After 82 games and countless memories (mostly provided by the Golden State Warriors) we arrive at the 2016 NBA Playoffs. Most are predicting that Warriors will repeat as champs, the main unknown will be who they will be facing (Cleveland look the favourite in the East right now). Until then, lets try to pick who will take out the annual regular season awards.
Most Valuable Player – Stephen Curry, Warriors
There’s very little that can be argued for anyone else OTHER than Curry, so I’m going to focus on what the Golden State point guard has done to give him his 2nd straight MVP…
- 30.1 points per game (lead the NBA, up from 23.8 last season)
- 2.1 steals per game (led the NBA, up from 2.0 last season)
- 90.8% free throw shooter (led the NBA, 4th season of at least 90% shooting and ended the season the 3rd all time best shooter)
- 45.4% 3 point shooter (2nd in the NBA, ended the season 2nd all time best shooter)
- 50.4% field goal shooter (only the 2nd time in NBA history that a player 6’3″ or shorter shot over 50% and attempted at least 1,500 FG’s)
- 402 3-point shots made (led the NBA, broke his own record for a single season by 116 made 3’s)
According to Basketball-Reference there have only been 31 instances of a guard/forward shooting better than 50% while attempting at least 1,500 field goal attempts. The thing that sets Curry apart is that of his 1,598 shots a crazy 886 were from deep (55.4%). To put that into perspective only 10 of the 31 times did a player take at least 100 3’s, as well as 8 having occurred before the advent of the 3 point line. My point is… Curry is a shooter of the likes we have never seen before, and I know they say records are meant to be broken but he averaged 5.1 made 3’s per game… the 73 wins the Warriors accumulated this season will be broken before the 402 made 3’s in a season.
I’ll finish with this… As I mentioned, Curry broke his own record for made 3’s in a season by 116 (or 40.5%). Consider what would be required to break the following records by that much from the other major sports.
- NFL, Passing TD’s – Current record is 55, new record would be 78 or 4.9 per game over 16 games.
- MLB, Home Runs – Current record is 73, new record would be 103 or 4.5 every 7 games over 162 games.
- NHL, Points – Current record is 215, new record would be 303 or 3.7 per game over 82 games.
Most Improved Player – C.J. McCollum,Trailblazers
Many experts have given this award to Curry as well, and based on the numbers you can make that case. But I think that’s getting a bit too greedy! Apologies do go to Draymond Green who had an amazing season, increasing almost every statistical category while only playing 3 more minutes per game.
I’ve gone with McCollum for his ability to take on a role as the starting shooting guard and manage the expectations that he and Damian Lillard were carrying with the departure of LaMarcus Aldridge. In 80 games (all starts) he averaged 20.8 ppg, 2.5 3’s per game (at 41.7%), 4.3 apg and 1.2 spg in 34.8 mpg. With their Portland starting backcourt responsible for over 43% of their total points McCollum and Lillard led the Trailblazers to the playoffs with a 44-38 record. If they are to continue to improve it will be with Lillard and McCollum leading the way with what I’m sure will be a very exciting brand of basketball.
Defensive Player of the Year – Draymond Green, Warriors
I know, they’re known for their crazy free-wheeling style of offence. But they also know how to stop the opposition as well. As previously mentioned, Stephen Curry led the league in steals. Klay Thompson has developed as an above average perimeter defender. Andrew Bogut sat 12th in the league in blocks despite playing just 20.7 mpg. But there is nobody in the league that is as versatile and determined as Draymond Green.
His numbers are pretty good on their own… 9.5 rpg (13th in the NBA), 1.5 spg and 1.4 big. But it’s his ability to do whatever his team requires on the defensive end. Prior to Green’s emergence it was widely thought that LeBron James is probably the only player in the NBA with the ability to defend all 5 positions. He still may be able to, but Green does it with a passion and desire that even James doesn’t bring. If he’s out on the perimeter he’s up in the face of the guard, if he’s on the block he’s bodying the big man and keeping him from getting into the paint. Some people might think his bravado and exuberance is a sign of arrogance… most of us see an ultra-competitive buy who will do anything to help his team win. And when your teams goes 73-9 you’ve done more than your fair share.
Rookie of the Year – Karl-Anthony Towns, Timberwolves
When you’re taken as the #1 overall pick there is a certain expectation of you to perform at the next level. Towns met these and more as he put up some excellent numbers… 18.3 ppg, 10.4 rpg (8th in the NBA), 1.7 bpg (10th in the NBA) while shooting 54.3% from the field. In NBA history only Shaquille O’Neal and Tim Duncan have put up rookie numbers to match those, and we’d all say they ended up ok! I don’t think he’ll be the monsters that O’Neal and Duncan became but Towns is someone that Minnesota can build their future around. And with Andrew Wiggins and Ricky Rubio there as well, playoffs can only be a year or 2 away.
Coach of the Year – Steve Kerr/Luke Walton, Warriors
They won the most games in a single season in NBA history, they didn’t lose back to back games (first time ever), they started the season with 24 consecutive wins… and their head coach from the previous season wasn’t there for half the year! I give it to both Kerr and Walton ’cause without them they may not be going down as the greatest single season team ever. It’ll be a pity for the Warriors as well when Walton signs a big fat contract with another team to become their head coach for the 2016-17 season. But for this year, they are head and shoulders above anyone else.