A Substitute for War

Basketball philosophy

MJ’s NBA Regular Season Award Winners 2011-12

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Basketball player LeBron James during the game...

Basketball player LeBron James during the game Washington Wizards versus Miami Heat (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


1. LeBron James

2. Chris Paul

3. Kevin Durant

4. Kevin Garnett

5. Steve Nash

We’ll start from the top. I never saw LeBron as seriously threatened for this award this season, and I say this as someone who put both Dwight Howard and Derrick Rose ahead of him last season (in retrospect, Rose would get downgraded, but not Howard). One can knock LeBron’s impact relative to his time in Cleveland, but put next to the all-too-mortal impact of the rest of the league, no one deserves it more.

Paul floats into the 2nd spot for an extremely impressive transition to the Clippers, but it wasn’t the total transformation it needed to be to elevate him above LeBron. Enough to get him past Durant though. I do love KD, but people do need to realize how much help he has. That might sound weird coming from a guy with LeBron at #1, and believe me I factor the same thing in for LeBron, but there really is no good reason at all for people to assume Durant’s doing more with less.

The Garnett and Nash picks probably seem strange to many. Bottom line is that we’ve got a lot of teams led by ensemble right now, and other teams led by spotlighted stars I have mixed feelings about. Garnett & Nash continue to bring it, having profound, caveat-free impact.

Defensive Player of the Year

1. Kevin Garnett

2. Luol Deng

3. Andre Iguodala

First off, Tyson Chandler is getting so much hype right now, I feel the need to address his omission. I’m very impressed with the guy, but there’s also clearly circumstances playing in to looking like he has a bigger impact than he actually does. Dallas fell apart on offense this year, not defense. New York’s defense improved, but the meat of the improvement comes from steals and turnover creation not with the typical changes caused by a big man. Chandler is involved in allowing his perimeter players to gamble…but so are they.

Garnett’s been the clear per minute DPOY for his entire half decade in Boston. Howard’s been my pick the previous 3 years simply because of how much time Garnett missed. This year Garnett was healthy, and Howard had issues. He is the clear choice for me.

Deng and Iguodala are, I’m sure, controversial picks, Deng especially. I don’t feel terribly strongly for them above Chandler, or even the partial Howard we got this year, but they deserve some love. People can argue about a perimeter defender’s value, and with Deng whether it’s just quirks of luck that put him in such a prominent position, but he remains the guy who coach Thibodeau relies on more than anyone else.

Rookie of the Year

1. Kyrie Irving

2. Ricky Rubio

3. Kenneth Faried

I’ll once again begin by stating that this is actually the hardest award to pin down a criteria for. When people call it simple, that only means they haven’t thought it through. Quite amusing is the fact that Rubio dropped off people’s radar with his injury, but he actually played about as many minutes as other top rookies like Irving, and considerably more than Faried.

My criteria at this point is essentially: Most Hype-Worthy Future Star. Which means, who has shown the most potential while eliminating the most doubt.

So Irving leads the way over Rubio largely because Irving has really shown a complete game that makes him a sure thing, whereas Rubio with his scoring and injury still has a bit more doubt. Faried, doesn’t have me frothing at the mouth quite like the other guys, and I want to see what his role is from season’s start next year, but what he did this year is jawdropping and I’d have no problem with people giving him ROY votes. His PER instantly dwarfed everyone on the team, and is the 2nd highest of the past decade AHEAD of Blake Griffin last year (and just behind Chris Paul). Love his motor, and I won’t be betting against him.

 Most Improved Player

1. Nikola Pekovic

2. James Harden

3. Ersan Ilyasova

Some great candidates this year, with Harden being the most glamorous contender. He is easily the best player of the lost, but Pekovic’s improvement is about as drastic as you’ll ever see. He went from a scrub far from assured that he could make it in the league to a near all-star level player overnight. 10+ PER jump. Crazy, and it’s Pek’s arrival that really has me thinking about the Timberwolves as a big-time contender going forward. Kevin Love and Rubio looked amazing already, now we have a 3rd star in the making.

By the way, Jeremy Lin is not on my radar for this award. Perhaps I’ll post in more detail later, but the notion that we Lin’s rise to prominence was due to improvement is a falsehood. Scouts clearly had no concept he was capable of this until he got his opportunity, and then instantly did exceptional. He’s really more a ROY than a MIP.

6th Man of the Year

1. James Harden

2. Jason Terry

3. Al Harrington

The James Harden show. It’s funny because when a 6th man is as good as Harden, people are reluctant to vote for him…despite the fact the whole reason the award exists is because we know that sometimes starter-level players start from the bench for the good of the team and they deserve recognition for their sacrifice. Giving Harden the 6MOY is literally the very LEAST we can do.

I will give a brief shout out to Terry to, who truly has become the dividing line for the award: If you’re off the bench and better than Terry, you’re seriously sacrificing for your team. Terry himself is a solid player who is good enough to start, but clearly not on the level of guys like Harden or “should have been winning 6MOY every year” Manu Ginobili.

Coach of the Year

1. Greg Popovich

2. Tom Thibodeau

3. Frank Vogel

Pop & Thibs are so far above anyone else, it felt weird to make a top 3. I really had a hard debate between the top two, and for most of the year was siding with Thibs. After all: The most shocking fact of the year is that the Bulls without the league MVP were still elite. That’s all about Thibodeau’s coaching.

However, what that really tells us is that the impact of Thibodeau LAST year was even bigger than we realized when we gave him the COY. In terms of a coach making brilliant adjustments in this current year, that really is Pop, which is astonishing. He’s the godfather of current coaches with a coaching tree taller and thicker than any I can recall in the pros…and after all these years he’s still more flexible than anyone else. Amazing.

Executive of the Year

1. Nick Olshey

2. Masai Ujiri

3. Kevin O’Connor

Always tough to choose here, but I always also find it necessary to do. Extremely important part of the game, even if it’s really best to judge over much longer periods than one year.

Olshey gets the nod because he made the big move of acquiring Chris Paul, and also did smaller things like acquiring Chauncey Billups. Was there some luck involved? Sure, but while David Stern might have nixed the Laker deal, Olshey still got it done before the other 28 teams.

Ujiri & O’Connor basically have made the best of rough situations. I’m reluctant to give the nod to a GM who simply helps his team unexpectedly tread water because that undoubtedly has much to do with the coach, but credit where credit is do for navigating high maintenance stars well.


Written by Matt Johnson

April 28, 2012 at 10:58 am

Posted in Uncategorized

6 Responses

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  1. Missed these this year. It’s also harder to have so much MVP discussion in a shortened season when we have less data to work with and frankly, need to be a little more concerned about figuring out who the good teams are.

    Agree with LBJ (easily) at the top. I too have Paul at No. 2 — no one seems to be paying attention to just how weak the rest of the Clippers actually are. I haven’t checked it all season, but I imagine they aren’t very good with him off the court. (Goes to check…) -10.2 off. WOW.

    Glad to see KG and Nash popping up here. KG was my DPOY last year. I tend to lean toward him again. Chandler still deserves recognition. (Well, he really deserved it last.) But your larger point about team by ensemble shouldn’t be minimized. The structure of these teams this year has been way more multipolar than a lot of what we’ve seen recently.

    ElGee (@ElGee35)

    April 28, 2012 at 11:19 am

    • What’s interesting about the multipolar Knicks defense:

      If it wasn’t Chandler who masterminded the defensive shift (and it wasn’t, he’s not the one telling guards to go for steals), it either happened organically or…you have to give the coaching some credit for having a good feel for defensive strategy. And of course, the head of that coaching staff was Mike D’Antoni who isn’t supposed to even believe in defense.

      Matt Johnson

      April 28, 2012 at 11:25 am

      • Another interesting question is how much the Mavs missed Chandler’s OFFENSIVE contributions as part of the ensemble (Odom might have gone some way to replacing it, but…)


        May 1, 2012 at 4:26 pm

      • Are we to ignore that Mike Woodson was added to D’Antoni’s staff for this season?


        July 11, 2012 at 5:16 pm

  2. My MVP list

    1. Lebron – Ultimately the best offensive player in the league and (IMO) a top 3-5 defensive player, I tend to lean towards mental impact like Paul’s this year as an important thing, but considering the Heat’s success I can’t really blame LBJ much in that department

    2. Chris Paul – I think he’s the closest thing to a player coach we’ve seen in years (I compared him and Vinny to Peyton Manning/Jim Caldwell in a RGM thread) and really sent the rest of the Clippers to Chris Paul school for a year, and I agree with ElGee that the Clippers are bad. Also if there’s anyone who deserves “clutch points” it’s Paul in this season. It’s not just about the scoring as much as elite decision making, no turnovers, calming the floor, etc.

    3. Steve Nash – I think this was one of his best seasons, he proved that on virtually any team he’s going to be at 10-12apg, .62 TS% and they’ll have a top 10 ORTG. The talent depth between them and Utah in their play-in game was enormous. He was still an elite offensive anchor and mentally steadied the boat after a slow start.

    4. Kevin Durant – A bit one dimensional for my tastes as an MVP winner, but he’s obv an elite scorer, helped his teammates out by spacing the floor, made a leap as a ballhandler and passer better than he ever has in his career, and was very consistent. Also gets “leadership” points like Paul – I think Durant has always been tied to the Thunder’s great team culture and I see his basketball relationship as Westbrook as the good cop who plays by the rules and talks the bosses down to the one that gets in bar fights and might shove a witness in a oil of barrell if someone’s not watching

    5. Dwight Howard – Couldn’t justify KG over him considering that for all his crap, the Magic still put up a nearly identical record with a lot less going for them (and they played similar total minutes).


    April 28, 2012 at 2:34 pm

  3. *with Westbrook


    April 28, 2012 at 2:34 pm

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