BOSTON (CBS) — So let me tell you what happens, and I mean every year.
We get our year-end award ballots from the NBA in early April. I know people that open the file, fill them out and are done with them in ten minutes. I, of course, with a deeply-inbred leaning toward the meticulous, sit over mine like an eight-foot birdie putt. Or the way some of you, and you know who you are, spent the entire Celtics season calculating draft lottery odds. (If you’re one of those, your six-month wait is over, skip to the bottom).
Anyway, a day or two before the end of the season, here comes the friendly “reminder” e-mail, that ballots are due the day after the season. And this morning, as you read this, I’m sure there’s another one in there.
But it took 82 games to play the season. 82 games to determine the 16 playoff teams. 82 games, plus a coin flip, to determine the draft lottery order. You get the point. Why not wait until all the precincts have reported?
So here’s what I will file when I go to my ballot in a few hours…
MOST VALUABLE PLAYER
1. Kevin Durant
2. LeBron James
3. Blake Griffin
4. Joakim Noah
5. James Harden
Yes, I caved. I was pretty much LeBron all-year, even into the final days. And in my view, he could be the MVP every year. And of course, if I’m choosing sides, LeBron’s the first pick. He’s a legit defensive player of the year candidate as well, Durant is not. But while the numbers are close, sometimes a year just belongs to a player. I knew when I voted for Kevin Garnett in 2008 that he was going to finish third, but it didn’t matter. It was maybe the easiest vote I’ve had in 16 years. That year belonged to him. And this one, belongs to KD. Blake and Noah was a tough call for 3-4. Especially as one plays with Chris Paul as his point guard, the other with Kirk Hinrich. But Chris Paul was Chris Paul again, and this is the best Clipper team in franchise history, you have to look at Blake. James Harden edges out Paul and Al Jefferson for that last spot.
Celtics: So yesterday I wrote that you, the fans, were the Celtics MVP in 2013-14. But, if we’re looking for a real, live player, you can make the case for a couple of different guys. I was glad to see Brandon Bass win the Auerbach award last night. He earned that. As I wrote yesterday, there were times Jordan Crawford, Jeff Green, even Kris Humphries were the Celtics best player. But this one has to go to Jared Sullinger. Plus/Minus is a deceptive number, so many other factors, but in a year the Celtics were outscored by 366 points, here are the final numbers…
2013-14 Boston Celtics…
With Jared Sullinger: -12 (2,041 minutes)
Without him: -354 (1,955 minutes)
FIRST TEAM (James, Durant, Noah, Paul, Harden)
SECOND TEAM (Griffin, Jefferson, Hibbert, Curry, Lillard)
THIRD TEAM (Love, George, Duncan, Dragic, Lowry)
Not much to wring your hands over here, Paul George hanging on to the last spot when a big part of me wanted to go with Carmelo Anthony. As anyone who’s listened to us this year knows, I’m all in on Melo. I think he’s ready to be a top five player in this league, ready to lead and ready to win. I just can’t see that happening in New York. DeMar DeRozan will be a popular pick for the last guard spot and it woulsn’t surprise me, but Kyle Lowry was the MVP of a division championship team that had its best ever year as a franchise.
6th MAN AWARD
1. Taj Gibson
2. Jamal Crawford
3. Markief Morris
The order here I went back and forth on, to me there were five guys all interchangeable. Manu Ginobili is the obvious 4th and the not so obvious 5th is Anderson Varejao. He was easy to leave off because I weigh W-L record heavily.
Celtics: Jared Sullinger came off the bench 30 times this year, but he wasn’t a 6th man. Kelly Olynyk had a big final third of the season, a few more weeks like it he might have snuck into the rookie of the year conversation they way Mason Plumlee did. Jerryd Bayless also finished strong, averaging 10.1ppg in Boston and posting a 40/40/80 shooting line after the trade. But Kris Humphries is the pick. Until injuries slowed him down the last two months, he was the Celtics’ most consistent player all year, rivaling Sullinger’s plus/minus through the all-star break. He was a pro, all year, working on his shot, his free throws, and the little things pros do to get better, even when it’s clear the season is going south.
ROOKIE OF THE YEAR
1. Michael Carter-Williams
2. Victor Oladipo
3. Mason Plumlee
This was hard, and it wasn’t. Normally, I do what generally is not done and consider it the same way as MVP. But you can’t punish for wins and losses here because all of the candidates (except Plumlee) were nowhere near the playoffs. Trey Burke, Tim Hardaway (how impressive was Michigan this year when they lose two of the top five rookies in the NBA and get within three points of the Final Four?), Giannis Antetokounmpo, Kelly Olynyk and on down the line were in the lottery by January. That said, yes, MCW’s stats were padded by the crazy pace the Sixers played, but he was their best player. And you could turn to Oladipo, but as historically bad as Philadelphia was, the Magic were just four games better.
Celtics: The Celtics had three rookies play big minutes this year, no uncommon for a team headed to the lottery. Both Chris Johnson, and Phil Pressey particularly in the final few weeks, showed they have a place in the NBA. Johnson, showing us that PJ Tucker toughness of a guy who’s always had to take the long path. And remarkable that at 5’8 and shooting poorly, Pressey had a positive +/- heading into the final week. Underrated defender and just a second-generation feel for the game. But Kelly Olynyk turned an up and down first half, into a rookie fo the year caliber second half. He was what Celtics fans hoped he would be.
ALL DEFENSIVE TEAMS
FIRST TEAM (Beverly, T. Allen, Iguodala, LeBron, Noah)
SECOND TEAM (C. Paul, J. Butler, George, Ibaka, Hibbert)
Joakim Noah was my defensive player of the year. LeBron second and Iguodala third on my ballot. Steph Curry, Klay Thompson and all those shooters in Oakland get the attention, but Golden State was a top five defensive team this year. Andrew Bogut was good, he and Dwight Howard rounded up the top five centers. But Iguodala carried a lot of that load.
1. Goran Dragic
2. Anthony Davis
3. Gerald Green
This is always tough because it’s like the first down markers, an exact measurement of a kind of random starting point. Two names, for example I did not vote for, Lance Stephenson and Kyle Lowry, I left off not as snubs, but rather because I thought they were better than most people thought last year. To me, this is improvement from one year to the next, which is why you could vote for the entire Suns team.
COACH OF THE YEAR
1. Greg Popovich
2. Jeff Hornacek
3. Steve Clifford
This was brutal, it really was. There were five choices (Doc Rivers not a bad #6 by the way), and in my view, there was no separation between the five. The most interesting part is that in February, it seemed like Hornacek in a runaway. The counter-pick here is Dwayne Casey, the Raptors dump Rudy Gay and Andrea Bargnani, they have the best season in franchise history, and their coach is an afterthought. You could say Pop should win every year, Thibs is getting there. This was just dart board. I had to pick three, so I did. But I’d have no trouble with Casey or Thibs getting it.
So there you have it, you have my votes, and now the league gets them.
But if you’ve stayed this long, or just scrolled down on command, the day has arrived. The Jazz double-OT win in Minneapolis Wednesday night, moved them into a tie with the Celtics for the 4th worst record in the NBA. Now, there is still a coin toss with the Jazz to determine who gets the odd combination (they have to split an odd number, 207, of the 1,000 combinations), and who would pick first in the event that neither moves up in the draft. So, pre-coin toss, this is about what the Celtics are looking at…
CELTICS DRAFT LOTTERY CHANCES
1st Pick: 10.4%
2nd Pick: 11.2%
3rd Pick: 12%
4th Pick: 5.0%
5th Pick: 30.6%
6th Pick: 26%
7th Pick: 4.8%
8th Pick: 0.2%
Some obvious questions, why if they have the 4th best record, is #4 the least likely pick? It’s because there’s a 90% chance that at least one of the teams from 4-14, will move into the top 3. And once that happens, everyone else moves down. That’s why for most teams, the most likely pick is one spot below where they finish.
The longest shot on the board seven years ago for the Celitcs (just 12%) was to slip to #5, and of course, that’s what happened. So if I could say one thing here, it would be this. Don’t worry about it. Good to know the numbers but what will be, will be. For those who chose to stress when Jeff Green beat the Heat in the “Miracle in Miami” game, who ignored the dramatic trees of victory like the OT win in Washington to focus of the forest of the season, who didn’t revel in the historic beat down of the Knicks at MSG in December because you were convinced back then that Julius Randle is a lock and Marcus Smart is a bust? We didn’t know then what would happen, and we don’t know now.
It’s like those e-mails from the league; you can let them stress you out if you want, but if you judge it before everything’s played out? You’re either hosting a talk show, or wasting your time.
Sean Grande has been calling Boston Celtics games since 2001.
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