Tag:Baseline Awards
Posted on: March 5, 2012 1:39 pm
 

Baseline Awards: Lakers on the hunt

Kobe Bryant and the Lakers are playing their best ball of the season (Getty Images)

By Matt Moore


The Baseline Awards celebrate the week that was and give you a track of where the awards are at throughout the NBA season. Some are serious, some are not, but all took way longer than necessary to compile. 

Eastern Conference Player of the Week: Rajon Rondo

Three guys have had a triple-double like the one Rajon Rondo had Sunday against the Knicks. Wilt Chamberlain, Oscar Robertson, and Rondo. That's the list. Rondo's 18-point, 17-rebound, 20-assist 3D is the stuff of legend. It's enough for him to win outright this week. We're a league absolutely obsessed with the pull-up mid-range jumpshot. We make a big deal about dunks, and we talk a big game about team defense, but really, what we care about is rising up and hitting a mid-range jumper with a hand in the face. That's what Jordan did, and many of us are colored one way or another by the Jordan era. What Rondo does is so phenomenally different in its style than anyone else's approach, it almost makes Sunday's game more impressive.

The Celtics need so much every night and Rondo continues to provide it. He wasn't even offensively efficient on Sunday. But he creates so much action on a per-minute basis that you're left wondering if he's the entire Celtics team, in reality. These trade rumors are nonsense, barring an unbelievable offer. Rondo's one of the best in the game.


Western Conference Player of the Week: Kobe Bryant


There's a perception that those that look at advanced metrics and efficiency "have it out" for Kobe Bryant. Or "are haterzzzz" or whatever. But as a guy who's a big fan of analytics and efficiency, I'm telling you right now, Kobe Bryant is playing his best ball of the season. Yes, better than the 40-point stretch. He's working in the flow of the offense, finding good shots, hitting them at a great clip, getting to the line, everything. He's been simply brilliant. He's creating for his teammates, he's playing better than usual defense (and his defense is usually above-average). These are the stretches for Bryant where you understand the constant calls for him as the best player in the world. That those are usually based on inconsistent and flawed data regarding "ringz" and "clutch" are irrelevant. The Black Mamba is striking everything right now.


The Puzzling Enigma Award: Strangest week from player or team


Phoenix Suns

How have they won three in a row? How? How is this possible? Schedule advantages aside, they knocked off a near-playoff team in Minnesota, a playoff team in the Clippers, and a feisty Kings team. All at home, sure. But that's three games in a row and they're within spitting distance of .500 and throwing distance of the 8th seed. Steve Nash is still doing this at his age. It's incredible. I have zero understanding of how they are even out of the basement.


The Horde Award: Team you should fear


Los Angeles Lakers

There are a lot of teams on impressive runs right now. But the Lakers are playing their best ball of the season. They're just tearing through teams right now. Sunday's win over the Heat was a statement game. The fact remains that if this team gets home court advantage they're going to be a killer out in the playoffs. With their size and wing defenders starting to play well, their only real deficit is at point guard and they're getting by. They're not the invincible Lakers of years past, but they're exceptionally good.


Cub Scout Troop Award: Team you should not fear


Portland Trail Blazers

It's a train wreck. The players are divided in the locker room by all accounts, there's rampant talk of Nate McMillan getting fired, and they're losing games along with the soul of their team. There isn't a more mentally weak opponent right now


Searching For Bobby Fischer Award for Stratagem:


Tom Thibodeau's late-game adjustments to San Antonio. Thibodeau recognized the damage perimeter penetration was creating and packed the lane against the Spurs, daring them to beat them on rushed shots from the outside against a super-long lineup. It worked, Tony Parker was stymied, and the Bulls got a big win over the Spurs.


Awkward Water Cooler Conversation Award for Coaching Struggle:


Doug Collins late-game scoring options

The Sixers need to seize on the wonderful season Andre Iguodala is having and put the ball in his hands late in games. He doesn't have to shoot it all the time, but Lou Williams is trying to go NBA Jam every time and opponents know it. They need to be able to close and even if Iguodala isn't a superstar he can play one for thirty seconds. Against the Bulls and Thunder the Sixers blew opportunities to get their daggers in by squandering possessions. Rare criticism for the presumptive Coach of the Year.


Blog of the Week: SilverScreenAndRoll.com

The Lakers have a pretty nutso fanbase, I'm going to be honest. All fans are nuts. Lakers fans think they can trade Luke Walton for Chris Paul and Matt Barnes for Andre Iguodala. To be fair, they've been on the receiving end of some of the most lopsided trades in history. But they take it far. Which is why it's great SilverScreenAndRoll.com exists. It's a site that clearly shows the Laker side of history but gives hones and open criticism, has a sense of humor about itself, and doens't stray into too much cheerleading or moping. It gives great insight into multiple ways to approach the game and should be essential reading for you.


MVP rankings:

1. LeBron James: Yup, even still. Sorry, I'm not going to throw out being the most dominant force on the planet for 45 minutes because he passes to an open man in the 48th. His legacy is compromised, his MVP resume is not.
2. Kevin Durant: Started chucking a bit against Atlanta, and falls back to the pack a bit. If James falls out because of the clutch nonsense or because they rest him, it's going to be a fight down the stretch between Durant and the two behind him.
3. Derrick Rose: Oh, hey Derrick. Good to see you back. What's that, you want to destroy all of us in a fire of impossible floaters? OK.
4. Kobe Bryant: If he does what he does and doesn't need as many bad shots to do it, this is the best pound-for-pound offensive player on the planet Earth.
5. Chris Paul: Hard to get the kind of assist numbers he should have when none of is guys can hit a shot right now.
6. Tony Parker: I'm one of the few who believes there's a big gap between Parker and the top five based on his perimeter defense. Parker ballhawks but too often is caught out of position. Which would be a problem if he hadn't been insanely brilliant this year.
7. Andre Iguodala: If I'm willing to say he's the DPOY (and I am), he should get a shot here.

(Honestly, this completes the list at this point.)


ROY Rankings:


1. Kyrie Irving: That Anderson Varejao injury may have cost us the chance to see Irving put the Fear of God in someone in the first round of the playoffs, Rose '09 style.
2. Ricky Rubio: If Rubio bounced a pass off his nose like a seal for an assist, would you be surprised? Me either.
3. Isaiah Thomas: Mr. Irrelvant is doing some special things in Sacramento, if you can bear to watch.
4. Kemba Walker: I was impressed with Walker's control during the Nets game, improving more than I thought he would.
5. MarShon Brooks: The re-emergence of Brook Lopez is giving him some issues in terms of flow. Just 20 points total in his last three games.


DPOY Rankings
1. Andre Iguodala: Night and night out the most versatile defender in the NBA.
2. Luol Deng: When Deng sticks you it's like getting snuggied by an anaconda.
3. Dwight Howard: He's so good his effort level is way down this season and he's still third.
4. LeBron James: Same deal as Howard.
5. Tony Allen: Dwane Casey called him "a pitbull." Here was his response.

Posted on: February 27, 2012 6:36 pm
Edited on: February 27, 2012 8:10 pm
 

Baseline Award Predictions for the season to come

Derrick Rose will play big minutes in the second half and could steal a second MVP from LeBron James. (Getty Images)

By Matt Moore 

As the NBA catches its breath after a hurried rush to the season and a whirlwind All-Star Weekend, we turn our attention to the NBA's stretch run, the second half. We're at the point with the trade deadline looming two weeks away where teams will begin to make moves to either ramp up for a playoffs run or bottom out in rebuilding projects. Will the Heat keep up their pace? Can the Bulls finally get healthy and if so, how good can they be then? Are the Thunder legitimate title contenders? Are the Spurs "back" once again?

So many questions, so little time.

A huge element in the second half of the season is going to be minutes. The best teams will rest their players while desperate teams will have to play to the bone. The Bulls are somehow a great team and a desperate team. They want every advantage including homecourt advantage, and below we'll tell you how that could impact the MVP race.

So we present the Baseline Awards second-half predictions, focused on who will be taking the various trophies for the second half of the season.

Projected Eastern Conference Player of the Second Half: Derrick Rose

LeBron James is the runaway MVP leader, the best player on the planet, and was nearly flawless in the first half, despite the end to that All-Star Game. So why isn't he here? Because the Heat will have a top-two seed locked up by early April, and then you're going to see James take more and more games off as the Heat rest him for the playoffs. What he does between now and then will determine is MVP, but in the meantime, Tom Thibodeau plays his players 35 minutes a game even when they're hurt. Assuming that the All-Star rest helped Rose recover from the back and leg injuries that hampered him this season, he'll get the minutes, he'll get the production, he'll get the win. I expect big things from the reigning MVP in the second half.

Projected Western Conference Player of the Second Half: Kevin Durant

It's terrifying that a kid, a 23-year-old kid, can lead the league in scoring two years in a row and then make the leap. But that's what Durant has done. Everything is better. His efficiency. His productivity. His team. His leadership. His clutch play. And his defense. It's a phenomenal streak the kid's on and there's zero reason to think he'll slow down in the second half. The West is just competitive enough for the Thunder to keep Durant playing nightly and yet not good enough to challenge the Thunder for the top spot in the West (though San Antonio's making a good show of it).

Most-Likely to Succeed: Miami Heat

They have it together. They have no discernible weaknesses, outside of "Can LeBron James succeed in the clutch?" and that's not a regular season concern. The offense is clicking, their chemistry is good, they've had fewer distractions, they're playing at an elite level on both sides of the ball and their injuries haven't been significant. It may be sickening, but it doesn't change the fact that this is the baddest team in the land until further notice.

Least-Likely to Succeed: Charlotte Bobcats

Here's the worst thing about the Bobcats. They don't even have anything of value to firesell. Tyrus Thomas is having a terrible season, Corey Maggette has been injured, D.J. Augustin is just good enough to be their best player and not good enough to draw huge offers on the market. Gerald Henderson may be their best asset and he's too good to move. If they keep this team, they'll be horrible. If they sell off the parts for future components, they'll be terrible. If the lottery doesn't help this team, it's going to be classified as negligible cruelty.

Best Dressed: Indiana Pacers throwbacks

These jerseys are awesome. (Getty Images)


Those blues and yellows are just sharp as all get out.

Worst Dressed: Memphis Grizzlies throwbacks

This, not so much a crime against fashion as a crime against humanity. (Getty Images)


Let us never speak of these again.

Class Clown: JaVale McGee

Runs the other direction, denies things he's said into tape recorders, goes for triple-doubles in blowouts, makes ridiculous goaltends and has somehow failed to get better with John Wall on his team. McGee is funny. But someone really needs to get into his head and straighten things out or a world of potential is going to be lost.

Projected Defensive Player of the Year: Luol Deng

Andre Iguodala deserves it, but Deng may end up winning it simply based on reputation. If Deng is healthy, he's the best perimeter defender in the league. Dwight Howard has struggled at times and hasn't been as dominant. If the coaches really vote this one right, Deng should win as long as he continues to get healthy and Tom Thibodeau doesn't run him into the ground.

Smoke and Mirrors Award for False Relevance: Atlanta Hawks

Always a top-six team in the standings, never a top-six team in the conference. The Hawks have managed to survive a drop-off from Joe Johnson and the injury to Al Horford. The team is supremely in need of a complete makeover but none seems imminent. So they will continue to drift through the season, winning games and getting no credit, losing games and getting hammered, never going up or down. Consistency in this league is often heralded as success. But with the Hawks, it's always seen as evidence of either a mediocre student over-achieving or an excellent student never living up to potential.

Most Likely to Blow It Up: Boston Celtics

The holes have not been plugged. They have not rounded into shape. They have not righted the ship. The experience has not come through. The casual approach to conditioning has not yielded the results they want. They did not coast, they stumbled. They did not cruise, they crashed. They are alive only because of Rajon Rondo and the weakness of the Eastern Conference. The time has come to end this and move on. Sentimentality is not worth wasting time, because if the big free agents get re-aligned and the Celtics have nothing to move forward with, they'll be back in the stone age they were in before the Big 3 arrived.

Carmelo Anthony Award for MeloDrama: Dwight Howard

"I want a trade! But I love it here! But I want more input on decisions in the front office! But I'm just trying to play! I'm not talking about free agency! Except to talk to you about how much I'm not talking about it! I love my teammates! But I love Deron Williams! I love New York! But I love Orlando! I love my mom! But I make my own decisions!"

It's like watching a teenage girl decide between four boys while the one she's with can't figure out what he did wrong.

Projected Rookie of the Year: Kyrie Irving

Ricky Rubio's a nice story. Neat passes. Irving should have been an All-Star and is going to be an elite player in this league over the next decade. Cleveland's rebuild is on its way, just 19 months removed from "The Decision."

Most Likely to be Traded: Stephen Jackson

Steve Nash could go. Dwight Howard might go. Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum, Josh Smith, Rajon Rondo, Jose Calderon. But Jackson is owed a lot of money, the Bucks don't need him, and he and Skiles hate each other. He's a bad fit in the locker room and a bad fit on the floor. It's .50 cents on the dollar time in Milwaukee for CapJack.

The 2012 Version of the 2011 Memphis Grizzlies:

The Houston Rockets. I'm starting to buy into Houston as a surprise team. Memphis used team play, star power from Zach Randolph and a unique matchup with San Antonio to get into the second round. Houston has a Should-Be-All-Star in Kyle Lowry and world of versatility in lineups they can deploy. Throw in the work that Kevin McHale has done and the fact they're 4-4 this year against division opponents (three of which are likely playoff teams) and you've got a great shot at Houston making a surprising, if ultimately futile, run. Hurray, another mid-first-round lottery pick!

Most Likely to Hit the Rookie Wall:

MarShon Brooks. Brooks is going to be a terrific scorer in this league for a long time. He's got an elite set of offensive skills and tremendous length. He can play in an offense, too. But his game is predicated on shooting percentages and that's the kind of thing that can drop off when it hits the rookie wall. I full expect to have jinxed Brooks and he will now go out and win Rookie of the Year. His play in the win over the Knicks last week was superb.

Most Likely to Make Himself a Name by Season's End: Paul George

Should have won the dunk contest. Played Rose great last year. The Pacers are better than last year and are primed for a playoff run. Getting them out of the postseason is going to be a serious job, and George is going to be a huge part of it. More versatile on offense, better on defense, athletic, explosive, with range. George isn't going to score 40. But he's going to be a part of a lot of playoff wins for Indiana and is going to be that guy in the playoffs that make sports bars of opposing teams groan "Not that guy again!" time and time over. By the way, I've started calling him Mega-Man because it seems like every game he picks up a new ability he didn't have before.
Posted on: February 13, 2012 1:23 pm
Edited on: February 13, 2012 2:01 pm
 

Baseline Awards 2.13.12: Jeremy Lin is good

Jeremy Lin is going to be mentioned a lot in this post. I'm just warning you now. (Getty Images)
By Matt Moore 

Eastern Conference Player of the Week: Best Overall performance by Eastern Player

Jeremy Lin

Who were you expecting, Wilt Chamberlain? Lin set the world on fire this week, lighting up Twitter, Facebook, cable news, heck, I'm pretty sure there are telegrams being shared about him. Lin's points and assists totals over this ridiculous five-game stretch: 25-7, 28-8, 23-10, 38-7, 20-8. If Lin were to keep up this production for an entire season, he would finish in the top five in PER. He has invigorated the Knicks. He has excited a basketball nation. He has won, and he has captured the imagination of millions. The stats aren't bad, either.



So, yeah, pretty good week for Jeremy Lin. This may be his one and only appearance here, but it's definitely worth noting for posterity.


Western Conference Player of the Week: Best Overall performance by Western Player

Chris Paul

No Chauncey Billups, no problem. The Clippers go 3-1 this week behind Chris Paul averaging 22 points and 10 assists, shooting 48 percent from the field. He had just seven turnovers over that four-game stretch. When his team needed him to score, he scored. When they needed him to distribute, he set up teammates. Paul played at an MVP level this week, and the Clippers have climbed into the second spot in the West. The best pure point guard in the NBA continues to dominate, despite all the questions about the Clippers and without one of his main weapons in Billups.

The Jeremy Lin Award for Linning

Yup, more Lin. One thing that has gotten lost in all the Lin talk has been the intangible, non-narrative element in this whole thing. Outside of the feel-good story nature of Lin's emergence is how much fun you can tell the Knicks are having playing basketball. The hip-check celebrations are higher, the bench is louder, Tyson Chandler no longer looks like he could snap at any point. "Making your teammates better" is one of those phrases that gets used too much. Scoring a ton doesn't make your teammates better. And pure assists don't. But opening up the offense, distributing the ball, and running the offense at a high production level while making good basketball plays? That'll do it. Speaking of:

The Lin-near Advantage Award for Most Success Gained From Jeremy Lin's Emergence

Steve Novak had hit 12 3's in 11 games prior to Jeremy Lin's emergence. He's hit 16 in the four games he's played since then. Is a lot of it on account of Amar'e Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony's absences? Absolutely. But Novak has fit snugly into the corner shooter out of the pick and roll with Lin pulling defenders to the middle with his scoring and assisting off the screen. That corner three is deadly in Mike D'Antoni's system when used correctly. It's another piece that has fit well together with Lin, and it's good to see Novak's crack shooting being put to good use. Catch-and-shoot scorers for the win.

The Puzzling Enigma Award: Strangest week from player or team

New York Knicks

Yes, it makes sense that a dynamic point guard would excel in Mike D'Antoni's system. But an undrafted point guard out of Harvard, cut twice in the past year who was sleeping on Landry Fields' couch because he didn't know if he would get to stay for the entire season, winning five in a row including one over Kobe Bryant and the Lakers? The world has turned and left me here. This isn't nonsense, it's linsense. Someone please explain how this happens.

The Horde Award: Team you should fear

San Antonio Spurs

Seven in a row and more importantly, they haven't allowed a defensive efficiency over 100 since their last loss to Dallas when a bench comeback failed in overtime. Manu Ginobili is back from injury, Tony Parker is playing at a ridiculous level for the first time in a half-decade and this is one of the deepest teams since the Spurs' last championship run. Get out of the Spurs' way as fast as possible, they're absolutely destroying people right now.

Cub Scout Troop Award: Team you should not fear

Charlotte Bobcats

I hate the idea of contraction and even I'm begging the league to contract or at least relocate this team. It's not just the historic or recent failures, it's all of the above, combined with the fact that even if they do manage to get the top spot in the lottery, given their luck, there are pretty good odds they'll wind up landing third or fourth, end up taking a North Carolina shooter who lacks the ability to create his own shot and miss out on more franchise players. They're approaching a record-breaking losing streak and there's almost nothing to care about on the squad. You could trade the entire roster for Jeremy Lin right now and it wouldn't be a bad idea. And that says more about the Bobcats than Lin.

Searching For Bobby Fischer Award for Stratagem:

Keith Smart

Smart has managed to get DeMarcus Cousins motivated, the Kings cohesive, the defense at least noticeable, the offense incendiary for short bursts and life fun again to some degree in Sacramento. Reaching out to DeMarcus Cousins and making sure he feels connected to Smart after all the trouble between DMC And Westphal may rankle the disciplinarians among us, but it's working. A huge win over Oklahoma City on national television Thursday gives them a signature W on the season.

Awkward Water Cooler Conversation Award for Coaching Struggle:

Dwane Casey

The questionable five-second call at the end of regulation Sunday was affirmed by the league, but it's up to Rasual Butler to make sure he doesn't flirt with a five-seconds call. However, with a chance to tie, the Raptors wound up with a step-back three from DeMar DeRozan who is not in a position to make that play yet. The play may have been designed for Jose Calderon before Kobe Bryant shut him down, but it doesn change that the Raptors were in that game and blew it. Bonus points of failure for failing to cover the rolling baseline play that Bryant has used so many times. Giving Bryant any look is dangerous, giving him the baseline pull-up is suicide.


Blog of the Week: TruthAboutIt.Net

The Wizards are a mess, but they're a fascinating mess. And TruthAboutIt.Net manages to walk an excellent line between analyzing and criticizing Washington's struggles and providing hilarious post-game video on a consistent basis. Their interviews with visiting players are always incredible, most notably when Rajon Rondo gave the single coldest answer in the history of professional athlete relations in regards to a question about John Wall. An interesting visual approach completes the effort.

MVP Rankings:

1. LeBron James: Doesn't have it locked up, but the odds-on favorite at this point and it's not really close.
2. Kevin Durant: The fact that elite defenders are still unable to do much against Durant speaks to how he's developed. He's a force of nature at this point.
3. Derrick Rose: The Bulls are great without Rose, nearly knocking off the Celtics at home. With Rose they are the East's best team at the moment.
4. Chris Paul: Try and stop him.
5. Kobe Bryant: Kobe's getting his numbers, but the wins aren't coming because of the lack of efficiency. This has a very 2006 feel for the Lakers.
6. Dwyane Wade: The fact that LeBron is producing at the level he is and there are still legitimate arguments (beyond "OMG LeChoke is a choker!") about who the best player on the Heat is says a lot.
7. Dwight Howard: He complained after a win about his touches. Yup, that's the spirit, Dwight.
8. Tony Parker: Sacre bleu! (That's all I got. He's good.)
9: Kevin Love: Ricky Rubio may be why everyone's all excited, but Kevin Love is why the Wolves are such a difficult team to beat.
10. Jeremy Lin: Just kidding!

ROY Rankings:

1. Kyrie Irving: A concussion isn't enough to take him out of the top spot, but it'll be interesting to see how he recovers.
2. Ricky Rubio: Two crucial turnovers late against the Knicks cost the Wolves a win, but his defense of Lin is what put them in the driver's seat to begin with.
3. MarShon Brooks: Brooks is just back from injury. How he plays in the next week will determine whether he stays.
4. Kawhi Leonard: So. Many. Big. Plays. Guarded Kevin Durant admirably this week as he continues to impress with his savvy.
5. Ivan Johnson: You could call him the Jeremy Lin of mean-as-hell big men.

6MOY Rankings:

1. James Harden: You can start engraving his name on the award now.
2. Louis Williams: The best bench scorer on the best bench.
3. Jason Terry: Same ol' JET.
4. Jordan Farmar: With Deron Williams and Anthony Morrow playing as well as they are and Farmar still filling up the scoreboard, you have to wonder how they are this awful.
5. Al Harrington: Regression on both sides of the ball has Harrington teetering towards the cliff.
Category: NBA
Posted on: February 6, 2012 6:47 pm
 

Baseline Awards 2.6.12: Thunder Guns

Kevin Durant has made a push up the MVP rankings as the Thunder keep their hold on the West. (Getty Images)

By Matt Moore


Eastern Conference Player of the Week: Best Overall performance by Eastern Player


Derrick Rose

Going to be honest, this, much like the 2011 MVP award, is largely based on LeBron fatigue. James had 40 points and 35 points back to back, along with double-digit rebounds. But, hey, we get bored with guys winning every week. Rose, on the other hand, shouldered the load with Luol Deng out, and went 3-1, scoring 32-plus points each and every time. He was prolific against New York with 32 points and 13 assists, despite more free throw issues late.

Derrick Rose doesn't have slumps. He has blips.


Western Conference Player of the Week: Best Overall performance by Western Player

Kevin Durant

Durant scored 95 points on 66 shots through three games this week before the Spurs ran the Thunder ragged. Double-digit rebounds in all. Durant's been on the MVP list as a "oh, we should put KD on there, what with the Thunder so good and all." But this is the week Durant's really stepped up and put his stamp on the picture. He's averaged 28 points per contest in his last 10 games, is third overall in scoring per game, and is second in Player Efficiency Rating behind LeBron James.


DOMINATOR AWARD: Most dominant performance

Defense is really popular in the NBA blog vernacular. Drawing fouls. Plus/minus. Rebounding. And there are valid reasons to value all of those things. But basketball does in fact come down to guys in one jersey throwing the ball through a cylinder being defended by the other team. And this week, Anthony Morrow did that better than anyone. 42 points in a loss to the Wolves, on 13-20 shooting, with 8-11 of those coming from long range. That's just ridiculous shooting. 

The Puzzling Enigma Award: Strangest week from player or team

Houston Rockets.

The Rockets were -11 for the week, just when they were starting to get hot. Kyle Lowry had a bad week before regaining form Saturday night, while Luis Scola had his face stepped on. They lose to Minnesota twice, the Spurs once, and beat the Suns by double digits. There's just no telling what you're going to get from this team night to night. They can look like the kind of team that can run to the second round one minute and the kind of team that loses to Minnesota by a combined 21 points over two contests in a week the next. Minnesota's pretty good, but Houston' inconsistencies across the board are baffling.

The Marv: Broadcast Call of the Week

Ian Eagle

On the Nets' broadcast of their loss to the Knicks, after Jeremy Lin finished another tremendous play on his way to 25 points and 7 assists, Eagle shouted "Jeremy Lin! Where did this come from?!" and it was a perfect summation of the moment. 


The Horde Award: Team you should fear

Boston Celtics

It. Is. Alive. After a workman-like victory over the Grizzlies Sunday, the Celtics improved to 8-2 in their last ten. They have a stiff schedule coming up, but the Celtics are looking more and more like the contender of old rather than just, well... old. Their defense is closing off lanes, their shooters are hitting shots, and Avery BradleySasha PavlovicE'Twaun Moore, and JaJuan Johnson are contributing (?!).

Do the Celtics look like a Finals contender? No. But they do look like an extremely tough out, and they've got three more months to fine-tune.


Cub Scout Troop Award: Team you should not fear

New Orleans Hornets

Remember when they started the season and were competitive and it was all "Wait 'til Eric Gordon gets back!?" The wheels, they have departed the wagon. Please enjoy your brief flight before hitting that brick wall. You can tell most of the Hornets don't want to be there, and the ones that do are injured. It's a tough situation for everyone, from management on down to the training staff and bench guys. Their season ended before it began.


Searching For Bobby Fischer Award for Stratagem:

I'm going with Byron Scott for letting Kyrie Irving take the reins down the stretch in big games. Scott is as wary as any other coach of giving rookies big moments, but Scott has realized that Irving is the franchise and he needs to learn these moments. The No. 1 overall pick out of Duke is making the most of it and killing teams that let the Cavs hang around late. Sometimes you have to deal with the bad and the good to let a kid grow, and even in a defeat to the Celtics, Scott let Irving off the leash. Good look for the Cavs.


Awkward Water Cooler Conversation Award for Coaching Struggle:

Avery Johnson

Jeremy Lin was fantastic on Friday night, giving the Knicks the playmaker at point guard they've needed so badly. But he should not have been able to destroy the Nets the way he did in the Knicks' win. The Nets continually pushed Lin to the middle and failed to respect his scoring ability. It's one thing after 10 points, but when a guy hits 15 or 17 points, you have to start respecting the damage he's doing to your club. Lin's last points came on a pick-and-roll split of a double team in which again Deron Williams played Lin to the middle. Lin's not going to be the Knicks' savior, but he was great for a night. Even without Brook Lopez, the Nets have to adjust better than that in game.


Blog of the Week: Posting and Toasting

A Knicks blog that manages to come off as charming and endearing instead of boisterous and braggardly, P&T is smart, funny, and shares a wide range of nuanced views on the Knicks, along with consistent terrific trivial content. A must for Knicks fans and league fans alike.

MVP Rankings:

1. LeBron James: This is just getting ridiculous.
2. Kevin Durant: Durant has hit "If you hold him under 30, you've done a great job" level.
3. Derrick Rose: Rose may have the best chance to win this just by playing in so many games and minutes. Becasue Tom Thibodeau RESTS NO ONE.
4. Chris Paul: The Clippers' crunch-time offense is essentially "Let Paul completely destroy the other team." His casual domination is incredible.
5. Kobe Bryant: Dragging the Lakers' offense kicking and screaming, but the efficiency is starting to slip again.
6. Dwight Howard: The Magic Kingdom is falling down around and because of him, but that doesn't lessen his valuable so much he falls any further than this.
7. Russell Westbrook: Lost in all the talk about Westbrook's offense is the fact that he's one of the few guards who can contain perimeter penetration one-on-one.
8. Tony Parker: The Spurs' all-time assists leader is averaging a career high in dimes this year, and his scoring is helping the Spurs keep afloat without Manu.
9: Blake Griffin: Has stepped up big-time lately, and anyone who dunks on Perkins like that should be mentioned.
10. 76ers Bench: They can just accept this award collectively, right?

ROY Rankings:

1. Kyrie Irving: The youngster continues to impress. Yes, his numbers are based on fewer minutes per game than the all-time greats. But per-minute production from this kid is through the atmosphere.
2. Ricky Rubio: Rubio's clutch stats are so phenomenally high we wonder if he stole Melo's mojo.
3. MarShon Brooks: I'm not ready to dock the young man for his injury, when no one else has stepped up enough. Yet.
4. Kawhi Leonard: So. Many. Big. Plays. Guarded Kevin Durant admirably this week as he continues to impress with his savvy.
5. Andrew Gaoudelock: Stepping up for Steve Blake, all of a sudden the Lakers' faithful have a new kid to get excited about.

6MOY Rankings:

1. James Harden: His relative struggles when starting suggest he's going to keep coming off the bench, which means this award is his, done, over.
2. Al Harrington: Harrington has pressed in several games this week, but forcing the issue has also kept his team in it. A few more buckets falling or a rebound here or there and it might have been the difference.
3. Louis Williams: A stone cold assassin from long range.
4. Jason Terry: Same ol' JET.
5. Jordan Farmar: Farmar is hitting 46 percent from 3-point range this season, and averaging 18 points and 6 assists per 36. Coming around after a disappointing first year in New Jersey.
Category: NBA
Posted on: February 6, 2012 2:37 pm
Edited on: February 6, 2012 2:49 pm
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Posted on: January 30, 2012 5:58 pm
Edited on: January 30, 2012 6:02 pm
 

Baseline Awards: 1.30.12: Jumping over dudes

Lebron James is very good at basketball, it turns out. (Getty Images)

By Matt Moore


The Baseline Awards hand out congratulations and criticism for performances in the last week and provide standings for the major awards. This week the Heat are flying again, Rubio's dishing, Kyrie Irving is ridiculous, and the Magic are a train wreck. 

Eastern Conference Player of the Week: Best Overall performance by Eastern Player

LeBron James

He jumped over a dude. Yes, the dude is short. No, it was not Vince Carter over Weiss. He still jumped over a dude on an oop. Oh, and he averaged 26.5 points (only drug down by a poor game vs. Cleveland), 6 assists, 7.5 rebounds, and one steal. So, yeah, that guy's pretty good at basketball.

Western Conference Player of the Week: Best Overall performance by Western Player

Ricky Rubio

Wins over the Spurs and Mavericks, averaging 12 points, 11 assists, 5 rebounds. The wunderkind keeps impressing everyone from coast to coast. He's getting killed by Kyrie Irving in overall production and yet I'm betting a high number of people consider Rubio and Irving neck and neck in the rookie of the year race, that's how good Rubio has been.

Down on the Upside of the Week: Player with worst performance qualified for expectations

Raymond Felton

Felton's a better player than this. He really is. Felton is struggling from the field and finding teammates. He's not settled in, and seems unsure of his role. He hasn't established a chemistry with any of the Blazers' weapons. Andre Miller is flourishing in Denver, which only makes this worse.

DOMINATOR AWARD: Most dominant performance

Kyrie Irving

Irving's numbers are literally unheard of for a rookie. He's in rarefied air. Now, Tyreke Evans pulled this same trick and regressed, but after sinking the Celtics Sunday, Irving has put himself on the map. The kid is doing it all in every position. There's something special happening in Cleveland.

The "Titanic In 3-D: It's a disaster inside a disaster" award

Orlando Magic

This team was talked about as a sleep title contender (not by us, but "around") last week. This week they're a flaming pile of wreckage covered in sewage. Fifty-six points versus a struggling Celtics team, then a nice, comforting win over the Pacers... only to blow a 27-point lead at home to the Celtics on Thursday, followed by a shellacking by the Indiana Pacers. I would say this team is trying to force Dwight Howard to put them out of their misery, but that would be too easy on Howard who has also disappeared at key times. The Magic are taking on water right now in a season in which they have no margin of error.

The Puzzling Enigma Award: Strangest week from player or team

Memphis Grizzlies

Just when you think that team has it together, they get walloped by the Blazers on the third night of a back to back, and that was fine. But losing to Phoenix was an outright disaster. This team looked like it had found its footing, only to fall through the cracks. Three straight losses to end the week for the Grizzlies.

The Horde Award: Team you should fear

Milwaukee Bucks

We don't get it either. This team should, and probably will, fall apart without Andrew Bogut. But they miss Bogut with an injury and Stephen Jackson with a suspension, and go out and drop 100 points on the Lakers. Milwaukee's now won four of their last six and have scored 100 or more three times. Their offensive efficiency is up. No, we do not understand it, but we're starting to be concerned about the deer again.

Cub Scout Troop Award: Team you should not fear

Charlotte Bobcats. We thought they might not be so bad for a while there. Turns out, no, no, no, they are bad, bad, bad.

Searching For Bobby Fischer Award for Stratagem

Gregg Popovich for benching his starters and going solely to his bench unit vs. the Mavs. The young guns wound up scoring on 8 of 9 possessions in the fourth quarter and sparked a huge run that would have won them the game had it not been for Jason Terry's dramatics. There are only a handful of coaches that bold in this league, and Popovich is like, three of them.

Awkward Water Cooler Conversation Award for Coaching Struggle

Stan Van Gundy

We're not partial to the ridiculous superlatives or nicknames tossed out about SVG, who is truly one of the best coaches in the league. But it has not been a good week. His team has lacked discipline, composure, and effort. Things are unraveling in Orlando due to forces far beyond his control, but he's also unable to hold the reins this week.

Blog of the Week: 48 Minutes of Hell

This Spurs blog talks in nuanced terms about the silver and black, and features a video chat after each game. Interesting design as well.

MVP Rankings:

1. LeBron James: Again, he jumped over a dude.
2. Derrick Rose: Injuries are slowing him down and he's still doing this.
3. Dwight Howard: He's also LVP for sabotaging his team's season.
4. Kobe Bryant: By hook or by crook, Mamba will score 30.
5. Kevin Durant: Durant's a jumpshooter and he's shooting 51 percent. Think about that.
6. Chris Bosh: We know. We're stunned, too. But Bosh has honestly been the most consistent Heat player.
7. Russell Westbrook: On most any other team we're talking about how badly he deserves help.
8. Kyrie Irving: Oh, you think this is crazy You tell us how Cleveland's in the playoff picture.
9. Chris Paul: You get the feeling that if Paul wasn't saving himself for the playoffs he coul be right at the top with the Clippers.
10. LaMarcus Aldridge: Aldridge does everything for the Blazers and deserves a nod here.

Honorable Mention: Kevin Love

ROY Rankings:

1. Kyrie Irving: There has literally never been a rookie putting up the numbers Irving has, at least in the modern era of tracking stats. The fact that a horrid Cleveland team is competitive and Irving is taking over down the stretch should make traditional fans happy.
2. Ricky Rubio: You have never seen a player like this.
3. MarShon Brook: Brilliant scorer who scores.
4. Iman Shumpert: He is what he is.
5. Jon Leuer: Leuer has fallen off quite a bit and may not be listed next week.

6th Man of the Year Rankings:

1. James Harden: Just start him, Scott Brooks. You're ruining the curve.
2. Louis Williams: Louis' on fiyah.
3. Al Harrington: Still doing it all while Denver racks up wins, but a bad game against L.A. Sunday.
4. Jason Terry: Needs to go down as one of the best sixth men, ever.
5. Gary Neal: One of the most productive scorers off the bench in the league, who no one had heard of until last year.
Posted on: January 16, 2012 1:55 pm
Edited on: January 16, 2012 3:01 pm
 

Baseline Awards 1.16.12: Rosey Run



Welcome to the Baseline Awards, a weekly feature that goes over the biggest stories of the past week and hands out awards. Because awards are fun!

Eastern Conference Player of the week: Best overall performance by Eastern Conference player

Tie: Dwight Howard/Derrick Rose

Dwight Howard absolutely annihilated teams this week. He only played in two games. During that back-to-back set he destroyed an elite team, the Blazers, and a pretty good team, the Warriors. Howard missed an epic tonnage of free throws vs. Golden State... and still scored 45 points and grabbed 23 rebounds. Against Portland he only scored 13 but had 13 rebounds and four assists. Howard is showing why everyone wants to trade for him.

But Derrick Rose? He's back to playing at an MVP level. No, I'm sorry, that's not right. Because he won the MVP last year and he's actually playing better this season, and did so this week. Rose played four games last week, sitting out with turf toe against the Wizards, and averaged 24 points and 9 assists. That last digit is particularly important. Rose has become a better passer, and is helping what is largely the same Bulls unit become better offensively. Be afraid, NBA.

Western Conference Player of the Week: Best overall performance by Western Conference player

Kobe Bryant

Um... have YOU scored 40 points in each game this week, four times straight? I didn't think so. If I have to explain this, you've been either living in a cave or in suspended animation only to discover a strange new world. Either way, let me break it down. Kobe Bryant = dominant offensively this week. There may be a cost on the Lakers' offense as a whole and the competition was a little weak, but that doesn't change the fact he scored 40 freaking points in four straight contests at age 33.

Struggler of the week: Player with worst performance qualified for expectations

LeBron James

The numbers are fine. The numbers aren't everything. I rarely if ever use the phrase "choked" but James choked away a very winnable game vs. Golden State by missing free throw after free throw. Then had similar issues against the Clippers, struggling in the fourth quarter and overtime. And finally he was frustrated and beaten handily by the Nuggets.

It was probably an outlier, he'll likely rebound, at least in the regular season. But James had a huge letdown after a promising start to 2011-2012.

DOMINATOR AWARD: Most dominant performance

Paul Millsap

Millsap was an absolute beast for the Jazz this week, helping them to a 3-1 record while averaging 23 points and nine boards...while shooting 62 percent from the field. In three of those games, he shot better than 55 percent. Millsap's ability to hit from range, finish inside, and score in the post is making him one of the most complete power forwards in the league. The Jazz really have something going (again) in Salt Lake, and Millsap this week has been a huge part of it.

Broken Promises Award

Mark Jackson, Golden State Warriors

Jackson's guarantee of a playoff trip was questionable when he made it after being hired last summer and it looks even worse now, just 12 games into the season. The team's major free agent prize, Kwame Brown, is likely done for the year, a desperate ownership is realizing it can't make stars appear out of nowhere, and Stephen Curry is tragically sidelined yet again. Jackson, meanwhile, embarked on an historically stupid Hack-a-Dwight strategy en route to a home loss and then watched as his team laid an egg in Charlotte, of all places. The good news: the W's season will be over and Jackson will have plenty of time to get back to the rhyming dictionary to craft some new catchphrases. I know you wanted to make a splash; your mouth made a promise that your team can't cash.

Home Cookin' Award:

Portland Trail Blazers

Portland's hot start and contender buzz hit the brakes this week thanks to a 3-game losing streak. After an early-season win at Oklahoma City raised hopes that this new-look Blazers team might be over the road struggles of previous years, Portland lost back-to-back games in Texas to start its current 6-game road trip, bringing their road record to 1-4 through 11 games. Losing to the undefeated at home Spurs is no shame, but dropping one to the Houston Rockets in overtime can't happen if Portland is to reach its high internal expectations.

Fuzzy Math Award 

Boston Celtics 

The "Big 4" is Boston wasn't supposed to be a reference to how many wins the Celtics have through the first three weeks of the season. But that's where the aging C's find themselves and it's brought on the possibility of a full-fledged identity crisis in the works. Boston is average on offense, average on defense and pathetic on the boards. Given the major cap flexibility the Celtics will have this summer, the worst case scenario is that this season ends up being a waste of time between eras. But settling for that is painful given that four Celtics were 2011 All-Stars.

The Walter White Award

Chicago Bulls and Oklahoma City Thunder.

It's not a coincidence that the two teams rolling along early in the season are the two squads that had virtually everything in place. With teams like the Knicks and Mavericks looking a bit lost with new pieces early on because of no training camp, the Thunder and Bulls haven't had issues because they haven't had to work on any chemistry. It's already there.

Dead Man Walking Award

Deron Williams 

I don't know how Deron Williams is putting up with this stuff, but he's obviously playing through gritted teeth. Kudos to him, but it has to be painful to basically be flushing a year and a half of your career down the toilet. The injury to Brook Lopez was unfortunate, but let's be honest: The Nets weren't going to be good regardless. If it all works out and Dwight Howard finds his way there, I'm sure he'll look back on these days as a good character builder, but if Howard goes elsewhere and Williams does as well, it'll just be wasted time.

The "Really, guys? Really?!" Award: Worst performance that isn't just bad, but inexcusable

Washington Wizards

You lost to the Bulls without Derrick Rose? Really? You let John Lucas go off on you, John Wall? Really? It's like every time we think the Wizards have hit the very bottom, they show us they can go just a little bit lower.

The "Begin Assembly" Award: Team starting to get it together

Memphis Grizzlies

A tough loss to the Lakers seemed to spark this team. They needed a boost and since that game in which they competed to the end, Rudy Gay has started to produce at the level he has to. Mike Conley is playing well. Marc Gasol is beasting. O.J. Mayo has his shot going. The Grizzlies are moving away from the debacle that was their first game against Chicago.

The "Tom Brady Is Better Than You" Award for Offensive Failure

The Sacramento Kings scored 42 points on Saturday through the third quarter. The Patriots scored 42 points againt the Broncos on Saturday. The Kings were outscored by an NFL team. I don't know who that's sadder for, the Kings or Tebow and the Broncos.

Awkward Water Cooler Conversation Award for Coaching Struggle:

Mark Jackson

Jackon's own players asked him not to go hack-a-Dwight vs. the Magic, feeling they could defend Howard. It would be one thing if it had worked, but Howard dominated them even with the missed free throws and it completely detonated the Warriors' offensive flow. Jackon's been pretty good overall this season, but that was a pretty damaging series of events.

Blog of the Week:

The Two Man Game

With the Mavericks starting to put it together, their analysis is relevant again, and TMG is the best Mavs blog out there. Thoughtful analysis and discussion on the bigger picture, which is what the Mavericks are all about this season.

Awards Watch:

MVP Five to Consider (no particular order):
Derrick Rose
Kobe Bryant
LeBron James
Dwight Howard
Kevin Durant

ROY Five to Consider:
Kyrie Irving
Ricky Rubio
MarShon Brooks
Kawhi Leonard
Iman Shumpert

6th Man of the Year Five to Consider:
James Harden
Al Harrington
Lou Williams
Jamal Crawford
Ricky Rubio
Posted on: January 9, 2012 1:11 pm
Edited on: January 9, 2012 5:06 pm
 

The Baseline Awards 1.9.12



By Matt Moore


Welcome to the Baseline Awards, a weekly feature that goes over the biggest stories of the past week and hands out awards. Because awards are fun!

Eastern Conference Player of the Week: Best Overall performance by Eastern Player

Chris Bosh

Carmelo Antony is the easy choice here, but with the Knicks' struggles this week, and the Heat's overall success, Bosh gets the run. Bosh averaged 21 points and 7 rebounds over 4 games with the Heat this week, but more importantly, he was the rock for the Heat with Dwyane Wade and LeBron James missing time with injuries. Bosh has been more aggressive on both ends of the floor this season. He's allowing just .788 points per possession defensively this season and has been more aggressive in all phases of the game. It's still not a true "Big 3" but Bosh is changing his reputation this year. 

Western Conference Player of the Week: Best Overall performance by Western Player

Kobe Bryant

Welcome to the new Kobe. Bryant averaged 33.0 points per game this week with scoring totals of 37, 30, and 39 before Sunday night's 26-point performance against the Grizzlies. And yet the Grizzlies game may have been his best performance. He worked in the flow of the offense instead of breaking off in perimeter ISO. He played out of the post to get his array of moves going and created space against quality defenders, and he tallied nine assists. More than the numbers, though, he took his shots when he could create them and down the stretch, when faced with an open jumper at the top of the key versus a closing defender or reposting Andrew Bynum, he gave the big man the ball and let him draw the foul. A phenomenal performance from Bryant, outside of his game against Portland. 

Struggler of the Week: Player with worst performance qualified for expectations

Danny Granger

Granger had the worst percentage of any player over the past week, shooting just 24.5 percent from the field. He nabbed just 3.3 rebounds and dished just over one assist a game. Those are numbers you show to your kids at night to scare them into being good NBA players. Granger's clearly affected by the ankle injury he's struggled through, but right now a Pacers offense that needs him to carry his share of the load is missing him. Granger, for his part, isn't worried about it, and says it's a bunch of layups rattling halfway down and out. 

DOMINATOR AWARD: Most dominant performance

Andrew Bynum

Bynum averaged 16 rebounds per 36 minutes of play this week, and that only begins to describe his impact since returning from suspension. Bynum is unstoppable right now. It's not just the tip-ins after tip-ins, it's how he's altering shots, finishing lobs, creating space, working in the block. Bynum is Godzilla right now. Dwight Hward was still better overall (one more point in twelve fewer shots) but Bynum is unquestionably the second best center in the league right now. 

The Puzzling Enigma Award: Strangest week from player or team

Atlanta Hawks

Beat the Heat in Miami, with Wade and James playing by eight. Lose to Chicgo by two. Lose to the Heat, at home, on national television, without James or Wade, in double overtime, then have the Bobcats take you to overtime the very next night... and then on the third game of a back-to-back-to-back, beat the same Bulls team by 15. 

What?! 

The Hawks are that sibling that shows up for random family functions. Sometimes they bring toys for the kids. Sometimes they drunkenly stumble into the cake table. Sometimes they're not there at all. Sometimes they're solid as a rock. There's just no way of knowing what you're going to get form them on any given night. They're winning, and yet you can't watch them consistently and believe they're going anywhere. It's perplexing. I need to lie down. 

The Horde Award: Team you should fear


Portland Trail Blazers

No one is playing better overall ball right now. In a sluggish contest against Cleveland on a back to back Sunday, the Cavaliers had done a lot of things right and the Blazers couldn't throw the ball in the ocean. So what did they do? They came out after halftime and crushed them. This just three days after their biggest win of the season over the Lakers at home. 

And so much of it is Gerald Wallace. He is consistently the best player on the floor for Portland, and that's on a team with LaMarcus Aldridge. He's doing everything and doing it right. The Blazers are a buzzsaw right now. 

Cub Scout Troop Award: Team you should not fear

The Wizards are so easy it's painful. They're bad in every single phase of the game. Is it hot in here or it just Flip Saunders' seat? Wocka-wocka-wocka!

The McGavin Award: Best shooter

Paul George is hitting 73 percent from three-point range over the past five games. 

That's insane. 

George went away for the lockout and came back as one of the best catch-and-shoot assassins in the league. He's been a huge part of the Pacers' success. His length allows him to create separation any time he rises to fire and his release is Sundance-Kid-esque at this point. He pops over the screen and the nanosecond the ball hits his hands it's going toward his shooting motion. 

Searching For Bobby Fischer Award for Stratagem: 

Erik Spoelestra

Managed to keep winning without Wade and for a game without James against a playoff team. Has not only had the team adjust to the zone that gave them problems against Boston, but crushed teams who pulled it out. Has everyone motivated and on the same page and kept a low profile. It's easy to cast off the Heat's success as just talent, but if you watch the games, you'll know Spo is doing a hell of a job. 

Awkward Water Cooler Conversation Award for Coaching Struggle: 

Scott Skies

Bogut's been out, so that's obviously a problem. But for the second year in a row, the Bucks have come stumbling out of the gate. There's going to continue to be concerns that Skiles has lost this team as has happened in his other stops until they put together a string of good games, and that means on both sides of the ball. They have to find some offense somehow, someway. 

Blog of the Week:

Sactown Royalty

The Kings have a lot of moving parts and a lot of complicated issues on both sides of the ball. For a team that's been so bad for so long, you won't find a better place for analysis than SR, headed by SBNation's Tom Ziller. 

Awards Watch:

MVP Five to Consider (no particular order):
LeBron James
Derrick Rose
Kobe Bryant
Dwight Howard
Gerald Wallace

ROY Five to Consider:
Ricky Rubio
Kyrie Irving
Markieff Morris
Kawhi Leonard
MarShon Brooks

6th Man of the Year Five to Consider:
James Harden
Al Harrington
Jason Terry 
Lou Williams
Jamal Crawford

 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com