millsap

I don’t know how much of Kevin Durant’s development this season can be attributed to his natural evolution or the firing of PJ Carlisemo. Whatever the case Durant has developed into a stud who will be making All Star games in the very near future. I had a hard time choosing between Rajan Rondo, Devin Harris and Paul Millsap for my runner up so I’ve decided to stick em all in. They all became critical players for their teams.

Sixth Man of the Year: Jason Terry

Runner up: Nate Robinson

Just as much as a foregone conclusion as the MVP. He averaged 19.6 points off the bench for the Mavs, good for 23rd in the NBA. He is the Mavs second best player and a game changer every time he comes on the court. Nate Robinson is a worthy runner up, a spark plug who can change how the game is played. He just wasn’t quite as good as Terry.  

And for interest here are my picks from the beginning of the season. I got one right. Ouch.

Advertisements




time to panic?

19 03 2009

Well it looks like the Boston Celtics are stumbling their way to the end of the season. They’re still going to end up with one of the best records in the NBA, they currently have a 50 – 18 record and they can probably manage 60 wins and the 2nd or 3rd seed in the East but not too long ago this team looked like they were going to easily win 65+ games. The reason is pretty obvious for the slump: injuries. They’ve got way too many injuries to key players.

The most notable of course is Kevin Garnett. I remember a few weeks back when he first got injured and the team won a few games the PTI crew posed the question that the Celtics were better without him. Uh, I guess you can see the answer now. Without KG the Celtics are not the same – his stats might be down but he is the emotional centre and lynchpin of the defence. Also he gets you about 18 ppg. Without KG too much pressure falls on Paul Pierce and Ray Allen to score.

For today’s game against the Miami Heat, Celtics Blog listed the Celtics injuries as:

Tony Allen (thumb) out
Kevin Garnett (knee) out
Brian Scalabrine (head) out
Glen Davis (ankle) day to day
Eddie House (ankle/heel) probable
Ray Allen (elbow) questionable
Rajon Rondo (ankle) questionable
Leon Powe (knee) questionable
Paul Pierce (flu-like symptoms)  probable

That’s pretty much your defending champions right there. Ouch. The only starter not on that list is Kendrick Perkins.

I’ve been reading stuff about how they wouldn’t mind losing a few games now if everyone is fit for the playoffs. It kinda suggests that Celtics fans shouldn’t panic. That’s all well and good but other than KG, which of the players is being kept out to rest up? Rajan Rondo is playing with a sprained ankle, Scalabrine is possibly out for the season and worse, Paul Pierce is having to play extended minutes. My point is, there is no guarantee any of those guys are going to be 100% fit for the playoffs and with the way the season is going they’re more than likely going to suffer more injuries.

Maybe it is a time to get worried. I know the Celtics are good enough but are they healthy enough?





starbury=iago

6 03 2009

This post on the Onion is hilarious – Stephon Marbury as a Shakespearian villain. As long as it’s not like a prophecy or anything. Because that would be bad, very bad.





saying “yes” to Starbury

4 03 2009

Way back at the beginning of the season I wrote a post titled: Just say “No!” to Starbury. I argued that Stephon Marbury has a caustic personality and that I hoped my teams wouldn’t sign him. And of course last week the Celtics finally signed him. My feelings are ambivalent on this one. I still believe he will be a problematic personality and ultimately will harm this team in some way but I have a sneaking suspicion that it won’t be this year. Next year he’ll be a problem, without a doubt but this year he’ll be looking to redeem himself somewhat.

Besides, the Celtics really need him. Mikki Moore, who they also signed, isn’t the answer – he’s a garbage time player, too erratic to really help. Starbury though, he can be a game changer. He can score, distribute, hit the big shot and play defence when necessary. We don’t need him to score 20 a game, we need him to score 8 or 9 at a clutch moment. We can’t always expect Allen and Pierce to do it all. I also think he can play with Rondo and take the pressure off him as a playmaker. Look at the way Maurice Williams and Delonte West play together for the Cavs – both can be playmakers and scorers and they take the pressure off LeBron to do everything.

But all this is based on potential. Stephon Marbury has the potential to redeem himself and be known as the guy who helped the Celtics win back-to-back championships. But he needs to want it. He needs to be the perfect citizen. I’m hoping he does.





A tale of 3 Kevins

20 12 2008

Has there been a more stupid executive in the NBA in the last decade or so than Kevin McHale?

I loved the Minnesota Timberwolves. They were the team that I first connected to when I started to seriously follow the NBA. I’m ashamed to say that one of the main reasons was the logo and name (I went through a phase when I loved anything to do with wolves) but I also loved Kevin Garnett. Even as a rookie he swiftly became one of my favourites.

With Tom Gugliotta and Stephon Marbury the Timberwolves looked set to dominate the NBA for a decade but then Starbury fled and it all fell rather flat. McHale did manage to obtain Terrell Brandon to soften the blow of Starbury’s disappearance but the Timberwolves were no longer a team on the rise.

With KG the T-wolves were always competitive but McHale’s ineptitude meant he was never surrounded by the quality supporting talent needed to be a contender. It was exacerbated with the dreadful Joe Smith saga where they illegally tried to sign him only to be revealed and lose several years worth of draft picks. It wasn’t till they acquired Latrell Sprewell and Sam Cassell, two quality All Star level talents that the Timberwolves blossomed. It proved that if you put the right players around him, Garnett could carry the team deep into the playoffs.

Then it all kinda fell apart. The team failed to make the playoffs for the next couple of years and finally KG was traded to the Celtics where he promptly won a championship. Well done Kevin McHale! You built a champion but for the wrong team. Doh!

The case against McHale gets more damning when you consider his lottery picks. He lucked out with KG, he will be in the Hall of Fame but he has had little other success.

In 2006 they traded #6 pick Brandon Roy for #7 pick Randy Foye. Foye has been a solid NBA player but I doubt whether he will ever be a star. He’s a tweener, neither point nor shooting guard while Roy is now an All Star and the centrepiece of the upstart Portland Trail Blazers.

Last year they drafted Corey Brewer when players like Al Thornton, Thaddeus Young, Rodney Stuckey, Rudy Fernandez and Carl Landry were still available. All of those players would have been better fits.

The true travesty was in this year’s draft where they drafted rising superstar OJ Mayo and traded him to the Memphis Grizzlies for Kevin Love. I wrote at the time:

Word of advice don’t trade away an athletic potential superstar for a big white stiff, just not a good idea 

and I guess I have never written more prophetic words. OJ Mayo currently heads David Thorpe’s Rookie Rankings while Love is languishing at #11. I’ll be delighted if Love proves me wrong but I doubt it.

McHale’s stewardship has been a tragedy. Can you imagine if Roy was playing alongside Garnett? The two of them would most probably have the Timberwolves back in the playoff hunt. Of course then McHale would undoubtedly have stuffed the whole thing up.





Fave vs Fave – the Trail Blazers vs Celtics

6 12 2008

Well that was brutal. I’d circled today’s NBA game on ESPN as one of the few must see games. It featured my beloved Celtics up against the Trail Blazers, the team which is swiftly becoming my favourite out west (if only because the Timberwolves are so awful and we never get to see their games anymore). It shaped as a good-un, the Celtics were riding a 10 game win streak, the Blazers a 6 game streak.

In the end it was no contest, the Celtics handed out a beat down, and even a late game rally by the Blazers couldn’t disguise the gulf between the two teams. The Celtics displayed the swagger and intimidation they’ve earned as NBA champs while the Blazers showed just how far they have to go to be considered one of the truly elite teams.

Despite the beat down I still really enjoyed the game – it’s one thing to follow a team through boxscores and recaps, and quite another to watch them play. It showed me a few things:

  • KG is still the man though he seems to be settling for too many jumpshots, get on the block man!
  • The Celtics really love to trash talk and it was almost embarrassing watching the Trail Blazers try to answer back. Ultimately that seemed to take the Blazers out of their game.
  • Rajan Rondo is really really good this year, not quite in Tony Parker’s class offensively, but a superb defender and rebounder nonetheless.
  • I’ve realised that I have a man crush on Leon Powe. I just love watching him play.  
  • Despite the way the Lakers and Cavaliers are playing I’d still favour the Celtics in a series against them. The Lakers are too soft, the Celtics will just bully them like they do all finesse teams. The Cavaliers will have to play at the peak of their powers to match the Celtics and I don’t know if they could do that for seven games.
  • The Celtics are playing brilliant team basketball and that’s what’s beating teams at the moment. They really make the extra pass and rarely are they outhustled.
  • The Blazers are still really young. They need to acquire a hard nosed veteran to play alongside Oden and Aldridge. Can you imagine how much better they’d be with Garnett or Duncan in their ears?
  • The Blazers have the potential to be really really exciting. Against lesser teams they’ll rack up the points, especially with Rudy Fernandez and Travis Outlaw off the bench.  
  • Greg Oden is still figuring out how to play the game at the pro level though I firmly believe he’ll be fine by the end of the season (assuming he stays healthy)
  • The Trail Blazers need a point guard. How good would they be with someone like Calderon or Nash? The starter, Steve Blake, is a solid back up but they need more of a floor general out there. I know the excellent Brandon Roy does a lot of the ball handling for them but it would probably be a good idea to investigate the options out there.




serious NBA lackage

6 11 2008

Man, it’s just over a week into the season and I’ve remembered why I hate the coverage of the NBA down here in NZ. I have seen one game, yep, one. The Boston Celtics versus the Chicago Bulls. It was a no contest, the Celtics were too intense, too focussed and way too skilled for the Bulls. At least I got to see Derrick Rose. The kid is going to be gooooood.  

I was supposed to watch the Spurs versus Suns but it got bumped for the World Series. What do I care about the World Series? Bah. This afternoon it’s the Cavs versus the Bulls. I’ll watch it when I get home from work. I’m feeling a bit meh about the contest (why oh why couldn’t they have shown us the Rockets versus Celtics earlier this week?) but at least it’s a game 🙂

I’ve been watching highlights on NBA.com but its not the same – hell, highlights make Vince Carter look like an MVP!

Some thoughts on the NBA season: 

  • Greg Oden’s injury is depressing – I still think the Trail Blazers have enough to make the playoffs but will Oden be there? He hasn’t even made it through one game so far!
  • I think Denver definitely “won” the trade with Detroit. Chauncey Billups gives them a legitimate point guard who can distribute and take over a game when necessary. If they had kept Marcus Camby then they would be a dark horse favourite out west. Detroit on the other hand acquired Allen Iverson who is still an amazing athlete and scorer as well as possessing a juicy expiring contract. Yet I don’t feel this trade. Does AI’s game fit with the Pistons? He’s a ball hog and when he achieved his success in Philadelphia that was their gameplan. Detroit play a more structured team game and I’m just not convinced that AI is a good fit. Where does he play? At the point? In place of Richard Hamilton? Off the bench? It’ll be interesting to see.
  • The Celtics will lose a few games through the regular season that they shouldn’t (like the Indiana loss) but they’ll be dominant by the playoffs.
  • I don’t think the San Antonio Spurs are done, despite starting 0 – 3, but I think there are worrying signs. They’ll make the playoffs but we’ll have to wait and see how Ginobili comes back from his layoff.

Anyway, there’s my thoughts so far. You guys in the states don’t know how lucky you are!