Al Iannazzone joined Newsday in January 2012 as the Knicks’ beat writer, after covering the NBA for 11
Stephen Curry has to be living a dream. Every Golden State Warrior player and fan is, but probably no one more than Curry.
Last year’s NBA Most Valuable Player had an even better season in 2015-16, and led the Warriors to a league-record 73 wins. There’s little doubt that Curry will repeat as the MVP. The only question is whether he will win unanimously.
I had a vote for the MVP and Curry was an easy choice. The rest of the order wasn’t as easy. But I went with Kawhi Leonard, Russell Westbrook, LeBron James and Kevin Durant.
Leonard might be the best two-way player in the NBA right now, and has become the focal point of a Spurs’ team that won a franchise-best 67 wins. Westbrook was a force, registering a league-high 18-triple-doubles. James just continues to lead his team, and his play got better as the year went on. Kevin Durant, the 2014 MVP, was healthy and had a terrific season.
Draymond Green is a pivotal part of the Warriors on both ends of the floor and one of the most versatile players in the league, so he could sneak into some top fives.
But Curry has been the best player on the best team in the NBA this season, and one of the most difficult to guard ever. You can’t stay in front of him. He finds ways to get by you, and he can shoot from anywhere and everywhere. No shot on the floor is impossible for Curry.
It’s been quite a run for him. He hoisted the MVP and NBA championship trophies last year, and might raise both again this year. One is a definite.
Our other postseason awards:
COACH OF THE YEAR
The candidates: Dwane Casey (Raptors), Steve Clifford (Hornets), Steve Kerr (Warriors), Gregg Popovich (Spurs), Brad Stevens (Celtics), Terry Stotts (Blazers), Stan Van Gundy (Pistons)
Our take: This is usually the toughest to pick and was again this season. If Kerr would have coached the whole season, he would have been our choice. But he was sidelined the first 43 games after back surgery. Assistant Luke Walton guided Golden State to a 39-4 record. Popovich has done another masterful job and will get first-place votes. For Stevens and Clifford to guide their teams to 48-win seasons, they can’t be overlooked. But no one — NO ONE — expected the Trail Blazers to win 44 games and earn a fifth seed out West, so Stotts gets the nod here. They were picked in the preseason to be one of the worst teams after losing four starters from last year to trade or free agency.
ROOKIE OF THE YEAR
The candidates: Devin Booker (Suns), Emmanuel Mudiay (Nuggets), Jahlil Okafor (76ers), Kristaps Porzingis (Knicks), Karl-Anthony Towns (Timberwolves).
Our take: Porzingis will be a special player, but Towns was the best first-year player by a wide margin, and deserves every first-place Rookie of the Year vote. Towns averaged 18.3 points, 10.5 rebounds and 1.7 blocks per game. He finished third in the NBA with 51 double-doubles.
SIXTH MAN OF THE YEAR
The candidates: Ryan Anderson (Pelicans), Will Barton (Denver), Darren Collison (Kings), Jamal Crawford (Clippers), Jrue Holiday (Pelicans), Andre Iguodala (Warriors), Enes Kanter (Thunder), Jeremy Lin (Hornets).
Our take: Anderson, Barton, King and Holiday had solid years but put up big numbers on bad teams. Lin gave the Hornets a big lift and deserves consideration, but our feeling is Crawford and Kanter are in a two-man race. Kanter played consistently off the bench for the Thunder. But Crawford, a two-time Sixth Man Awards winner, gets our vote. He gave the Clippers scoring they needed after losing Blake Griffin for nearly four months. He continues to be the ultimate Sixth Man with his ability to provide a spark, change the game and give his team what it needs.
MOST IMPROVED PLAYER
The candidates: Giannis Antetokounmpo (Bucks), Stephen Curry (Warriors), Jae Crowder (Celtics), Draymond Green (Warriors), C.J. McCollum (Blazers), Kemba Walker (Hornets)
Our take: Curry and Green improved from last season, which is scary. Walker helped carry the injury-plagued Hornets to the playoffs and Antetokounmpo blossomed in a new playmaking role. But no one’s overall play took the leap that McCollum’s did. His scoring average of 20.8 was 14 points better than last year. The third-year guard helped make up for the loss of four Blazers’ starters from last year’s team, and was a big reason they earned an expected playoff berth.
DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR
The candidates: Draymond Green (Warriors), DeAndre Jordan (Clippers), Kawhi Leonard (Spurs), Hassan Whiteside (Heat), Paul Millsap (Hawks)
Our take: Like Curry, Leonard should be a repeat winner. He guards just about every position, but it’s usually the opposing team’s best player and Leonard makes it difficult for him to score and feel comfortable on the court. Green has that kind of versatility but he’s not as harassing as Leonard. The league is going smaller so that versatility is critical. But you have to acknowledge Whiteside and Jordan as big men who make big impacts with their shot-blocking and defensive rebounding. Millsap improved as a defender and should get some recognition.
First team: Stephen Curry (Warriors), Russell Westbrook (Thunder), Kawhi Leonard (Spurs), LeBron James (Cavaliers), DeMarcus Cousins (Kings)
Second team: Chris Paul (Clippers), Kyle Lowry (Raptors), Kevin Durant (Thunder), Draymond Green (Warriors), DeAndre Jordan (Clippers)
Third team: James Harden (Rockets), Klay Thompson (Warriors), Paul Millsap (Hawks), LaMarcus Aldridge (Spurs), Anthony Davis (Pelicans)
First team: Devin Booker (Suns), Emmanuel Mudiay (Nuggets), Karl-Anthony Towns (T-Wolves), Kristaps Porzingis (Knicks), Jahlil Okafor (Sixers)
Second team: D’Angelo Russell (Lakers), Justise Winslow (Heat), Stanley Johnson (Pistons), Myles Turner (Pacers), Nikola Jokic (Nuggets)
Cavaliers over Pistons
Raptors over Pacers
Heat over Hornets
Celtics over Hawks
Cavaliers over Celtics
Heat over Raptors
Cavaliers over Heat
Warriors over Rockets
Spurs over Grizzlies
Thunder over Mavericks
Clippers over Blazers
Warriors over Clippers
Spurs over Thunder
Spurs over Warriors
Spurs over Cavaliers