This time of year, I write a very involved column decorated with runner-ups and my own unique brand of NBA awards that are desirable and undesirable all at the same time….and this year is no different. In the interest of efficiency, I’ll cut right to the chase. Ladies, Gentlemen, and the Sixers, I present to you the 4th annual Geltzie Awards.
MVP- Kevin Durant
Lebron James picked the wrong year to have an ever so slight drop in production. Durant was not only the dominant force behind a great regular season for his Thunder, he put up a statistical season that holds up historically with some of the great ones in NBA history. Is he the best player in the NBA? That mantle still belongs to James but Durant closed the gap this year and flat out had a better year than the King. If I had to give a distant 3rd, I’m saying its Bad Blake Griffin, who upgraded every aspect of his game under new head coach Doc Rivers. The whole world wants to beat up Blake, but he just keeps getting better. He’s kind of like the NBA’s version of Hank Moody.
Rookie of the Year- Victor Oladipo
Truth be told, there’s not a ton of conviction behind this one. If I could pass on the award I would. Oladipo had a slow start but really came on towards the end of the season and showed he can be a very solid player for the Magic but not quite a star. Michael Carter Williams was the other candidate but his team was so bad and he played a significant role in his team’s epic losing streak largely because he was asked to do too much. Nonetheless, he developed some bad habits for a young player. Trye Burke was another consideration but he missed some time on the front end of the season and finished like a lamb.
Coach of the Year- Jeff Hornacek
There was a wealth of qualified candidates for this one but none who took a team whose management team intended to tank and carried them to the brink of the playoffs in a historically difficult conference. Guys had career years under Hornacek and he developed young players into good rotation guys who didn’t look like they could be before Hornacek got their hands on them. This would have been an epic job for any coach but considering that he’s a first year coach, this level of achievement is staggering. Tom Thibodeau, Steve Clifford, and Dwane Casey also had superb years but none eviscerated expectations as dramatically as Hornacek.
Most Disappointing Rookie- Otto Porter
There was lots of competition for this one. Several high draft picks proved wholly unprepared for the NBA but none more than Wizards rookie Otto Porter from Georgetown. On a team who needed an athletic wing with size, this athletic wing with size couldn’t show enough to get off the bench and when he did, he contributed less than nothing. Not to say Porter can’t end up being a contributor at one point, but he looks really far away from being an actual NBA player. First overall pick Anthony Bennett was certainly a contender for this award but Porter was a little more of a mutt. I considered Alex Len as well but he was saved by the improvement of the players who played ahead of him.
Most Disappointing Coach- Larry Drew
There wasn’t a shortage of candidates here either but no other coach in the league coached a team intending on trying for the playoffs but ended up with a worse record than every team trying to lose. Don’t get me wrong, Drew did not have a playoff quality team but none of his young guys got better and he got next to nothing out of his younger veterans. The bottom line is that not enough young guys got better on his watch. Mike Woodson also got consideration for this award. He had players dogging it on him for a good portion of the season and did nothing to hold them accountable plus he was schematically stubborn and let the inmates run the asylum for far too long. Mike Brown also did a hatchet job in Cleveland. He couldn’t get through to his young guys and did very little to command respect from them. He couldn’t get along with these young guys but he still refused to hold them accountable.
6th Man of the Year- Taj Gibson
This was the year that Gibson finally realized his potential as a two way force. Gibson has always been an elite defender, but he developed an impressive offensive repertoire and essentially made Chicago’s perpetual amnesty candidate Carlos Boozer totally obsolete. For the sole exception of Joakim Noah, Gibson is the reason the Bulls are as physically tough as they are. Vince Carter was also in consideration for this one. He has remade himself as a hard working role player who boxes out, defends and still scores some. He’s become a glue guy for Dallas. Jamal Crawford was also in consideration for a while but the time he missed down the stretch cost him with other very worthy candidates.
12th Man of the Year- Perry Jones
I award the 12th man of the year to a bench player that I believe is grossly under utilized by his head coach. Jones made a solid contribution as a size wing defender in the middle portion of the season while Russell Westbrook was out injured. He showed plenty of potential as a big 3D type who gave the Thunder a very interesting frontcourt look next to Durant. However, once Westbrook came back and the Thunder signed Caron Butler, Jones’ valuable contribution was totally marginalized by head coach Scott Brooks largely ignoring him. I also considered Kyle O’Quinn for this award who is an active aggressive big that Jacque Vaughn has been slow to show confidence in. I also considered Nando de Colo for the award who contributes whenever called upon but got stuck in guard rich environments in San Antonio and Toronto.
Most Improved Player- Goran Dragic
Getting to type those words made me feel like Wayne Campbell from Wayne’s World when Madonna was a guest on his show. Dragic has been one of my favorite players in the league for quite a while. He has always been a fearless guard who delivered loads of energy. However, this year he became an All-NBA quality lead guard who was able to subjugate some of his ball dominance very effectively to complement a fellow point guard next to him in Eric Bledsoe. When he opts out of his contract after next year, he’s going to get a well-deserved max contract offer. I also considered Brandan Wright of Dallas for this award. Wright developed into a very effective crunch time big man and an excellent front court complement for Dirk Nowitzki. My other consideration was Spurs backup point guard Patty Mills who emerged as a huge bench weapon for the Spurs and gives Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich the luxury of resting Tony Parker liberally.
Least Improved Player- Raymond Felton
Its difficult t put into words how badly Felton’s game deteriorated year over year. Felton has always struggled to shoot the basketball at times, but this year he was downright putrid. Any quickness that he had has left him through age and an obvious lack of conditioning. Felton once again declared his training camp condition as the “best shape of his career.” He was only in the best shape of his career if that career was to challenge Joey Chestnut in Nathan’s Coney Island Annual Hot Dog Eating Contest. The worst part is that Felton was as bad a defensive player as you’ll ever see at point guard. His overall ineptness and physical inertia made effort futile and that wasn't even the ugliest part. Yes, he had personal issues this year and I sympathize. However, it was incumbent upon somebody (i.e. the aforementioned Woodson) to reduce his playing time so he inflicted less damage on the Knicks. Jared Dudley was also under consideration for this "award". Dudley was a miserable offensive player and didn’t fill the role of a capable wing defender, which is what the Clips thought they were getting for Eric Bledsoe. I also considered Arnett Moultrie of the Sixers, who couldn’t make the active list on a team with over half of a roster of D League players. The cherry on the poop sundae for Moultrie was a five game drug suspension at the end of the season.
Defensive Player of the Year- Joakim Noah
The Bulls identity is entirely crafted on the defensive end of the floor. Their heart and soul is Noah. He is a flawless pick and roll defender. He’s more than an adequate rim protector and he’s athletic with a long wingspan which makes him eminently disruptive on the perimeter. On top of that, he plays with such a nasty edge and a competitive fire and spirit, that its virtually impossible for him not to inspire his teammates. This season, he had a different challenge in having some young players around him after Derrick Rose went down and Luol Deng was traded. Noah directed a defense and helped young players like Tony Snell and D.J. Augustin learn and execute Thibodeau’s defensive concepts. And yet, Noah was better defensively this year than any other year of his impressive career. Andrew Bogut was also considered for being this award for anchoring an outstanding Golden State defense. In spite of his late season struggles, I also considered Paul George for this award. No other perimeter defender can dominate a game quite like George can with his tenacious on ball defense and his ability to mine passing lanes.
Worst Defensive Player of the Year- Kendall Marshall
Marshall was a nice discovery for the Lakers in the respect that they were losing point guards like Tony Soprano was losing ( or whacking ) captains of the Aprile crew. For one of the 6 worst teams in the league, Marshall’s defense wasn’t exactly the nail in the Lakers coffin, but that didn’t make it any less awful. He’s slow on the ball, blissfully unaware off the ball, and generally treats physical contact like he’s susceptible to flesh eating bacteria. What worse is that when he was on the court to help a teammate in an on court scuffle, Marshall had no interest in helping in any way and didn’t believe he had to try to hide it. The aforementioned Felton was also a candidate for all the reasons I mentioned above. I also briefly considered Brandon Jennings for the award who is really bad defensively but not quite the mess that Marshall or Felton is.
Ditch Digger Award- Draymond Green
The Ditch Digger award is one I give to a guy
who is able to make himself an above average player through sheer hard work,
getting the absolute most out of his talent.
The title is taken from a famous Judge Smails line from Caddyshack, “the world needs ditch diggers too." Green gets the award for who he has turned himself into defensively. He can effectively guard both inside and on
the perimeter and is a legitimate defensive stopper. He also has worked hard
on his perimeter shooting and has significantly improved. He still needs some more work from behind the
arc, but he never stops working on the floor which makes him a big asset. I also considered Nick Collison for the award
who is quite often playing against stronger or quicker players but always holds
his own through hard work and attention to detail. I also considered Jonas Valanciunas who is a
talented young big man but has made himself a load to deal with through hard
work even if it isn’t always smart work.
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