Blog Entry

My 2009-10 Awards Ballot

Posted on: April 14, 2010 5:34 pm
Edited on: April 14, 2010 7:00 pm
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As we put the regular season behind us and turn our eyes toward the playoffs, it’s time to reveal my 2009-10 award votes. 

Two awards are obvious: LeBron James as MVP and Dwight Howard as defensive player of the year. In the other categories, we had some of the closest races in recent memory. In a series of video sessions with Lauren Shehadi, I’ve given my top candidates in all categories and have changed my mind several times. But there is no more time for that; it’s time to vote. These selections, identical to those on the ballot I’m submitting to the league office Wednesday, are binding. 

So here are my votes, submitted to the league office Wednesday, with explanations for how I arrived at my conclusions:

MVP

1. LeBron James, Cavaliers.
2. Dwight Howard, Magic.
3. Kobe Bryant, Lakers.
4. Dwyane Wade, Heat.
5. Kevin Durant, Thunder.

Thinking: Any way you crunch the numbers, LeBron had the best year. He easily satisfied my No. 1 MVP criterion because he was the best player on the best team. His impact transcended scoring, as LeBron was by far the highest assist man among non-point guards with more than eight assists per game. If he wanted to win the scoring title, he could’ve done that, too. 

I’ll be interested to see how many of my colleagues have Dwight Howard second on their MVP ballots. I was swayed by two key factors in elevating Howard to second: The difference between 3-5 – Kobe Bryant, Dwyane Wade and Kevin Durant – was like splitting hairs. Howard stood out because he was so far and away the best defensive player in the league – and that should count in the MVP voting, too. He’ll lead the league in blocks and rebounding again, becoming the only player in NBA history to do that more than once. In my estimation, Howard’s impact in the defensive and rebounding phases of the game was greater than the offensive impact delivered by Bryant, Wade and Durant. (Oh, by the way, Howard also will lead the league in field-goal percentage.) Wade and Bryant are elite defenders for stretches, but not every possession; it would be impossible to do that and still exert their influence on the offensive end. Durant is an elite scorer and vastly improved defender, but still not an elite one. 

Loyal readers/viewers will note that I had Wade and Durant ahead of Bryant in Tuesday’s MVP video, but I couldn’t bring myself to do that officially. Kobe took a step back from his usual level of production due to an assortment of injuries. But he’s still Kobe, the most dangerous closer in the NBA with a league-high six game-winning shots. Frankly, the idiotic Rolling Stone article saying that Durant had passed Bryant in the NBA pecking order sent me over the edge. Look at the resumes. Despite his slow start to the season, I gave Wade the nod over Durant because of how much he has to do for his team – and because of his staying power. Also, Wade’s assist and steals numbers are impressive for a non-point guard who has to do it all for his team. 

With so many outstanding candidates, somebody had to get snubbed. On my ballot, it was Dirk Nowitzki, who clearly had a season worthy of MVP consideration. I gave Durant a slight edge due to the enormous role he played in leading the youngest, cheapest team in the league to the playoffs for the first time. 

Rookie of the Year

1. Tyreke Evans, Kings.
2. Stephen Curry, Warriors
3. Brandon Jennings, Bucks

Thinking: The rookie race had many twists and turns, and each of the top three candidates was compelling in his own way. Jennings had the most memorable individual performance, scoring 55 against Golden State in November, and hushed up the doubters by leading the upstart Bucks to the playoffs. Curry finished stronger than any rookie, averaging 20 points, 6.5 assists, 4.6 rebounds and 1.8 steals since the end of December. He’ll also become the first rookie in NBA history to shoot 45 percent from the field, 40 percent from 3-point range and 85 percent from the free-throw line. But while Curry was the stat-stuffingest rookie, he wasn’t the most consistent or impactful one in northern California, much less the NBA. Evans is my choice for his wire-to-wire performance and the impact he had on his team. No other rookie will lead his team in scoring and assists, and none will approach Evans’ 40-plus 20-point games. The clincher: Evans will join Oscar Robertson and LeBron James as the only rookies to average 20 points, five assists and five rebounds. 

Defensive Player of the Year

1. Dwight Howard, Magic.
2. Josh Smith, Hawks.
3. Andrew Bogut, Bucks. 

Thinking: Howard won’t merely lead the league in blocks (2.8) and rebounds (13.2) – he’ll do it by a lot. He’s also by far the most accomplished defensive rebounder in the league; heading into the last night of the regular season, Howard had 71 more defensive rebounds than glass specialist David Lee. Beyond Howard, this was the toughest runners-up decision on my ballot. If nothing else, the fact that there were so many capable defenders with excellent cases to be made for them debunks the myth that the NBA should be renamed the NDA – as in No-Defense Association. Couldn’t be further from the truth. I could’ve gone with Rajon Rondo, the league steals leader and my preseason pick for the award. You won’t get any complaints from me if you voted for James or Bryant, who according to Basketball Prospectus held opponents 39 percent and 22 percent below their average production, respectively. Gerald Wallace was the quarterback of the league’s best defense in terms of average points allowed. Ron Artest will be called upon to lock down the opponent’s biggest threat into late June, and may very well end up being the Defensive Player of the Postseason. But I went with Atlanta’s Josh Smith as my No. 2 pick because of his versatility. J-Smoove will join LeBron and Trevor Ariza as the only non-guards in the top 13 in steals. He’s also third in blocks; at 6-9, he’s the shortest player in the top 10 in that category. Bogut got my other vote because he’s second to Howard in blocks, second to the Thunder’s Nick Collison in charges taken, and was the anchor of a playoff-caliber defense until his season was ended by a gruesome arm injury. 

Coach of the Year

1. Scott Brooks, Thunder.
2. Jerry Sloan, Jazz.
3. Scott Skiles, Bucks. 

Thinking: It’s a sham that Sloan has never own this award. It’s also a testament to his greatness. Everybody knows Sloan has been a great coach for decades, so why bother bestowing such an insignificant trinket of appreciation on him? When the time comes, I will be one of the loudest advocates for the coach of the year award being renamed for Sloan – even if he never wins it. He’s everything a coach should be: tough, consistent, ego-less, revered and respected by his players. And I’m embarrassed to say that, once again, I can’t vote for him. The job Brooks had to do in Oklahoma City – transforming himself from interim coach to the respected, defensive-minded leader of the youngest team in the league – and then guiding that team to the playoffs? Off the charts, in my book. Brooks is exactly what the Thunder needed. Lastly, while you cannot overlook the job Nate McMillan did with a litany of injuries and front-office turmoil in Portland, my third vote goes to Skiles. I didn’t think his hard-hat style would fly with a free spirit like Jennings, but Skiles made it work. Like Brooks, he instilled a defensive mentality and relentlessly coaxed a team that needed to learn how to win into the playoffs. If not for Bogut’s injury, the Bucks would’ve presented big problems for someone in the first round – and maybe beyond. 

Sixth Man
 
1. Jamal Crawford, Hawks.
2. Anderson Varejao, Cavaliers.
3. Jason Terry, Mavericks

Thinking: This was a close call between Crawford and Varejao, and I wouldn’t argue with any of my colleagues who flip-flopped them. I gave the nod to Crawford based on the fact that he’s the highest-scoring bench player in the league at 18 points per game. He also does what any great sixth man should do – change the complexion of the game and force the opponent to strategize against him the moment he steps on the court. Varejao didn’t stand out in any one statistical category, but he was more than worthy of consideration based on his overall impact – defense, rebounding, dirty work, and yes, flopping. Terry, the 2008-09 winner, took a step back statistically but still changed the game every time he checked in. Plus, the Mavs were a better team with Terry as a reserve than they were when he started. Does that make sense? 

Most Improved
 
1. Aaron Brooks, Rockets.
2. Russell Westbrook, Thunder.
3. David Lee, Knicks

Thinking: This is by far my least favorite award. What are the criteria? Does the winner necessarily have to be a lousy player who suddenly became serviceable? In choosing Brooks, I looked at the most easily quantifiable category that measures improvement – an increase in production. Brooks went from being an 11-point scorer to a 20-point scorer, and also increased his assists output and shooting percentages from inside and outside the 3-point arc. Clearly, he was the beneficiary of increased playing time and opportunities – but a player in such a position has to be good enough to take advantage of it. Brooks certainly was. Westbrook gets my next vote because he’s the only eligible statistical leader to increase his assists more than Brooks – from 5.3 per game to 8.0 – and was the catalyst for the Thunder’s surprising leap into the playoffs. My next runner-up is the Knicks’ David Lee, who can rebound all day and is one of the best pick-and-roll finishers in the league. That’s nothing new. But he also increased his scoring (from 16.0 to 20.3), his assists (from 2.1 to 3.6) and his free-throw shooting (from .755 to .810). Lee wasn’t a product of Mike D’Antoni’s offense, but rather his own tireless work ethic. He dedicated himself to becoming a better shooter and ball handler and deserves to be rewarded. He will be, with a huge contract in July. 



All-NBA Teams 

First Team

F: LeBron James, Cavaliers
F: Carmelo Anthony, Nuggets
C: Dwight Howard, Magic
G: Kobe Bryant, Lakers
G: Dwyane Wade, Heat 

Thinking: Every spot is obvious except Anthony at forward. If you’re asking me for the five best players in the league, Melo simply has to be on that list. So he’s on mine. 

Second Team

F: Dirk Nowitzki, Mavericks
F: Kevin Durant, Thunder
C: Tim Duncan, Spurs
G: Deron Williams, Jazz
G: Steve Nash, Suns 

Thinking: Shouldn’t be too many arguments here. I actually thought so much of what Manu Ginobili did in Tony Parker’s absence that I almost slotted him on the second team, ahead of Nash. I don’t have a problem listing Duncan as a center; he’s a 7-footer, and the center position in today’s NBA has been so marginalized that the definition, for most front-court players, is meaningless. Plus, listing Duncan as a center allowed me to include Durant on the second team, where he belonged. 

Third Team

F: Pau Gasol, Lakers
F: Amar’e Stoudemire, Suns
C: Andrew Bogut, Bucks
G: Joe Johnson, Hawks 
G: Manu Ginobili, Spurs
 
Thinking: As good as Bosh’s numbers were, I couldn’t ignore Stoudemire’s triumphant return to freakishness and the fact that he did it on a 50-win team. Other notable snubs – Gerald Wallace, Josh Smith, Brandon Roy and Jason Kidd.

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Category: NBA
Tags: Awards
 
Comments

Since: Apr 14, 2010
Posted on: April 14, 2010 7:09 pm
 

My 2009-10 Awards Ballot

You're an idiot.  Bryant over Durant and you justify it by saying "look at the resumes"?  of course Kobe has a better resume idiot, hes been in the league 10 years longer.  Durant just won the scoring title at 21, did Kobe ever do that?  Durant average 30 PPG at 21, did Kobe did that at that age?  Kobe's team was just as good when he was out with injury as they were when he was playing.  Durant's team was a lottery team last season.  Ask yourself a question, would the Thunder ever trade Kevin Durant for Kobe Bryant?  The answer is an emphatic NO



Since: Apr 14, 2010
Posted on: April 14, 2010 7:07 pm
 

My 2009-10 Awards Ballot

Durant is for sure ahead of Carmelo, and is probably a better player than Carmelo already. Is Carmelo a top 5 player? Questionable.

Ginobili third team over Roy? No.

MIP? Probably Durant. He has improved the most of any player in the NBA this year, and lead his team to great hights.

Coach of the year? I would pick Skiles or McMillen or Carlisle. Brooks is up there, but when I look at what those teams went through, and the talent level of those teams, I would say their coaches did more. Brooks had Durant for the full season. Skiles and McMillen have had to play without their best players, and a litany of injuries and transactions. The Bucks are playing with a rookie PG and were below .500 for a major part of the season. McMillen had the second highest amount of injury missed games and still have more wins than Oklahoma City.





Since: Jan 15, 2009
Posted on: April 14, 2010 6:35 pm
 

My 2009-10 Awards Ballot

Agreed.  No way Melo is one of the top 5 players in the league either.  The Durantula had an awesome year and even Nowitski does more than Melo at the forward position.



Since: Aug 11, 2009
Posted on: April 14, 2010 6:00 pm
 

My 2009-10 Awards Ballot

BTW, thanks for giving Howard props. Nice to see one "expert" take into consideration defense. It doesn't happen enough.Defense psshhhh we all know its about scoring enough points and grabbing those Sportscenter highlights. Thats the key to championship basketball



Since: Aug 11, 2009
Posted on: April 14, 2010 5:55 pm
 

My 2009-10 Awards Ballot

Personally I'd have swapped Durant and Melo, but other then that looks good



Since: Jun 4, 2008
Posted on: April 14, 2010 5:38 pm
 

My 2009-10 Awards Ballot

Ken, who you got for executive of the year?

BTW, thanks for giving Howard props. Nice to see one "expert" take into consideration defense. It doesn't happen enough.


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