Patterson’s NBA awards
Featured Image via Washington Post
There are plenty of fascinating things to watch as the postseason begins, but let us not forget those players who shone the brightest during the regular season.
Here are my All-NBA picks, adhering to the NBA’s ballot, with two guards, two forwards and one center per team.
Guard: Steph Curry, Golden State
The runaway MVP, best player in the world and most recent member of the 50-40-90 club while averaging over 30 points per game. Oh, and he led the Warriors to a 73-9 record, in case you hadn’t heard. Curry is the greatest shooter ever, had one of the best offensive seasons ever, and should be the first unanimous MVP winner.
Guard: Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City
Westbrook edges out Chris Paul for the second guard spot after finishing eighth in the league in scoring and second in assists per game while also having far and away the best rebounding numbers for a guard. The stats are otherworldly: This dude has 18 triple-doubles this season while averaging a 24-8-10 line and had his most efficient shooting season. Westbrook is fourth on my (fake) MVP ballot, in part because he only missed one game all season.
Forward: Kawhi Leonard, San Antonio
Among plenty of other things, the 2015-16 NBA season was the year when Kawhi broke out and solidified himself as an elite star. He won Defensive Player of the Year for the second straight season, and averaged over 21 points per game while nearly having a 50-40-90 season of his own. Basically, Leonard improved every facet of his offensive game while maintaining his incredible defense; the guy has no discernible weakness. Kawhi is my MVP runner-up and is unquestionably the most consistent two-way player in the league at only 24 years old.
Forward: LeBron James, Cleveland
LeBron barely gets the nod over Kevin Durant here, helped by the fact that he played 131 more minutes than KD. Lost amid the two juggernauts out West, and some of his own confounding off-court antics, LeBron turned in another stellar regular season. He gets the third-place vote for my MVP race and is still probably the world’s second-best player. For better or worse, LeBron will be judged solely by his playoff results at this stage in his career, but don’t forget that King James just averaged about 25 points, 7.5 rebounds and 7 assists per game at age 31 while leading Cleveland to the top spot in the East.
Center: Draymond Green, Golden State
Yep, Draymond is a center on this award ballot. I originally had him as a second-team forward, but ultimately moved him to first team, helped in part by the dearth of centers in the NBA. Green is the vocal alpha dog of the Dubs, an excellent passer, has phenomenal chemistry with Curry on the pick-and-roll, and his versatility and effort are second to none. Green consistently switches onto guards and then snags rebounds over dudes much bigger than him during the same possession. He is a close second to Kawhi for DPOY.
Guard: Chris Paul, Los Angeles Clippers
Paul had another great year, carrying the Clippers to more than 50 wins while Blake Griffin missed over half of the season. He was overlooked this season because of the insanity of Curry and Westbrook, but CP3 will make some MVP ballots; he would be sixth on mine. Unfortunately, and somewhat similarly to LeBron, Paul will be judged on his postseason play, which will likely end with another second-round exit.
Guard: Kyle Lowry, Toronto
Lowry had a fantastic season after getting in top shape during the offseason. He was the driving force for a terrific Toronto team that had its highest single-season win total ever, putting up about 21 points, 5 rebounds and 6 assists per game while shooting almost 40 percent from three. Now the pressure is on him and the Raps to deliver in the playoffs.
Forward: Kevin Durant, Oklahoma City
This second-team selection should not distract from the fact that KD is back to his old self and a top-five player. He’s third in the league in scoring at 28 points per game, averaging a career-high in rebounds per game, and over 5 dimes per night, all while having a 51-39-90 line. This guy is an absolute stud, and the one player who gives Golden State the most trouble.
Forward: Paul George, Indiana
He nudges past Paul Millsap for this spot, mainly because of the offensive burden George was forced to carry every night for the Pacers. Despite a slight dip in his play down the stretch, PG consistently delivered for Indiana, averaging a career-high in points in per game and becoming a better playmaker. Pair this with high-level defense, and this was probably George’s best season, a remarkable feat after he suffered that brutal leg injury less than two years ago. Just as a basketball fan, it’s great to see him lead Indiana back to the postseason.
Center: DeMarcus Cousins, Sacramento
I hesitated to put Boogie up here, but simply put, his numbers are ridiculous: almost 27 points per game, 11.5 rebounds and over 3 assists every night. I know his defense is lackluster at times and he’s probably a bad teammate, but in terms of top players in the league, Boogie is nearly impossible to stop when he gets going.
Guard: Damian Lillard, Portland
The undisputed leader of the most pleasant surprise this season, Lillard upped his game a notch when the Blazers needed it most. He made all of his teammates better and put up over 25 points and almost 7 assists per game while being a lethal 3-point shooter. I doubt Portland will make it past the first round of the playoffs, but the team is fun to watch, and it all starts with Dame.
Guard: Klay Thompson, Golden State
The sweet-shooting Thompson nabs the final guard spot ahead of James Harden. I understand that Harden put up great counting stats and that he carries a heavier offensive load than probably anyone in the league, but I can’t bring myself to put him on the ballot after he started the season out of shape and playing pitiful defense. Thompson was clearly a huge part of the Warriors’ success, and created good offense as the centerpiece of bench-heavy lineups while Curry and Green rested. He has also emerged as one of the better wing defenders in the league.
Forward: Paul Millsap, Atlanta
Simply put, the guy is an all-around beast. He led the Hawks in every category besides assists and was incredible on defense. His three-point shooting was below average, but other than that, Millsap has no weakness. He can create offense off the dribble or in the post, is a great rebounder for his size, and can guard all five positions. After being underrated for so long, he is getting some overdue credit for his remarkable versatility and durability.
Forward: LaMarcus Aldridge, San Antonio
It took him a little while to get integrated into the Spurs system, but Aldridge emerged as San Antonio’s clear-cut second option and had a great final two months of the season. His numbers aren’t eye-popping, but LMA was a highly efficient scorer, good rebounder and above-average defender. He did everything San Antonio asked of him, even playing a decent amount of center and anchoring defensive units. The Spurs Machine rolls on.
Center: DeAndre Jordan, Los Angeles Clippers
Jordan beats out Al Horford for this spot by a hair. Horford is still a tremendous player, but didn’t have quite the defensive burden that Jordan did as the only true big man on so many Clipper lineups. When Jordan sat, the Clips got roasted near the rim and on the glass. He is still a dynamic pick-and-roll partner with Paul, and picked up the slack to keep his team afloat when Griffin was out.
Now for a few other noteworthy awards.
Rookie of the Year: Karl-Anthony Towns, Minnesota
I nearly had Towns as my third-team center over Jordan, but KAT isn’t quite there yet and his team was dreadful. However, he is clearly this season’s top rookie, and should be a top 10 player in the league very soon.
Most Improved Player: Steph Curry, Golden State
Yep, that’s right, MVP and MIP. C.J. McCollum from Portland is going to win this award, and he’s had a breakout season, but McCollum’s “improvement” is due in part to the vast increase in minutes and opportunities he received after four of Portland’s five starters left. It did not seem like Curry could get much better from his MVP season last year, but he obliterated that ceiling and turned in one of the most efficient offensive seasons ever.
Sixth Man of the Year: Andre Iguodala
This award is dumb and I didn’t feel like giving it to another high-scoring bench player who is subpar on defense, so I’ll reward Iggy, a defensive maven and the fourth-best player on this historic Warriors team.
Coach of the Year: Gregg Popovich, San Antonio
There were a lot of strong candidates for this award, including Rick Carlisle, Steve Clifford, Brad Stevens and Terry Stotts. If Steve Kerr had been healthy and coached Golden State all year, he would have won it, but I’ll give it to the league’s agreed-upon best overall coach after he lead the Spurs to the most single-season wins in franchise history.