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Thursday, April 16, 2009

How Amazing Will Happen This Year, Pt. 1

(A soft piano tune begins playing in crescendo as- in black and white- I walk up to my computer chair in slow motion. I grab some Johnson and Johnson's Baby Powder, shake it into my hands, and throw it into the air a la Kevin Garnett (who freaking did it first, OK Nike and LeBron?!) I sit down, open up my laptop, launch my internet browser, type in an HTML, do some clicking, and type in the title: "How Amazing Will Happen This Year." The screen fades to black as the following text comes up: "Room 232-A, Hatch Hall...Where Amazing Happens")

You'll have to forgive me.

I fully understand that this is a sports blog that makes you laugh. I'm going to try to make you laugh, but I have all of these NBA thoughts bouncing around my dome and I have to get them out. Think of me like Harvey Milk. No, no not like that. Hey, get your head out of the gutter. (Tapping my foot and staring at you) Are you done? Can I finish now? Thanks. Anyway, think of me like Harvey Milk in that I have so much to express, and I just need a way to get it out.

So, understand that I will make you laugh, but (*SPOILER ALERT*) that's not the main objective of this (these) post(s).

Glad we got that out of the way.

I've spent several diligent minutes and even stayed up until 11:30 PM a few nights this week studying my NBA to make sure that this (these) post(s) is/are the best it can possibly be.

To ensure that you the reader and I the writer are able to maintain our proper attention spans, I'll be splitting the end-of-the-season-let's-reflect-and-preview NBA post into several parts. The first (the one you are currently reading) will be the first of the end of the season awards.

Throughout today and tomorrow, I'll best posting the rest of my picks for these awards. This way, you guys will actually read them all.

(Having that been said, please please please feel free to leave comments on each post as to why you agree with me, why you disagree with me, or what you think I may've left out)

Saturday, I'll either be posting a written playoff preview, or doing something Korked Bats has never done before. Korked Bats: Where Copying Tech Trends Happens!

Look, I know you want it all now. I know there's a chance you won't leave your computer seat after you finish reading this because you're so curious to see how I think the playoffs will shake out. That's natural. But I need you to be patient. It's a virtue, or something like that. My goal is to never post anything longer than 4,000 words for this blog again. I like it when people actually read what I write. So we'll split it up and you'll either learn patience or rot your eyes out. Your choice.

In all seriousness, I've been grappling over a lot of these awards for the last month or so. No, I've never considered Dwight Howard the runaway Defensive Player of the Year. I didn't decide on an MVP until the last four games of the season. I've gone back-and-forth on Most Improved more times than Rose went back-and-forth from wanting to get on a lifeboat and wanting to be with Jack.

At any rate, I've settled on my picks. For most of these awards, I'm judging on the following criteria:
  • Their overall body of work for the season. Alas, the pitfalls of being Dirk Nowitzki! He played great down the stretch, but started too sluggishly to crack the top 5 for MVP.
  • Team success. This kind of goes without saying for Coach of the Year, but as far as everything else goes: anyone can put up good numbers on a bad team. Ask Kevin Martin.
  • What conference they play in. The West might not be quite as dominant as it was last year when Golden State won 48 games and missed the playoffs, but it's still decidedly better than the East. Take a peek at the standings. Phoenix will be missing the playoffs this year in the West, but would have the 5 seed were they in the East. Before you can start with the whole yeah-but-five-teams-in-the-West-finished-under-30-wins-while-every-team-in-the-East-except-one-had-at-least-30-wins argument, just don't. Can you honestly tell me that there's a difference between the Knicks at 32 wins and the OKC Blunder- er Thunder- at 23 wins? No, you can't. It's just that all of the teams in the East after the top three are so mediocre that they've all beat up on each other on their way to at least 30 wins. Meanwhile, the dregs of the West went up against a 45-win team in 60 percent of their conference games. Thanks and come again.
  • The team's system matters. Sorry Nate Robinson, but those 17 .2 points per game don't impress me that much when they come in Mike D'Antoni's offense. This can also go the other way. For example: LeBron James averaged 28.4 points and 7.4 assists per game this year. That's incredibly impressive, seriously it is- but watch Cleveland play. When LeBron is in the game, here are the four plays Cleveland runs: LeBron isolation on the wing, LeBron pick and roll with Zydrunas Ilgauskas (who rolls and spots up at about 15-18 feet), LeBron pick and roll with Anderson Varejao (who rolls to the basket), and LeBron three-quarters post with people cutting off of him. On all of those plays, Mike Brown tells LeBron to get into the paint. If the defense collapses on him to keep him from the rim, find one of the guys spotted up for a jumper or cutting to the basket. If they don't, score it yourself. Meanwhile, in the triangle offense that Lakers coach Phil Jackson runs, the distribution is distributed. Confusing, I know, but come along with me. Go look at the Lakers' stats. Five guys average over 2.5 assists a game on that team. Still not conviced? Go back and look at Phil Jackson's triangle offense with the Bulls. Michael Jeffrey Jordan averaged under 6 assists a game in six of his 8 years under Jackson- and he averaged 8 assists a game the year before Phil took over. I guess this was all a very backwards way of telling you that LeBron James isn't really 2-and-a-half assists a game better than Kobe Bryant.* Ditto for Dwyane Wade, who runs basically the same offense in Miami as LeBron does in Cleveland.
*Yes I am typically the master of loopholes, but this one is just an example that illustrates a greater point.

Glad we got all of that sorted out. Now let's get to it:

Defensive Player of the Year

I know that it seems a little early to roll out, arguably, the second biggest award, but this post has already gone on for way to long, you know, and I don't want to stretch it out anymore than I need to. I mean, doesn't it just annoy you so much when you're reading somebody and their stories just go on and on and on and on and on and on way too long? Gosh it's so frustrating that they don't just abide by the old "less is more" principle set forth in Angels in the Outfield by Ranch Wilder. You know? It's like, "Hey, take a hint based on the fact that we don't leave any comments on your longer posts. WE'RE NOT READING THEM." Especially when it seems like some guys just waste so much space with needless esoteric info and long, drawn out analogies and explanations. You know? It's like, "Just get to the freaking point of this post." It's the worst when amateur guys do it. Because, like, probably the only people that actually read them are their friends doing it for pity anyway. They're just like, "Dude, I'm going to make your girlfriend cheat on you with me if you don't stop over-explaining things." You know? And they're not even getting paid to write 2,000 word posts. Man some writers are just so dumb.

Anyway, I really only have a lot to say about three awards: Most Improved (as you'll see later today), Defensive Player of the Year (as you're about to see), and MVP (as you'll see tomorrow if I haven't been kicked off of Korked Bats by then for writing to much). So to give this post a nice climactic ending, I'll bust out one of those three right freaking now.

Wait...Now.

Now?

Ok. Now.

Dwight Howard will win this award. Unanimously. And while it is an impressive feat to lead the league in both shot blocking and rebounding, defensive stats are misleading.

Far too often, guys win the award based on A) name recognition and B) steals, blocks and rebounds. Howard fits both criteria.

But honestly, he doesn't do it for me. His 1-on-1 post defense isn't as good as others (Kevin Garnett, Tim Duncan and Anderson Varejao to name a few), a nice chunk of his blocks come against guards, and he's been outplayed on the block this month by Yao Ming (acceptable), David Lee (semi-acceptable), Brook Lopez (Umm...), and Marc Gasol (WTF?!?).

But uugggggggggghhhhh. There isn't a whole lot of selection. LeBron still doesn't move his feet well enough. Dwyane Wade gambles way too much on steals and doesn't consistently guard the other team's top guy. Ditto for Chris Paul. Quintuple ditto for Jason Kidd (who only gambles for steals because if they catch the pass he knows he can't keep anyone in front of him). Ron Artest and Shane Battier took turns on opposing team's best guys. Kevin Garnett missed too much time. Tim Duncan took a step back this year.

So I'm going to cop out.

My defensive POY is the Boston Celtics. Their defensive leader (KG) missed 25 games. Their best defender last year (James Posey) is now a Hornet. Their best bench defender this year (Tony Allen) has missed 36 games. But having all of that been said, they are still 3rd in the league in points allowed per game, and second in defensive FG%.

That can be attributed to a great defensive scheme by coach Doc Rivers, two good defenders in Rajon Rondo and Paul Pierce, and a bunch of gritty, tough vets that rotate well on shooters and clamp down when they need to.

There's not one guy that you could point at and say "Hey, that's him! That's the guy you can attribute all of this to!", but they still have one of the best defensive teams in the league without KG and that's crazy impressive.

So my guy won't qualify for this award, but don't waste your time explaining that to me. I don't have a vote. I just like talking about these things.

Korked Bats' 2009 Defensive POY Picks

My pick: Celtics D
Davis' pick: Chris Paul
Kyle's pick: Torii Hunter
Austin's pick: Earthworm Jim (Rajon Rondo)
Zach's pick: Dwight Howard

See you in Part 2!

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