All Star Weekend Update and Predictions
DeMarcus Cousins, Sacramento Kings
Draymond Green, Golden State Warriors
Anthony Davis, New Orleans Pelicans
CJ McCollum, Portland Trail Blazers
Karl-Anthony Towns, Minnesota Timberwolves
Isaiah Thomas, Boston Celtics
Jordan Clarkson, Los Angeles Lakers
Defending Champion: Patrick Beverley, Houston Rockets
Dark Horse: Draymond Green, Golden State Warriors
When talking about Green, basketball analysts constantly reinforce his passion for the game, citing him as the “heart and soul” of the Warriors. Don’t be surprised if he brings that passion to this event and gives it his all going for the W, seeing as that’s all we’ve seen him do thus far in his career.
Evan’s prediction: Jordan Clarkson, Los Angeles Lakers
One of the few bright spots for the Lakers has been Clarkson, one of the backcourt constituents of last year’s All-NBA 1st Rookie Team. While he doesn’t garner as many headlines as the Kobe’s and DeAngelo’s of Los Angeles, I expect him to thrive in this competition.
Grant’s prediction: Isaiah Thomas, Boston Celtics
The Celtics’ Isaiah Thomas has a lot to prove as the small man in the All Star Game. However, in the Skills Challenge he can use this to his advantage. Thomas, a career 6th man, has finally broken out with Boston and has proven his ability to lead the young team. Thomas’ speed will provide him a strong advantage over the field’s big-men, namely DeMarcus Cousins, Anthony Davis and Karl-Anthony Towns and with experience in last year’s contest Thomas is poised to take home the trophy.
Three Point Contest
Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors
James Harden, Houston Rockets
Klay Thompson, Golden State Warriors
Khris Middleton, Milwaukee Bucks
Kyle Lowry, Toronto Raptors
JJ Redick, Los Angeles Clippers
Chris Bosh, Miami Heat
Devin Booker, Phoenix Suns
Defending Champion: Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors
Dark Horse: Chris Bosh, Miami Heat
Evan’s prediction: Klay Thompson, Golden State Warriors
While the consensus seems to be for a Steph Curry repeat, I’ve opted to pursue the road less travelled and pick the other Splash Brother. Although Curry (45%) has been a slightly better shooter from deep this season than Thompson (43%), both are capable of heating up very quickly (see: Thompson’s record-breaking 37 point quarter from last year vs. the Kings). Klay is a knock down, spot-up shooter and it is not inconceivable for him to run off a string of 10 straight threes and steal the competition.
Grant’s prediction: Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors
Steph Curry is undeniably the league’s best three point shooter. Not only has he proven consistency in numbers, but he has shown his range to extend far beyond the line. With a strong percent from deep (45%), and an awfully quick release Steph should repeat last year’s win.
Slam Dunk Contest
Zach LaVine, Minnesota Timberwolves
Aaron Gordon, Orlando Magic
Will Barton, Denver Nuggets
Andre Drummond, Detroit Pistons
Defending Champion: Zach LaVine, Minnesota Timberwolves
Dark Horse: Aaron Gordon, Orlando Magic
Aaron Gordon spends a lot of his time in the paint (over 75% of his total field goal attempts come from within 3 feet of the basket), meaning he is not new to dunking the ball. As a 6-foot-9 forward with a 39-inch vertical, he has enough athleticism that could cause concern for LaVine.
Evan’s prediction: Zach LaVine, Minnesota Timberwolves
In order to be successful in the Slam Dunk Contest, you need equal parts athleticism and creativity. Zach LaVine has both of those in spades, reminiscent of early-2000’s Vince Carter. Oh, and he’s only 20 years old.
Grant’s prediction: Zach LaVine, Minnesota Timberwolves
In the 2014-2015 Slam Dunk Contest, LaVine was able to energize an event that had lost some of its luster. LaVine, while only 20, has proven to be an electric in-game and contest dunker. Last year, LaVine rekindled our love for the 90’s Jordan movie, Space Jam, by donning a Tune Squad uniform. I expect LaVine to carry his creative sentiment into this year’s contest and take home a second consecutive win.
All Star Game
Score: West (160-152)
MVP: Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors
NBA Award Updates
Most Valuable Player
Winner: Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors
Honorable mention: Kawhi Leonard, San Antonio Spurs; Kevin Durant, Oklahoma City Thunder
Using executive member Robbie Steirn’s MVP model, it is predicted that Stephen Curry will be this year’s NBA MVP. It comes with no surprise that Curry is this year’s front-runner, having lead the Warriors to the best record of all time through 52 games at 48-4. Curry leads the league in not only points, but PER, true shooting percentage, offensive and general win shares, box plus minus and VORP. We do not foresee Curry’s pre-all star numbers dropping off, either.
6th Man of the Year
Winner: Will Barton, Denver Nuggets
Honorable mention: Ryan Anderson, New Orleans Pelicans; Victor Oladipo, Orlando Magic
This year’s 6th man honors will go to Denver Nuggets guard Will Barton. Barton who has come off the bench this year for 28.5 minutes per game is averaging career highs in nearly all statistical categories while shooting 38% from three, second on his time by only one percent to Nikola Jokic. As a result, Barton is second in scoring at 15.5 PPG and second in rebounding with a solid 6 per game. In under 30 minutes per game, Barton’s win shares is 4.1 and his offensive box plus minus sits at 1.8.
Most Improved Player
Winner: CJ McCollum, Portland Trail Blazers
Honorable mention: Reggie Jackson, Detroit Pistons; Draymond Green, Golden State Warriors
The NBA’s most improved player posed a significant challenge. We originally established a field of five players to choose from, and worked our way down from there. After eliminating Leonard and Drummond (both of whom are having stellar seasons, but haven’t improved as much as our finalists), we were left with McCollum, Jackson, and Green. Eventually, we landed on C.J. McCollum, deciding that he has seen the largest jump this season. With LaMarcus Aldridge having moved onto San Antonio, Portland desperately needed someone to pick up the slack. As a result, McCollum has seen his usage rise nearly 7% and points per game to more than triple! While his Box Plus Minus is low compared to the field, we believe he has shown the most improvement given the opportunity.
2015: PPG (6.8), BPM (-0.7), PER (13.1) RPG (1.5), APG (2.4), eFG% (.511)
2016: PPG(20.8), BPM (0.8), PER (17.8) RPG (3.6), APG (4.4), eFG% (.509)
2015: PPG (16.5), BPM (6.1), PER (22.0), RPG (7.2), APG (2.9), eFG% (.520)
2016: PPG (20.0), BPM (8.0), PER (25.0), RPG (6.6), APG (2.7), eFG% (.567)
2015: PPG (14.5), BPM (0.8), PER (17.2), RPG (4.2), APG (6.0), eFG% (.470)
2016: PPG (19.1), BPM (2.9), PER (20.5), RPG (3.4), APG (6.2), eFG% (.489)
2015: PPG (13.8), BPM (-0.2), PER (21.4), RPG (13.5), APG (0.7), eFG% (.514)
2016: PPG (17.0), BPM (-0.3), PER (21.8), RPG (14.9), APG (0.8), eFG% (.525)
2015: PPG (11.7), BPM (5.0), PER (16.4), RPG (8.2), APG (3.7), eFG% (.516)
2016: PPG (14.4), BPM (6.4), PER (20.2), RPG (9.6), APG (7.4), eFG% (.551)
Defensive Player of the Year
Winner: Kawhi Leonard, San Antonio Spurs
Honorable mention: Draymond Green, Golden State Warriors; Tim Duncan, San Antonio Spurs
This is pretty much a two-horse race between Leonard and Green. While Duncan has been stellar this year, leading the league in defensive rating (92.2), his reduced playing time (26 MPG, 15 games missed) disqualifies him from potentially receiving this award, in our opinion. As for the two remaining candidates, the differences in individual performances between Leonard and Green is almost negligible. For players with over 20 GP and averaging more than 20 MPG, Leonard holds the 3rd lowest defensive rating (94.3), while Draymond isn’t far behind at 95.4 - good for 8th best in the league. Leonard also leads the league in defensive WS (3.8), while Green has the 7th most (3.1). Conversely, Green holds a superior defensive box plus/minus to Leonard (3.7 and 2.8, respectively). Furthermore, both show incredible defensive versatility, being able to guard nearly every position on the floor, so that component is a wash.
The deciding factor was each player’s respective team’s overall defensive performance: the Spurs surrender 91.7 PPG, fewest in the NBA, whereas the Warriors sit in 19th allowing 102.8 PPG. While the staggering 11.1 PPG difference is likely not due solely to the contributions of Green or Leonard, in a close race like this one, such margins can be the difference.
Rookie of the Year
Winner: Karl-Anthony Towns, Minnesota Timberwolves
Honorable mention: Kristaps Porzingis, New York Knicks; Myles Turner, Indiana Pacers
Every month, the NBA gives out the Eastern and Western Conference Rookie of the Month for one rookie from the respective conference. For the 2015-16 regular season, Towns and Porzingis are the only rookies to have been given this distinction, indicating just how large the gap is between the upper echelon and the rest of this year’s rookie class. While some rookies have transitioned into their professional careers cleanly (see: Myles Turner of the Indiana Pacers, Stanley Johnson of the Detroit Pistons), none have done so as well as Towns and Porzingis.
However, even more impressive is the gap between Towns - the obvious choice for this award - and Porzingis, who by many accounts has had an incredibly impressive season thus far. Porzingis’ apparent success is partially attributed to the incredible way he has overcome lofty New York expectations to become something of a local legend in the Big Apple. Still, KAT trumps the Porzingod in the following major statistical categories: PPG (16.7 vs. 13.9), RPG (10.1 vs. 7.7), FT% (.853 vs. .848), FG% (.541 vs. .426), 3P% (.375 vs. .349), PER (22.7 vs. 18.3), and WS (5.2 vs. 3.5).
To further illuminate the gap, consider this: both Towns and Porzingis have drawn comparison to Dallas Mavericks forward Dirk Nowitzki, recently voted by a panel of NBA analysts as the 3rd best power forward in NBA history. Here is Dirk’s statline for his sophomore season (this was his first season in the NBA playing over 50 games): 17.5 PPG, 6.5 RPG, 2.5 APG, .830 FT%, .461 FG%, .379 3P%, 17.5 PER. As a rookie, Towns has posted superior numbers thus far than Dirk did in his sophomore season. The same cannot be said for Porzingis.
Coach of the Year
Winner: Rick Carlisle, Dallas Mavericks
Honorable mention: Gregg Popovich, San Antonio Spurs; Dwane Casey, Toronto Raptors
One of the biggest surprises of this season has been the success of the Dallas Mavericks, who came into this season expecting to compete for a lottery pick with a projected roster of: an aging Dirk Nowitzki, a recently injured Wesley Matthews, no DeAndre Jordan, and a smorgasbord of role players featuring the likes of Chandler Parsons, Deron Williams, and Zaza Pachulia. And yet, somehow the Mavericks are exceeding expectations with an above-.500 record and are currently holding the sixth seed in the Western Conference, in large part to the efforts of Rick Carlisle. After being crowned the big losers of this past summer’s free agency, Carlisle has whipped the Mavs into shape to the point where they could provide an unnecessary first round challenge to the Warriors, Spurs, or Thunder. It just goes to show that Texas is just big enough for more than one pairing of a great coach and a power forward that ages better than a fine wine. And no, we’re not talking about Josh Smith and J.B. Bickerstaff.
Executive of the Year
Winner: RC Buford, San Antonio Spurs
Honorable mention: Masai Ujiri, Toronto Raptors; Phil Jackson, New York Knicks
The NBA’s Executive of the Year goes to R.C. Buford, the man who landed the year’s biggest free agent in LaMarcus Aldridge. While Aldridge’s numbers are down from previous years, he has contributed beyond his stat line. The Spurs, who have nearly kept pace with the Warriors, have not only remained one of the NBA’s elite teams, but have also put in place a succession plan for when Tim Duncan retires. At the same time, in signing Aldridge, the Spurs will retain Gregg Popovich, one of the NBA’s most talented strategists and coaches. With an impressive record of 45-8, R.C. Buford has positioned the Spurs not only for a championship push this year, but for future stability, as well.
All NBA 1st Team
G: Steph Curry, Golden State Warriors
G: Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City Thunder
F: Kawhi Leonard, San Antonio Spurs
F: Kevin Durant, Oklahoma City Thunder
C: Demarcus Cousins, Sacramento Kings
All NBA 2nd Team
G: Kyle Lowry, Toronto Raptors
G: James Harden, Houston Rockets
F: LeBron James, Cleveland Cavaliers
F: Draymond Green, Golden State Warriors
C: Anthony Davis, New Orleans Pelicans
All NBA 3rd Team
G: Chris Paul, Los Angeles Clippers
G: John Wall, Washington Wizards
F: Carmelo Anthony, New York Knicks
F: Paul George, Indiana Pacers
C: Andre Drummond, Detroit Pistons