I made my picks for the 2014-15 NBA awards as well as the All-NBA teams over at SB Nation earlier in the week, but now I’d like to give some short explanations for those picks. So without further ado, let’s do it.
MVP – Stephen Curry
James Harden was my front-runner for basically all of the second half of the season, but I had a late change of heart and swapped to Curry. Harden faltered a bit in two big games against the Spurs while Curry just kept getting stronger as the season ended. These two guys were so close, and I ultimately decided I wanted to reward Curry for his dominance on one of the most dominant teams in recent memory. You can find a longer explanation over at SB Nation.
COY – Mike Budenholzer
Several great candidates here besides Budenholzer, including Steve Kerr, Brad Stevens, Gregg Popovich and Jason Kidd. It would be easy to say Kerr because he helped turn the Warriors from a very good team into a juggernaut, but my pick goes to Budenholzer. He implemented his system beautifully in Atlanta, and it turned into a shocking 60-win season that absolutely nobody saw coming. Yeah, he did it in he East, but he basically extracted everything out of a roster bereft of a star player.
ROY – Andrew Wiggins
I badly wanted to pick Nerlens Noel or Nikola Mirotic here. Noel turned into a defensive monster with the Sixers and Mirotic was the Bulls’ best player in March. The advanced numbers favor those two guys as well. But in the end, I’ll reward Wiggins for playing every single game this year, playing big minutes and putting up solid numbers. He put up nearly 17 points per game on 43.7 percent shooting, and he showed a good knack for getting to the line. This kid is going to be something special.
DPOY – Draymond Green
Kawhi Leonard and Rudy Gobert would be good picks here, and Green’s teammate, Andrew Bogut, deserves some love as well. But I go Green because of his versatility and huge impact he made for the league’s best defense. The guy can guard every position on the court, and despite him being just 6’7, the Warriors had great success using him at the 5 because he can hold his own in the post. When you’re basically doing everything for the NBA’s best defense, you deserve recognition.
6MOY – Lou Williams
I have a feeling Isaiah Thomas is going to win this award, and based on his performance in Boston, that’s probably legit. But since Thomas was traded in-season and there were some rumblings about problems with him with the Suns, I go Williams for being consistently solid for Toronto. Lou’s 40.4 percent mark from the field isn’t that good, but he got to the line nearly five times per game and had a true shooting percentage of 56.4 percent, the second-best mark of his career. Also, his 22.2 points per 36 minutes set a career best.
MIP – Jimmy Butler
Some other popular names here include Gobert, Green, Klay Thompson and Hassan Whiteside, but I like Butler here for going from an average offensive player to a legit star on that end. Last season, Butler averaged 13.1 points while shooting 39.7 percent overall and 28.3 percent from three. This year, he averaged 20.0 points while shooting 46.2 percent overall and 37.8 percent from three. Granted, injuries last season slowed him down offensively, but he made huge strides in essentially every area offensively. Develop a post game? Check. Improve from mid-range? Check. Develop his playmaking skills? Check. Become one of the best in the league at getting to the line? Check. I could probably keep going, but I think you get the point.
EOY – David Griffin
The Cleveland Cavaliers probably would have turned things around regardless, but not to the extent that they did because of the huge acquisitions made by Griffin. Trading for Timofey Mozgov, J.R. Smith and Iman Shumpert added balance throughout the roster, and all three bring something of value to the table. Mozgov brought some rim protection. Smith was the catch-and-shoot guy Cleveland needed. Shumpert has been a solid wing defender. Yeah, LeBron James was probably a big part of these moves, but so what.
All-NBA First Team
G – Stephen Curry – Pretty self explanatory. Dude’s the MVP, so obviously he’s going here.
F – LeBron James – James had a down year by his standards, mostly because of his slow start to the season. But he’s still the best player in the world, and he was great as the Cavaliers made their push in the second half of the year.
F – Anthony Davis – Davis finished with a PER of 30.89, one of the best of all time. The dude is just 22 years old and arguably a top three player in the league already, and there’s still room for improvement. And now we get to see him in the playoffs for the first time!
C – Marc Gasol – Gasol was in early MVP conversations, and while he and the Memphis Grizzlies slowed at the end of the year, he still nabs this spot. The big man had the best offensive season of his career, and he was as solid as ever on defense.
All-NBA Second Team
G – Russell Westbrook – Westbrook had a historic season, putting up numbers only matched by Oscar Robertson in league history. Westbrook won the scoring title and led the league in triple-doubles by a wide margin, and although his Oklahoma City Thunder didn’t reach the postseason, that shouldn’t diminish his individual accomplishments.
G – Chris Paul – Paul had a low-key incredible season, and arguably his finest season in a Los Angeles Clippers uniform. He played in every single game and orchestrated the league’s most efficient offense, and that was with Blake Griffin missing a chunk of the season. Paul was masterful with Griffin out of the lineup and came pretty close to a 50/40/90 season.
F – Kawhi Leonard – After winning Finals MVP last year, Leonard was slowed by injury to start this season. But once he got healthy, he was an absolute monster, and it transformed the San Antonio Spurs into the juggernaut we’ve come to expect. Leonard is a two-way stud who’s only getting better, and he’s the best wing defender in the NBA.
F – LaMarcus Aldridge – Aldridge fought through several injuries this year and set a career high in scoring with 23.4 points per game. He also snagged 10.2 rebounds per game, marking the second year in a row he averaged a double-double. The big man is known for his mid-range game, but he started to shoot threes a bit more frequently this season, and he hit a solid 35.2 percent of them.
C – DeAndre Jordan – Jordan led the league in both rebounding (15.0 per game) and field goal percentage (71.0 percent), and he joined Wilt Chamberlain as the only big-minute players in league history to shoot over 70 percent in the season, per Baskeball-Reference.com. Jordan also blocked 2.2 shots per game and was the anchor of a Clippers defense that improved as the year went on.
All-NBA Third Team
G – John Wall – Wall is right up there with Paul for the title of best distributor in the league, averaging exactly 10.0 assists on the season. Wall’s scoring came down and his three-point shooting dipped from last year, but his 44.5 percent overall mark from the field set a career high. The point guard is also a strong defender, and the Wizards fell apart on both ends when he sat, which showed the kind of impact he has.
G – Klay Thompson – This last guard pick was a really tough one. I was debating between Thompson, Kyrie Irving, Jimmy Butler and Damian Lillard, but I ultimately landed on Thompson because of his strong two-way play and improvements on a dominant team. He set career highs basically across the board, so that coupled with the Warriors’ great season earns him the nod.
F – Blake Griffin – Griffin missed 15 games, but when he did play, he was very good. Yeah, his field goal percentage and rebounding numbers were down, but I’m really impressed by the 5.3 assists per game. Overall, he finished with a 22/8/5 line on one of the best teams in the league, which is pretty darn impressive.
F – Paul Millsap – This one was a really tough call. I thought about cheating and putting Pau Gasol here even though he played center for the Bulls this year. I probably could have cheated and put teammate Al Horford here as well. Anyway, I definitely wanted to reward a Hawk, so I went with the guy who led the team in points per game, rebounds per game and steals per game.
C – Tim Duncan – I strongly considered DeMarcus Cousins, but as great was Boogie was, he only played 59 games on a horrid team. So instead, I went with old reliable in Duncan. Duncan’s numbers certainly don’t wow anybody, but he nearly averaged a double-double and continues to be a superb rim protector at the age of 38.