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April 12, 2011
Making the Picks
My Awards Ballot

by Kevin Pelton

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Here is imaginary awards ballot for the 2010-11 season, compiled using a combination of observation and statistics--primarily my own WARP metric and net and adjusted plus-minus data from BasketballValue.com. Also see last week's MVP analysis, while I'll be picking complete All-Defensive Teams tomorrow.

ROOKIE OF THE YEAR

Player             Team     oRtg     DRtg    Win%   WARP
--------------------------------------------------------
Blake Griffin       LAC    108.0    104.7    .606   12.2
Greg Monroe         DET    106.1    104.3    .558    6.4
Landry Fields       NYK    104.9    105.2    .492    3.9
John Wall           WAS    104.6    105.3    .479    3.3
Ed Davis            TOR    104.9    104.4    .518    3.2
Paul George         IND    103.9    104.2    .489    1.9
Patrick Patterson   HOU    105.3    104.8    .517    1.7
Gary Neal           SAS    106.3    107.4    .463    1.6
Tiago Splitter      SAS    105.1    104.4    .522    1.6
Trevor Booker       WAS    104.4    104.9    .483    1.5

With all due respect to Ed Davis, there are three good candidates for two spots on the ballot after the obvious winner. The notion that John Wall has struggled badly is overstated. He's got more WARP than Derrick Rose did as a rookie and has immediately become one of the league's better distributors. Wall has a lot of work to do on scoring efficiently and cutting his turnovers, but he belongs in this discussion.

Ultimately, I think he falls behind Monroe and Fields, in that order. They pulled off the rare feat of both making their teams better as rookies. The Knicks were 2.7 points better per 100 possessions with Fields on the floor, per BasketballValue.com, while the Pistons were +1.9 with Monroe. (Washington was 4.2 points worse per 100 possessions when Wall was on the floor.) Individual stats probably overstate the gap between Fields and Monroe since the former was a perfect fit for his team while the latter is a below-average individual defender, but Monroe has come on down the stretch while Fields has slumped recently.

1. Blake Griffin, L.A. Clippers
2. Greg Monroe, Detroit
3. Landry Fields, New York

ALL-ROOKIE TEAMS

(Selected without regard to position.)

First Team
F - Ed Davis, Toronto
G - Landry Fields, New York
F - Blake Griffin, L.A. Clippers
F/C - Greg Monroe, Detroit
G - John Wall, Washington

Second Team
C - Omer Asik, Chicago
F - Trevor Booker, Washington
F - Paul George, Indiana
G - Gary Neal, San Antonio
F - Patrick Patterson, Houston

Asik is wildly prone to turnovers and fouls, but he's proven a surprisingly quick study in Tom Thibodeau's schemes. The Bulls' league-best defense is at its best when the Turkish 7-footer is on the floor. Trevor Booker was really playing well for Washington before a cracked bone in his right foot ended his season. As part of this egalitarian second team, they earn All-Rookie honors ahead of DeMarcus Cousins. I think Cousins is eventually going to be very good, but right now he cannot help a team win.

DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR

More on this tomorrow as we pick the sixth annual Every Play Counts All-Defensive Teams, but suffice it to say that Howard ought to continue his three-year stronghold on this award:

1. Dwight Howard, Orlando
2. Andrew Bogut, Milwaukee
3. Kevin Garnett, Boston

SIXTH MAN AWARD

Via Twitter, I debated the great Zach Lowe of SI.com about whether Lamar Odom is a deserving winner of this award given how many games he's started. As it turns out, I'm going to pick Odom anyway. A quick cut at value for sixth men is to multiply their total WARP by their percentage of games as reserves. That gives you the following list.

Player             Team     oRtg     DRtg    Win%   WARP
--------------------------------------------------------
Ryan Anderson       ORL    111.2    105.2    .685    6.0
James Harden        OKC    107.6    105.9    .555    5.8
Lamar Odom          LAL    107.6    104.5    .603    5.7
Louis Williams      PHI    108.7    106.6    .568    5.6
J.R. Smith          DEN    106.8    104.9    .562    5.3
Toney Douglas       NYK    108.0    106.4    .553    4.9
Jared Dudley        PHX    106.8    105.6    .537    4.4
Marcin Gortat       PHX    104.6    103.4    .542    4.4
Rudy Fernandez      POR    106.4    105.3    .534    4.3
Thaddeus Young      PHI    105.0    104.7    .512    4.2

Odom has been so terrific this year that even if we throw out the 34 games he's started, he's basically been as valuable as any reserve in the league. Harden has quietly been terrific during the second half of the season. I eagerly await his playoff coming-out party. And while WARP loves Anderson's high-percentage shooting, I'm giving the last spot on my ballot to my midseason winner: Thaddeus Young. In some sense, Young isn't even Philadelphia's sixth man; Lou Williams plays more minutes and has been more valuable. But Young's efficient scoring and his ability to stretch the defense have made the Sixers a different team when he's on the floor. They improve by 6.0 points per 100 possessions when he comes in. Young's adjusted plus-minus ranks 20th in the league.

1. Lamar Odom, L.A. Lakers
2. James Harden, Oklahoma City
3. Thaddeus Young, Philadephia

MOST IMPROVED PLAYER

No selection. I reiterate my stand against this award. Besides being hopelessly confusing in how it is executed, I'm not even sure it makes sense conceptually. Part of the implication, if you're looking at actual improvement as opposed to merely playing more minutes, is that the player wasn't all that good beforehand. So receiving it is something of a double-edged sword.

COACH OF THE YEAR

It's easy now to imagine we always knew that Tom Thibodeau would be a successful head coach. If that was the case, of course, somebody would have hired Thibodeau long before the Chicago Bulls did last summer. Even as a long-time Thibodeau supporter, I equivocated a bit when he was hired; it wasn't entirely clear that Thibodeau's mastery of the Xs and Os would translate to the challenging role that is head coach.

Now, such concerns seem silly. Thibodeau won over Derrick Rose and subsequently the team. He imported the defense that made the Boston Celtics champions and made it work even without the team's best interior defender (Joakim Noah) for an extended period of time. Chicago's offense still depends on Rose's ability to create all too often, but Thibodeau has had an impact there too by improving the Bulls' shot selection.

From start to finish, it is difficult to imagine a more impressive coaching performance than what the Chicago coaching staff has done. While Thibodeau deserves the majority of the credit, if he does win Coach of the Year it's worth noting that it will be the second consecutive season that Ron Adams will have served on the staff of the recipient after he assisted Scott Brooks in Oklahoma City in 2009-10.

As usual, there are more worthy coaching efforts than there are spots on the ballot. Gregg Popovich and Monty Williams both merit honorable mentions. My runner-up is George Karl, who is probably enjoying the second half of this season more than any period since he was in Seattle. As with the early '90s Sonics, Karl has a fleet of interchangeable, athletic players that has overwhelmed teams with bigger names. In third, I have Doug Collins, who has breathed new life into the 76ers by tightening the team's defense and fitting players into the proper roles to succeed.

1. Tom Thibodeau, Chicago
2. George Karl, Denver
3. Doug Collins, Philadelphia

EXECUTIVE OF THE YEAR

How you stand on this award depends on whether you value the big picture or the little details more. From the larger view, uniting LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh was probably the second-biggest offseason in NBA history, surpassed only by Jerry West signing Shaquille O'Neal and trading for the rights to Kobe Bryant in the summer of 1996. From that standpoint, Pat Riley is an obvious choice for Executive of the Year. However, Riley struggled to complete the Miami Heat's roster. The Mike Miller signing has been an expensive bust when the Heat could likely have kept Dorell Wright, who has blossomed in Golden State, for similar money. Joel Anthony's contract already looks like an albatross, while Riley's curious fascination with aging big men has limited Erik Spoelstra's strategic options.

By contrast, the strategy chosen by Chicago's Gar Forman and John Paxson looks stronger from top to bottom. Unable to land those kind of stars, the Bulls filled out their roster with talented depth. Nobody in the league boasts a five-man post rotation anywhere near as effective as Chicago's. Asik and Kurt Thomas often get lost in the shuffle for the Bulls, but they might start in Miami. Having them on hand allowed the Bulls to overcome injuries to Noah and Carlos Boozer. Forman and Paxson have built perfectly around Rose and get further credit for hiring the Coach of the Year.

Oklahoma City's Sam Presti also ought to be mentioned. After years of hording the Thunder's cap space, Presti made a bold move to acquire Kendrick Perkins, and we might well look back on that trade as the one that allowed Oklahoma City to take the crucial next step in its development. Masai Ujiri turned what could have been a disaster (Carmelo Anthony's desire to leave Denver) and turned it into the league's deepest roster. Meanwhile, San Antonio's R.C. Buford put the right role players around the Spurs' core of talent to produce the NBA's best regular-season record.

Note that the media does not actually vote on this award--it is presented by The Sporting News and selected by the league's executives themselves.

ALL-NBA TEAMS

First Team
G - Derrick Rose, Chicago
G - Dwyane Wade, Miami
F - Kevin Durant, Oklahoma City
F - LeBron James, Miami
C - Dwight Howard, Orlando

Second Team
G - Chris Paul, New Orleans
G - Manu Ginobili, San Antonio
F - Pau Gasol, L.A. Lakers
F - Dirk Nowitzki, Dallas
C - Tim Duncan, San Antonio

So ... Manu. Ginobili has the superior WARP total, though that is largely because he attempted threes more frequently than Bryant. Certainly, I think Bryant still manages to successfully spread the floor. Otherwise, the two players are very close, though different in style, with Ginobili holding a significant advantage in net plus-minus.

Player      Win%   WARP    TS%   Usg   Reb%  Ast%  Stl%   TO%    NetPM
----------------------------------------------------------------------
Ginobili    .677   13.2   .582   .262   7.0   7.5   2.6   12.7  +13.3
Bryant      .630   12.1   .547   .351   8.3   6.4   1.9   11.4  + 4.6

The funny thing is that while we think more of Ginobili as suffering the effects of age because of his track record of injuries, it's Bryant who seemed to suffer late in the season while Ginobili--who does have the luxury of playing fewer minutes--stayed strong. I don't think you'd go wrong either way.

Third Team
G - Kobe Bryant, L.A. Lakers
G - Deron Williams, New Jersey
F - Kevin Love, Minnesota
F - Zach Randolph, Memphis
C - LaMarcus Aldridge, Portland

There were four Western Conference bigs for three spots here, and Griffin ended up falling short. If you're taking a player from a lottery team, I think it has to be Love. Were his numbers inflated somewhat by playing on a team that provided ample rebounding opportunities and few players to compete with for said rebounds? Certainly. But it's not as if Love's stats are pretty good; they're historically excellent. There's also clearer evidence of how much the Timberwolves miss him when he's off the floor now that Minnesota has fallen to 0-8 in games Love does not play. I think it would be interesting to see how the narrative would change if Love was on a good team. Suddenly, he'd be the ultimate role player, someone who did the dirty work in order to make the team run.

Aldridge is the only player of the group who can truly be considered a center, having started at the position since about midseason. The Blazers' reliance on his presence on the floor is also a nice point in Aldridge's favor. In fact, Aldridge's adjusted plus-minus is second in the league this year. For the last spot, Randolph ever so slightly gets the nod over Griffin by virtue of leading a playoff team.

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Kevin Pelton is an author of Basketball Prospectus. You can contact Kevin by clicking here or click here to see Kevin's other articles.

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