Friday, April 12, 2013

The 2012-13 Wahly Awards...NBA Edition

As we enter the final week of the NBA’s regular season, we become inundated with projected award winners.  Not to be outdone, I wanted to unveil the 2012-13 Wahly Award winners!  Most categories have been locked up for a few weeks, but some late pushes in others may just surprise you.  Without further ado…The Wahly’s.

Most Valuable Player

1.     LeBron James – Miami Heat
2.     Kevin Durant – Oklahoma City Thunder
3.     Chris Paul – Los Angeles Clippers

It’s hard to imagine anyone else holding the hardware for the NBA.  LeBron James will lock up his fourth (should be five, but the media was a little too mad at him when he arrived in South Beach so congrats Derrick Rose) MVP in five seasons.  We all tried to put Durant, Paul and Carmelo in this category early in the season, but it is really not a question as to who the best player on the planet is.  I have a feeling he’ll lose out on a few MVP’s in the future, as voters will try to spread the love, but watching James control a team is pure art.

I also feel obligated to address the overly vocal pro-Kobe Bryant for MVP crowd.  While he is having a great individual season statistically, one key component in winning an MVP should be team wins.  In reality, how valuable are you when you flirt with 0.500 all season and possibly sneak into or miss the playoffs?

Sixth Man of the Year

1.     Corey Brewer – Denver Nuggets
2.     J.R. Smith – New York Knicks
3.     Jamal Crawford – Los Angeles Clippers

This award has been extremely to predict this season.  Jamal Crawford started out hot and was nearly a shoe-in before the All-Star break.  That momentum disappeared quickly as J.R. Smith seemed to figure out, after many years, what it takes for him to be great.  Jarrett Jack in Golden State was also playing so well, offensively, earlier this season.

In the end, I went with Brewer.  While integral parts of their teams, no one else on the list pushes the success of their team off the bench than Corey Brewer.  His stats may not blow you away, but simply watch this guy on the court.  He is a tremendous defender, routinely disputing offenses and initiating Denver’s lethal fast break.  He’s tremendously efficient shooting the three ball from the corner (42.5%) and attacks the basket with ruthless aggression.  His game has thrived in Denver and he has been the catalyst for many Nuggets victories this season.  They win on his energy alone on some nights.  He’s certainly a dark-house in the media, but he can’t be overlooked.  Sixth man always seems to be associated with a guy who comes off the bench and lights it up offensively.  While Brewer can absolutely do that, and does frequently, he adds the defensive energy that can push a second unit to lead their team to victories.  That is the reason he takes home the hardware.

Defensive Player of the Year

1.     Andre Iguodala – Denver Nuggets
2.     Joakim Noah – Chicago Bulls
3.     Tim Duncan – San Antonio Spurs

The DPOY is an award that routinely drives me nuts when it is awarded.  It has been awarded to a big man for eight consecutive seasons, and while not always a travesty, wing defenders are largely ignored.  Last season, Serge Ibaka finished second in voting behind Tyson Chandler.  I was completely in favor of Chandler’s win, but why was Ibaka there?  Yes, he blocks shots, but what else?  There’s more to defense than blocking shots.  Larry Sanders seems to be getting a push for this year’s award and it completely blows my mind!  I want someone who can defend multiple positions.  If you’re a big man, I want you to dominate the glass.  I want you to fill up the stat sheet, but also do the hidden things on the court.

For those reason, I had to go with Andre Iguodala in a close race with Joakim Noah.  Iguodala’s defense is absolutely spectacular.  On any given night, he will be responsible for the best player on the opposing team.  He’s always active and in the right spots.  Most importantly, he is fifth-best in points allowed in one-on-one scenarios.  He absolutely locks people down.

Noah slightly loses simply due to injury.  He just hasn’t been out there as much as Iguodala, and when you’re in a race, you have to be out there.  Duncan slightly beat out Marc Gasol and Avery Bradley for third.  Duncan has been an elite defender his entire career and continues to dominate with his footwork and positioning better than any big man in the league.

Rookie of the Year

1.     Damian Lillard – Portland Trailblazers
2.     Anthony Davis – New Orleans Hornets
3.     Harrison Barnes – Golden State Warriors

This one seemed simple on draft night.  The award was Anthony Davis’ to lose.  He was coming in with a great reputation based on his National Championship run at Kentucky, followed by his gold medal at the Olympics.  Unfortunately, injuries derailed a chunk of his season and opened up the door for others.  Well that door didn’t just open, it was kicked in by Damian Lillard.  The four year starter from Weber State exploded on the scene in game one of the season when he posted an impressive 23 point, 11 assist win over the much-hyped Lakers.  He hasn’t looked back since.

Most Improved Player of the Year

1.     Larry Sanders – Milwaukee Bucks
2.     Nikola Vucevic – Orlando Magic
3.     Chandler Parsons – Houston Rockets

Sometimes all a player needs is an opportunity to play.  It can take a change of scenery or simply just more minutes for someone to thrive.  What I always look at when looking for improvement is how the players’ stats reflect more court time.  If your court time doubles; your stats and output should likely double

Sanders’ minutes about doubled from last year to this year and his stats reflect that…and then some.  While averaging 3.6 points, 3.1 rebounds and 1.5 blocks last season, he has exploded since becoming the starter in Milwaukee.  He has jumped to 9.8 points, 9.5 rebounds and 2.8 blocks.  His rebounds tripled.  His points almost tripled.  His blocks almost doubled.

Vucevic can make the same case so the tiebreaker is…team wins!  Sanders is a key piece to a playoff team.  It’s hard not to reward someone whose impact on the court is helping his team succeed.

Coach of the Year

1.     George Karl
2.     Erik Spoelstra
3.     Mike Woodson

I will admit to this being a sentimental pick.  George Karl is one of the best coaches the league has ever seen, yet is also one of the most underappreciated coaches in the league.  He has coached 21 consecutive non-losing seasons, tying Phil Jackson for that honor.  He has helped Denver consistently reach the playoffs in 10 consecutive seasons (he has been there for 9 of them). He is part of an extremely exclusive list of coaches to win over 1,000 regular season games.  While he hasn’t won an NBA title, this award is for regular season accomplishments.

This season has been Coach Karl’s masterpiece.  Despite not having a “superstar” or All-Star, he led the Denver Nuggets to their best regular season record in franchise history; all this with the third youngest roster in the league.  Karl is turning conventional wisdom on its head and utilizing, as he likes to say, “teamness” to win games.  While he never truly knows who is going to have a great game each night, he’s able to utilize lineups that provide match up nightmares for opponents.  He can kill you with small ball or battle big, if that’s what the game calls for.  He’s also been able to keep momentum going despite injuries to key pieces of his lineup, Ty Lawson and Danilo Gallinari.

Karl’s true value can be seen in the improvement of his younger talent.  Kenneth Faried has continued to grow his offensive repertoire.  Kosta Koufos has developed into a very serviceable big man, who is always in the right place at the right time.  Karl allowed Corey Brewer to get more minutes and thrive.  Karl has also utilized the energy and awkwardness of JaVale McGee, and turned him into a force off the bench.  Additionally with JaVale, he didn’t immediately throw him into the starting lineup just because he got a big contract in the offseason.  Coaches too often fall into that trap, but Karl knows what works with his team and has the freedom to do what is best.

Karl has taken a team of perceived “spare parts” and turned them into a contender.  Maybe he’s a genius, or maybe the players in Denver are better than you think.  Either way, this season has been masterful and should be rewarded.

Executive of the Year

1.     Masai Ujiri – Denver Nuggets
2.     Daryl Morey – Houston Rockets
3.     Chris Wallace – Memphis Grizzlies

The pieces that Masai Ujiri put into place have been nothing short of spectacular.  He took the puzzle of building an NBA roster and perfected it without the aid of a large market to draw players to.  He was able to lock-up Danilo Gallinari, Kosta Koufos (the underappreciated starting center), JaVale McGee (key bench contributor), Wilson Chandler and acquire Andre Iguodala as part of the Dwight Howard to Lakers deal.  As previously written by Nuggets beat writer Chris Dempsey, the Nuggets are the clear winners of the four team deal.  In a league of superstars, the Nuggets GM has created a roster tailor-made for Coach George Karl’s style and it has set franchise records in wins, home wins and home wins in a row.  Pretty remarkable for a team that doesn’t get much press and attention.

Morey made some good acquisitions with James Harden and Jeremy Lin, but the handling of Royce White is a black eye that I can’t seem to look past.  While Wallace’s trade of Rudy Gay has been a success, this team doesn’t seem any better than it was two seasons ago when they were in the Western Conference semi-finals.

So there you have it.  Despite not having an All-Star or “superstar”, the Denver Nuggets (currently 3rd in the West) take some hardware back to the Mile High city.  Some of you may perceive this as a bias on my part, and maybe it is, but the fact remains that the Nuggets are the third best team in the league.  They are comprised of players and coaches that back up every point I make.  Whether you want to believe it or not, the points above have credibility.

While I’m sure there are awards you agree with and others you disagree with, it’s clear that the NBA is spilling over with talent.  This is probably the most talent-rich the NBA has been in a quarter of a century, and I can’t wait for next week when the second season, the playoffs, tip-off.




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