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.
May 25, 2013, 2:01 PM EDT
There have been seven quarters — 80 minutes — of the Western Conference Finals where the Spurs have looked much the better team. But the last 17 minutes — the fourth quarter and overtime, Memphis erased a 16-point deficit, pushed the game into overtime and made this start to look like the close series we…
May 25, 2013, 12:30 PM EDT
Kevin Durant has a reputation of being not only one of the best basketball players in the game, but also as one of the most genuine human beings to be associated with the league today. And he keeps doing things to solidify that image. After a devastating tornado ripped through parts of Oklahoma, Durant personally…
May 25, 2013, 11:00 AM EDT
After the Pacers took Game 2 from the Heat by defending well enough to get LeBron James to turn the ball over on consecutive possessions with the game on the line, Gorge Hill was asked if there was any player in the world more dangerous with the ball in that situation. “Yeah, it’s only like…
May 25, 2013, 9:30 AM EDT
The momentum is building in the talks between current Nuggets GM Masai Ujiri and the Raptors, and the two sides are in negotiations to move forward with an agrement to bring the reigning Executive of the Year to Toronto. After a meeting that took place in Colorado on Friday, things seem to be progressing at…
May 25, 2013, 8:00 AM EDT
LeBron James won Game 1 against the Pacers in the final moments, with two drives to the basket for scores in the final 10 seconds of overtime. To say he lost Game 2 in a similar manner would be overstating things a bit, but James did commit two turnovers on consecutive possessions with under a…
May 25, 2013, 1:49 AM EDT
Coming into this series, the Miami Heat gave the proper lip service to respecting the Indiana Pacers, but did they really respect them? The Heat had gone 45-3 since Feb. 3, you had to wonder if the Pacers really had their attention They do now. The question going into this series wasn’t if the Pacers…
May 25, 2013, 12:45 AM EDT
After the way Game 1 between the Heat and the Pacers went down, Game 2 could have gone one of two ways. Either Miami could have received the wake-up call delivered by Indiana and then come out with a dominant and inspired performance, or the Pacers could continue to make life difficult for the defending…
May 25, 2013, 12:06 AM EDT
As the final seconds of the third quarter wound down, Paul George dribbled at the top and sized up LeBron James, arguably the NBA’s best wing defender. Without the benefit of LeBron overplaying him or the absence of a rim protector, George drove left past LeBron and ferociously dunked over Chris Andersen as a foul…
May 24, 2013, 11:11 PM EDT
This series is so much fun. Paul George just absolutely crushed the Birdman Chris Andersen with a dunk. Just crushed him. LeBron James comes back down and drains a three. Then a little hand slap at midcourt. Respect. These are two teams standing toe-to-two trading blows, and most teams wither when they do that with…
May 24, 2013, 9:45 PM EDT
There is no way that should have been a technical. It’s the playoffs, we want emotion, we want a little feisty play… and frankly that wasn’t that feisty. There are Tuesday night games in Minnesota in January that were more emotional than that play. But Scott Foster has the fastest trigger in the NBA for…
May 24, 2013, 6:39 PM EDT
First Jim Boeheim has Carmelo Anthony’s back, now it’s time for another coach to get a former star’s back. Kentucky coach John Calipari was on the Adam “the Bull” & Dustin Fox show on 92.3 The Fan in Cleveland, and when asked about Derrick Rose and his injury — and the heat he took in…
May 24, 2013, 4:56 PM EDT
In Hollywood, they call that chewing up the scenery. Memphis guard Tony Allen has been fined $5,000 by the league for his overacting — technically violating the league’s anti-flopping policy — on that play. Make no mistake, Manu Ginobili fouled Allen hard on this crucial late-game play — the Grizzlies were down four with :26…
May 24, 2013, 3:29 PM EDT
Early in the fourth quarter of the Heat’s Game 1 win over the Pacers, Ian Mahinmi grabbed LeBron James by the arm as he went up for the shot, causing James to fall a bit awkwardly as he crashed to the floor. It was ruled as a common foul at the time, but has since…
May 24, 2013, 2:42 PM EDT
The Clippers’ head coaching job is undoubtedly the most intriguing out of all of the ones that are currently open for next season. Assuming Chris Paul re-signs with the team in free agency, L.A. will return the core of a team that was talented enough to win 56 regular season games and two in the…
May 24, 2013, 2:34 PM EDT
To answer your first question, that is Todd MacCulloch getting dunked on. He played for the Nets in 2002. That was one of those years when the real NBA finals was the Lakers vs. Kings in the Western Conference Finals — whichever team got through that war was going to steamroll New Jersey. Which is…
May 24, 2013, 1:45 PM EDT
George Hill had a rough Game 1 for the Pacers — 2-of-9 shooting for five points with three turnovers. Plus, he sprained his big toe. I’m serious, he’s getting treatment and everything. The news comes from the twitter account of Mark Montieth of Pacers.com. George Hill has sprained left big toe, from Game 1. Had…
May 24, 2013, 1:22 PM EDT
When a player averages less than one point and three rebounds per game over the course of a season, while possessing the option to come back for another year with the same team at a salary of $9 million, it doesn’t take a degree in advanced economics to figure out what the chosen course of…
May 24, 2013, 1:19 PM EDT
Hibbert on if Battier does it again, "I have no problem putting my nuts in line of fire. …They pay me all this money, I got to be there."— Stefan Bondy (@NYDNInterNets) May 24, 2013 Sometimes, we forget how much playing in the NBA is like any regular job. You show up. You get kneed…
May 24, 2013, 1:12 PM EDT
In their Thursday press availabilities, the tones between the Heat and Pacers were different. Indiana may have lost Game 1 but there was an optimistic “we can beat these guys” vibe around the team. Miami may be up 1-0 but there was more of a “that was not us, we can play a lot better”…
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