Dec 21, 2012, 6:19 PM EDT
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.
Mar 13, 2014, 9:13 AM EDT
To quote Cartman: Respect my authoritah. Blake Griffin basically said that with this dunk. He has broadened his game this season, adding a far more consistent jump shot to go with handles and improved defense (which he showed off all night on the pick-and-roll against Stephen Curry), but the man can still dunk. With authoritah. As…
Mar 13, 2014, 8:44 AM EDT
There was no way we were going to get through a PBT Podcast without talking some more about Phil Jackson and the Knicks. So that comes up in the latest PBT podcast with myself and Eytan Shander of NBC Sports Radio. But we spend a lot more time talking other things, such as the slumps of…
Mar 13, 2014, 8:00 AM EDT
BOSTON – When he was about 8 years old and accompanying his dad to his NBA games, Tim Hardaway Jr. used to grab a basketball and wander onto the court beyond the 3-point arc. There, he’d attempt NBA 3 after NBA 3. It’d be years until he’d make them regularly and even longer until he…
Mar 13, 2014, 3:53 AM EDT
Our quick look around the NBA, or what you missed while playing table tennis against a robot… Paul Pierce, Brooklyn Nets. In a game against LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, The Truth was the best player on the court. He couldn’t seem to miss on his way to 29 points on 9-of-12 shooting including 5-of-7…
Mar 13, 2014, 12:55 AM EDT
Normally posting video of one player dropping another with a crossover if it only leads to a missed shot is a bit gauche, but in this case, it’s worth making the exception. Tony Wroten seems to mystify Kings rookie Ray McCallum here, and McCallum trips over himself trying to keep up. Again, Wroten should have…
Mar 13, 2014, 12:11 AM EDT
Brooklyn started to look like a threat this season when they were forced by injry to go small without Brook Lopez, which meant coach Jason Kidd slid Paul Pierce over to the power forward slot. You knew Pierce could score at the four, but the surprise is how much better the Brooklyn defense is with…
Cole Aldrich, nearly four years after being drafted in lottery, gets double-double in first career start
Mar 12, 2014, 11:11 PM EDT
BOSTON – As a swarm of media enclosed Cole Aldrich, the playful calls began from his teammates in the less-crowded areas of the New York Knicks locker room. “Cole Stoudemire!” “Cole Chandler!” Aldrich could hardly contain his smile as he discussed his first career start with larger-than-usual-for-him audience. Without the Knicks’ highly paid big men,…
Mar 12, 2014, 11:01 PM EDT
Memphis grinds, they defend, they make the game ugly and throw you off your game. That is how they won 6-of-7 and vaulted into the Western Conference playoff picture. But they can make shots when they need to. Mike Conley did that for the game winner against the Pelicans on Wednesday night — he came…
Mar 12, 2014, 10:21 PM EDT
Adam Silver has preached transparency and innovation since taking over as the NBA’s commissioner on Feb. 1, and that has meant a lot of talk about how the draft lottery may not be the perfect solution to prevent teams from stacking their rosters with less than the best available talent as part of the rebuilding…
Mar 12, 2014, 9:02 PM EDT
The Bobcats are a playoff team in the East at the moment, but that position is relatively tenuous. Every game counts toward that goal, obviously, so willingly sitting down one of your rotation players has to have happened for a good reason. We don’t yet know exactly what that reason is, but we do know…
Mar 12, 2014, 7:59 PM EDT
It’s just one game, so you can’t read too much into Andrew Bynum‘s 8 point, 10 rebound first game with the Pacers, but he certainly has the potential to make them better. Today on PBT Extra Kay Adams talk about what Bynum can bring to the Pacers. Then we discuss the stumbles of the Portland…
Mar 12, 2014, 7:03 PM EDT
Is there tanking going on in the NBA this season? Depends on how you want to define taking. However even if you define it broadly it’s not as bad as many seem to think it is. New NBA commissioner Adam Silver defines it more narrowly and says there is no tanking going on right now.…
Mar 12, 2014, 6:16 PM EDT
Kobe Bryant expects the Lakers front office to turn the Lakers roster around fast. By the start of next season fast (when he will return from his fractured knee). I expect Emily Ratajkowski to call me so we can go out tonight. You can expect whatever you want, doesn’t make it reality. But if Kobe…
Mar 12, 2014, 5:08 PM EDT
Kobe Bryant is frustrated — with his recovery, with the Lakers losing, with Lakers management. And he talks about it all.
Mar 12, 2014, 4:04 PM EDT
NBA guys break out trick shots at practice all the time. Not so much during pregame warmups. Except for Dallas’ Monta Ellis, who practiced some free throws with his eyes closed, and a no-look over-his-head corner three. And nailed it. Maybe he should have broke them out during the game in Golden State Tuesday night…
Mar 12, 2014, 2:55 PM EDT
We told you this was coming on Tuesday night, but now the Lakers have made it official: Kobe Bryant is out for the remainder of this NBA season. “Obviously this has been a frustrating and disappointing season, but I appreciate all the support I’ve received from the Lakers and the fans, and look forward to…
Mar 12, 2014, 2:40 PM EDT
It’s the NBA — you keep your star players in the loop, you consult with them on big moves, if for no other reason then to make them feel wanted. Elite talent is in limited supply in the NBA, you need to keep those guys happy. So it was only a matter of time before…
Steve Kerr confirms his interest in coaching, understands speculation that he will join Phil Jackson with Knicks
Mar 12, 2014, 1:51 PM EDT
Steve Kerr sees why you’d make the connection between Phil Jackson, the Knicks, and himself. But he won’t discuss it just yet.
Mar 12, 2014, 1:04 PM EDT
Patrick Beverley went hard after Russell Westbrook from the opening tip on Tuesday, but James Harden says it was a needless distraction.
Mar 12, 2014, 12:33 PM EDT
Thomas grew up a Lakers, Kobe Bryant fan.
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