Posts Tagged ‘Defensive Player of the Year’

Award races head into stretch run

By Fran Blinebury,

Four weeks from today the regular season is over. All eyes will be on the playoffs. And that means the final push is on for the 2013-14 awards.

The duel for MVP honors has been a match race all season between Kevin Durant and LeBron James. Michael Carter-Williams jumped out of the pack early as the one to beat for Rookie of the Year. But the other races have been wide open.

Here’s one man’s view as we head into the home stretch:

Most Improved Player

Anthony Davis, Pelicans — This is why the Pelicans were so happy to make him the No. 1 pick in the 2012 Draft. This is what coach Monty Williams says Davis probably could have shown last season if the coach hadn’t kept a tight rein on his prized rookie, limiting his minutes and his exposure to getting overpowered while he built up his slender body. When Davis erupted for 40 points, 21 rebounds, three assists and three steals against the Celtics, it was the culmination of a spectacular sophomore year. He’s been steady and breathtaking at both ends of the court all season, enough to beat out the likes of worthy candidates Goran Dragic and Lance Stephenson in a crowded field of contenders. Also getting votes: DeAndre Jordan, Trevor Ariza.

VIDEO: Anthony Davis was nominated for Kia Player of the Month for March

Sixth Man of the Year

Manu Ginobili, Spurs – Following an injury-plagued 2012-13 season that saw him enter the playoffs last spring looking bedraggled, the player who puts the jolt into the Spurs attack is back playing like a live wire in his 12th season. His field-goal percentage is up and his he’s back to doing all the things at both ends of the floor that make him a disruptive force and a difference maker. Jamal Crawford is the closest contender and has done many of the same things for the Clippers. The deciding factor has to be overall team performance. L.A. is in the top half of the Western Conference standings, but that’s once again the Spurs at the top. The return of Manu to his old form is a prime reason. Also getting votes: Reggie Jackson, Markieff Morris.

VIDEO: Manu Ginobili talks about the Spurs’ season and his play

Rookie of the Year

Michael Carter-Williams, Sixers — He was the sixth guard selected (11th overall) in 2013 and wasted no time showing he never should have lasted that long. He’s put up big numbers even as the Sixers have suffered through what is a historically inept season. If all of general manager Sam Hinkie’s decisions turn out so well, the pain will be worth the price. The fun could just be starting when MCW gets to team up with a healthy Nerlens Noel next season. It’s a long way back to the No. 2 man in the voting for this category, but we’re jumping the more likely pick and going with Tim Hardaway Jr. His hard-charging style has been one of the few reasons to watch the Knicks all year. Also getting votes: Victor Oladipo, Trey Burke. Kia Rookie Ladder

VIDEO: At the All-Star break, Michael Carter-Williams talks about his season

Defensive Player of the Year

Joakim Noah, Bulls — The Pacers spent the early part of the year polishing their reputation as the league’s top defensive team, with center Roy Hibbert starting to clear room on his mantle as the pre-eminent rim protector in the game. But it is no coincidence that the Pacers’ struggles fit with a slippage in Hibbert’s game. The truth is, when you get him just a little bit away from the basket, he’s not so dominant. Meanwhile the Bulls have shrugged off the loss of Derrick Rose and Luol Deng because Noah simply won’t let them stop working and scrapping and competing. He’s the heart and soul of the team, especially that ferocious defense as Chicago charges late and the Pacers try to regain their equilibrium. Also getting votes: Serge Ibaka, Dwight Howard.

VIDEO: Rachel Nichols talks with Joakim Noah about his surge in play of late

Coach of the Year

Gregg Popovich, Spurs — The first instinct is to say that Jeff Hornacek has taken a Suns team that everyone assumed was diving for the lottery — and the Las Vegas wise guys had pegged for 21.5 wins — and turned them into an uplifting story and playoff contender, and that’s worthy of consideration. The next instinct is to say that Tom Thibodeau is like the Black Knight in “Monty Python and the Holy Grail”, virtually getting limbs chopped off and yet ignoring the wounds and keeping right on with the fight. But when you get right down to the meat of things, it’s all about winning games and some how, some way, Popovich keeps doing that better than anybody else. Never mind that Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili are practically senior citizens. Never mind that an assortment of injuries has forced the Spurs to use two dozen different lineups. Never mind all of those lingering mental scars from The Finals last June. Popovich expects the best and his team keeps producing it. Excellence should be recognized and rewarded. Also getting votes: Frank Vogel, Dwane Casey, Steve Clifford.

VIDEO: GameTime delves into how deeply Gregg Popovich’s influence is felt around the NBA

Most Valuable Player

Kevin Durant, Thunder — It’s been a two-horse race between Durant and LeBron James almost from the opening tip. You can almost never go wrong picking James, who still reigns as the league’s best player with his ability. It looked like James might be making a late charge for an MVP three-peat with his 61 point game a couple of weeks ago. But an ensuing slump by both LeBron and the Heat took the steam out of that charge. Durant responded and has raised his game even higher over the past 1 1/2 weeks. We also have to go back to Durant’s body of work without Russell Westbrook for 30 games — and counting — as he keeps the Thunder in the hunt for best overall record and heads toward what should be the first of multiple MVP wins. Also getting votes: Joakim Noah, Blake Griffin. Kia Race to the MVP Ladder

VIDEO: Chris Webber and Greg Anthony debate and discuss the MVP race

Noah Serves As Source Of Bulls’ Energy, Emotion — And Offense


– To say Joakim Noah plays with energy or brings emotion to the court for the Chicago Bulls is to say that the sun plays with light and brings heat to the Earth. See, it’s so much more than that.

Noah radiates that stuff.

If coach Tom Thibodeau is Chicago’s single-mindedness and hard-headedness, if Derrick Rose when healthy is the team’s heart, Noah is its soul. Always quick to rouse and praise the 22,000-plus who fill United Center for each game, the truth is none of them burns for the Bulls the way he does. None of them grabs them by their horns and hoists them on his back the way Noah has done lately, either, putting up big numbers that only scratch the surface of the impact he’s having these days.

Noah crammed the score sheet Saturday night in the Bulls’ thorough beating of Brooklyn with 21 points, 10 rebounds, five assists, four blocks and two steals. He made 10 of his 13 field-goal attempts – and one of those was a halfcourt heave at the third-quarter buzzer that more stats-conscious players always seem to fling an instant too late to avoid dinging their percentages.

In Chicago’s previous game, their spanking of Philadelphia on TNT Thursday, his numbers truly conveyed the spectacular performance he gave: 23 points (8 of 12 from the floor), 21 rebounds and 11 blocked shots. He became only the sixth player since the NBA began tabulating blocks (sorry, Wilt and Russ) to go 20-20-10 in quite that way. The others: Hakeem Olajuwon, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Shawn Bradley, Shaquille O’Neal and Elvin Hayes.

Late in the Sixers game, as Noah shot a pair of free throws in United Center’s west end, the crowd swelled up with a familiar chant of “M-V-P! M-V-P!” In Noah’s case, “D-P-O-Y! D-P-O-Y!” would have been a better fit, for it is the NBA’s Defensive Player of the Year award for which he’ll get serious consideration.

But the “MVP” stuff was a link of sorts, too, to Rose, the Bulls’ missing All-Star now in the late stages of  his rehab from left knee surgery. Not having Rose available for the season’s first four months has led some Chicagoans to keep the team at arm’s length, as if they’re not sure whether to invest emotionally or otherwise in what Bulls management has been selling this season.

Noah, meanwhile, is incapable of such detachment. The vision he has for the Bulls is true. The last two games, it’s as if he slit open a vein and spilled it all over the court for the world to see.

“I don’t have a choice,” Noah said after the Brooklyn game. “This is my job and this is my life. Everything is built around, y’know, this. There’s nothing better right now than winning basketball games. It’s been an up-and-down year. But I really feel like when we’re playing our best, we can really beat a lot of people. So the potential is definitely there.”

Noah has been leading the way, not by rounding up two of everything the way that Biblical version did but by grabbing a whole bunch of many things, from rebounds to blocks to, his latest wrinkle, field goals. He never had run off consecutive 20-point games until now, and his offensive inclinations alone have made a difference: When the 6-foot-11 center takes at least 10 shots, the Bulls are 22-7 this season.

“Most people don’t expect Jo to shoot the ball,” said forward Carlos Boozer, after heaping all sorts of DPOY love on Noah. “But when he’s aggressive and he’s going to the hoop and he’s hitting the jump shot, teams don’t know what to do. Because now you’ve got five guys that can put the ball in the hole.”

Said Noah: “It’s just opportunity. Just diving harder to the basket. My teammates are looking for me. I’m not really doing anything different than I’ve been doing. It’s just … stats, I guess.”

Stats don’t much move Noah’s needle. Winning does. Winning postseason games does. Teammates plugging into his power source, that’s pretty good too.

And pretty standard now, with Noah consciously stepping into the breach of Rose’s absence.

“With Derrick being gone this year, from what I’ve seen, he’s been that leader since Day 1,” said veteran backup Nazr Mohammed. “He’s also a guy who leads by example. You come in and see his energy, his focus before games.”

Sometimes there’s an (over) abundance. Noah was called for a foul just 85 seconds into the game Saturday, then griped his way to a technical from ref Scott Foster. But he stuck around to play 41 minutes, picking up only two more personals.

There was a stormy game against Memphis in January when Thibodeau yanked Noah and kept him out, the player apologizing the next day for some untoward words.

Most nights now, he harnesses it. Lately, he’s channeling it.

“You have to take what you get from guys,” Mohammed said. “If a guy’s emotional, you take that away from him, you affect his game.”

The Bulls are better off with Noah radiating and spilling over to teammates. The talking he does defensively, to clue in forwards and guard on the defensive floor he sees in front of him, is only part of it.

“I think that’s a big aspect of his game also to get real excited when a big play goes down,” forward Jimmy Butler said, “not if he does it but when somebody else does it. That’s part of being a leader, which he’s great at being.

“I feel like everybody feeds off his energy. Everybody feeds off his emotion. You see him yelling, it’s like something in you is like, ‘I’m gonna do it too.’ “

On the good nights, those other Bulls wind up as moons, reflecting what their pony-tailed, free spirit center throws off. As for Noah himself, well, he doesn’t have a choice.

Time To Vote … DPOY?

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – Much like the debate that goes on every year regarding the NBA’s Most Valuable Player Award,  selecting a Defensive Player of the Year is an exercise based largely on the subjectivity of the voters.

Without a clear-cut set of statistical markers a player can reach to solidify his case, the issue is left to the discretion of those with ballots. And that means 2.4 blocks per game by one player might be seen as defensive prowess while 2.4 blocks per game by another player are simply digits and a decimal attached to a name and little else.’s Shaun Powell had to try to make sense of the minutiae while crafting his ballot, which includes a list of the expected names (Dwight Howard, Tyson Chandler, LeBron James and Serge Ibaka). But instead of riding with the obvious and incumbent choice, Howard, Shaun went in a different direction:

Is it possible to be the team MVP when Carmelo Anthony and Amar’e Stoudamire wear the same uniform? If so, then Chandler’s that guy. The Knicks didn’t become a better team until they took a cue from their center and began to make defense a priority.

Chandler is indispensable because he means so much defensively. He bails out teammates, starts the break and does what others cannot do or will not do. He ranks in the top 20 in rebounds per game (10.0, ninth), rebounds (607, 11th), blocks per game (1.44, 18th) and blocks (88, 16th).

“Tyson is our anchor,” Anthony said. “He gets us going.”

TNT’s David Aldridge picked Serge Ibaka as his winner, giving the nod to the league’s shot-blocking king rather than the incumbent. He makes the case for Ibaka:


An Upset Winner For DPOY?

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – “And the 2010-11 Defensive Player of the Year award goes to …”

It’s April Fool’s day folks.

You know it’s Dwight Howard‘s award until further notice. But the Czar, Mike Fratello, brings up some very good points about the five quality candidates he has on his DPOY ballot.


DPOY From Dallas?

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – No one ever mixed the words Dallas and defense, until now.

Even after this dismal showing last night, there could be a grassroots campaign underway:



My main man and colleague Art Garcia of passed along this info Friday night that you must see to believe:

Mark Cuban told me last night that the Mavericks are planning a Defensive Player of the Year Award campaign for Shawn Marion. Makes sense if you look at shut-down prowess of Matrix, as illustrated this week by our own John Schuhmann. In short, the league’s best scorers find it hard sledding against the Mavs.

I talked to Marion last night and he said his individual numbers against the league’s top-5 scorers are even better than what Schuhmann points out. “Check it out,” he told me.

I’ll find out those numbers soon enough. Until then, be on the lookout for the DPOY campaign from the cheerful Dallas PR staff of Sarah Melton, Scott Tomlin and Renee Felton.

If you think this is as crazy as I do, feel free to let Art know exactly how you feel via twitter (it’s okay to pound on the messenger).

I’m guessing you won’t be the only one doing so.

That said, I don’t want to totally dismiss the idea that Marion is a good defender. In fact, I think he’s one of the better perimeter defenders in the league, mostly because he actually cares about being one.

But Defensive Player of the Year?

Get outta here!