END OF THE YEAR AWARDS COMMENTARY

Commentary:

The 2015-16 NBA regular season is over, it’s now time for the post season.

But since we have a couple days of wait time, other than first round upsets and playoff match ups, most of the speculation from the basketball world is about the individual awards. Who gets which awards at season’s end?  Who’s the best 15 players of the year?

There have been so many predictions for this, pretty much in any sports media, so here and Up and In, we decided that we’d put our own little prediction ourselves. And while some of the awards should have crystal clear winners, there’s plenty of room for discussion for the rest. So let’s get to it.

MOST VALUABLE PLAYER:

Winner: Stephen Curry

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Photo courtesy of USA TODAY.com

There’s really no debate. He’s done historical things and helped his team do historical feats in the process. This is a few of what Steph has done this season.

– Lead the league in scoring at 30.1 PPG. (improved 6 points better than his last year’s MVP average). He will be the scoring champion this year.
– Leads the league in PER.
– Leads the league in Win Shares
– Leads the league in True Shooting %
– Made 402 Three Point FG. A mark so outrageous that no one in the history of the game has ever seen a player get 300 makes, and he obliterated it.
– He’ll enter the 50-40-90 club, while averaging  11 3PT attempts per game. Think about that for a second. He’s shooting 50% from the field, with half of his makes are from 23 feet out.

The only reason to not vote for Stephen Curry as the league’s MVP is either hate, or bias, or both.

Make a case for anyone:

Can’t. It will be a waste of time.

ROOKIE OF THE YEAR:

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Photo from sportingnews.com

Winner: Karl-Anthony Towns:

The kid posted 18 points, 10.5 rebounds, 2 assists, 1.7 blocks. Not since Tim Duncan did a rookie big man posted those kind of numbers. Oh, and he’s shooting 54% from the field, 34% from the 3 point line. Yeah, he shoots threes too.

That, and add to it the defensive impact and the poise makes KAT the easy choice for Rookie of the Year.

Make a case for anyone: 

You can’t. Kristaps Porzingis had a case, but he with Towns being so good, he pulled away of this race quickly. Devin Booker and Nikola Jokic made some strides during the late part of the season, but won’t be enough.

COACH OF THE YEAR:

Winner: Gregg Popovich

NBA: Charlotte Hornets at San Antonio Spurs

Soobum Im – USA TODAY Sports

The San Antonio Spurs won 67 games this year, are 4th in Offensive Efficiency and is the best defensive team in the NBA. Unfortunately for them, the Golden State Warriors had one historical season at the same time.

But with Steve Kerr missing a chunk of games during the season, the Coach of the Year award should go to Pop, who still managed a team, improved 12 wins more than last year and is still one of the elite clubs in the NBA.

Make a case for anyone:

Terry Stotts. 

The Portland Trail Blazers were decimated, with four guys in their starting lineup moving on to different teams. Some pundits even thought they weren’t going to win more than 30 games, and yet here they are, the 5th seed in the West, with a lineup of bench guys upgraded to fill the starter spots, and a few new players that fit perfectly to what Stotts wanted the Blazers to be. He is certainly in the running.

Brad Stevens.

How do you not consider Brad Stevens?

The Boston Celtics is still a rag tag group of guys with no “franchise guy” at their helm, and they won 48 games, not to mention being in the top 10 in both Offensive and Defensive efficiency.

This team is supposed to be tanking, for the last three years. Other than first time All-Star Isaiah Thomas, the Celtics really don’t have a player that many people would consider a star player, and yet they have home court advantage vs the Atlanta Hawks when the Playoffs start.

How do you not consider Brad Stevens?

MOST IMPROVED PLAYER:

Winner: CJ McCollum

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Photo from sportingnews.com

CJ McCollum has been a god send for Portland. After losing LaMarcus Aldridge to San Antonio, he softened the blow on the scoring end by averaging 20 points per game this season. That’s a a 14 point jump from his last year when he’s only getting 6 a game. Shooting averages were also up, as well as increases from his rebounds and assists totals.

But his overall fit within the team is what should get him the award. He has been a reliable ball handler if Damian Lillard is not on the floor, also a go to scorer. It’s not just the numbers that improved, but also his role within the squad.

Make a case for anyone:

Kemba Walker.

Still scoring, but now more efficient. He has been clutch for the Charlotte Hornets. And his team won 48 games with him being a big part of the picture. He’s got a nod.

Will Barton.

A weak case, but Barton has looked like a capable scorer this season. Not much else to offer, but that’s a drastic improvement in his game

DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR:

Winner: Kawhi Leonard

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Soobum Im – USA Today Sports

This will mark the second time, and back to back wins for Kawhi Leonard if he wins DPOY this year.

It’s fitting that the best defender on the best defensive team should get the vote. and it’s not just recognition, he’s shown why he’s the best. He’s a perimeter stopper, he gets to the ball, on any part of the court. His individual brilliance, topped with it that he’s a big part of the best defense in the league should be enough to win him the award two years in a row.

Make a case for anyone:

Draymond Green.

One word, versatility.

Draymond Green has once again proved why he’s one of the premier defenders in the NBA, and that’s because he can defend literally anyone on the court. This is honestly a virtual tie between him and Kawhi, the nod goes slightly towards the Leonard, but it won’t be a big surprise if Green wins it this year.

Sixth Man of the Year:

Winner: Andre Iguodala

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Ronald Martinez, Getty Images

 

The numbers don’t tell the story here, it’s more of the impact. Andre Iguodala comes in off the bench, the Warriors get another great defender, ball handler, passer and just compliments virtually anyone on that team. Him missing a few games might dock some votes, but despite the non flashy numbers, there’s isn’t a more valuable come off the bench guy in the league than Iggy has been for the Dubs.

Make a case for anyone:

Jamal Crawford.

Crawford can once again win the role he has so embraced. The key setback is his inefficient shooting, but he’s once again being an added scoring punch for the Los Angeles Clippers.

Evan Turner.

Think of Andre Iguodala’s impact on Golden State, that’s what Evan Turner does for the Boston Celtics, but not as good defensively. He’s an extra ball handler, passer, even a go to scorer on some occasion. The defense isn’t as mighty as Iggy’s, but Turner can switch to defend wings and PGs when he’s on the court, adding defensive versatility.

His inconsistencies are going to be the big drop in his nod, but he’s certainly in the conversation.

Lastly, let’s take a peek at our All – NBA teams.

1st Team All – NBA:

Chris Paul – Stephen Curry – Kawhi Leonard – LeBron James – Draymond Green.

2nd Team All – NBA:

Russell Westbrook – Kyle Lowry – Kevin Durant – Paul George – DeMarcus Cousins

3rd Team All – NBA:

Damian Lillard – James Harden – Paul Millsap – LaMarcus Aldridge – Andre Drummond

Make a case for anyone not on the list:

Klay Thompson.

He could easily a 3rd Teamer, but the nod goes to James Harden for his ridiculous post All-Star stats where he’s putting up 30 points, 8 assists, 5 rebounds per game. Thompson can easily slide. as he’s also having great scoring numbers with with great shooting splits, but he just slips a bit.

1st Team All – Rookie: 

DeAngelo Russell – Devin Booker – Justise Winslow – Kristaps Porzingis –  Karl-Anthony Towns

2nd Team All – Rookie: 

Emmanuel Mudiay – Josh Richardson – Myles Turner – Nikola Jokic – Jahlil Okafor

Make a case for anyone not on the list?:

This should be the best crop of rookies for this year. Will be hard to make a case for anyone else.

1st Team All – Defense:

Chris Paul – Kyle Lowry – Kawhi Leonard – Draymond Green – Hassan Whiteside

2nd Team All Defense:

Avery Bradley – Tony Allen – Paul George – Paul Millsap – DeAndre Jordan

Make a case for anyone not on the list?:

Easily, LeBron James.

He has been tailing off defensively, possibly due to saving himself for the Playoffs. With that said, he’s still one of the better versatile defenders in the league. Will not be surprising at all if the King makes another All Defensive team, but Millsap and George gets the nod.

Rudy Gobert could also make a case, but a lot of missed games may take him out of the equation.

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SAM HINKIE GONE. THE PROCESS IS OVER.

Commentary:

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Sam Hinkie has stepped down as Sixers GM, leaving a big mark in NBA history. Photo courtesy of thesixersense.com

The Process has come to an end.

Sam Hinkie, the very famous (now former) General Manager of the Philadelphia 76ers stepped down from his duties on April 6th. And boy did he become famous alright.

In his tenure in Philly as the GM, Hinkie had a plan, a plan that actually challenged the NBA mettle in their sort of reward system of giving the worst teams a very nice gift, a high draft pick. The Process, or as it is popularly known, involved Hinkie completely dismantling the Sixers, starting in 2013 to, in a sense, have a roster in which the goal is, well, to lose games. And lose games they did (they really did).

The Process was simple and straight to the point, tank like no else have done before, try to a top three draft pick in the process, and acquire assets along the way. It made sense in analytical and mathematical perspectives, be the stupidest team in the league, have the best chance of the best prospects coming in. It has been that way, the whole time, until 2 days go, or when the Sixers hired Jerry Colangelo as Chairman of Basketball Operations, possibly ending the Process and leaving the future of Philly in doubt as to what comes next.

In a way, it has worked. Sam Hinkie in his tenure, have managed to give the Sixers multiple draft picks, something they didn’t have after using them for the Andrew Bynum trade (remember that trade?) and has positioned the Sixers within striking distance of getting the top overall pick in the last three years. Sure, the plan is to not win a lot of games, and doing so gave them back to back #3 picks in 2014 and 2015, and could possibly have another one this year.

As far as moves, trading away All-Star PG Jrue Holiday for a pick that ended up being Nerlens Noel might seem questionable at the time, but along this Process, Hinkie made good moves to cut salaries, and acquire draft picks along the way. He traded Rookie of the Year Michael Carter-Williams to what could now be a top 10 pick in the upcoming draft or the next year (via the Lakers with a top 3 proetection). He fleeced Sacramento to get yet a couple of first round picks and has gotten one more from Oklahoma City.

The tank and grab part of the Process has worked. They are in position AGAIN for a top three pick, and a plethora of assets to move around or include to be a trade package to acquire more pieces. So what went wrong? Why is it all of a sudden Hinkie is stepping down?

The Process had one major flaw. It does, in a way made sense, but only if you have no sense of emotion. The Sixers have became a joke of a franchise in the last three years, closely coming in as the worst team in the history of the NBA. Hinkie failed to realize that while it’s great to have top draft picks every year, it’s also necessary to build a culture of competitiveness, cohesiveness and winning. He embraced losing, and it rubbed off to the entire franchise. It’s one thing to tank, it’s another to flat out just didn’t care, and it showed not only in games, but in player morale, media backlash and fan support, who ultimately paid the price in the Process’ ultimate side effect.  He also wasn’t willing to sign good players despite the cap space he created, and settled on D-Leaguers and bench players with longer contracts who would not sniff and NBA floor in any other team, but is welcome in Philadelphia because they come with a draft pick along the way.

There was no certainty, there was no sense of urgency, and there was no interest in the locker room, mainly because their GM is smiling ear to ear every time the team gets blown out.

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Sam Hinkie drafted Center Jahlil Okafor, after drafting two Center in the two previous drafts. David Dow, FOX Sports

Hinkie’s draft history with Philadelphia isn’t helping the Process’ case as well. The tank worked, it landed them Noel two top 3 picks in two straight years. But the decisions were rather questionable. Hinkie drafted 3 Centers (THREE) in a row in the last three years, one of them hasn’t even played an NBA game yet. And sure, we can’t blame him for Joel Embiid’s injury, and he’s clearly the best prospect within that spot at the time, it’s baffling that Hinkie would be willing to carry three young Center prospects in his team. DeAngelo Russell being drafted by the Los Angeles Lakers could have thrown the Sixers’ and Hinkie’s draft board, but they could have easily moved down to draft either Emmanuel Mudiay, Stanley Johnson, Justise Winslow and a couple of other names that were not Centers and had a better fitting team, while possibly getting more . Instead he had Jahlil Okafor and Nerlens Noel, two guys who lacked floor stretching capabilities that completely don’t compliment each other. And Dario Saric is still yet to be seen after being traded for Elfrid Payton in 2014, a guy the Sixers have drafted and is developing into a decent PG on his own in Orlando. But of course, Saric won’t play for possibly two years, which means it’s an open roster spot to get an inferior player to get his place, more losing.

The Sixers were a laughing stock, and Hinkie seems to be alright with it. There’s only one thing on his mind, get a franchise player from a draft class, and then rebuild. The Sixers possibly decided they won’t have none of it when they hired Colangelo on December of last year. The ownership bought in the Process, but the humiliation probably was too much that they decided to bring in help. And now help seems like it’s taking over.

Speculation about Hinkie’s resignation is possibly due to him being forced out. Adrian Wojnarowski that Colangelo wanted Hinkie to be a “glorified director of analytics or run  or run him out of the Philadelphia 76ers altogether. And that was the Process to begin with. Hinkie put a plan in place based on numbers, probability and analytics, completely ignoring basketball. With his resignation, it’s going to be interesting to see where the Sixers go to next. They have the best shot of landing the #1 overall pick in this year’s draft, again. And boy would it hurt for Sam when they do. His plan was to land that top pick from the start. He missed out on Andrew Wiggins, Karl-Anthony Towns, not Anthony Bennett but he could have had Victor Oladipo. The Process could have had a payoff this year, and he won’t be there to see it. It promises a new path for Philadelphia this year, but the foundation, oddly enough, has been laid by Hinkie, at the expense of total disregard for results and culture.

The Process is over, Sam Hinkie is gone. The master plan will not be seen until the very end by it’s crazy designer, but it could end up being a very good plan after all at the end of it, when new builders come in. And that’s bittersweet.

He did leave a 13 page resignation letter that is so worth reading, so there’s that (via Deadspin.com).

http://deadspin.com/here-is-sam-hinkies-full-13-page-letter-of-resignation-1769545687

THON MAKER AND THE NBA 1 YEAR RULE

Commentary:

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Thon Maker could set either make the 1 year rule stricter or obsolete. Photo courtesy of tipofthetower.com

Reports from all over the sports media and the Internet were flying in. High School phenom Thon Maker is declaring for the 2016 NBA Draft.

Maker has graduated High School in 2015 and is 19, currently playing in a Canadian prep league as a “post-grad”.

Maker, who made waves as a 7 footer, who’s highly touted due to the level of skills he had, rarely to be seen from 7 footers. He is forgoing college and would go straight to the NBA, the first High Schooler to probably do so since the NBA invoked the 1 year rule. And while some guys like Brandon Jennings and Emmanuel Mudiay took the China path to their NBA careers, Maker is setting a new precedent. This is different. Maker made the cut as a 19 year old, but technically still playing in High School as a post grad, which would test the NBA rules of eligibility.

This will test the NBA mettle when it comes to these rules. Both sides of the argument make sense. Some of these kids have shown great games and ability, but vs high school competition. And with the few current crops of top high school recruits failing to make a mark in their colleges, it’s easy to say why the 1 year NBA rule makes sense. If some of them can’t even show flashes in the college scene, they aren’t ready for the pro’s.

Depending on the NBA’s ruling, there could now be a loophole. The 1 year rule brings the kids to college or international pro competition if players decide to go that route. That exposes them to better competition to test their skills, and in a way learn how to be a pro by experiencing travelling, self reliance, among other things. Thon Maker, if granted permission to enter the draft, would set a new set of way to not just avoid the 1 year rule, but this is to hide what flaws and holes they have in their game and mental aspects by not being exposed to better competition and to situations the mimic the professional life of a basketball player.

And Thon is an interesting prospect. The kid has legitimate ball handling skills that would make any big man back pedaling their way just trying to defend him. He’s got quick and nimble feet for a 7 footer. Put it this way, he’s a 7 feet, but he plays like a Small Forward, capable of slashing, shooting and putting the ball on the floor. He has dominated in the high school scene, and is one of the top recruits in the nation. But that’s the thing, he dominates, in high school. He has the skill, and his size and uniqueness intrigues everybody, but how would he fare well versus better competition, let alone in the pros? While people can make the argument that Thon is one of a kind, he is still raw and hasn’t in a way been tested against better, bigger and faster opponents. And the potential for him to make a name in the college scene is high, his pro potential is up in the air.

And this is what the NBA faces if they allow Thon Maker to go this route. It may work for Maker, but will it work to the other highly touted High School players who may not have the ability to take it to the next level, but can hide it thru the same process, be drafted high, paid high and never materialize as a good pro. Would the NBA allow this to happen?

If they don’t, then what then would they consider “being eligible”? And if they do, why would they just not allow High School players to get drafted then?

In all scenario, Thon Maker wins.