A Substitute for War

Basketball philosophy

2011 POY Watch – End Conference Semis

with 9 comments

The Player of the Year Watch continues past the regular season factoring in all of the playoffs and coming up with the player that truly had the best overall season. After each round, I will update the rankings.

Player (last rank)

1. Dwight Howard (1)

Odd position to be in. Howard’s sitting at home while the next 5 guys are all on the last 4 teams playing for the championship and playing fantastic. As much as I don’t want to be swayed by who has the better supporting casts, at this point I think it’s unlikely that Howard will keep the top spot when all is said and done.

2. Derrick Rose (2)

Started off the playoffs slow with some nagging injuries. He’s looking quite solid now. It’s also interesting that there was so much stat community negativity toward the guy during the season, meanwhile he keeps showing more as the season goes along. Doesn’t mean they were wrong by any means, but if Rose truly does emerge as a guy challenging for the top spot in advanced statistical metrics in the near future, I can just hear the frustration among the statistically minded.

Bucher: “So you admit you were wrong now?”

Stat guy: “No, YOU were wrong, but now you’re right. It’s a complete coincidence.”,

Bucher: “Whatever you want to tell yourself, I could have told you he’d do this because I watch the games.”

Stat guy: “Gah! That statement doesn’t even mean anything!” <Head explodes>

3. LeBron James (3)

Noticing a trend of players being seemingly locked in place? Yeah, expect that to change quite a bit after these conference finals matchups.

James and the Heat were damn impressive in their flogging of the Celtics. Something I will say right now, if they can repeat that in the next two rounds, hard to imagine my #1 being someone other than James or Wade. I still consider LeBron to be the best player in the game, and while I maintain he hasn’t had the impact of previous years, it’s going to be awful hard to hold that against him if his club wins the whole shebang.

4. Dirk Nowitzki (4)

Wow. Sweeping the Lakers. Did not see that coming. I’m tempted to move him higher right now, but the guys above him are pretty dang impressive, and I don’t want to overreact to one series.

Something I will say though is that I think Dirk gets underrated. Look at his supporting cast. Not that they aren’t good, but they are good because of the way they fit together. And Dirk makes it easy to fit a cast around him. I think people overstate how much credit on ball scorers get for their assists. If you aren’t a brilliant distributor, then someone else could get those same assists, and by making your team’s best scorer and primary distributor be one in the same, you’re missing a chance to spread the floor.

5. Kevin Durant (5)

Certainly continues to deserve his place. Still waiting for OKC to convince me they are ready to be thought of as contenders though.

6. Dwyane Wade (6)

Feels so wrong to have Wade out of the top 5. We only have a total 3 more series to go, and he could still jump up to #1.

7. Chris Paul (7)

There’s a clear top 6 this year, then there’s Paul, and then there’s everyone else. Hard to imagine his spot changing with him gone fishin’ short of other players totally falling apart. Presuming he’s healthy next year, you could do worse than to call these 7 guys the creme of the NBA.

8. Zach Randolph (NR)

For all my conservativeness in the top 7, the last 3 spots see a sea change. I’m not willing to go as nuts as some others did proclaiming Randolph a candidate for best player in the playoffs. However he was quite good, leading a Memphis team that proved quite legit (This was no “Don Nelson upset” situation). With the way others have fallen off, putting him at the 8 spot seems right.

9. Russell Westbrook (NR)

Westbrook’s been crucified lately for not getting the ball to Durant enough. The criticisms aren’t wrong, but they go overboard. People always underestimate how easy it is to get the ball to the guy everyone knows you want to get it to. Westbrook needs to get better at this, and right now I’d still take a healthy Paul, Deron Williams, or Steve Nash over him at the 1, but dude has been a warrior for the Thunder while at times Durant has looked content to let the play pass him by.

10. Paul Pierce (NR)

This is a spot that really, really up in the air. Kind of expect you won’t see Pierce’s name here a round from now. Let’s give a shout out to the Celtics season though. This was a team that looked phenomenal for most of the season before losing out of steam. Even without the steam though, they swept the pseudo-superteam Knicks. Miami looked great against a Boston team that just didn’t have enough left in the tank – presuming Miami keeps it up, that’s nothing for the Celtic crew to be ashamed of.

Falling Off

Kobe Bryant & Pau Gasol – Swept, seriously? Both stars played bad. Gasol played so bad I just had to boot him off. Kobe wasn’t as bad, but y’know when you go through the whole season with a negative adjusted +/- and then lose in an upset sweep in the second round while playing bad, this is not a season worth honoring.

Manu Ginobili – Ginobili falls off simply as I have more time to consider others next to him. His limited minutes I could overlook as the team played great, but seriously, what is a 30 MPG guy on a team that lost in the first round doing still on my top 10 list?

9 Responses

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  1. Does Dirk rise a place or two after that… display?


    May 18, 2011 at 5:24 am

    • Hehe, I restrain myself from re-evaluating my lists after every game specifically to keep from overreacting based on emotion.

      But dayum. Ridiculous stuff.

      Regulars will remember that I had Dirk as my MVP for a good chunk of the year and basically just eliminated him because I couldn’t ignore the missed time. That issue is basically no longer an issue, and he’s playing mind blowing ball right now, so if he keeps it up, real good chance he rises to #1 after the round.

      Also of note:

      Dirk’s playoff rep is so amazing because it got hammered in that he couldn’t perform on the biggest stage…but for the last 4 years he’s been kind of unreal on said stage.

      He’s shown significant improvement come playoff time over the regular season in each of those years, and his PER has jumped over 5 points in the last 3 post-seasons. I don’t know if that has ever been done before.

      Matt Johnson

      May 18, 2011 at 12:34 pm

      • Oh, absolutely re: not letting emotion dictate the placing. But yeah, it’s one of the more “laughing-stupidly-on-the-couch-as-he-banks-another-midranger-high-off-the-glass” playoff performances I’ve seen. It’s not as though OKC were playing him loose or didn’t have the length to challenge him effectively. Dirk just behaved like the defender wasn’t there. The interesting thing will be how OKC defend him next up. Dirk’s was the sort of performance which can distort the way a series is played.


        May 18, 2011 at 4:57 pm

  2. Hey,

    I know I’m a Wade fan and this may come of as biased/agenda driven, but I honestly don’t see why Wade is ranked so low. His playoff APM, PER, WS48 are all higher than Lebron. At the time at the end of the semis, he was leage leader in WS48 and PER by a comfortable margin (+3 PER points of people that made it to the semis, +.02 WS48). The only stat which he wasn’t leading (he was #3) is APM, and this is obviously not going to be one either Lebron or himself are going to dominate as they have eachother on the team. I mean, Wade averaged 30/7/5 on 62% TS in the Boston series. Up to this point, he clearly outperformed everyone else in the playoffs by a comfortable margin. I don’t see how he couldn’t be in your top 5 at the very least taking all these things into consideration.

    And for those who argue is impact is limited compared to guys like Durant/Rose, thats not what the stats show.


    May 20, 2011 at 10:55 am

  3. Also, to put their stats into context, Wade/Lebron faced teams with an average Drtg of 102.6. Dirk? 105.7. Durant? 106.2. Rose? 106.5 (funny because he has the most lackluster offensive stats of the bunch in the PS despite playing against the lesser quality defenses).

    So, let me put Wade’s specific stats into context. He put up 30.2/6.8/4.8 on 61.6% TS against the Boston Celtics, who had a Drtg of 100.3. This was in a series that averaged 85.7 possesions per game. If that’s not amazing, IDK what is 😛


    May 20, 2011 at 12:49 pm

  4. Welcome nonemus,

    If you look back at the previous POY Watches, you’ll see the answer: Wade is #6 now because he was #6 before.

    This is not to say he can’t move, but I don’t throw out the regular season, and I’m cautious making changes based on what happens early in the playoffs.

    If Wade keeps playing as he is, and the Heat win the whole thing, he has no danger of finishing 6th on my list.

    As it stands though, those guys above Wade haven’t exactly been shabby. Frankly were I to give a playoff MVP award right at this moment, the #4 & #5 guys on the Watch might be my top 2.

    Matt Johnson

    May 20, 2011 at 2:01 pm

  5. […] 2011 POY Watch – End Conference Semis (asubstituteforwar.com) […]

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