clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Handicapping The NBA Awards Scene

New, 16 comments

Why the Lakers won't win any awards this season, and why you shouldn't let that bother you.

Getty Images

In the year 2010, no reasonably informed fan should care about postseason awards.

I get why they exist. They're fun to argue about (to a point), they provide a mechanism for recognizing individual performance in a team sport, and they imbue those who bestow the awards (old-media sportswriters, generally) with self-importance and assurance about their place in the world. Also, they supply acronyms for us to chant when Kobe Bryant is at the free-throw line.

But aren't they just a tad anachronistic? Today, any hoops fan who owns a laptop and the ability to gank a wireless signal from the Coffee Bean next door, which I personally wouldn't know anything about, can watch every player in the league to his or her heart's content. You can review stats and read scouting reports until your brain turns to goop. You can stay informed around the clock thanks to sexy, well-muscled NBA bloggers like me, Dexter Fishmore.

It's like the future... is now.

So let's say you thought Kevin Durant, and not LeBron James, was the most valuable player last season. Does it matter that the beat writer for the Toronto Raptors disagrees? His opinion isn't any more thoughtful than yours. It's probably less thoughtful, given that his life choices led him to a job that requires writing about the Toronto Raptors. Is this really the type of person you need validating your judgment?

Below I've ticked through the major awards, and for each I've handicapped the odds that a Laker will win it (or at least enter the field of serious candidates). But as with everything awards-related, this exercise is just for giggles. If the Lakers win a third straight championship, none of us will care whether Ron Artest wins Defensive Player of the Year, and if they don't, another MVP award for Kobe will be slight comfort indeed.

Rookie of the Year: Forget about it. Devin Ebanks and Derrick Caracter have no shot, and that's not a knock on their talents. In most years, a rookie needs to log at least 2,500 minutes of playing time just to get in the conversation. Assuming 75 games played, that averages out to around 33 minutes a night. On a stacked, veteran roster, the two Laker rooks aren't likely to get even a third that much run.

Most Improved Player: This one's as back-handed as compliments get. It implies that the honoree kind of sucked the year before, and it lumps him in with such previous winners as Bobby Simmons, Alan Henderson and Ike Austin. In terms of prestige, it barely ranks above a participation ribbon. Not coincidentally, perhaps, it's never been awarded to a player on a defending champion.

The only Laker who, even in theory, could find himself in the running for MIP is Sasha Vujacic. He was appropriately bad last year, and if he rediscovers his three-point stroke and seizes the backup shooting-guard position, people will take notice. Again, though, playing time's an issue. For the most part, these awards require you to play starter's minutes, and absent a Kobe injury apocalypse, that's just not happening for Sasha.

Sixth Man of the Year: Typically, this one's given to someone who's a bench player in name only. To be eligible, you need to have appeared in more games as a reserve than you've started, but there are always bros like Jason Terry or Manu Ginobili who don't start but nonetheless average 30-plus minutes a night. In other words, the award exists to honor good players whose coaches have arbitrarily decided to put them into the game at the seven-minute mark of the first quarter instead of the opening jump.

This is in no way pointless!

Assuming Andrew Bynum eventually returns to the starting lineup, Lamar Odom could play himself into some Sixth Man votes. On his best days, he's more valuable than any other reserve in the league. He would, however, need to start scoring more, as the trend in Sixth Man voting has been running in favor of high points-per-game (PPG) totals. The last four years, the award has gone to someone who's put up at least 18 PPG, whereas Lamar's been stuck in the 10-to-12 PPG range during the Pau Gasol era. If he can average double-digit rebounds, which is imaginable, something like 13 PPG could get him onto the short list.

Defensive Player of the Year: Dwight Howard has won DPOY two seasons in a row, and the award is probably his until he dies or loses two inches off his vertical. Does Ron Artest have any shot at the upset? A slight one. Everyone's in love with Ron these days because of his awesomeness in the playoffs last season, and the way Orlando faceplanted against Boston in the Eastern Conference Finals might've given life to a Dwight Howard backlash. If the Magic stumble in the regular season and the voters decide that Dwight's been overpraised to this point, Artest would be the likely beneficiary. A couple nationally televised, lockdown performances against LeBron would help.

All-Star: This isn't a postseason award. Some people call it a midseason award, but it's not even that. The All-Star Game, if you must know, takes place after about seven-tenths of the regular season is over. Glad we cleared that up!

Kobe and Pau are locks to be there. Bynum's knees once again make him a lock not to be there. That just leaves Artest.

I predict that Ron will make it to the All-Star Game this season. He won't be voted in - the starting forwards for the West will be Durant and Dirk Nowitzki - and he might only make it as an injury reserve, but with Amare Stoudemire and Carlos Boozer having fled to points east, the forward position in the Western Conference isn't as crowded as it once was, and could become even less so if Carmelo Anthony is traded. The affection that Ron's earned as a Laker will make him a sentimental, which isn't to say undeserving, pick.

Coach of the Year: You know Phil Jackson? The Lakers' coach, who pretty much wins an NBA title every season? That Phil Jackson? He's won Coach of the Year once. Same with Red Auerbach. He, too, only won the award once.

You know Don Nelson? The guy who's never won an NBA championship, who's lost more than a thousand games in his coaching career and who just got fired by the Golden State Warriors? He's won COY three times.

I told you these awards are stupid.

So - and again, not that anyone should care - but Phil's probably not going to win COY this year, either. It only goes to coaches of teams who were mediocre or worse the season before and of whom not much is expected. Doug Collins? Flip Saunders? Sure, why not. Under no circumstances would you trade Phil for either of them, but by the bizarre logic of COY voting, they're both more likely to be honored this season. Phil's only real chance is if the Lakers' victory total is in the high sixties and no other candidate emerges who fits the preferred mold.

Most Valuable Player: And now we come to the biggie. Durant is the favorite to be the MVP this season, and not without reason. He's a sensational player who'll lead the league in scoring. His team will be both good and fun to watch. He's likeable and gets on with the media. And he's a fresh face who hasn't made the enemies that Kobe and LeBron have.

Kobe, though, is enjoying some decent odds himself. The idea seems to be that LeBron and Dwyane Wade will divide the pro-Miami vote, leaving Bryant as the lone challenger to Durant. As with Phil, Kobe probably has a shot only if the Lakers put up "mad wins." Another 57-25 regular season won't create a sufficiently compelling narrative.

Either the Lakers need to approach 70 victories, or events would need to conspire to cast Kobe in an even-more-than-usually heroic light. If (God forbid) Gasol were to miss a big chunk of time with an injury, and Kobe started dropping 37 points per game to keep the Lakers on top of the West, a movement could emerge to crown him. Otherwise, he and Laker fans will have to content themselves with the possibility of a third straight banner.

Follow Dex on Twitter @dexterfishmore.