Welcome to the the highly prestigious 2014 NBA Nation Australia Awards! We’ve dissected the cream of the crop from this year’s high flyers of the NBA season and put a big old label on the best of the best of them! We’ve got awards for MVP, right the way through to best podcast, so grab a cuppa, sit back and enjoy!
MVP – Kevin Durant
Is it any wonder? 9 out of 10 basketball connoisseurs will agree that there is only one option when it comes to the 2014 NBA season Most Valuable Player. In reality, the MVP discussion can really only include two players in recent years, and likely for a few to come. Kevin Durant and LeBron James’ battle for supremacy over the course of the next three to five years will be the delight of fans around the world, with both making great cases for the claiming of bragging rights. This season however, Durant IS the clear cut choice for Most Valuable Player. If for no other reason, KD has had to excel in all areas for the majority of the season in a tough western conference without Russell Westbrook, and still completely dominated. James’ defense speaks volumes for his case as the year’s MVP, but simply put, KD’s ability to take over and win games this season without any help is testament to his status as the best player in the game right now. Stats wise, Durant leads LeBron in almost every category, with his PER standing at a league best 30.22. No easy feat, and with the competition he has faced on the regular in the west, this becomes even more impressive. He is, unquestionably, the most fundamentally sound player in basketball, and should be recognized as such.
(Honorable Mention – LeBron James)
COACH OF THE YEAR – Gregg Popovich
How can you go past a guy like Pop? Not only is he one of the most respected coaches in the league, he is a father figure to his players, and having crafted a family in San Antonio has once again proved that age shall be no burden when competing for a title. Now, one can look at this and say “hey, Jeff Hornacek took the Suns to 48 wins when they were supposedly lottery bound” or “Are you looking over what Terry Stotts has done with the Blazers?”. The answer is most definitely no. It’s impossible to overlook what those coaches have done for their teams this season, but Popovich’s complete devotion to the betterment and preservation of the players he sees as family is second to none. He cares not for fines, TV ratings, interviews or the expectations of others, and only for the well being of the playing group, and their complete effort as a team. The 19-0 streak the team went on during February/March was one of the most impressive in recent memory, given a lot of it was without Tim Duncan, and at times Tony Parker. He’s been able to condition Manu Ginobili into a potential 6th man candidate at 36 years of age, and ignited the careers of Kawhi Leonard, Danny Green and Patty Mills amongst others. Here is a coach who, amongst a western conference where youth and ability reigns supreme, has rallied his troops and once again, proved the critics wrong and scared the hell out of everyone in the process.
(Honorable Mention – Jeff Hornacek)
6th MAN OF THE YEAR – Taj Gibson
“Taj Gibson is all heart, hustle and determination; he represents what Chicago Bulls basketball has become. The 2013/14 Bulls season is the format for ‘how to over-achieve’ and a very large part of that is because a 6’9” 225 power forward who was drafted with the last pick of the first round back in 2009 has come of age. Gibson’s statistics are fairly impressive; he averaged 13.0 points, up 5.0 on last season, grabbed 6.8 rebounds and blocked 1.4 shots per game while playing 28.7 minutes each night. His assists per contest were also at a career high 1.1 and his free throws have improved out of sight, up to .751 but it’s the intangibles that make Gibson so special. He has this great ability to change a game, whether it’s a huge dunk when the woefully inept Bulls offense so desperately needs it, his world class defense on the other end of the floor or his willingness to hustle for a loose ball, Gibson is an integral part of the Chicago Bulls and it all happens from the bench. Gibson played in all 82 games for Chicago with only eight starts this season. There are others who have produced slightly better ‘numbers’ but no other bench player in the
league has been as important to their teams success as Gibson. He is a worthy candidate for the Sixth Man of the Year award and a player with a very bright future ahead of him.” – Dan Attias
(Honorable Mention – Reggie Jackson)
ROOKIE OF THE YEAR – Michael Carter-Williams
No one really expected what’s become of this young rookie from the Philadelphia 76ers, and considering their season, one may argue that this award could have ended up elsewhere. In a draft class that wasn’t highly anticipated, we got great production out of not only MCW, but also Victor Oladipo, Trey Burke, Tim Hardaway Jr and Mason Plumlee just to name a few. All have made their case, but none so much as Carter-Williams who started his season with 2 double doubles during a 3-0 start to season 2013/14, and has never looked back. In a tough season, he’s managed to lead every candidate with first season stats unseen since the like of Magic Johnson in his rookie year. He lead in points (16.7), rebounds (6.2) and assists (6.3) per game, well ahead of second and proving that he is indeed one to watch. He’s part of an elite class with numbers like those, joining Magic Johnson and Oscar Robertson as the only players to average over 16 points, 6 rebounds and 6 assists in their rookie seasons, and while his shooting is much less effective than those players (40.5%), it’s doubtful that we’ll see him regress in that area. As mentioned, this season hasn’t been as clear cut as recent times, but there is little doubt in our mind. Michael Carter-Williams is your 2014 NBA Nation Australia Rookie of The Year.
(Honorable Mention – Trey Burke)
DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR – Joakim Noah
To be clear, we had this award penned well before the announcement that Joakim Noah had won Defensive Player of The Year. As firm believers in Roy Hibbert early on in the season, there was going to have to be a real uprising from a competitor to change that fact, but we all know how the mighty have fallen in the latter part of this season. Hibbert has gone from defensive stopper, and veritable brick wall to the basketball equivalent of a wet paper bag, his reputation as rim protector all but diminished. Where he has despaired, Noah has prospered. Without their star point guard, many wrote the Bulls off this season, but it has been players like Joakim Noah that have said no to that theory. Averaging 11.3 rebounds a game (good for 6th in the NBA) and 1.5 blocks, no one who has really watched his progression this year should be surprised. Perhaps his most impressive feat however, is that he has kept opponents scoring to a mere 48.5% in the paint, making him an interior defender worthy of the name. Noah’s ability to change the game, and impact the outcome without superstar numbers is testament to how important he really is to this Bulls team going forward, and we can’t wait to witness it.
(Honorable Mention – Andre Iguodala)
MOST IMPROVED PLAYER – Anthony Davis
Undoubtedly the most improved player in the NBA by a long, long way. The Unibrow has upped his scoring average by a whopping 7.6 points per game to 21.1ppg, and increased his rebounding average by over 2 per game. He’s also averaging 2.8 blocks (leads the league), a huge improvement from 2012-13′s 1.8bpg. To top it off, Davis is one of just five players in the NBA averaging 20+ points and 10+ rebounds. Hard to argue that with a significant improvement in every statistical category in just his sophomore year, Ant Davis is well on his way to NBA super-stardom. The Pelicans, while missing the playoffs, have a legitimate star on their hands, and would be wise to build around him in the coming years. To summarize, Anthony Davis is our most improved player of 2014, and the thought that he WILL ONLY GET BETTER is frightening.
(Honorable Mention – Blake Griffin)
MOST IMPROVED TEAM – Phoenix Suns
Ah, everyone’s Cinderella story of the 2013/14 season. The Suns were, by all accounts, destined to be cellar dwellers. Bound for the misery of a losing season and the lottery in the offseason, eventually hoping to draft a quality player and rebuild from scratch. That couldn’t have been farther from the truth, and the Suns captured the hearts of the basketball world through some incredible performances, strength of character and the belief that they could compete with the best of them. The team just missed the playoffs with a 48-34 record (would have been good for 3rd in the East), and the majority of players exceeded expectations for the year. Goran Dragic, Eric Bledsoe and the Morris twins, just to name a few, all became legitimate players in a conference dominated by super teams and proved you don’t need to be one of the big boys to have success. The future is truly bright in the desert, and it’s a team that the majority of basketball fans will tell you, is going to be extremely fun to watch over the next few years.
(Honorable Mention – Toronto Raptors/Washington Wizards)
VILLAIN OF THE YEAR – JR Smith
We only put this award in here because we did it last year, and picked Dwight Howard to take it out. This season, 2012/13’s 6th Man of The Year JR Smith has fallen waaaaay down the scale of public perception from reformed bad boy turned NBA success, to shot jacking, hard-partying laughing stock. JR’s season went from bad to worse, and his team suffered big time. After the Knicks showed faith in Smith, extending a 3-year $18 million deal to him, he thanked them by advising them of a debilitating knee injury sustained during the offseason, which would sideline him for the early part of the new season. Amongst a myriad of other indiscretions, Smith was fined multiple times for hostile twitter spats, use of banned substances and the infamous “shoe gate” drama. Perhaps his worst offense however, is his much documented slide into irrelevancy, and showing Knick fans around the world that he could not care less. In January, an article by Yahoo! Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski exposed Smith as the NBA’s “Clown Prince”, putting his integrity as a player, and a person to the sword. Woj’s article garnered the attention of the NBA world, and ensured that there is little doubt JR Smith is the league’s biggest villain.
(Honorable Mention – Larry Sanders)
HERO OF THE YEAR – Nick ‘Swaggy P’ Young
We couldn’t help ourselves. In a year fraught with misery and despair there was one constant in the city of LA, and it came in the form of a 28-year old guard from Reseda, California. Swaggy P, as he is affectionately known came to the Lakers at the start of the season with the childhood dream of playing for his favorite team. It was a rocky start, but fans came to like that there was a player willing to give it all on a team that no one believed in. For a fan group waiting on nothing but a quick death and a lottery pick, there was one shining light for them. Nick Young. Swaggy P wasn’t your typical hero on the court, but he fought till the bitter end, inspiring a bunch of guys who knew the battle was lost, and their fates sealed. He is the embodiment of the ‘never say die’ attitude, and that’s exactly what Laker fans needed this year. He has the option the leave the Lakers, and will surely receive offers, but this writer for one, hopes his stay in the purple and gold armor is long and prosperous because right now, no one deserves it more.
(Honorable Mention – Steph Curry)
BEST AUSTRALIAN PODCAST – #BelieveTheHype with Tom and Benyam
We can’t look past our boys in #BelieveTheHype this year. The undisputed kings of Australian basketball podcasting, this dynamic duo has gone from strength to strength having garnered some of the best interviews, insights, regular guests and more during the past year. Not only that, they’re also some of our biggest supporters, having helped us out since the early days. With the help of American correspondant Jamieson Welsh, Tom and Benyam have the chemistry and knowledge that is imperative when podcasting, and with a legion of fans growing every day, we can see these guys going a long way. If you haven’t already and you’re a hoop head, be sure to download #BelieveTheHype from the iTunes store today!
(Honorable Mention – The Hoops Podcast with Pumpa and Boof)
BEST AMERICAN PODCAST – The Starters
Goooooood Day Sweet World!! The podcast (now TV show) formerly known as The Basketball Jones is in the first season of their re-imagining as the Starters, with JE Skeets, Tas Melas, Trey Kerby and Leigh Ellis. For years we enjoyed the Basketball Jones, before NBA.TV picked up the guys, and gave them a daily spot on their network. Now we not only get to enjoy the guys hilarity over the airwaves, but we can also watch them daily on the telly! The Starters is a funny, down to earth look at the game we love without the dribble. These guys are simply fans of the game, talking hoops and having a laugh in the process. This is undoubtedly a must listen/watch for every basketball fan. Download The Starters from the iTunes store today!
(Honorable Mention – Eye on Basketball Podcast with Matt Moore and Zac Harper)
Well, there you have it! Another year, another set of awards. Congratulations to all the winners! You now own ultimate bragging rights. We think we’ve covered it pretty well! If you’d like to have your say, or think we’re having a laugh, let us know @NBANationOz on Twitter.