2017 NBA Awards, part 1

I will insert plenty of fluff in the body of this post. So without any sort of prelude, here are my NBA award selectees:

1st Team All-NBA

G Russell Westbrook

G James Harden

F LeBron James

F Kawhi Leonard

C Anthony Davis

2nd Team All-NBA

G Stephen Curry

G Isaiah Thomas

F Kevin Durant

F Giannis Antetokounmpo

C Rudy Gobert

3rd Team All-NBA

G John Wall

G Gordon Hayward

F Draymond Green

F Jimmy Butler

C Marc Gasol

Also considered: Chris Paul, Damian Lillard, Klay Thompson, DeAndre Jordan, Paul Millsap and DeMar DeRozan

Gordon Hayward is a forward if you think he is a forward. He is a guard if you think he is a guard. That’s why normal people call all of these guys ‘wings’. I don’t know what else to really say on the rest of my selections. Paul George is the biggest omission. I believe Butler has flat out been better and if I’m splitting hairs with Hayward, I’m going to reward the guy who has handled his situation better. It’s not like everything has been all roses for Hayward; the dude is going to be deciding in a few months where he’ll spend the next few years of his career.

1st Team All-Defense

G Danny Green

G Andre Roberson

F Kawhi Leonard

F Draymond Green

C Rudy Gobert

2nd Team All-Defense

G Chris Paul

G Kentavious Caldwell-Pope

F Jimmy Butler

F Paul Millsap

C Anthony Davis

Also considered: Jae Crowder, Patrick Beverley, DeAndre Jordan, Hassan Whiteside, Marcus Smart, Tony Allen

KCP was my final entry. The other 9 guys were in a class of their own. Those perimeter guys are downright ferocious. Tough breaks for DJ this year. Whiteside stock is trending in the right direction.

1st Team All-Rookie

Malcolm Brogdon

Dario Saric

Joel Embiid

Jaylen Brown

Rodney McGruder

2nd Team All-Rookie

Buddy Hield

Willy Hernangomez

Jamal Murray

Marquese Chriss

Yogi Ferrell

Also considered: Caris LeVert, Taurean Prince, Juan Hernangomez, Brandon Ingram, Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot

If any award doesn’t require a rambling explanation, it’s this one. But for the record: Yes, I did leave Brandon Ingram off because the tiny shred of fandom left in me is beside itself at the Lakers failing to properly execute a tank job.

Defensive Player of the Year

Draymond Green

Also considered: Rudy Gobert, Kawhi Leonard

This decision easily is just as tricky as MVP. Gobert has been an absolute meteor. He is nothing short of devastating on both ends. I just don’t see a point that would steer me away from Draymond. His nightly work in the paint and on the perimeter cannot be matched by anybody in the league.

And to state the obvious, Kawhi is nothing to shake your head at coming in at #3. The conversation around some of his defensive metrics was interesting at first; I’m eager to see how defensive metrics progress and change over the coming years.

Coach of the Year

Gregg Popovich

Also considered: Quin Snyder, Erik Spoelstra

Popovich is there for the same reason as most. I believe that he’s the best coach on this planet.

Utah went from missing out on the playoffs to 51 wins. That is no small feat. They had to grind just to get this far. Plus, they have the unique added stress of Gordon Hayward and George Hill heading to free agency. This Jazz core has finally arrived as a rock solid playoff team. And one series could make or break it all.

I love what Snyder has done, and a lot of those feelings are colored by the explanation I’ve heard from he and GM Dennis Lindsey for their slow pace offensively. The stuff they run is beautiful. I love watching their perimeter guys zoom for hand offs. And Gobert is always positioned perfectly to catch and immediately be at the rim without needing to dribble.

The questioning of their pace seemed very reasonable to me. Selective gunning for some early Hayward/Hood triples at the very least was in order, right? But hearing Lindsey and Snyder talk about their deep belief that their bigs should get regular touches really struck me. There isn’t one metric to simply look at to either confirm or refute that philosophy, of course. But Snyder has installed their principles and managed all their new depth pieces. Not to mention that the injury bug almost took up permanent residence at their place.

Spoelstra’s season has really been one worth remembering, even as I write this today knowing that Miami did not make the playoffs. I think it’s no coincidence that these three guys also continually remind me, an observer, that the people and relationships in the NBA are so much more valuable than we can understand as fans. We’re in this trade machine-obsessed age now in which we’re all ready to make the call for teams to blow it all up. It isn’t that simple.

Finally, related to that, I have to share one of my favorite things I’ve learned this season. This one was courtesy of David Locke. He talked on his podcast about coaching decisions and the observer’s inclination to chastise and second guess coaches. He continued to remind his audience that so many coaching decisions are 51/49 propositions. Coaches can make the ‘right’ call and still see it work out poorly; they can choose ‘wrong’, have it work out, then be praised for it the next day.

6th Man of the Year

Greg Monroe

Also considered: Andre Iguodala, James Johnson

I like considering a guy that contributed in a big way to winning while doing something in addition to preying on second units for a healthy point total.

Monroe and many other centers are finding themselves at a career crossroads. The league is looking more and more ready to move on from a lot of traditional 5 men. Monroe lived it all this year, even being benched by Jason Kidd for one stretch. That’s one hole in my argument. He also is essentially their starting center. Thon Maker has looked promising, but often may only play 3 or 4 minutes in a half.

This is a rare case in which I’m thankful for the structure of an NBA award. Monroe qualifies and I believe he has contributed in a big way to a playoff team that needed it - first missing Khris Middleton, then losing Jabari Parker to a second ACL tear.

Rookie of the Year

Malcolm Brogdon

Also considered: Joel Embiid

Malcolm Brogdon is a legitimate starter for a legitimate playoff team. Toronto isn’t looking beyond the Bucks toward round two. Brogdon has been instrumental in getting them here. Get well soon, though, Joel.

Most Improved Player

Gary Harris

Also considered: Giannis Antetokounmpo, Isaiah Thomas, Kemba Walker, Nikola Jokic

This award is so weird. I like to use it to shine the light on guys ascending to third or fourth starter status rather than guys on the star track. I also really like Gary Harris.