The awards ballot | Magic Basketball

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Apr 13

The awards ballot

Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images

With the regular season winding down and the postseason just a mere six days away, I figured I’d do what other writers have been doing lately — reveal my awards ballot. I know that I’m not a member of the Pro Basketball Writers Association, which means I do not have a say in who wins which award but I still wanted to engage in this exercise.

Most Valuable Player

adj. +/- net +/- stat. +/- PER WARP Win Shares/48
Dwight Howard +13.08 +9.4 +7.10 26.0 20.2 .235
LeBron James +10.05 +11.4 +8.65 27.2 20.1 .243
Chris Paul +18.67 +11.9 +9.48 24.0 16.3 .238
Derrick Rose +7.60 +2.3 +5.45 23.7 15.7 .209
Dwyane Wade +7.42 +8.2 +6.62 25.2 16.4 .216

 
With LeBron James teaming up with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, coupled with ‘The Decision’ becoming a PR disaster, it’s no surprise that the race for the MVP award was wide-open this season. Voter fatigue was already going to be an issue for James in his quest for a third consecutive MVP, given that not even Michael Jordan accomplished the feat in his career. As such, it was going to take a historical year from James to overcome the many obstacles in his way for him to win the MVP but it didn’t happen. James’ numbers took a small hit across the board, with Wade’s presence being a corollary reason. That allowed a player like Dwight Howard to be his near equal statistically. When looking at their resumes and complete bodies of work, it’s hard not to choose between James or Howard for MVP — there’s no wrong answer between the two of them.

Howard gets the nod because of many factors.

The improvements that everyone was waiting for from Howard were fulfilled, as he was able to maintain his efficiency on offense even with a career-high usage rate of 27.2 percent. The sign of a great scorer in the NBA is his ability to be efficient while shouldering a heavy load offensively, and Howard was able to do that this season. And it can’t be understated the type of impact Howard has when he’s not scoring, given that his presence in the low post allows the shooters for the Orlando Magic to enjoy plenty of open looks from the perimeter that wouldn’t come otherwise. Also known as the Shaquille O’Neal effect — with Damon Jones as a prime example.

Likewise, Howard is vital to the Magic’s vaunted pick and roll attack that’s anchored by Jameer Nelson and Hedo Turkoglu, with the threat of him being the roll man making it extremely difficult for opposing defenses to aggressively contain the pick and rolls. With a refined post game and a reliable mid-range jumper from 10-15 feet that he’s making at a rate (40.2 percent) better than the league average (39.4 percent), coupled with an underrated ability to pass out of double-teams effectively, Howard has all the tools offensively. It’s only at the free-throw line where Howard continues to struggle.

Critics are quick to point out Howard’s lack of involvement in crunch-time situations but that’s partly due to his teammates not getting him the basketball enough, plus head coach Stan Van Gundy not calling plays for him at times. Sometimes it’s as simple as Orlando needing a three-point shot in the closing seconds of a game. Even then, Howard’s ability to rebound and defend gets overlooked way too many times in discussions of players performing in the clutch.

And when it comes down to it, there’s not another player in the league that can impact a game defensively like Howard. Despite general manager Otis Smith acquiring acquiring Turkoglu, Jason Richardson, and Gilbert Arenas, thus becoming far weaker on defense in theory, the Magic are ranked 3rd in defensive efficiency — better than teams like the Miami Heat — thanks in large part to Howard’s ability to coerce opposing players into shooting jumpshots while limiting their chances at the free-throw line and devouring rebounds. Van Gundy’s schemes are a factor too, but Howard is the player putting those strategies into practice on countless possessions, which is the primary reason that Orlando defends post players better than any other team. Or that Howard is able to slow down a pick and roll, recover to the paint, and provide weak-side defense in one felt swoop. Was it mentioned that the Magic do the best job of limiting field goal attempts at the rim because of Howard’s intimidating presence in the lane? Indeed, Howard is an omnipresent defensive force.

It’s odd that Howard doesn’t get more credit for helping Orlando stay afloat in the heart of the regular season, even though Smith overhauled nearly half the roster in hopes of improving the team’s chances of winning a championship. It remains to be seen if the trades do the trick, but it’s no secret that Orlando isn’t the same team it was last year or the year prior. Penalizing Howard’s chances of winning the MVP because the Magic finished No. 4 in the Eastern Conference seems silly, given that many things like poor roster moves are out of his control.

Howard’s resume isn’t perfect, especially when considering his penchant for picking up technical fouls, but when taking into account the things that he can control, he’s done well. Only a player like James can come close to impacting a game on every possession like Howard.

Rookie of the Year

adj. +/- net +/- stat. +/- PER WARP Win Shares/48
Blake Griffin +5.56 +5.4 +3.34 21.7 12.2 .150
Greg Monroe -8.46 +1.7 +2.03 18.1 6.4 .144
John Wall -9.98 -2.6 +0.41 15.7 3.3 .038

 
This is a no-brainer. There’s not much to say about Blake Griffin other than one of the next steps in his development is on defense. There’s no reason that Griffin, with his immense physical gifts, should have a block percentage of 1.1 percent. Griffin can do so much more defensively, and that’s what he needs to work on in the future if he hopes to become a complete two-way player.

Sixth Man of the Year

adj. +/- net +/- stat. +/- PER WARP Win Shares/48
Lamar Odom +8.19 +2.8 +3.12 19.4 5.7 .181
Lou Williams -3.50 +1.1 +1.35 18.9 5.6 .142
Thaddeus Young +8.40 +3.9 +1.62 18.3 4.2 .139

 
Lamar Odom has been playing at an All-Star caliber level for the entire season and it’s clear that he’s benefitted, as did others, from using the 2010 FIBA World Championships as a springboard to a career-year. The Los Angeles Lakers are eternally grateful.

Defensive Player of the Year

Since this is Howard’s third consecutive Defensive Player of the Year award, an explanation seems redundant at this point.

Coach of the Year

ORtg DRtg W-L Eff. Diff.
Doug Collins (PHI)
2009-2010 106.1 110.3 27-55 -4.2
2010-2011 106.7 105.0 49-31 +2.1
George Karl (DEN)
2009-2010 111.8 107.5 53-29 +4.0
2010-2011 112.3 107.2 50-31 +5.0
Tom Thibodeau (CHI)
2009-2010 103.5 105.3 41-41 -1.8
2010-2011 108.3 100.3 61-20 +8.0

 
The jobs that Doug Collins and George Karl have done for their teams are impressive in their own respective ways, more so than the work done by Gregg Popovich, because they’ve had to endure more difficult challenges. It’s not surprising that the Philadelphia 76ers improved under Collins because that was nearly inevitable, given that Eddie Jordan was such a poor fit. But it is impressive that Collins has been able to put players like Thaddeus Young into positions where they can succeed, rather than force them into a system — like Jordan tried to do with the Princeton offense — that wasn’t going to properly utilize their talents. Plus, the Sixers have returned to their defensive-minded ways after slipping badly on that end of the floor last year.

As for Karl, being able to mold the Denver Nuggets to his liking after the Carmelo Anthony trade has been one of the more notable storylines in the NBA this season. The Nuggets’ seemingly endless array of athletic and dynamic players is a combination that not many teams in the Western Conference want to see in the playoffs.

But the Chicago Bulls’ transformation from being a fringe playoff team to becoming a championship contender in one year has been amazing. Rose’s maturation as a complete player is part of the reason that the Bulls are great. However, the job that Tom Thibodeau has done in molding Chicago, with six new players in the rotation (seven if you include Kurt Thomas), into becoming the best defense in the league while subtlety improving the offense by installing half-court sets that perfectly complement the skill-sets of the personnel at his disposal, whether it’s Rose with isolation plays or Kyle Korver on staggered screens, is remarkable.

Thibodeau deserves plenty of kudos for doing what many coaches can’t do, which is maximize the talent on the roster. The Bulls are reaping the benefits.

Most Improved Player

adj. +/- net +/- stat. +/- PER WARP Win Shares/48
Kevin Love
2009-2010 -0.44 +5.4 +3.72 20.7 8.3 .138
2010-2011 +5.54 +3.8 +5.45 24.3 16.4 .211
Derrick Rose
2009-2010 -2.11 +5.2 -1.40 18.6 5.9 .100
2010-2011 +7.60 +2.3 +5.45 23.7 15.7 .209
Russell Westbrook
2009-2010 +3.50 +3.0 +2.17 17.8 10.4 .105
2010-2011 +1.58 -7.7 +4.29 23.4 12.9 .156

 
The LaMarcus Aldridge story has been a captivating one to follow, especially with the slow demise of Brandon Roy as the franchise player for the Portland Trail Blazers. Nevertheless, it’s hard to argue that Aldridge has improved more than players like Rose, Kevin Love, or Russell Westbrook, because he hasn’t. And the numbers bear that out, given that Rose, Love, and Westbrook have made bigger leaps statistically than Aldridge. Last season, Kevin Durant should have won the award because his leap from All-Star to superstar was larger than the improvements of other players that were in consideration for the award, including Aaron Brooks (the winner).

This year, the same story applies.

Rose, Love, and Westbrook aren’t superstar players because that designation belongs to the elite in the league, but they’re certainly stars and have made similar leaps that Durant did. If push came to shove, it’s hard not to award Rose as the Most Improved Player.

Rose because he’s really made tremendous strides as an all-around player, adding a three-point shot that’s not great but good enough to keep defenses honest, getting to the free-throw line more, increasing his scoring load while becoming more efficient in the process, and improving as a defender both in individual and team settings.

Executive of the Year

Pat Riley of the Miami Heat

4 comments
Gorti
Gorti

Are you serious....? How can you even consider Howard for an MVP when his team lost 7 more games this season compared top previous one....? Don't care about his statistics, because that's not what makes an MVP - it's sure good enough to win IBM award (if it still existed). If you cannot understand that, you don't understand basketball

Billy (slickw143)
Billy (slickw143)

My real problem with the MVP discussion is the concept that Rose is somehow the landslide winner (which seems likely to happen at this point). He deserves to be in the conversation, but there is no runaway winner this year, a la LeBron the last two years. If Rose gets more than 33% of the 1st place votes, it'll be a statement of how sad the mainstream media is.

Ferric24
Ferric24

Great retort eddy. Nothing against Rose, but his impending MVP award award is a function of narrative and story and not stats and performance. What's encouraging is that at least this year were having a nation discussion of the merits of sabermetrics versus traditional methods of performance evaluational that the mainstream media use. Just like in baseball I believe this a debate that the old guard media will lose eventually.

Brad Zeiler
Brad Zeiler

Statistically, Howard is the MVP, but MVPS don't accrue 18 technicals and have 2 suspensions. As much as I would love to see him hoist the hardware, Rose has the advantage because of that.