December 18, 2018
We hand out our own version of NBA awards. Both our votes for the actual awards, and a few others we invented.

The writers at BBALLBREAKDOWN decided to band together and hand out our own version of NBA awards.

While we don’t want to get ahead of ourselves or anything, it’s with a fair degree of certainty that we feel these are the most prestigious awards in the history of sporting events. To be fair, since this is the first time they’ve ever been handed out, we’re not sure the players feel the same way. Nonetheless, we’re handing them out anyway.

Twenty members of our team cast ballots: Coach Nick, Torkil Bang, Dan Clayton, Jeff Feyerer, Mark Deeks, Jeff McMenamin, Joshua Riddell, Kelly Scaletta, Dakota Schmidt, Seth Partnow, Adam Spinella, Bryan Toporek, Nathan Walker, Matthew Way, Jake Weiner, Ben Dowsett, Michael Pina, and three others who exercised their constitutional right to voting anonymity (and/or forgot to fill in the “name” field of our incredibly high tech balloting system).

We have the traditional awards to distribute, as well as some more unconventional awards that we feel our brilliant audience (that would be you) would appreciate. These are to recognize players, coaches and executives whose contributions aren’t recognized with the traditional awards.

For each of the awards, we’ll give you the winners, the voting breakdown, and the reasoning offered by one or two of the voters.

Most Valuable Player: Stephen Curry

Tony Parker and Tim Duncan defend Stephen Curry in Game 6 2013 West Semifinals (Noah Graham Getty Images)

Stephen CurryGolden State Warriors12
James HardenHouston Rockets7
LeBron JamesCleveland Cavaliers1

What The Voters Were Thinking

One voter felt the “best player on the best team” argument just scratched the surface:

Historically unprecedented combination of volume and efficiency, best player on a historically great regular season team. And I’d counter the narrative of Harden carrying mediocre teammates by pointing out Curry has made everyone on his team better, taking their games to new levels.

Another toiled over the decision:

I went back and forth on this one over the last week to the point where I had to make a selection behind him and James Harden for my own sanity’s sake. Curry wins not just due to a better record, but also for the fact that he doesn’t live on the line as much. Most of his work is done with a ticking clock and he still is more efficient than Harden.

The BBALLBREAKDOWN voter’s votes probably represent the mainstream votes. It’s a very close two-man race, but Curry is our deserving MVP.

Coach Of The Year: Steve Kerr

Golden State Warriors v Los Angeles Lakers

Steve KerrGolden State Warriors11
Mike BudenholzerAtlanta Hawks8
Gregg PopovichSan Antonio Spurs1

Our Coach of the Year voting can also be called the Gregg Popovich tree. What are you gonna do?

What The Voters Were Thinking

What changed for the league-best Warriors? Kerr is what changed:

This team didn’t make many offseason changes in terms of roster construction, and yet, the Warriors have already added 13 wins to last season’s total. What changed? Kerr realized the Dubs worked best with Draymond Green as the starting 4. It’s not easy to bench a guy on an $80 million contract — just ask Tom Thibodeau with Carlos Boozer — yet doing so singlehandedly took the Warriors from “good” to “face-meltingly amazing.” — Bryan Toporek

And the change was huge:

What he’s done in his first year at the helm in Golden State has been simply sensational — 66 wins as well as a league-leading 109.7 points per game and plus-10.2 points differential. He deserves the hardware and he’s helped Steph Curry have the best season of his young career in the process. — Jeff McMenamin

And you have to have the Coach’s point of view:

He’s done a masterful job with the offense, incorporating Triangle and Spurs Motion. Plus he’s got a great rhythm and sense of humor… — Coach Nick

Defensive Player Of The Year: Draymond Green

San Antonio Spurs v Golden State Warriors


Draymond GreenGolden State Warriors12
Kawhi LeonardSan Antonio Spurs4
Rudy GobertUtah Jazz3
Andrew BogutGolden State Warriors1

Suffice to say, probably not too many people had Draymond Green as their Defensive Player of the Year prediction in the preseason. His performance has been as unexpected as it is dominant.

What The Voters Were Thinking

They like his flexibility:

Green has been a favorite of mine since he entered the league. He plays transcendent defense. You can use him as a defensive stopper on almost any position, and this versatility makes him even more valuable in team defense. He is the actual anchor on the league’s best defense. — Torkil Bang

And his dominance:

He has the second-best defensive rating on the league’s best defense, and the team’s highest DRtg on/off swing of any player. This award hasn’t gone to a player under 6’9″ since 2003-04 (Metta World Peace), but Dray’s versatility makes him the clear winner here. Had Rudy Gobert been Utah’s starter the whole year, though, the race would likely be far closer. — Bryan Toporek

Sixth Man Of The Year: Louis Williams



Lou WilliamsToronto Raptors9
Isaiah ThomasBoston Celtics5
Tristan ThompsonCleveland Cavaliers3
Nikola MiroticChicago Bulls2

Nine times in the last 12 years, the Sixth Man of the Year has averaged 15 points and shot under 48% from the field. Williams is right in line with previous winners.

What The Voters Were Thinking

We might not all agree on whether he’s efficient:

Above league average in efficiency, high shooting volume, crucial element in Toronto’s success and one of the most frightening scorers in the league – never mind the bench – and this selection is an easy one.

But we agree on the results:

Lou Williams. Comes in, takes all the shots, misses 60% of them, and yet leads a really strong bench unit that almost always leaves things better than how they found it. — Mark Deeks

Most Improved Player: Jimmy Butler

Chicago Bulls v Sacramento Kings


Jimmy ButlerChicago Bulls7
Rudy GobertUtah Jazz6
Hassan WhitesideMiami Heat2
Giannis AntetokounmpoMilwaukee Bucks1
Anthony DavisNew Orleans Pelicans1
Draymond GreenGolden State Warriors1
Kawhi LeonardSan Antonio Spurs1
Khris MiddletonMilwaukee Bucks1

Jimmy Butler famously bet on himself, turning down a contract extension earlier this year. Safe to say, he won that bet. Our voters agreed, giving him the narrow nod over Rudy Gobert for Most Improved Player.

What The Voters Were Thinking

No one saw his offense coming:

There’s not a whole lot to say about this. The 30th pick of the 2011 draft, in year four no less, suddenly raised his scoring average seven points and made himself into an All-Star. He’s dealt with injuries, but when he’s played, he’s been Chicago’s best player overall. Butler even threw himself into the MVP debate for a minute, which speaks to his improvements.

Like, no one:

While his defense was there last season, he increased his scoring average by 7 points per game and is now rightly viewed as the face and the future of the Bulls. He’s gonna get paid!—Jeff Feyerer

Executive Of The Year: David Griffin

David Griffin Named General Manager of the Cleveland Cavaliers


David GriffinCleveland Cavaliers13
Danny AingeBoston Celtics2
Bob MyersGolden State Warriors2
Gar FormanChicago Bulls1
Daryl MoreyHouston Rockets1

(NB: One vote for LeBron James was destroyed and the voter sent directly to jail.)

David Griffin rebuilt the Cavaliers in one season. Of course, he had a little help.

What The Voters Were Thinking

Some joking gave half-credit to LeBron

LeBron James – OK, I jest.

David Griffin – LeBron fell in his lap, and Wiggins for Love might go down as one of the most unwise short-term gambles ever. But Griffin’s in-season moves turned Cleveland reenergized the best player in the world, created a bench, purged the roster of guys who didn’t help them win, and turned the Cavs into Eastern Conference favorites. — Dan Clayton

But for one voter, LeBron didn’t even play into it:

Not because of LeBron – that was either happening or not happening irrespective of what he did. But for the rest of it. Took a couple of gos at plugging the gaps, but did so, and didn’t entirely mortgage the future to do so. — Mark Deeks

Rookie Of The Year: Andrew Wiggins


Andrew WigginsMinnesota Timberwolves14
Nerlens NoelPhiladelphia 76ers3
Nikola MiroticChicago Bulls1
Elfrid PaytonOrlando Magic1
Marcus SmartBoston Celtics1

With the rookie of the year and the most lottery balls, the future is looking brighter for the Minnesota Timberwolves.

What The Voters Were Thinking

It’s the daily result:

While his advanced numbers haven’t been that impressive, he’s been going hard from day 1. He took over the team by late December and is marching forward as the pending superstar he’ll become. Sure, you could throw in Nikola Mirotic, Elfrid Payton and Nerlens Noel as candidates, and you’d be right to do so, but no one has played as many minutes, nor kept up such a high production for as long, which in the end makes it Wiggins’s award.

And we don’t need to complicate things:

Let’s not overthink this. Wiggins has looked ever bit the superstar he was expected to be, and improved greatly throughout the season on both sides of the ball. – Adam Spinella

And now for the awards we invented.

Best Future Planner: Dennis Lindsey

Utah Jazz Draft Press Conference

This award is for the general manager who might not have the best team right now, but whose moves have put his team in a place to contend in the near future.

General ManagerTeamVists
Dennis LindseyUtah Jazz5
Danny AingeBoston Celtics4.5
Sam HinkiePhiladelphia 76ers4.5
RC BufordSan Antonio Spurs2
John HammondMilwaukee Bucks1
Flip SaundersMinnesota Timberwolves1

Dennis Lindsey has quietly been putting together a contender while staying out of the tank battles.

What the Voters Were Thinking

In consecutive drafts, he’s selected Rudy Gobert at 27 (traded up to target Rudy specifically) and Rodney Hood at 23, both of whom look to be, at minimum, solid NBA starters. He’s got a borderline All-Star in Derrick Favors locked up for three more seasons at a bargain, Gordon Hayward at fair market price, and a massive stockpile of young assets and picks even as his Jazz team has been one of the league’s best since February. He also hired one of the best young coaches in the game in Quin Snyder, and has cap space for the summer. — Ben Dowsett

In the last two years, he’s found a gem of a coach in an unexpected place, turnover an aging roster, stockpiled draft picks and picked up a host of undervalued young players. — Jeff Feyerer

Assistant Coach Of The Year: Alvin Gentry 


Alvin GentryGolden State Warriors6
Ron AdamsGolden State Warriors5
Sean SweeneyMilwaukee Bucks3
Tyrone LueCleveland Cavaliers2
Chip EngellandSan Antonio Spurs2
Kenny AtkinsonAtlanta Hawks1

What does it say about the Warriors that they win Coach of the Year, Assistant Coach of the Year and have the first-runner-up to the Assistant?

What The Voters Were Thinking

Our Coach…

Alvin Gentry, who juiced the Warriors offense into the most fun thing to watch in the NBA. — Coach Nick

…and editor agree.

Really hard to say. But offenses seem to get better when Alvin Gentry joins. — Mark Deeks

Glue Man Of The Year: Kyle Korver and DeMare Carroll 

Toronto Raptors v Atlanta Hawks

An award for the player who makes the most contributions that don’t show up in box scores, but those things are what hold the team together.

Kyle KorverAtlanta Hawks4
DeMare CarrollAtlanta Hawks4
Andrew BogutGolden State Warriors2
Draymond GreenGolden State Warriors2
Tony AllenMemphis Grizzlies1
Matt BarnesLos Angeles Clippers1
Tyson ChandlerDallas Mavericks1
Tim DuncanSan Antonio Spurs1
Harrison BarnesGolden State Warriors1
Andre IguodalaGolden State Warriors1
Zaza PachuliaMilwaukee Bucks1
Thabo SefoloshaAtlanta Hawks1

Some things you can’t plan, such as the utter appropriateness of two Atlanta Hawks sharing this award, with a third getting a vote. It’s just beautiful.

What the Voters were Thinking

For Korver:

While Korver’s unbelievable shooting is indeed a specialty, his excellence at it has allowed Atlanta to build an entire offensive system around it. Because Korver is so good at coming off screens, moving without the ball, and passing when needed, he is a deadly threat the defense must always be watching. Atlanta outscores its opponents by its best margin when Korver plays (over 10 points per 100 possessions), yet they are only outscored when he is on the bench. Korver’s not Atlanta’s best player, but his impact on the team is easily the greatest. That’s the definition of a glue guy. — Jake Weiner

And for Carroll:

In a recent podcast with Haralabos Voulgaris, Grantland’s Bill Simmons described this year’s Hawks as a house of cards that relies on all of its primary pieces to remain upright. DeMarre Carroll is the embodiment of that philosophy. Though he’s the least heralded of the Hawks’ five starters — and the only non-All-Star among the bunch — he’s emerged as a poor man’s Kawhi Leonard this year. He’s the Hawks’ primary wing stopper, and while he’s nowhere near as offensively gifted as Kawhi, he’s good for the occasional 20-point eruption. This Hawks squad would not be a 60-win outfit without Carroll. — Bryan Toporek

Specialist Of the Year: Kyle Korver


This doesn’t mean a player only does one thing, necessarily, but it means he has one aspect of his game that makes him special.

Kyle KorverAtlanta HawksShooter15
J.J. RedickLos Angeles ClippersShooter1
J.R. SmithCleveland CavaliersShooter1
Rudy GobertUtah JazzRim Protector1
Anthony MorrowOklahoma City ThunderShooter1

Kyle Korver is the only player to win two awards. Was I supposed to say spoiler alert?

What the Voters Were Thinking

He’s money without costing money.

Korver is like having a superstar on your team, without actually paying for one. When the Hawks are in a rut, they can just set up a play for Korver, and he will give them a three pointer or at least draw a double team to open up the court for the rest of the team. — Torkil Bang

And there are no misgivings about giving him both awards:

Notwithstanding his presence elsewhere on this list, and his reasons for being so, Kyle Korver made the All-Star game purely on account of his ability to shoot off the catch/screen being so good. In a league full of the world’s best catch-and-shooters, he was strikingly better than everyone else. Again. — Mark Deeks

Eighth Man Of The Year: Nikola Mirotic and Shaun Livingston

Chicago Bulls v Denver Nuggets

This was given to the best player who rounded out the rotation.

Nikola MiroticChicago Bulls4
Shaun LivingstonGolden State Warriors4
Aaron BrooksChicago Bulls1
Marreese SpeightsGolden State Warriors1
Al-Farouq AminuDallas Mavericks1
Jae CrowderBoston Celtics1
Joe InglesUtah Jazz1
James JohnsonToronto Raptors1
Chris KamanPortland Trail Blazers1
Meyers LeonardPortland Trail Blazers1
Andre RobersonOklahoma City Thunder1
Greivis VasquezToronto Raptors1

Clearly there was a bit of a problem with everyone agreeing on who the eighth man here. Nikola Mirotic and Shaun Livingston tie for first, but both also had teammates get one vote.

What the Voters Were Thinking

On Mirotic:

If Gibson and Hinrich/ Brooks are 6 and 7, then Mirotic is by any measure the best 8th man. Look at his numbers in expanded minutes over the past month or so. He could start and play 30 minutes on many NBA teams. — Adam Spinella

On Livingston:

Andre Iguodala and Marreese Speights get the most attention of the Warriors’ bench players, but Shaun Livingston is perhaps their most crucial reserve. The former No. 4 overall pick overcame a gruesome knee injury eight years ago to become the leader of the Dubs’ second unit, which is an under-the-radar reason they’ve rocketed out to the league’s best record this year. He’s able to play either backcourt position, gives the Warriors a low-post threat at the 1 when Stephen Curry isn’t on the court, and is a marked improvement over last year’s disastrous Steve Blake/Toney Douglas experiment. — Jeff Feyerer

Best Rookie Contract Value: Anthony Davis

Oklahoma City Thunder v New Orleans Pelicans

Anthony DavisNew Orleans Pelicans11
Nikola MiroticChicago Bulls2
Jimmy ButlerChicago Bulls2
Rudy GobertUtah Jazz1
Rodney HoodUtah Jazz1
Kawhi LeonardSan Antonio Spurs1
Elfrid PaytonOrlando  Magic1
Andrew WigginsMinnesota Timberwolves1

What the Voters Were Thinking

Is there really any doubt here? A top three, at least, player in the world earning $5.6 million is a freaking steal.

Best Veteran Contract Value: Stephen Curry


Stephen CurryGolden State Warriors9
LeBron JamesCleveland Cavaliers3
Paul MillsapAtlanta Hawks2
Aaron BrooksChicago Bulls1
Tim DuncanSan Antonio Spurs1
Draymond GreenGolden State Warriors1
Markieff MorrisPhoenix Suns1
Jeff TeagueAtlanta Hawks1
Isaiah ThomasBoston Celtics1

What The Voters Were Thinking

Well, if you’re gonna put it THAT way….

Curry is an MVP caliber player who is on a 10-12M$/year contract and locked up for the next two seasons. He might only be the fifth highest paid player on his own team next season. —Torkil Bang

….then this is probably true:

At $10.6 million this year, Curry’s deal is absurdly low and Golden State management likely has the total value hanging as a banner at the office to remind themselves of how lucky they are.

Disappointment Of The Year: Lance Stephenson

Orlando Magic v Charlotte Hornets


This award went to the team or player who came the shortest of reaching expectations.

And they said he wouldn’t get any hardware!

Lance StephensonCharlotte Hornets6
Kevin LoveCleveland Cavaliers4
The Enitre New York Knicks TeamNew York Knicks2
The Entire Washington Wizards TeamWashington Wizards2
Trey BurkeUtah Jazz1
Dante ExumUtah Jazz1
The Entire Charlotte Hornets TeamCharlotte Hornets1
The Entire Minnesota Timberwolves TeamMinnesota Timberwolves1
The Entire Oklahoma City Thunder TeamOklahoma City Thunder1
The Entire Phoenix Suns TeamPhoenix Suns1

What The Voters Were Thinking

Man down!

Words haven’t been invented yet that carries the proper description of how poorly [Lance has] played this year, and how disappointing he’s looked out there.

This might be even more of a direct hit in its complete honesty:

Holy hell, did Charlotte’s signing of Lance Stephenson backfire. I genuinely expected him to push the Hornets into contending for a top-four seed in the East. Instead, head coach Steve Clifford is openly admitting that he still has yet to find a unit that works well with Stephenson. That’s, um, less than ideal. — Bryan Toporek

Biggest Box-Score Liar: Pau Gasol


To the player whose box-score numbers are the most misleading.

Pau GasolChicago Bulls4
Michael Carter-WilliamsPhiladelphia 76ers2
Brandon KnightPhoenix Suns2
DeAndre JordanLos Angeles Clippers2
Nikola VucevicOrlando Magic2
Evan TurnerPhiladelphia 76ers1
Dwyane WadeMiami Heat1
Russell WestbrookOklahoma City Thunder1
Hassan WhitesideMiami Heat1
Mo WilliamsCharlotte Hornets1

What The Voters Were Thinking

Oh, facts! Why must you exist?

Pau’s box-score renaissance doesn’t appear to quite mesh with the actual value he provides to the Bulls. His per-game numbers are great—who would ever turn down a guy averaging 18.4 points and 11.8 rebounds in just 34.4 minutes?—But defensively, he leaves much to be desired. His feet often look like they’re made of cinder blocks when he’s defending pick-and-rolls, and though it makes little sense to continue trotting him out alongside Joakim Noah, Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau continues to do so. Pau seems as though he’d best be suited to playing backup center in the playoffs, limiting his defensive exposure largely to reserves, but his huge per-game numbers make that an extremely unlikely scenario. — Bryan Toporek

Or more simply:

The man leads the league in double-doubles and doesn’t know how to box out. Explain that! — Jake Weiner

And that is it for our awards! Well, with one exception.

Most Recognized Unrecognized Player: Rudy Gobert. He received a total of 11 votes in four different categories but didn’t get any awards. So, he gets a special congratulations for that. Congratulations, Rudy. Sort of.

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Kelly Scaletta

Kelly Scaletta writes for Vantage Sports, Bleacher Report and BBALLBREAKDOWN. He has the crazy notion that watching games and understanding stats are not mutually exclusive.

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