NBA Six Pack: Handing Out The Hardware
HOOPSWORLD’s Senior NBA Analyst Tommy Beer takes you through his most recent musings on the National Basketball Association in this latest installment of The NBA Six Pack…
1. And the Winner is…
2011-2012 MVP: 1. LeBron James // 2. Kevin Durant // 3. Chris Paul
At the ripe age of 27, we are witnessing the absolute prime years in the career of LeBron James, who will likely go down as one of the best players to ever step foot on a basketball court. Already with two MVP’s on his resume, LeBron just put together arguably the finest statistical season of his storied career. Despite playing a career-low 37.5 mpg, King James averaged a career-high 7.9 rebounds per game, while also chipping in 27.2 points and 6.2 assists. To help put those numbers in perspective: LeBron grabbed more boards than JaVale McGee and Serge Ibaka; and LeBron dished out more assists than Russell Westbrook and Brandon Jennings; and scored more points Dirk and Melo; and tallied more steals than Tony Allen or Iman Shumpert. You get the idea. Moreover, what really stood out about LeBron’s 2011-12 campaign was his remarkable efficiency. LeBron posted career-highs in FG% (.531), three-point FG% (.362), and FT% (.771). And the icing on the MVP cake is the way LeBron stepped up when the HEAT were without D Wade. Miami went 14-1 in the 15 games Wade missed this season, with LBJ averaging over 34 ppg in those contests… Kevin Durant was phenomenal as well, and he’ll win multiple MVP’s in the near future, but he was not quite on par with LBJ this season. Durant is nearly James’ equal on offense, but LeBron is the far superior defender… The reason there was so much commotion around a potential Chris Paul trade prior to the start of the season was on full display all year long in Los Angeles. CP3 transformed the franchise and immediately turned the Clippers into contenders.
Defensive Player of the Year: 1. Tyson Chandler // 2. Andre Iguodala // 3. Dwight Howard
Last week I outlined many of the primary reasons why I believe Chandler is the rightful receipt of this season’s DPOY award. For starters, this season New York is holding its opponents to 94.8 points per game, compared to the 105.7 it was allowing last season; while forcing opponents to shoot 44.2% from the field compared to the 47.2% last year. One last stat: In the games Chandler has missed this season, opponents are scoring over 116 ppg on average (while shooting 52% from the floor); in the games Chandler plays, opponents averaged fewer than 94 ppg (while shooting 43.8%)… Andre Iguodala has emerged as arguably the NBA’s preeminent perimeter defender, regularly guarding the other team’s best scorer, be it a SG or SF. Iggy defensive versatility spearheaded one of the NBA’s stingiest overall defenses… Howard obviously had his ups-and-downs, but the Magic’s major struggles with Superman out of the lineup helped highlight just how dominant Dwight is when healthy.
Rookie of the Year: 1. Kyrie Irving // 2. Kawhi Leonard // 3. Ricky Rubio // 4. Isaiah Thomas
This was by far-and-away the easiest category to call. Despite being the top overall pick, expectations for Irving were somewhat tempered for the Duke alumnus. However, Kyrie put together an incredibly impressive all-around rookie campaign. By finishing the season averaging 18.5 ppg and 5.4 helpers, Irving joined Oscar Robertson, Magic Johnson, Allen Iverson, and LeBron James as the only #1 overall draft picks in NBA history to average over 18 points and five assists. Irving also shot an exceptional 87.2% from the free throw line, becoming just the fourth rookie in league history to average 18.0 points and shoot at least 86.0% from the free throw stripe (Rick Barry, Kevin Durant, and O.J. Mayo are the other three)… Kawhi Leonard’s numbers certainly don’t jump off the page at you like Irving’s do, but the youngest Spur has been an integral part of San Antonio’s surprising surge to the top of the pack out West. Leonard’s impressive defense and offensive consistency has been a much welcomed addition for Coach Pop’s crew… The electric Ricky Rubio was the talk of the town before tearing his ACL. Assuming his rehab goes according to plan, the future remains undeniably bright for Rubio and his Timberwolves teammates… Had to sneak in an honorable mention for Zeke out in Sacramento. Quietly flying under the radar, Thomas averaged 14.3 points, 5.2 assists, and 1.8 three-pointers over the final 32 games of the regular season. Great numbers for a second-round afterthought…
2. Is it better to be lucky than good? A combination of both is probably best: “The Story of Glen Grunwald’s Promotion”
During the 2010-2011 season, Shawne Williams resurrected his NBA career in New York City. Williams, a former first-round pick by the Pacers back in 2007 that was completely out of the league in 2010, was invited to the Knicks training camp prior to the start of last season and earned a spot on the roster. Eventually he even worked his way into the rotation and carved out a role as a extremely valuable contributor off the bench. On a team that had few reliable jump-shooters, Williams would stretch defenses by camping out in the corner and consistently knocking down important three-pointers. Over the second half of last season, Williams averaged 8.1 points, 4.2 rebounds, and 1.4 three-pointers per contest. At a solid 6-9, he was also a versatile frontline defender, averaging 1.1 blocks.
Because he signed a non-guaranteed contract in training camp, Williams became a free agent after the season ended. The Knicks, fully understanding his value within the framework of the NY roster, made it abundantly clear they wanted to re-sign Shawne and keep him in orange and blue. Williams, who was grateful for the opportunity to prove himself, admitted his preference would be to stay put…
Donnie Walsh was the man that originally drafted Williams in Indiana, and then brought him to New York as well. However, Walsh voluntary resigned (or was pushed out the door – depending on which side of the story you believe) last June. Glen Grunwald was named as the team’s interim GM.
Grunwald’s first move as GM was considered a major roll of the dice. On December 10th, in the early stages of free agency, Grunwald cut Chauncey Billups via the amnesty clause, in order to sign-and-trade for Tyson Chandler. In retrospect, it turned out to be a stroke of genius. Once Chandler was signed to a whopping $58 million contract, the Knicks newest GM went about the business of fleshing out the roster. With Chandler, Carmelo Anthony, and Amar’e Stoudemire accounting for nearly $50 million of their salary cap, Grunwald would need to get creative in order to build a well-rounded, balanced squad.
The Knicks were now flush against the cap, but the newly-enacted CBA allowed capped out teams to add to their roster via a “room exception” worth $2.5 million, for up to two years. Grunwald eagerly approached Shawne Williams and his agent, offering all they could – the $2.5 million room exception – hoping Williams willing to return to NY. However, New York’s rivals across the river, the New Jersey Nets, trumped the Knicks offer. The Nets presented an offer of $3.1 million annually, or $6.2 million total guaranteed. After a day or two of deliberation, Williams regretfully informed the Knicks that he had inked a deal with the Nets.
It was back to the drawing board for a disappointed Glen Grunwald. Searching for a reliable outside threat to balance the floor, Grunwald scanned the waiver wire, looked overseas, D-League rosters etc.
As luck would have it, on December 19th the San Antonio Spurs waived journeyman forward Steve Novak. Novak has played for three different teams over the previous 18 months, and had yet to establish himself as proven NBA commodity. On December 21st, after being spurned by Shawne Williams, Grunwald “settled” for Novak as a replacement.
The rest, as they say, is history… Novak is in the process of breaking numerous single-season franchise records for both three-point accuracy and proficiency. Williams, on the other hand, was a colossal bust for the Nets, shooting under 29% from the floor and being benched, before breaking his left foot, which sidelined him for the season. (He was later traded to the Trailblazers as cap-filler in the Gerald Wallace deal).
Furthermore, before Novak was even brought in, the one obvious immediate benefit from not signing Williams was saving the “room exception.” This allowed Grunwald and the Knicks to be players in the J.R. Smith sweepstakes when Smith returned from China. Because NY was one of the few competitive teams with the room exception still at their disposal, Grunwald was able to bring Smith aboard, supplying D’Antoni/Woodson with a dynamic scorer and athletic defender to bring in off the bench.
Essentially, Williams’ decision to reject the Knicks offer resulted in New York landing Steve Novak and J.R. Smith; two crucial components in the Knicks late-season surge.
Just this week, Knicks owner James Dolan announced that the “interim” in Grunwald’s title had been removed, officially naming him executive vice president and general manager.
Looking at the big picture, it obviously wasn’t just a “ luck” that led to Grunwald’s promotion. As noted above, the Chandler trade was gutsy, to say the least, and has already proven enormously successful. In addition, his best move may have been plucking a vagabond named Jeremy Lin off the waiver wire on December 27th; we all know how that turned out.
Nonetheless, no matter how talented you are, or how prescient a GM, a little bit of luck can go a long, long way…
3. Quote of the Week:
“Biyombo told me, ‘This is my house,’” Gay said after the Grizz beat the Bobcats 85-80 late last week. “I told him, ‘You have seven wins. It’s everybody’s house.’”
4. Dunks of the
Week Year (With the NBA season wrapping up last night, let’s take a look back at the best dunks from the entire 2011-2012 season):
* LeBron jumps over John Lucas and catches a ball in mid air and dunks it through a basket. Seriously.
* Batum banging on McGee didn’t get the credit it deserved.
* Andre Miller should NOT have jumped.
* Blake spins and reverses over Kris Humphries.
* This Gerald Green windmill alley-opp is just… it’s just… wow
* Durant with the alley, and Westbrook with the oop.
* Want to start your NBA career off in style? Get your first two professional points of a crazy alley-oop from Rudy Fernandez.
* Tyreke Evans explodes from the dotted.
* And, lest we forget, we had a few great dunks from those meaningless exhibition games during the lockout – this ridiculous Rondo to Faried alley-oop tops that list.
* I think this might have been arguably my second favorite BG dunk of the year (look where he takes off from?!)
* We’ll leave on this note – Blake on Kendrick.
5. Tweets of the Week:
- @BQRMagic Chris Duhon needs just 1535 points tonight to top Kevin Durant for the scoring title.
- @netw3rk: “The playoffs are starting so lets talk about tanking.” – Someone, sadly.
- @sportsguy33 What? That doesn’t sound like Skip at all! RT @Chris_Broussard Watching @RealSkipBayless blow the Bynum benching waayyyy out of proportion.
- @YourManDevine Front-flip trick shot vs. behind-the-back half-court heave: Which was better? http://t.co/hPUjxUJD
- @briancmahoney Apparently people only think Kobe shoots too much until the night they wanted him to come out gunning…
- @IAMAGM Video: Reggie Evans with the worst flop in basketball history (Apr 22, 2012): http://t.co/HZm4rKLK
6. Elias Sports Bureau Stats of the Week:
* From Elias: Rajon Rondo captured the 2011-12 assist title with a flourish, capping his season with a 15-assist performance in the Celtics’ 87-74 win over the Bucks. As if to make a point, Rondo did not score a single point in the game; in fact, he took only one shot (a 27-footer). Only two other players in NBA history recorded at least 15 assists in a game in which they did not score: John Lucas (1981 and 1984) and Hambone Williams (1969).
* The Wizards took advantage of Miami’s “B” team, posting a 104-70 victory over the Heat that extended Washington’s winning streak to six games. Only one other team in NBA history finished a season with six straight wins but failed to make the playoffs. The San Diego Rockets, who won their last seven games in 1970-71, missed the playoffs despite a pair of future Hall of Famers (Elvin Hayes and Calvin Murphy) and a Hall of Fame coach (Alex Hannum).
* Serge Ibaka blocked four shots in the Thunder’s last game of the regular season, a 106-101 loss to the Nuggets. Ibaka ended the season with a streak of 30 consecutive games with at least one blocked shot. It’s the longest such streak for any NBA player this season and the second-longest in SuperSonics/Thunder history, one shy of Ibaka’s 31-game streak that overlapped the last two seasons.
* The Clippers lost their regular-season finale at New York to drop their record to 16-17 on the road. The Clippers franchise, which entered the NBA in 1970 and has existed as the Buffalo Braves, San Diego Clippers and Los Angeles Clippers, has never finished a season with a .500 or better record in road games. The closest they came before this season was in 2005-06 (20-21). Their streak of 42 consecutive seasons with a losing road record is the longest such streak in NBA history.
* The Bulls defeated the Pacers at Indiana in a matchup of teams that will have home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs. But keep this in mind for the postseason: The Pacers are 15-0 this season in home games against teams with losing records, but they are 8-10 at Bankers Life Fieldhouse against teams that are at-or-above the.500 mark.
* Blake Griffin had 36 points and eight rebounds and Chris Paul chipped in with 34 points and five rebounds, but it wasn’t enough as the Clippers dropped a 109-102 decision to the Hawks in Atlanta on Tuesday night. Since the 1990-91 season, only four other teams have lost a game in regulation despite having multiple players record at least 34 points and five rebounds: Cleveland vs. Denver on January 12, 1991 (Larry Nance and Brad Daugherty), Atlanta vs. Charlotte on April 17, 1993 (Dominique Wilkins and Kevin Willis), the Lakers vs. Portland on April 13, 2003 (Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant) and Miami vs. Chicago on March 14, 2012 (LeBron James and Dwyane Wade)… It was only the third time in the Clippers’ franchise history that two players each recorded at least 34 points and five rebounds in the same game. Dominique Wilkins and Ron Harper did it on March 8, 1994 and Michael Brooks and Tom Chambers did it while the team was located in San Diego on April 15, 1982.