By Michael Kinney
With the 2016 postseason kicking into gear, awards for what took place during the regular season are going to be start being handed out. Some of the honors are slam dunks while many took some time and research.
So here are my postseason awards for 2015-16.
Rookie of the year:
Candidates: Kristaps Porzingis (Knicks)), Devin Booker (Suns), Emmanuel Mudiay (Nuggets)
Winner: Karl-Anthony Towns (T-Wolves)- Minnesota’s big man in the middle was a force from the tip-off of the first game of the season is by far the top rookie in the league. This may have been the easiest of all the awards. He averaged 18.3 points, 10.5 rebounds and shot 54 percent from the field. He led all rookies in each category, along with minutes played (32.0) and double-doubles (51). Anthony-Towns is a player the T-Wolves can build around for years.
Defensive Player of the year:
Candidates: Kawhi Leonard (Spurs), DeAndre Jordan (Clippers), Andre Drummond (Pistons)
Winner: Hassan Whiteside (Heat) – In a year where players have seemingly scored at will from the perimeter, that excludes any guard or swing player from winning. Sorry Kawhi. But even if I hadn’t instituted that rule, Whiteside has been terror Miami. Not only is he third in the league in rebounding (11.8 rpg), the 26-year old is first in blocks (3.68 bpg) by a wide margin. He has 92 more blocked shots than Jordan.
Sixth Man of The year:
Candidates: Jamal Crawford (Clippers), Will Barton (Nuggets), Jeremy Lin (Hornets)
Winner: Enes Kanter (Thunder)- Crawford, who won the award in 2014, may be the odds on favorite to win it again. He averaged 14.2 points for L.A. and was counted on to close out game as the team endured injuries to Blake Griffin. However, Kanter was a force for the Thunder in more than just putting the ball through the net. On the season he averaged 12.7 points and 8.1 rebounds. His PER (Player Efficiency Rating) is 24.09, which ranks him, in the top 10 in the league. Crawford is at 14.04.
Most Improved Player of the year:
Candidates: CJ McCollum (Blazers), Giannis Antekounmpo (Bucks). Isiah Thomas (Celtics)
Winner: Reggie Jackson (Pistons) – Despite the push to give Steph Curry every award in the NBA, including most improve, Jackson is the winner. Before this season he was just known as a disgruntled guard who forced his way out of Oklahoma City. But the confident Jackson posted numbers comparable to most point guards in the league. That includes leading the entire league in scoring during 4th quarter crunch time.
Coach of The year:
Candidates: Brad Stevens (Celtics), Gregg Popovich (Spurs), Dave Joerger (Grizzlies)
Winner: Steve Kerr/Luke Walton (Warriors)- All that that needs to be said is 73-9. The best record in NBA history pretty much guarantees the coach of the year award. But to me, what put Kerr/Walton over the top is that they let the players go for the record and not be scared to reach for it.
Candidates: Russell Westbrook (Thunder), LeBron James (Cavaliers), Kevin Durant (Thunder)
Winner: Steph Curry (Warriors) – Unlike most people, I think the competition for Player of the year was closer. Westbrook’s 18 triple doubles and top 10 PER is more than enough reasons to earn a few first place votes. Durant’s numbers were just as impressive putting up 28 points, 8 rebounds and 5 assists per game. LeBron was LeBron. We’ve become so accustomed to his work that it no longer presents the wow factor.
But Curry’s numbers are insane. Leading the league in scoring and steals, more than 400 three-pointers to break his own record. Most important, he was the catalyst for his team winning 73 games when every team was geared up to try and stop Golden State.
What set Curry apart from the other candidates is that he was clutch in the biggest moments consistently. He made less mistakes when it counted most. That is the mark of the MVP.
1st team all NBA:
G: Steph Curry
G: Russell Westbrook
F: LeBron James
F: Kevin Durant
C: DeAndre Jordan
2nd team All NBA
G: James Harden
G: Klay Thompson
F: Kawhi Leonard
F: Draymond Green
C: Hassan Whiteside
Side note: I like winners. So while DeMarcus Cousins is easily the best center/big man in the game, none of his immense talent helped the Sacramento Kings be a better team or even make the playoffs.