An NBA blog from Newsday's Bobby Bonett
The good, the bad and the ugly: 2012 NBA awards
It's been two months since I handed out my midseason awards. There were the good picks -- Tyson Chandler for Defensive Player of the Year, a big second half for the Knicks -- and the not-so good -- Doug Collins as a Coach of the Year candidate, and about that predicted Celtics collapse . . .
The dust has just about settled on the NBA regular season, meaning its time for our second awards show of the year. Envelopes, please:
MOST VALUABLE PLAYER: LEBRON JAMES, MIAMI HEAT
One of James' signature performance was, oddly enough, against the Nets. With Dwyane Wade on the bench, James had the green light to take over. He did, scoring Miami's final 17 points to spark a come-from-behind win. Yeah, it was the Nets. And yeah, it was one quarter. But it plainly showed, over a 4:48 span, that James is easily the league's most dominant player. James also blew away all other players with a 30.79 PER, and averaged 27.1 points, 7.9 rebounds and 6.2 assists.
Runner-up: Chris Paul, Los Angeles Clippers
Paul's addition pushed the Clippers from the basement of the Pacific into a divisional race that went down to the final week. He was clutch throughout the year as really the only reliable closer on the roster with Chauncey Billups out. Paul was also one of only seven full-time players to shoot at least 45 percent from the field, 35 percent from three and 85 percent from the line.
Honorable mention: Kevin Durant, Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash
Durant was one of the other seven players to put up the 45/35/85 line. Kobe's shooting percentage (43 percent) was bad, but when you watch him, you think "VALUE." Nash nearly brought a team whose second best player was Marcin Gortat to the playoffs.
LEAST VALUABLE PLAYER: DWIGHT HOWARD, ORLANDO MAGIC
Sorry, Dwight. You hold your team and coach hostage, you epitomize the LVP. Howard's trade demands, then rescinding of trade demands, then backdoor demands . . . it's a miracle Orlando is even going to make the playoffs (where they'll get swept in the first round).
Runner-up: Lamar Odom, Dallas Mavericks
When the Mavs acquired Odom in the offseason, I thought he'd help fill the void left by Chandler. Instead, the prima donna was told to just go away at the end of the season. I doubt any team outside of the 90015 zip code will be gunning for Odom's services in the offseason.
Honorable mention: Tyrus Thomas, Raymond Felton, Jamal Crawford
It was tempting to put three Blazers here. But check this out: In 2010-11, Thomas averaged 17.5 points and 9.4 rebounds per 36 minutes. This year? 10.5 points and 7.2 rebounds. Yikes.
ROOKIE OF THE YEAR: KYRIE IRVING, CLEVELAND CAVALIERS
Irving's rookie season was eerily reminiscent of Stephen Curry's. Plus, Irving is 19; Curry was 21 his rookie year. I wasn't totally sold on Irving when the Cavs took him first overall. Watching him ball for a year, though, it's clear the Cleveland's got a franchise player.
Runner-up: Isaiah Thomas, Sacramento Kings
After the All-Star break, Thomas started all 32 games for the Kings, averaging 14.3 points and 5.2 assists, and shooting 46.6 percent from the field and 39.3 percent from three. Jimmer who?
Honorable mention: Ricky Rubio, Kenneth Faried, Kawhi Leonard
Would the Wolves have made the playoffs with Rubio at point guard? Very possible. Faried's numbers per 36 minutes (16.3 points, 13.2 rebounds) were off the charts. Leonard quietly shot 49.2 percent from the floor and 38 percent from three.
SIXTH MAN OF THE YEAR: JAMES HARDEN, OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER
Duh. Harden came off the bench in 60 of his 62 games, averaging 16.8 points and 4.1 rebounds. His shooting percentages were absurd, too: 49.1 percent from the floor, 39 percent from three. The Thunder would be wise to turn to Harden more in late-game situations next year, instead of simply using him as a decoy.
Runner-up: Jason Terry, Dallas Mavericks
Another ho hum season for Big Shot Jason. Terry averaged better than 15 points and shot better than 36 percent for the seventh straight year, including the last five as the Mavericks' best player off the bench. There aren't any other bench players in the league who are relied upon in the clutch as much as Terry.
Honorable mention: Thaddeus Young, Andre Miller, Steve Novak
The Young-Lou Williams debate has been all the rage the last few days. Went with Thad because of Williams' pedestrian shooting percentages for someone who is supposed to be a scorer. Miller might land a job as a starting point guard next year. And Novak?! Yes, he's dangerous enough from three that he belongs here.
DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR: TYSON CHANDLER, KNICKS
Picked him as the Defensive Player of the First Half, and sticking with him here. When Chandler's on the court, the Knicks' defense is one of the stingiest in the league. Chandler also shut down the league's most dominant center, Dwight Howard, multiple times. He even deserves to be on a few MVP ballots.
Runner-up: Serge Ibaka, Oklahoma City Thunder
Ibaka averaged 3.6 blocks . . . in 27.1 minutes per game. That extrapolates to nearly five blocks per 36 minutes. Toney Douglas has eight blocks in 3,714 career minutes.
Honorable mention: Kevin Garnett, Andre Iguodala, Dwight Howard
Garnett remains one of the league's premier interior defenders. Iggy embodies the Sixers' defense-first mentality. And when Howard wasn't busy complaining about being in Orlando, he was playing pretty good 'D.'
MOST IMPROVED PLAYER: ERSAN ILYASOVA, MILWAUKEE BUCKS
I've got Ilyasova ranked fifth among upcoming free agents. Fifth. That's one spot ahead of Nic Batum, five ahead of Gerald Wallace, and seven ahead of Ray Allen. Did anyone expect that when Ilyasova averaged 9.5 points, 6.1 rebounds and shot 29.8 percent from three last year? Ilyasova's points (13.0), rebounds (8.8) and outside shooting (45.5 percent) all skyrocketed this year. If he stays in the U.S., he'll earn some cash.
Runner-up: Ryan Anderson, Orlando Magic
Like Ilyasova, Anderson's numbers took a leap. Anderson's were more of a product of increased minutes, though, rather than increased performance. Still, Anderson, another upcoming free agent, showed he can handle a big workload.
Honorable mention: Nikola Pekovic, Andrew Bynum, Gerald Green
The Wolves gave Pekovic playing time, and he responded, averaging way more points (13.8 vs. 5.5) and rebounds (7.3 vs. 3.0) this year than last. All of the sudden, Bynum, when motivated, looks like Shaq. And who thought Gerald Green would play as well as he has when the Nets signed him out of the D-League? (Sorry, Jeremy Lin.)
LEAST IMPROVED PLAYER: DEMAR DEROZAN, TORONTO RAPTORS
I was excited to see DeRozan build on a breakout 2010-11 season. Instead, the 22-year-old's field goal percentage dropped from 46.7 percent to 42.2 percent. He didn't shoot as poorly from three -- in 2010-11, he shot 9.6 percent; this year, 26.1 percent -- but he inexplicably took more shots from beyond the arc, firing 1.5 triples per game. DeRozan excels as a slasher to the basket; he needs to learn that he's not a jump shooter, or his game will never develop.
Runner-up: Andrea Bargnani, Toronto Raptors
A Raptors double shot! For the third straight year, Bargnani's field goal percentage and three-point percentage dropped. Did you know in 2008-09, the former No. 1 overall pick shot 40.9 percent from beyond the arc? This year? 29.6 percent. You can't have a big man who is both totally incapable of rebounding (six boards per 36 minutes) AND incapable of shooting the trey.
Honorable mention: Spencer Hawes, Toney Douglas, Kevin Martin
In December, Hawes averaged 12.0 points and 12.5 rebounds in four games. SIlly me, I thought he could keep that up. Douglas (32.4 percent from the floor, 23.1 percent from three) is closer to the D-League than meaningful NBA minutes. Martin forgot how to score, his average dropping from 23.5 points to 17.1 points.
COACH OF THE YEAR: GREGG POPOVICH, SAN ANTONIO SPURS
Before the year, I said that the season was tailor-made for Pop. A condensed schedule, a roster full of role players, and a couple of veterans. Not surprisingly, he navigated the year masterfully, and has the No. 1 seed in the West.
Runner-up: Tom Thibodeau, Chicago Bulls
No MVP, no problem for Thibodeau. Despite Derrick Rose missing nearly half of his team's games, the Bulls still managed to out-pace the Heat for the top seed in the East. Plus, he held the Mavericks to an 8-point first quarter. EIGHT!
Honorable mention: Tyrone Corbin, Stan Van Gundy, Frank Vogel
The Jazz are going to be in the playoffs. Are you serious? I'm team SVG in the Dwight Howard drama. Good for a coach sticking up to an egomaniac. And Vogel quietly directed the Pacers to the league's fifth-best record.
BIGGEST SURPRISE: UTAH JAZZ
A team that started Raja Bell 33 times, Josh Howard 18 times and C.J. Miles 14 times is going to the playoffs. Reason being? Al Jefferson is really good. And so is Paul Millsap. And Gordon Hayward is developing nicely. We knew those were all possibilities, but enough of a possibility to steal a playoff spot in the West? No way.
Runner-up: Phoenix Suns
Give Steve Nash a big man -- any big man with at least an iota of talent -- and you'll win basketball games. This would've been the year to disprove that theory. Instead, the Suns were a loss to the Jazz away from making the postseason.
Honorable mention: San Antonio Spurs
Spoiler alert: I'm picking the Spurs to win the Finals. Yes, that same Spurs team that was too old to survive the lockout schedule.
BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT: PORTLAND TRAIL BLAZERS
Weren't the Blazers supposed to be fun to watch this year? Wasn't Raymond Felton, Jamal Crawford, Nic Batum, Wesley Matthews and LaMarcus Aldridge supposed to be a really solid core? Unfortunately for Portland, two-fifths of that quintet have yet to realize the lockout is over.
Runner-up: New Orleans
If you ask David Stern, trading Chris Paul to the Clippers instead of the Lakers was the "best thing for New Orleans." On second thought . . .
Honorable mention: Charlotte Bobcats
We knew they'd be bad. Just, you know, not THIS bad.
ALL-NBA FIRST TEAM
G Chris Paul, Los Angeles Clippers
G Kobe Bryant, Los Angeles Lakers
F LeBron James, Miami Heat
F Kevin Durant, Oklahoma City Thunder
C Tyson Chandler, Knicks
CP3, Kobe, James and Durant were all easy. The center position was tricky. Take Howard, who might've been the league's most dominant center, but hung his team out to dry? Take Bynum, who despite his occasional dominance, sometimes loses his head? Or take Chandler, who may not have had the sexy numbers, but was the Knicks' MVP? In the end, it was Chandler.
ALL-NBA SECOND TEAM
G Tony Parker, San Antonio Spurs
G James Harden, Oklahoma City Thunder
F Carmelo Anthony, Knicks
F Kevin Love, Minnesota Timberwolves
C Dwight Howard, Orlando Magic
About time Parker gets some respect. His numbers fell off as the year went on, but he was the main reason the Spurs survived Manu Ginobili's initial injury. I think Dwyane Wade missed too much time this year, and Harden was a viable replacement. Melo's stepping up with Mike Woodson reminded everyone how dominant a center he is. Love will be on some MVP ballots because of his huge numbers in Minny. And, of course, Dwight.
ALL-NBA THIRD TEAM
G Steve Nash, Phoenix Suns
G Rajon Rondo, Boston Celtics
F Kevin Garnett, Boston Celtics
F Al Jefferson, Utah Jazz
C Andrew Bynum, Los Angeles Lakers
Those are a lot of assists in that backcourt. Nash makes it for what he did with Phoenix's roster, Rondo because of the fact that nobody else in the NBA can do what he does (triple-doubles, consecutive 10-assist games). Garnett was the last player to make the team; he did enough the second half of the season on both ends of the floor to deserve it. Cheated a bit by putting Jefferson at the power forward; I was hellbent on getting him on the team, though. And then, New Shaq.