Hey, everybody. The NBA season has finally come to its conclusion, the playoffs are still a couple of days away and all that's left to do is read way too much into a three or four game sample size when picking first-round winners.
There's also the matter of awards. It's an interesting awards season, with a few absolute no-brainers alongside some of the most contested races I've ever seen. Given the wide range of opinions, the staff here at Fear the Sword took their crack at who deserves hardware. Here's what we came up with.
How We Voted
MVP - Stephen Curry
Votes: 13 (Unanimous)
Well, this one was a no-brainer. Curry is having one of the best offensive seasons ever for the team that has had the best regular season ever. He's leading the league in PER, made over 400 threes on the season and he's made at least eight threes in 16 different games (!), while leading the best offense in the NBA. With two prospective MVPs under his belt, it's fair to wonder how many more Curry can get for the rest of his career.
MVP Runner-Up - LeBron James
Votes: 9 | Other receiving votes: Kawhi Leonard (2), Russell Westbrook (1), Seth Curry (sigh, 1)
We had to invent this category because the other one was so boring. I can't help but imagine that we as a staff are sort of showing which team we watch the most of with this pick, but it's not as though LeBron has had a poor season. Kawhi Leonard, Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant all have earned a place at the table with LeBron, and I don't think I'll find myself upset with any of that group finishing in second. I don't know if Seth Curry will, though.
Defensive Player of the Year - Kawhi Leonard
Votes: 8 | Others receiving votes: Draymond Green (5)
This was a tight race. Draymond Green's ability to guard multiple positions, switch onto guards and play center despite being hilariously undersized for the position unlocks a lot of what Golden State can do on the defensive end. He's got unbelievably quick hands, he helps better than almost anyone in the league and anchors the Warriors defense.
Kawhi Leonard, however, got my personal vote, and the vote of the staff at FTS. He's the best 1-on-1 defender in the league, and one of few that can really destroy the league's best scorers. He's also on a historically great defense that only allowed 96.5 points per 100 possessions, a full 2.3 points better than second place Atlanta. He's the best defender on the best defense, and he just edges Draymond out for FTS honors.
Sixth Man of the Year - Tristan Thompson
Votes: 7 | Others receiving votes: Will Barton (3), Ryan Anderson (2), Andre Iguodala (1)
The pool of players eligible for Sixth Man this year is a little...underwhelming. Andre Iguodala could conceivably be rewarded, but he missed a decent chunk of the season. Enes Kanter is a name that has gained traction, but his defense is still pretty brutal for OKC. Ryan Anderson and Will Barton, who both received votes play for losing teams.
There's a case for Tristan Thompson for this award, and Alex Raulli already made it perfectly, so I'll let his words do the talking here.
Rookie of the Year - Karl-Anthony Towns
Votes: 13 (unanimous)
Well, this is easy. I'm fairly confident Karl-Anthony Towns has had the best rookie year since LeBron, and the kid is just getting better. He's confident in the post, his mid-range game is unbelievable, and the kid can protect the rim and guard in space.
Yeah. He's great. Kristaps Porzingis or Devin Booker might have run away with this award in any other season, but boy, is it not any other season.
Coach of the Year - Steve Clifford
Votes: 4 | Others receiving votes: Terry Stotts (2), Gregg Popovich (2), Brad Stevens (1), Stan Van Gundy (1), Luke Walton (1)
This award is a mess, as it probably should be. Coaching is super hard to evaluate, and there's like, 400 coaches that did an incredible job this season that won't get any love. The Luke Walton-Steve Kerr combo won 73 games, Gregg Popovich just missed 70, and Dave Joerger took the most injury-plagued team I've ever seen to the playoffs, and he didn't even get a vote.
This was the least-agreed upon vote from our staff, with good reason. Steve Clifford takes the win for getting a top-10 offense and defense out of a roster that might not perform that well in lesser hands. He's adjusted his style on the fly, and the Hornets that bomb away from three have been very successful. He definitely deserves it. It's a shame that 15 other coaches do too.
Most Improved Player - C.J. McCollum
Votes: 8 | Others receiving votes: Kemba Walker (2), Al-Farouq Aminu (1), Kent Bazemore (1)
This is another one of those difficult-to-quantify awards. Do you give it to a player who thrived in an increased role, a player who went from good to great, or a star that expanded his game even further? Ultimately, the FTS staff opted for the first option, and voted overwhelmingly for C.J. McCollum.
McCollum helped ease the Blazers into the Damian Lillard era in a year where they were projected by Vegas to only win about 29 games. His ability to create shots eased the burden on Lillard, and he thrives with the minutes that had been being absorbed by the likes of Wes Matthews and Arron Afflalo last season.
Kemba Walker has a case, as he genuinely became a good shooter this year and helped propel his and the Hornets game to new heights, but McCollum's sheer volume of production is hard to accomplish, even in a larger role.