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Trimester Awards: A Naughty and Nice List

Dec 21, 2012, 6:19 PM EDT

Kevin Durant

Can you believe it? The NBA season is somehow a third of the way finished, which means it’s probably time to take stock of what we’ve seen so far this year. We’ll give out some awards — ’tis the season and all that — but we’ll also dish out some coal. After all, what are the holidays without some grinch-style bitterness and crushing disappointment?  Here are your NBA Trimester Awards:

Most Improved Player: Andray Blatche, Brooklyn Nets

After six long seasons with one of the most dysfunctional teams in all of sports, Blatche was written off as a guy who would never get it; a knucklehead, a waste of talent. The Nets were universally laughed at for picking up Blatche for the veteran’s minimum earlier this year, and now look where we are. Blatche has a PER of 23.2 (8th best in the entire league) and is posting career highs in *deep breath* field goal percentage, true shooting percentage, all rebounding percentages, points per36 minutes, and PER. If you believe the most improved player should be someone who has been around for a bit (i.e. not a second year a guy), then Blatche is your choice over other worthy candidates like O.J. Mayo, Eric Bledsoe and Kemba Walker.

Least Improved Player: Gerald Green, Indiana Pacers

This guy is all over the place. After bouncing around the league for years, Green was a legitimate candidate for Most Improved Player last season when he tore it up in his last 31 games. But for as good as he was at the end of last year, he’s been just as bad in 26 games this year with Indiana. In Danny Granger‘s absence, Green has shot a dreadful 37 percent from the field and is notching a career-low in points per36 minutes. Of players who average more than 20 minutes a game, Gerald Green is second only to Austin Rivers for lowest PER. That’s pretty brutal, especially given Green’s immense athletic gifts.

Defensive Player of the Trimester: Tim Duncan, San Antonio Spurs

He doesn’t have the reputation, but Duncan is one of the greatest defenders ever. You’d expect a serious decline at 36-years-old, but Duncan’s numbers speak for themselves. He’s 4th in the league in defensive rebounding percentage (which should absolutely factor in to this discussion), first in individual defensive rating, second in defensive win shares and 10th in block percentage. He’s anchoring a Spurs defense that’s posted the 7th best defensive efficiency rating in the league, which is pretty impressive considering the Spurs don’t have Kawhi Leonard on the wing yet. Smart back line defenders are so critical to defenses these days, and Duncan is showing once again why he’s absolutely one of the best.

Matador of the Trimester: Michael Beasley, Phoenix Suns

An honorable mention goes to Andrea Bargnani, but Michael Beasley’s on/off numbers clinch this award. The Suns are a staggering 23.4 net points better per 100 possessions when Michael Beasley is off the court — one of the worst marks in the league. His opponent’s effective field goal percentage is 7 percentage points higher than his own. He has .02 defensive win shares, well below the legal limit. The Suns as a team are bad defensively (25th in defensive rating), but Beasley serves as a direct contrast to Jared Dudley and P.J. Tucker — guys who actually, you know, try to stay in front of people on the wing. Phoenix is at a monstrous disadvantage whenever he takes the floor.

Coach of the Trimester: Mike Woodson, New York Knicks

Woodson has devised an offense that his guys love to play in. His one-in, four out scheme built around Tyson Chandler pick-and-rolls and Carmelo Anthony isolations has netted the Knicks the 2nd best offensive rating in the league behind Oklahoma City. They’ve been historically good in multiple areas, but more specifically, the Knicks are currently shooting above 40 percent from behind the arc, which is something only eight other teams in NBA history have done. Although some of this may be unsustainable, Woodson will get back Amar’e Stoudemire (say what you will, but he’s at least as good as Kurt Thomas, right?) and perhaps more importantly, defensive ace Iman Shumpert. Rick Adelman and Mark Jackson deserve mention as well, but Woodson’s Knicks are the story of the year so far.

The “Bad News Bears” Coach of the Trimester: Keith Smart, Sacramento Kings

The Kings have gone 8-17 to start the year, but more importantly, they’re already imploding. Some of Smart’s more notable follies include his refusal to play Isaiah Thomas, his failed implementation of a Triangle offense, and the construction of the league’s 28th worst defense. Is the roster bad? Yes, it’s awful. Are the owners bad? Yes, they’re awful, too. But let’s be honest — Smart hasn’t done anything to get DeMarcus Cousins to stop chucking up 18-footers and he hasn’t improved a young roster or even held them very accountable. It’s ugly in Sacramento right now.

MVP: Kevin Durant, Oklahoma City Thunder

Somehow, he just keeps getting better. Durant could very well become the first player in league history to lead the NBA in scoring with percentages of 50-40-90 — a testament to how frighteningly efficient he is as a high usage perimeter player. Although LeBron James possesses the better PER by a fingernail, Durant leads LeBron in win shares and offensive rating so far this season. You can’t go wrong with either guy, but Durant gets the slight nod for leading his team to the better record thus far. If this holds, this could be the most hotly contested MVP race yet.

LVP: Kendrick Perkins, Oklahoma City Thunder

The scariest thing about the Oklahoma City Thunder? They could very easily be better if they replaced Kendrick Perkins with even an average player, or better yet, with Nick Collison. Oklahoma City is 5.4 net points per 100 possessions worse with Perkins on the floor, and a net 10.2 points better per 100 possessions when Collison is on the floor. But let’s focus solely on Perkins, who has a -8.7 PER differential, which contributes heavily to the Thunder ranking 29th in PER differential at the center position. Perkins is a 7 point, 7 rebound per 36 minute player who makes 7 million dollars a year for a small market team that can’t afford to pay that. It’s a nice thought that Perkins is the “Dwight Stopper”, but that’s a pretty price to pay for someone who marginally contains a single player. Check out the numbers:

Here are Howard’s averages in 25 head-to-head meetings with Perkins: 16.5 points and 12.8 rebounds on 52 percent shooting.

And here are Howard’s career averages: 18.4 points and 13 rebounds on 57 percent shooting.

There’s a drop-off, but not enough to justify Perkins playing 25 minutes a night, every single night. Although Oklahoma City is clearly having great team success, it’s hard to attribute much of that to Perkins. There are players with worse Player Efficiency Ratings than 9.2, and there are players who are much worse help defenders, but Perkins gets the LVP because he ultimately hurts a title contending team at a critical spot.

  1. fanz928 - Dec 21, 2012 at 6:29 PM

    Lebron or anthony for MVP durant is good but he needs to make players around him better to be MVP he too young and too weak

    • bucketman9 - Dec 21, 2012 at 6:40 PM

      Don’t get me wrong here Carmelo is having a great season, but tell me how he makes his teammates better? It will come down to being a 2-horse race with Lebron and Durant.

    • savvybynature - Dec 22, 2012 at 12:44 AM

      Have you watched OKC play this season?

      With Harden shipped and Maynor shaking off some rust, Durant has been more of a playmaker this year than ever and is in fact setting up his teammates and making them better.

      Eastern Conference bias maybe?

  2. paleihe - Dec 21, 2012 at 6:53 PM

    Perkins is, by far, the most overrated player in basketball.

    • moseskkim - Dec 22, 2012 at 9:09 AM

      No one even rates him.. I don’t think u know the definition of overrated. That’s for someone who many people say wow he’s really good but in real life/for the team the player isn’t that good. For example, earlier in the year a columnist said deandre Jordan was playing at a near all star level. People also commented that hes doing great things on defense that don’t show up on the stat sheet. I argued he averages 10 and 7 and barely plays in the 4th quarter because of a variety of reasons. Daj is overrated in my opinion. Everyone knows Perkins sucks, therefore not rated.

  3. rickyspanish - Dec 21, 2012 at 7:07 PM

    paleihe

    I totally agree, for the amazing front office that everyone says Oklahoma has, the bit the weenie on Perkins’ contract.

  4. livingsacrifice86 - Dec 21, 2012 at 7:52 PM

    I’m no Knicks fan by any means, but Melo is playing out of his mind right now. He is the MVP so far, IMO

  5. wwttww - Dec 21, 2012 at 7:57 PM

    Larry Drew for COY!!!

  6. miamatt - Dec 21, 2012 at 10:12 PM

    I understand that MVP is a regular season award and that OKC as well as the Knicks are off to great starts. I would personally go with Carmelo over Durant at this point, but really, what LBJ does for the Heat is unmatched by either of those two guys. He leads Miami in scoring, rebounding, assists and minutes, while also being their best defender (certainly the most versatile in the league), and playmaker.

    As good as he was last year, James is even better this year. He simply never has an off night, and he is shooting a career high in FG% and 3PT%. Look at the top ten FG% list and LBJ is the only non-center in there. He can’t match Durant’s free throw % but that’s the only edge he doesn’t have.

  7. boondocksaint224 - Dec 21, 2012 at 11:59 PM

    Anderson Varejao and Joakim Noah deserve some recognition for what they’re doing out there right now, too. Both guys are playing like monsters.

  8. savvybynature - Dec 22, 2012 at 12:48 AM

    Good article. Good picks and justifications.

    Nice to see Duncan get credit for playing great defense. A lot of writers tend to overlook his play on that side of the ball, though for the life of me I can’t figure out why.

  9. scalfor3 - Dec 22, 2012 at 1:20 AM

    i think you can make a case for deandre jordan being the most improved player. he occasionally slips into beast modes during which he makes opponents look legitimately helpless.

  10. kavika6 - Dec 22, 2012 at 1:55 AM

    Duncan will never be the official defensive player of the year award winner because he’s too nice. Apparently you have to be a total jerk and pick fights all year in order to win that award.

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