The Geltzies- End of Season Awards
This is the second year that I’m writing this column. I don’t get a vote for the major awards that are given out by the NBA at the end of the season. So, I take the liberty of giving my choices for these awards and I sprinkle a few of my own in that aren’t quite politically correct for the league to sanction voting on. Without further adieu, I present to you, my readers, the 2nd Annual presentation of The Geltzies.
Most Valuable Player
Lebron James- F Miami Heat- Lebron is the one NBA player who seems to stir anger in fans and media alike. You can say that he doesn’t have a humble bone in his body. You can complain until you’re blue in the face about how he handled his move to the Miami Heat. You can call him a choker even though there is copious evidence to the contrary. What you can’t say, unless you’re more brain damaged than the Stork from Animal House (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FMENQeCbxfI) , is anything but the best player in the NBA. We could analyze his season statistically and on that alone make an empirical case for him as the MVP. That would be overly simplistic and wouldn’t come close to telling the whole story. The best case to make is that the biggest problem the Heat have a they most likely enter the playoffs as the Eastern Conference’s #2 seed is that they can’t clone Lebron. They need Lebron to be their low post threat offensively, but they also need him handling the ball on the perimeter and initiating the offense as a point guard. They need him to guard the other team’s best perimeter threat, but they also need him using his strength to lean on the other team’s best big man. They need every ounce of Lebron’s versatility yet there’s still a question whether it’s enough for the Heat. The Heat have many issues, but they’re still one of the three best teams in the league and the man who bears the most responsibility for that is Lebron James. If we’re picking a runner up, Kevin Durant would get the nod, but his year has not been in the class of the year that James has just put up.
Rookie of the Year
Kyrie Irving-G Cleveland Cavaliers- Sometime around the All Star Break, I was all revved up to give this award to Minnesota point guard, the Spanish Sensation Ricky Rubio. Then Rubio goes down for the year and Minnesota goes into the tank, which is why Kevin Love’s name doesn’t belong in the MVP conversation, but I digress. As justified as I feel in believing that Rubio should be the rookie of the year, I can’t give it to a dude who missed half the season injured. The only other option is Kyrie Irving. Irving has surpassed what I thought he could do this year. He is a gifted athlete who has wonderful instincts to play point guard. His defense was abysmal at the beginning of the season, which is quite common for rookies, yet it graduated to just plain bad as the season wore on. However, what really earned Irving this award were his late game heroics and having an absurd amount of guts not only to take big shots, but to make them as well. Irving goes flying into the paint like Kevin Costner throws himself in front of a firing squad in the opening scene of Dances with Wolves. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LJoF62cRiHo) When Irving was drafted, I thought he had the potential to be a good NBA point guard. From what I’ve seen from him in his first year, he’s much closer than I’d ever thought he’d be to being a great point guard. As much as I’d like to bring up a runner up to Irving, Rubio was the closest thing there was. Nets wing Marshon Brooks, Nuggets forward Kenneth Faried, and current Knick savior (I meant rookie), Iman Shumpert all posted admirable rookie seasons. However putting any of them in the class of Irving is like pitting a McDonalds hamburger against a Morton’s Porterhouse.
Coach of the Year
Gregg Popovich- San Antonio Spurs. Every year, Pop is in this conversation. However, this year has been incredibly special for a few reasons. The Spurs’ key parts are seriously aging. This insanely compressed schedule had each team playing 66 games in 123 days. Old teams without depth were supposed to get worn down by the schedule. Then Pop loses arguably his best player in Manu Ginobili a few weeks into the season, the Spurs were up against it. However, the genius of Pop and the resourcefulness of Spurs GM R.C. Slocum not only kept the Spurs surviving, but as the eloquent Walt “Clyde” Frazier would say, they are thriving and driving. After a stellar regular season last year, the Spurs got knocked out of the first round of the playoffs and were largely exposed for their gross lack of depth, primarily on the wings. That problem was mitigated by Slocum in trading George Hill for a first round pick they used to select Kawhi Leonard and by picking up Danny Green off the proverbial scrap heap. However, Pop truly solved the problem. He developed both players to do things his way. They’re both good defensive players and he has them both at a point where they can be contributors in the playoffs. Pop had no wings last year and he’s got them now. However, Pop’s best accomplishment this season has been his brilliance in managing the minutes of his older players. At times, he’s sat Duncan, Parker, and Ginobili for entire games just to get them rest. He uses blowouts to get his guys rest as opposed to teaching lessons. Because of this, come playoff time, he will have one of the healthiest, more well rested teams in the league and still managed to pull the #2 seed in the West. This stands as one of the more impressive regular season coaching jobs we have seen in a long time. The only other coach I considered for this was Boston’s Doc Rivers who lost his entire bench to injuries and cultivated a new one with one of the oldest cores in the league. Many think Chicago’s Tom Thibodeau merits consideration for the Bulls’ achievement in the absence of Derrick Rose, but my position is that the Bulls wouldn’t have needed to conquer a period without Rose if Thibodeau didn’t run him into the ground early in the season. That stands in very stark contrast to Popovich’s philosophy, which is more effective in this type of compressed season.
Most Disappointing Rookie
Jimmer Fredette- G Sacramento- I make it a point to never hide from my mistakes when it comes to analyzing players and games. Rarely, when I’m correct, do I feel the need to pat myself on the back. However, in the case of Jimmer Fredette, I ask you to indulge me. In my mock draft column last year, I described Fredette as a guy who plays defense like he watches a tennis match. Essentially, his head moves back and forth, but his body stays in place. (http://hoopscritic.com/2011/06/21/mock-draft-2011.aspx) Frankly, he ended up being worse than I thought. In addition to some of the worst defense you’ll see on an NBA level (see later in this column), Fredette struggles to get his own shot. He was thoroughly beaten out for the starting point guard position on the Kings by the last player selected in the same draft where he was selected 10th overall. Maybe in Belgium, Fredette can be a basketball folk hero, but in the U.S., he is on his way to being the dictionary definition of draft bust. The ineptness of the Kings franchise is epitomized by taking on the ugliness of John Salmons’ contract for the honor of drafting a stiff like Fredette. At this point, I’m surprised Sacramento even wants the Kings… The other player I considered for this award was #2 overall pick Derrick Williams. Williams had a few flashes this year, but for a #2 overall pick, he had a shockingly low impact. He didn’t adjust well to playing with Kevin Love and his defense was not close to NBA caliber.
Most Disappointing Coach-
Avery Johnson N.J. Nets- This may seem unfair on the surface. Brook Lopez was hurt all year and the Nets operated as a team in limbo all year. It was their last year in New Jersey before their long awaited move to Brooklyn and the players were waiting all year for the other shoe to drop in the form of a Dwight Howard trade. They were also walking on egg shells with Deron Williams because of the anvil he holds over their head in the form of his pending free agency. The front office even went as far as to make Williams the de facto GM in giving him vital input into all of their personnel moves. This all seemed to intimidate Avery Johnson. In spite of Williams unconventional and omnipotent organizational influence, the worst thing that Johnson could do as to stop coaching Williams. He lost Williams early in the season when his answer to garner more scoring was to take Williams, a guy with a reputation as one of the best point guards in the NBA and make him play a wing to try and generate more offense. There’s no doubt the Nets had very little chance of being a playoff team. After the Lopez injury, their personnel strengths were in their wing players. Johnson’s insistence on not playing small made the Nets match up deficient most nights. If he cultivated a small unit that played up tempo, the Nets could have given some teams matchup hell. There was no thinking outside the box by Johnson. His failure to coach Williams is inexcusable. Far too many nights Williams mailed it in this season. That’s on Williams. However, there’s a part of me that believes he had a better chance if he gave Williams something to buy into. The other coach I considered for this was Charlotte’s Paul Silas. As poor as his team is talent wise, he waited far too long to throw his young guys in the fire.
6th Man of the Year-
James Harden G Oklahoma City- This award comes with a loaded deck. Harden is the 3rd best player on the Thunder but comes off the bench because it works extremely well for the Thunder from a rotation standpoint. Harden is a good shooter who picks his spots well. Although he’s not the strongest defender in the world, he’s good enough to compete physically in a big spot. The thing that impressed me the most about him this year (besides the ZZ Top beard), is his ability to spend long stretches playing point guard. After Eric Maynor got hurt, the Thunder needed more Harden at the point so Russell Westbrook gets some time off the ball to free him up to score easier. Harden has succeeded and frankly, he’s made it look easy. He’s a great leader on the court and is an essential element to the Thunder’s success. My very distant runner up for this award was Lou Williams from Philadelphia, who was a nice source of instant offense for a good portion of the season for Philly, but any comparison to him and Harden is like comparing Snooki to Katherine Hepburn.
12th Man of the Year
Anthony Randolph- F Minnesota- Considering that this is a second year in a row I picked the same player for this award, I’m either a moron like this guy (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fZx4-LSG-eI ) or a twisted genius like this guy (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q7vtWB4owdE ) . The last two seasons, Randolph’s season has followed the same pattern. He has ridden the pine a big chunk of the season, only getting an opportunity when Kevin Love goes out hurt. When that opportunity arose, Randolph rode to the occasion and showed that tantalizing ability and athleticism that had made the Warriors and the Knicks before the Timberwolves believe he could be special. There’s no doubt that Randolph has a five cent head and a substandard work ethic, but Minnesota head coach Rick Adelman found minutes for Michael Beasley this year, who can match mug shots and failed drug tests with Lindsay Lohan. Finding some burn for Randolph next to Love for short stretches could have had some upside. Instead, he doesn’t use him until it’s too late for Randolph to help the Wolves do anything meaningful. I’m a huge Adelman fan, but I don’t love how he handled Randolph this season. Randolph has catapulted ahead of Derrick Williams on the depth chart. That encompasses some combination of Williams’ shortcomings and Randolph maybe finally given an opportunity to show how good he can be. The other player I considered for this award was Denver’s Timofey Mozgov. Mozgov spent the first third of the season starting until he got hurt. When he returned form his injury, George Karl never gave him a chance to reclaim his spot in the rotation. After the Nuggets traded Nene, there was an opportunity for Mozgov when Denver plays big lineups. Karl has kept Mozgov on the bench because he picks up fouls. They might as well reap his benefits until the foul trouble comes. For all the time Denver plays small when they shouldn’t, burying Mozgov to me is largely counter-productive.
Most Improved Player
Avery Bradley G Boston- This guy’s ascension to relevance was as unexpected for me as anything I’ve seen in this bizarre 100 yard dash of a season. No matter what the Celtics say now, they thought so little of him before the season that they signed Keyon Dooling as a free agent to play in front of him. When Rajon Rondo went out injured early in the year, they got a taste of what Bradley could do although they discovered he really wasn’t a point guard. Bradley showed the ability to be an absolute lock down perimeter defender, which in all fairness, was what the Celtics envisioned when they drafted him. He also showed the ability to be an effective perimeter shooter, specializing in the highly efficient corner three. Bradley has played an enormous role in this Celtics journey back from the dead. His defense has not only been a great fit, but his ability to handle a tough match up has helped the guys around him. Also, his athleticism has given Rondo a fast break partner that doesn’t need a cane to get up and down the court. He gives the Celtics an extra pair of capable young legs, which they desperately needed. He started the season walking a balance beam between delayed potential and failed expectations. He ends the season as a starter on a championship hardened team that no one wants to play. The other two guys I considered for this award were Roy Hibbert and Mareese Speights. Hibbert went from being a disappointing center to one of the better centers in the league on both ends of the floor. Speights was traded for literally nothing in January and ends the season as a starter and an essential part of the big man rotation on a Memphis team with legitimate championship aspirations.
Least Improved Player
Andray Blatche F Washington- Blatche was brand new to the league when he was a member of the gun toting highly dysfunctional Gilbert Arenas Wizards. It’s safe to say that either Blatche has never recovered from Arenas defecating in his sneakers or his view of his obligation as an NBA player is highly warped. Blatche is about 40 pounds over weight. When he does play, he refuses to do things like pass, defend, and rebound. Furthermore, he possesses as bad an attitude around the team that a player can have. Having Blatche on your team is like having Ganz from 48 hours at a gun control rally. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FWEQfN39sTo ) Blatche has virtually eaten himself out of the year, but that hasn’t stopped him from washing his team’s very soiled laundry in public. The worst part about it is that the Wizards still owe him $23 million over the next 3 seasons. When the Wizards use their amnesty provision on Blatche, the bad news for him is that his career could be all but over. The good news for him is that $23 million can buy a lot of bacon cheeseburgers. The other player I considered for LVP was Detroit’s Charlie Villanueva. Villanueva only likes to hang out around the 3 point line and shoot threes. As a matter of fact, the only real big differences between Blatche and Villanueva are 60 pounds and a kinder gentler attitude.
Defensive Player of the Year
Tyson Chandler C New York- Normally when a player comes to a new team and changes it’s culture, it gets done primarily on the offensive end. Rarely, do you see a player leave a championship team to sign as a free agent with a new team and drastically alter the defensive culture in both destinations. The Mavericks really suffered for not having Chandler. His rim protection is what made their defensive engine tick. Before the Knicks brought in Chandler, their team defense was worse than this. ( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KsdnDSw2Z5E) With Chandler, the Knicks became a top 10 defensive team. They played two games without him in the middle of the season and they defended like their opponent was The Harlem Globetrotters. He also has the distinction of, outside of Stan Van Gundy, being the league’s best Dwight Howard stopper. That’s a joke. I’m a huge Stan fan and not so much of Dwight, but that’s a story for another day. The other player I considered for this award was Kevin Garnett. The Celtics had a superb second half and it corresponded with playing Garnett at center. Garnett once again anchored the one of the best defenses in the league, but did it at a far advanced age playing a different position on an old, thin team. The choice of Chandler over Garnett was by the slimmest of margins.
Worst Defensive Player of the Year
Jimmer Fredette G Sacramento Kings- It may seem like overkill to make Fredette the Most Disappointing Rookie and the Worst Defensive Player of the year. It probably is, but I have this compulsion to illustrate for the world how truly inept Fredette is defensively. He’s horrible on the ball because he has all of the lateral movement of the Statue of Liberty. He’s horrible off the ball because he generally stands and watches. He’s one of these guys who gets himself in an athletic looking pose on defense in an effort to disguise the fact that he’s not doing anything. He is so bad defensively, that the Kings had him playing behind a horrendous defender in his own right in Isaiah Thomas. I understand that we shouldn’t be expecting rookies to be good defenders, but Fredette’s defensive incompetence is epic. The other player I considered for this award was Nate Robinson of Golden State. Sideshow Nate went through his normal cycle with a new organization. He tantalized for about a month with his dynamic scoring. Then, the shots stop falling and he became the Quintessential No D chucker. As long as Sideshow Nate is on an NBA team, he’s always a threat to win The Worst Defensive Player of the Year.
Ditch Digger Award
This is the crown jewel of The Geltzies. The Ditch Digger Award is named for a line in the movie Caddyshack. Judge Smails, brilliantly portrayed by the late great Ted Knight is listening to caddy Danny Noonan talk about how his family can’t afford to send him to college. As Noonan tells his snob story, the Judge snaps back and lets him know, “The world needs ditch diggers too.” (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cwYJxNnABp4) I give this award to the player who works harder than everyone else on the court to maximize his talent. This year’s winner is the Utah Jazz’ Paul Millsap. Millsap isn’t a morsel over 6 feet 6 inches tall. He plays big forward fir the Jazz and consistently defends and rebounds over players significantly bigger than him. He has made himself into a vey effective scorer, yet plays a very unselfish game. What impressed me the most with him this year was his versatility. When the Jazz decided to use him with two other bigs, he made a seemless transition into being an effective wing defender and still knocked down his mid range jumper with consistency. He plays a tough brand of basketball, yet always carries himself like a gentleman on the court. Paul Millsap represents everything that is good about the NBA. He lets his game do the talking. The other two players I considered for this ward were Ersan Ilyasova of Milwaukee and Taj Gibson of the Chicago Bulls. Ilyasova is a tireless worker on the glass at both ends and never hesitates to put his body in harm’s way. Gibson is one of the most versatile defenders in the league whose effort never wanes. He always hustles to loose balls and plays with an energy and attention to detail that is far too absent at times from today’s NBA.
Back again soon to preview the playoffs….