It was definitely fitting for James Harden to do what he did. Right after Arturo released a beautiful list of the top 200 games of the season, James Harden decided to be obnoxious and break the curve. On April 18th he put up a +20.4 PoP against Phoenix. This is the best individual performance of the season and would be in first place for the BounceX3 T-Shirt contest we are running (which you can still enter!) And such a performance leads me into today’s topic: who should win various NBA awards. Let’s start with…
6th man of the year – James Harden
I know he gets in using a Manu Ginobili like trick. In minutes per game he’s the third highest player on the Thunder. The award specifications though are for a player coming off the bench and Harden has only started two games this season. If you recall earlier in the season James Brocato talked how James Harden was the best two guard in the league. Part of the fear was it couldn’t last because Harden was shooting so well. Well it’s almost the end of the season and it’s still true. Harden is still shooting amazing. He and Tyson Chandler are the only players with a true shooting percentage above 65% and 1500 minutes played. Harden should easily win this award by conventional thinking too as his great skill comes from scoring.
Most Improved – Roy Hibbert
The Indiana Pacers are certainly a surprise out East. In spite of losing some of their more productive (but also older and oft-injured) players they’ve secured a top seed. Their improved production has come from a young Paul George and Roy Hibbert. In his first three seasons Hibbert was not a productive player. This season he’s been a top 10 center. It’s not too hard to give him this award as this season he’s more than tripled the production of his first three seasons put together.
Rookie of the Year – Kenneth Faried Kawhi Leonard
Leonard has been an absolute beast. He’s a rebounding machine and grabs tons of steals. He also keeps his turnovers and fouls low and also he shoots well to boot! Patrick called for him to be rookie of the year way back. While a surging Kenneth Faried has made it interesting, this award is all Leonard’s. The Spurs remain top of the West and that’s with Ginobili missing a big chunk of the season. They can thank some amazing play from Leonard and some iffy trade choices by the Pacers (not to mention the other teams that missed him in the draft.)
Defensive Player of the Year – LeBron James
Oh man did I want to give this to Tyson Chandler but I couldn’t when I ran the numbers. New York does have a better team defense than Miami. That said, both teams have very good defense. When we look at individual defensive stats (rebounds, steals, blocks, personal fouls) LeBron is above average in regards to all of them! Not only that, when we look at opposing small forwards they are shut down to almost nothing! (A fact Mosi Platt (@mia_heat_index) at the Miami Heat Index is fond of rubbing in.) From an individual, team and opposing position level the numbers point to LeBron being a lockdown force. I’ll admit if I had a real vote I’d send it Chandler’s way in part to make up for some of his snubs this season. However, I’d know the truth is that this award is King James’.
Most Valuable Player – LeBron James
Anyone that says the MVP race is between Durant and LeBron is fooling themselves. Bron is above average at all aspects of the game bar one — turnovers. Of course, when we consider an average small forward has an assist to turnover ratio of around 1.4 and LeBron has an assist to turnover ratio of 1.8, it doesn’t seem as bad. Seriously, with his defense and offense this season seems up there with Michael Jordan‘s 1988 season. I sincerely hope that media bias against a great performance doesn’t keep Bron from this accolade.
So there’s a cheat sheet for anyone out there that reads me and has a vote. If I’ve messed up or you think someone else deserves the top vote, please let me know.