Here in the Green Room, we like to have some fun in analyzing the NBA. With All-Star Weekend approaching, we’ll all be reading about candidates for MVP, MIP, DPOY and ROY, among other awards. However, we choose to explore unfamiliar grounds and tackle lesser-known (a.k.a. made up) awards. Without further adieu, here are AGR’s 2nd annual Mid-Season Awards:
Best Prominent Story: Despite their dynamic trio fighting off injuries and the overall decline associated with becoming a veteran in the NBA, the San Antonio Spurs have managed to improve their game and currently own the rights to the best record in the League. They have an astounding 45-10 record. They’ve accomplished this with Tim Duncan playing less than ever before (29 minutes per compared to last year’s 31 and his career average of 36), mainly because of the Spurs’ role players stepping up. We can only hope that they keep playing such high-quality basketball into the post-eason. Similarly, the Celtics have thrived even though their Big 3 are all 33 and older with at least 12 years of NBA action. In addition, the O’Neals (Jermaine and the Big Shelqtic) are their back-up centers. Maybe AGR sounds like a broken record, but it is just incredible that these teams have won so much despite their age.
Best Behind-the-Scenes Story: Chris Paul has healed from his knee surgery that limited him to 45 games in 2009-10 and is now tearing the league apart. Call me crazy, but I feel like Chris Paul has never earned the respect he deserves. He put up MVP numbers a few years back, the only problem was that the media had fallen in love with Kobe in ’08 and LeBron put up MVP-ier numbers in ’09. He carried a lacking supporting cast (I mean, David West is not an All-Star without him) to the 2nd seed in the West in ’07-08 and the 7th seed in ’08-09. They missed out on the playoffs last year as Paul watched a good portion of the season from the sideline. Now he’s back and hungrier than ever, as shown by the Hornets’ record and stats. They are currently 6th in the West with a 33-25 record and are rocking the 6th best Defensive Rating in the League. He might not attack the rim as he used to, but he certainly has made basketball relevant to New Orleans once again. It is worth noting that despite everyone agreeing that he is not as aggressive, he is still averaging 17 points, 10 assists and 3 steals per contest while shooting 90% from the line. Let’s take a moment to appreciate that theoretically, CP3 will produce more once he has more confidence in his knee.
Worst Story: Carmelo Anthony wins this year’s Worst Story award! His trade demand has torn the Nuggets apart. For one, he makes the trade all but impossible because very few teams will trade for him knowing that he won’t sign an extension. In addition, I can only imagine the effect that it has on the chemistry of the team. Even if he is playing and rebounding well (his 7.6 rebounds per game and 12.5 Total Rebound Percentage are both career highs), he has all but explicitly told his teammates that he is done after the season is over. It just seems in bad taste to me.
Worst Player: No matter how you look at it, Travis Outlaw is not having his best season. He is getting the minutes, but his production simply isn’t there. When your best stat is 4.4 rebounds when you play 31 minutes per game, something is wrong. He is shooting 37.5% from the field and 31.2% from long range. Maybe he should be Outlaw’ed from taking jumpers (I must have hit my funny bone going for a rebound today). He’s getting to the line about once a game. He is a man of unfavorable 1 to 1 ratios: His Assist/TO ratio is 1, as is his Points/Shots. This is a guy who was once good, but unfortunately, his shooting percentages have dropped across the board in the past few years. Maybe it is that he is playing for the Nets. Maybe it is that he hit the nice contract and doesn’t care about working for his 7 mil. It’s probably that he is sick of playing with this dude. Let’s clap it up for Travis Outlaw, everybody!
Best-Looking Player: It is a little known fact that this award indeed does exist. The problem is that it has lost all of its hype due to Popeye Jones winning it every year dating back to the ABA merger (when the award was first introduced).
Best Dunk: In order to prevent this from going to the same player every year (like the Best Looking Player Award), the Best Dunk will from now on be divided into two sections: Best Blake Dunk and Best Non-Blake Dunk. This will ensure that other ballers have a chance at winning an award for their jams. To start off, let’s see the award for BBD:
Obviously, Blake gives us a large pool to choose from, but this dunk wins it for two main reasons: First off, Griffin throws this one down in the half court. So many of his highlights come from 1-0 plays or 2-1′s. This play required a lot of communication and a basketball-savvy play from Blake and Baron. The second reason that this dunk is so greet is that it is an alley-oop. It’s been clinically proven that alley-oops help to reduce cancer , so I feel obligated to select them as top dunks, speaking of which… here is the BNBD:
When Rose goes up to catch the ball, he appears to hang in the same spot for a split-second longer than gravity normally allows. It is this little bit of hesitation that led my AAU coach to get “excessively excited” about the play. To top it off, the announcers (or only one of them, really) go absolutely crazy when Rose lands the oop. It is a great play from start to finish. Rose can thank Rudy Gay for missing this dunk (@0:55), because that would have most assuredly won the award for BNBD. Here are a few honorable mentions for the BNBD: Wade’s flip-pass to LeBron:
DeAndre Jordan’s Alley-Oop while having his jersey pulled in an attempt to bring him down:
J.R. Smith’s dunk to beat the buzzer:
Shannon Brown’s reaching-back-for-it oop:
Russell Westbrook’s in-traffic jam:
Al Thorton’s posterization of Zaza:
Rudy Gay’s literal throw-down:
These are just a few of the many great dunks we’ve seen so far. Hit up the comments if we left out your fav.
I Will Survive Award: Kobe Bryant has taken care of his body throughout his career, and now we are seeing the hard work pay off. He is one of a few older stars of the league extending their primes, as noted by Bill Simmons. During the Celtics-Lakers game, which thecornerthree wrote about, it was mentioned that Kobe doesn’t even practice anymore because of the condition his body is in. It seems like there is no part of his body which is not braking down, yet Kobe keeps doing his thing.
Best Surprise: We knew Kevin Love was good. We knew he could rebound and that he was getting more time and touches after Al Jefferson had been shipped. However, I don’t think anyone was ready for a 30-30 game. I don’t think anyone was ready for him to dominate the boards and lead the league by a jaw-dropping margin. I don’t think anyone was ready for 3-point range. Thankfully, he made the All-Star team, but he was too close to missing it.
Worst Surprise: The Portland Trailblazers collectively won the I Will Survive Award last year. Their season didn’t go as planned, but they trooped on. They don’t deserve this, though. They don’t deserve to lose their starting, back-up and back-up back-up centers. They don’t deserve to hear that Brandon Roy can’t make moves as well as he used to. As an NBA fan, I want to see what this team can do when healthy, yet something tells me that I will never be able to find out. All of the injuries are nearly the exact same as last year. No team should have to go through that once, let alone twice. I mean, really, how many players can mess up their knees in one season? Sometimes, life isn’t fair.
Offensive Player of the Year: First, a little clarification. This award doesn’t honor offensive efficiency, or even production, necessarily. Instead, it’s meant to celebrate the players who nobly sacrifice the plaudits and team accomplishments that come with defensive commitment in order to conserve their energy for the offensive end. Amar’e's (why hello there, double apostrophe) signing with the Knicks has them headed for the playoffs for the first time in 7 years, and he’s maintained his commitment to playing Randy Moss defense (50% effort, 50% of the time) and fouling considerably more than reasonable. If all goes well, they’ll get to the second round for the first time in 11 years. STAT’s been going for 26 and 9, and even more than that during the holidays. His 2.7 assists per contest is a career high, as is his 19.4 shots per game. He makes 50.7% of those shots, and has even hit half of his 18 attempted trey-balls. Basically, he has been playing better than expected and has given the New York media an 82-game boner. Here are some of the highlights:
Chucker: This award goes to an NBAer who has displayed an exceptional inclination to shooting bad shots (especially jumpers). When the Washington Wizards traded Gilbert Arenas for Rashard Lewis, the Wizards’ GM Ernie Grunfeld said that he hoped to see some of the young players on the team fill the void. Nick Young gladly stepped up to the role and has been starting at the 2 ever since. The dude can score in just about any way possible, but he always seems to choose to go for the Kobe-esque contested fade-away long 2. Even though he often displays poor shot selection (over a third of his shots are long 2′s and he takes twice as many 3′s as shots from within 10 feet), he still is averaging over 17 points per contest on 45% shooting and 14.4 shots. His defense has gotten marginally better as the year progressed, but he still often looks lost and his pick and roll defense is just plain, old ugly. Couple that with his historic lack of passing and you have the winner of AGR’s newest Mid-Season Award. He still hasn’t accepted my Facebook friend request, which is why he almost won Offensive Player of the Year.
Honorable Mention: Monta Ellis. Explanation unneeded.
7th Man of the Year: Last year, this award went to the Denver Nuggets’ Chris Anderson. While the Birdman is still doing his thing, it looks like he actually isn’t even the best 7th man on his own team anymore. Ty Lawson has shown that he can be a starting point guard in the league. However, the Nuggets have Chauncey running the show and J.R. Smith coming off the bench, leaving Lawson as an excellent 7th man for the Denver squad. He is reason #382 that I want Carmelo to be traded: if Chauncey is dealt in the process, Lawson will move up into the starting line-up.
Coolest New Name: Tiny Gallon, selected 47th overall by the Bucks, is the winner of the Coolest New Name award. His first name is actually Keith, but it seems that he is known solely as Tiny. Gallon, who is currently playing in the D-League, earns bonus points for retaining the name Tiny despite being 6’9”. His name generally confuses me, considering it seems that a gallon is a fixed volume; how does a tiny gallon compare to an average one? Honorable mentions go to Lazar Hayward and also Quincy Pondexter, for having the nerdiest name in the history of jocks.
Lamest New Name: Considering that he has been all over scouting and draft websites for years, it should already be known that Ed Davis’ name is a extremely boring one. He doesn’t go by Eddy, has no nickname (I guess Ed is short for Edward, but that’s more of a shortened name rather than a nickname) and even has a boring middle name (Adam). Someone should call up his parents and tell them that a little bit of salt and pepper in the soup never killed anyone.
Most Frustrating Player: Stephen Jackson is undeniably talented. His 19, 5 and 4 prove that. However, that is all moot if he can’t stay on the court. His suspension for verbally abusing referees is plain embarrassing. That is showing no respect for the game and hurting his team. Even if the refs are out to get you, Cap’n Jack, it does no good to fight back. The Bobcats need you out there every night if they want to make the post-season, so please, don’t let it happen again. On another note… he hit a beautiful jumper to secure a 20+ point comeback against the Hawks.
As good as it looks, I would like to think that he could have gotten a better look than a heavily contested fade-away 20-footer. Just because he plays on Jordan’s team (and even practices with the dude), he does not have to try to hit equally difficult shots. Here’s to hoping that Jackson will start playing a more efficient brand of basketball in 2011.
Least Improved Player: OJ Mayo has declined in just about every way possible this year. That is not an exaggeration. He plays less, but has seen his shooting percentages drop across the board. The most startling drop is in his free throw percentage. As a rookie, he shot an incredible 87.9%. Last year, it dropped to a respectable 80.9%. This year, it has dropped again to 75.5%. This baffles me considering free throws are such routine shots. His routine most likely hasn’t changed in 10 years, yet his shot is getting worse. Per minute, he averages more shots (two- and three-pointers, both) while getting to the line less. He gets fewer rebounds and assists per minute, as well. If this wasn’t enough, he served a 10-game suspension for illegal substance use. Finally, he and Tony Allen are Gilbert and Javaris 2.0. Why David Stern hasn’t banned Bourré (Boo-ray) is beyond me.
Honorable Mention: Brook Lopez almost inspired a new Mid-Season Award. His sudden drop-off in rebounding almost forced us to create the Eddy Curry Award which would have been given out to the worst rebounding big man in the NBA. Maybe next season. His Total Rebounding Percentage is an exactly average 10.0%, which is down from last year’s 13.5% and his 15.8% as a Rookie. His FG Percentage has dropped, too; he is only shooting 47.7% this year, down from 49.9% in 2009-10. For some reason, he has taken a liking to shooting further away from the basket. He takes only 4.3 shots at the rim (compared to 6.6 last year), while his short range shots (10 feet away and closer) per game have doubled from 2.6 as a Sophomore to 5.2 this year. He is also taking 1.3 more jumpers than last year. Someone needs to direct the big fella to the Land of Milk and Honey.
Record Most Likely To Be Broken: As I am sure you already know, the Cavaliers already have the single-season consecutive loss record. It was their ineptitude that allowed the Wizards to get their first road victory and avoid setting the NBA record for consecutive road losses. In addition, Jesus Shuttlesworth passed Reggie Miller to become the all-time leader in 3 pointers made. As for one that will be broken in the second half of the season (or, uh, the last trimester), I think Joel Anthony will record his third triple-zero to become the all-time leader. Good luck, Joel, we know you need it.
Have some awards that you would like to propose to us? Convinced that Chris Bosh is actually the Best-Looking Player? Comment on the article or e-mail us at AGRbasketball (at) gmail (dot) com. Don’t forget to follow @AGRbasketball on Twitter and to like us on Facebook.