“Now, you listen here: ‘e’s not the Messiah, ‘e’s a very naughty boy! Now, go away!”
-Monty Python’s Life of Brian
There are years in sports were every major award and the race leading up to it makes me groan.
We have this annoying tendency to miss the obvious. Humans, particularly in crowds, have an unsurpassed skill at focusing on exactly the wrong thing. Flash, color and fluff draw our eye more than substance and actual value.
With sports, it’s like a physical magic trick. First we get to see “The Pledge”, the ordinary, a normal run of the mill NBA league pass game (is that Andrea Bargnani?). Nothing extraordinary to see, no alerts to see anywhere.
Then we get the “The Turn”. The basketball gods make that crappy Pistons/Lakers game no one is watching (except for the hardcores and the degenerates), gets exciting (with a possible assist from the nba refs). All of a sudden a league pass alert goes out.
The ordinary game, or in this case the utter basketball travesty, is about to become memorable by virtue of an accident of fate (or is it Mr. Bavetta?) that focuses our attention. This is the hardest part “The Prestige”, all the misses, all the hard work, all the consistent performances are forgotten in the focused sample that is the clutch. And if we get a heroic, if ill chosen jumpshot, from the dude that’s been throwing clunkers all game? All is forgiven.
We trick ourselves very easily. It’s basic human nature. It’s the reason why it shouldn’t surprise anyone that when it comes to postseason awards we have a really annoying tendency to get it completely wrong.
This post then is going to focus on who people think deserve the three major individual NBA’s postseason awards and who actually deserves it. Let’s start with the Rookies. (Editor’s Note: The number are explained here)
Rookie of the Year (made with MVP Metric)
Everyone seems to think that Wiggins is the absolute sure-fire Rookie of the Year. Wiggins is a nice player and he might turn out to be a superstar. He really isn’t close to that yet. (Next Chart is made with Player Ratings)
He has two above average skills. He can get to the line (valuable) and he can put up a lot of shots (not valuable). Everywhere else? It’s his his high usage and high athleticism that makes this particular illusion work. He’s about what you would expect a 20 year old rookie to be.
Honestly, If I’m looking for potential? (Next chart made with the Player Dashboard)
Noels since the All Star break is definitely your man. Throw in Embid doing crazy things in practice, the stash guys and the Lakers pick and Hinkie is starting to look good.
The Right Guy:
The rookie of the year has a beard and it is very luxurious. Nikola Mirotic does not look or play anything like a rookie.
I mean, Marcus Smart has a case but Mirotic has really been critical in keeping the Bulls injury riddled boat afloat. He’s good all around and a key reason why the Bulls can’t be completely written off. Mirotic is the only rookie who would make the rotation or start for every single contender and clearly the rookie of the year.
He should have probably shaved if he wanted the award.
Defensive Player of the Year
This one is actually a race. Some people like Draymond Green. You’ll note he’s not in the chart above. How do his bonafides look?
Draymond is a good but not great defender. He also plays next to some world class defenders on the Warriors. I like him but he’s not the defensive player of the year.
If you listen to Doc Rivers and look at he chart above, DeAndre would seem to be the favorite. Do the numbers back this?
DeAndre is the best center in the NBA right now. He’s elite at scoring and rebounding and fabulous on defense. He deserves to be first team all-nba. Yes, over the Gasols.
If I’m being honest though, I want to give it to the best defenders. Let’s look at that specifically.
The Right Guy:
Who do the numbers say are the 25 best defenders in the NBA?
That is a group of defenders that looks right. Rudy Gobert, the aptly nicknamed Stifle Tower, is miles above the rest of the group. I know he might not have the minutes but here’s Utah’s defense since they put him in as the starter.
Gobert is not getting it this year but he may need a large shelf in his house the next decade.
The MVP will be getting it’s own post next.