Katelyn E. Clooney
Just yesterday, the National Basketball Players Association announced the occurrence of the “2015 Player’s Choice Awards,” which will be announced this summer. The awards come as a direct result of player’s, in particular, Kevin Durant’s, opposition to the media voting on major NBA awards. That being said, I figured that I would give my take on whom some of the awards should go to. Sorry, Kevin. Get well soon.
Rookie of the Year
Andrew Wiggins, Minnesota Timberwolves
What seemed like a two-man race on draft day got substantially less competitive when Jabari Parker tore his ACL on December 15. While Parker, as well as Julius Randle, has been sidelined, Wiggins has continuously produced. It was just days ago that, for the first time this season, someone other than Wiggins was named Western Conference Rookie of the Month. Nikola Mirotic has progressed quite well and Elfrid Payton has let his name be known, but the ROY is clearly Wiggins’. His relocation from Cleveland to Minnesota provided Wiggins with an opportunity to shine and he has not disappointed, averaging over 16 points and four boards per game. The 20-year-old has also been stellar on the defensive end, continuously frustrating some of the league’s top guards.
Jimmy Butler, Chicago Bulls
Butler, known as a defensive specialist, has played phenomenally on both ends this season. After being named to the NBA All-Defensive Second Team last year, he propelled to All-Star status this year, playing in the February contest for the first time in his career. His stats have consistently improved during his four years in the NBA; however, this season, his second as a starter, has clearly been his breakout. His three-point, two-point and field goal percentages have all risen since last year and he is averaging over 20 points per game, compared with just over thirteen last season. Not only has Butler emerged as a reliable shooter, but has established himself as an all-around player, averaging career highs in rebounds and assists. He is averaging 5.8 boards per game, second in the league among guards. Butler has been consistent throughout the season, a contract year, with and without Derrick Rose, and has also had a smooth return from his own elbow injury.
Coach of the Year
Steve Kerr, Golden State Warriors
This was a hard one. If Mike Budenolzer wins, I would completely understand — kind of. Atlanta’s rise to the top of the East has been impressive, but there is a huge difference between being the top seed in the East and being the top seed in the West. In just his first year as an NBA head coach, Kerr has led the Warriors to a 63-15 record and their first division title in almost 40 years. The Warriors have not only won, they have dominated, boasting a double-digit point differential and turning NBA games into clinics. With his magnificent use of Draymond Green, Kerr has turned the Splash Brothers into TMC 2.0, while also masterfully transitioning Andre Iguodala from a starter to a highly effective reserve. Under Kerr, the Dubs have gone from 9th in the league in field goal percentage to first, and also lead the league in defensive field goal percentage.
Executive of the Year
David Griffin, Cleveland Cavaliers
If you had asked me six months ago, I would have said LeBron James. Other than the fact that James is not eligible for the award, though, Griffin absolutely deserves it. It may very well have been James’ impending return that solidified Kyrie Irving’s extension. James, no doubt, had an influence on the Kevin Love trade and certainly Mike Miller and James Jones were merely following him. However, it was Griffin who flew out to Irving’s New Jersey home well before sunlight as soon as free agency began to offer a max contract. The front office also kept a great rapport with Kyrie despite rumors of otherwise. Cleveland’s title hopes certainly depend on Irving and James, but this is a team that was under .500 almost halfway through the season. It was the additions of Timofey Mozgov, J. R. Smith, Iman Shumpert and, not to be overlooked, the departure of Dion Waiters, that has propelled this team to 18-straight home wins and a two seed in the playoffs. Griffin recognized the team’s midseason needs and beautifully completed the complex puzzle that is the 2014-2015 Cleveland Cavaliers.
Most Valuable Player
Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors
In my March 12th piece, which featured an in-depth look at the MVP race, I wrote that it is a two-man race for the award, and that the next month’s play would determine the winner. With just a week left in the regular season, I am more ambivalent than ever and see the race as a virtual tie between Curry and Houston’s James Harden. I changed my mind no less than three times while writing this article, and I may do so again before this goes to print, but, right now, I do have to give the MVP to Curry. Taking James Harden away from the Rockets, no doubt, weakens the team. However, even with Harden, Houston is not nearly as good as Golden State. The Dubs swept the season series and are a legitimate threat as NBA Champions. Meanwhile, I would not be surprised if Houston gets bumped in the first round again. Though this a regular season award, nothing is of more value than an NBA title and my postseason predictions are based on regular season play. The Warriors have played on another level this season and Curry has been the catalyst on both ends.