Living the Fantasy: 2nd Trimester Awards
By NBA TV's Rick Kamla
February 24, 2007
Back on Jan. 5 we debuted the Trimester Awards, and it went over about as well as Britney Spears’ new streamlined hairdo. By the way, who advised her to go Telly Savalis on her dome?
(Psst… Freaks…crawl inside for a second. I’m not the jealous type. Never have been. But I am jealous of the fact Spears, despite living like a jackass over the past couple years, still has tens of millions of dollars lying around. She’s literally stupid-proof in terms of money. Doesn’t that tick you off? And whatever it is they call K-Fed, could it please just go away because it’s 15 minutes were up decades ago. It’s lingering like something Fat Bastard might waft into the atmosphere.)
Let's start at MVP, where the two-timer Steve Nash and no-timer Dirk Nowitzki have emerged as the only real candidates. Kobe, Gilbert, Duncan, T-Mac, LeBron, Bosh, and Melo are in the paragraph, but the only sentence that matters has the names Nash and Nowitzki in it.
One-third of the way into the season I thought Nash was the pick for MVP because he was posting career-highs almost across the board, leading the Suns in scoring, and keeping the Suns neck-n-neck with the Mavs. The way I figured it, if Nash was playing at a higher level than the previous two MVP seasons and if his team was winning all the time, then somebody had to rise above Nash and literally take the crown off his head.
Well, Dirk has done exactly that, rising above his good buddy and former teammate to move ahead in the race for 2006-07 NBA MVP.
As we were coming down the stretch in 04-05 and there was such debate about who should win MVP between Nash and Shaq, it was too close for me to call so I used regular season record as the determining factor for MVP. Nash and the Suns won more games (62-59) than Shaq and the Heat, so I cast my mythical vote for Nash.
(By the way, I am disappointed with The Godfather for saying that Nash’s MVP awards are “tainted”. First of all, how are they “tainted”? What’s tainted, Shaq, are your individual numbers, which would be a lot higher had you stayed in better shape and been able to play more games. Second of all, if you’re going to say something stupid like that, you gotta back it up with a reason. To say Nash’s MVPs are “tainted” is spiteful and immature as the Zenmaster saying the Spurs’ 1999 title deserved an asterisk in the record books. Speaking of coaches, I’m also disappointed in Pat Riley for admitting to voting for Bush. While in DC, Pat reminded the world that “if you don’t vote you don’t count”, and maybe that’s true. How ironic, then, that a miscount is the reason why Bush is our president.)
Because this year's race between Nash and Nowitzki is a virtual tie as we head for home, I suggest that we let the standings determine who hoists the Maurice Podoloff Trophy before a home playoff game this spring. As I key these words, Dirk's Mavs have a five-game lead on Nash's Suns, so I gotta flip-flop my current MVP choice to the greatest German import ever. Yes, better than Beck’s.
A five-game lead with 24 games to go places Dirk firmly and securely in the driver's seat, but that isn't the only reason I'm flip-flopping my MVP choice.
Both dudes have been significantly injured this season. Nash missed the four games before the All-Star break to rest his ailing right shoulder, and the Suns drooped to 1-3 in those games. Dirk incurred what might go down in history as the ugliest non-serious injury when Chris Wilcox stepped on Dirk’s in-step such that the outside of his ankle touched the floor, but he returned for the Mavs' next game.
I'm not comparing the injuries or saying one dude is tougher than the other. They both rank among the league's top warriors. All I'm saying is that Dirk has been there for 57 of 58 games and Nash has been there for 52 of 58 games.
Do the math, freaks. The Suns lost three games to the Mavs in the standings when Nash was sidelined before the break, and the Mavs currently lead by five games. That means 60 percent of Dallas’ lead over Phoenix can be blamed on the injury to Nash. (Again, not that anyone here is down on Nash for getting hurt—or resting the shoulder. I’m not sayin’, I just sayin’. Know what I’m sayin’?)
More math for you, and this is one statistic that does not lie. Dirk has played exactly five more games than Nash and the Mavs lead the Suns by five games.
In other words, the Suns and Mavs were locked in a stare down and neither blinked until Nash got hurt. That pesky shoulder injury has been the difference in a race that was too close to call.
Let's get back my statement that Dirk has risen above Nash this year.
Yes, Nash is having the best season of his career, setting new career-highs with 18.9 points, 11.8 assists, .532 from the field, and .482 from deep, and ranking sixth across eight cats. But Dirk is having the best year of his career too, and it's arguably better than the year Nash is having.
Dirk is gunning 25.4 points a night, third best average of his career, and he's pulling 9.6 boards, the fourth best mark of his career. However, the best 7-foot shooter of all-time is having one of the all-time shooting seasons, setting new career-highs with .504 from the field, .423 from three, and .908 from free. Last year Nash joined Larry Bird as the only players in NBA history to go 50-40-90 on the percentages, and it looks like Dirk is going to join them this season.
But wait, there's more, as Dirk is dropping a career-high 3.4 dimes per game, and he ranks 5 to Nash’s 6 in the fantasy rankings.
One sure sign of an MVP season is adding a wrinkle to one’s game, and that's exactly what Dirk has done in terms of making those around him better.
Finally, the Mavs and Suns have played twice this year and Dirk's Mavs have won both meetings. In fact, Dirk hit the game-winner over Shawn Marion in their last meeting in Dallas.
And to give you an even better idea for how epic Dirk and the Mavs have been this season, chew on some of these stats.
-- First team in NBA history with three separate winning streaks of 12+ games in the same season.
-- With a victory against the Magic at home on Saturday night the Mavs will extend the current winning streak to 15 games and reach the 50-win plateau.
-- 11-0 on the second of back-to-backs.
-- With a win on Saturday, the Mavs will not only run their franchise record home winning streak to 22 games, they will match the greatest 55-game run in NBA history, joining the 95-96 Bulls who went 50-5 on their way to a 72-win season.
There's still time for Nash to pass Dirk, but if Dirk and the Mavs keep the train on the tracks, The Best International Player Ever will get my mythical vote for MVP.
Amare Stoudemire, Suns: It's a dead heat for Fantasy MVP between Amare, the best value over the past trimester, and Caron Butler, the Fantasy MVP through the first trimester. Butler currently ranks 13th on the 8-cat charts, while Amare clocks in at No. 17. But over the past couple months Amare has been more explosive and reliable than Caron.
Reality Rookie of the Year
Brandon Roy, Trail Blazers: Roy has been one of the primary factors for Portland surviving in the big bad West. Entering Friday's work, Roy and the Blazers were 3.5 games behind the Clippers for the 8th spot in the conference, so they ain’t dead yet.
After watching B Roy drop 35 without breaking a sweat at the Vegas Summer League, I ran into Zach Randolph, who was mighty impressed. As we went our separate ways, I encouraged Z-Bo to "get the kid the rock" and he has done exactly that. (You’re welcome, Nate.) There's a nice balance of inside and outside with the Blazers' offense right now, and Nate McMillan and his staff [as well as Z-Bo and B Roy] deserve a ton of credit for that.
Fantasy Rookie of the Year
Brandon Roy, Trail Blazers: Like "Pan's Labyrinth" early on Oscar night, Roy is cleaning up the 2nd trimester awards. (Haven't seen "Pan's Labyrinth" and don't know if I will. Don't know if I'm down with the whole fairy tale, dungeons & dragons bit.)
Roy is already a fantasy starter, and he’s rocking my team in my brother’s HTH, five-cat league.
Most quality players go through a progression of highly inconsistent play as a rookie, improved play as a sophomore, and then they put it all together in year three. Andre Iguodala is on that path, but Roy—because of four stellar years at Washington—has bypassed his rookie season. The consistency is already there.
He's the 66th ranked player across 8-cats—by far the highest among his draft class, as he's averaging 15.5 points, 4.1 rebounds, 3.9 assists, 1.2 steals, .446 from the field, and .828 from the line. He's averaging less than a three per game for the season, but over the past week he has busted out with 1.7 per game.
Mark my words on this March day in 2007, Roy will break into the 20s next season, giving him a five-cat line of 20-5-5-0-1.5, and giving the Blazers a pair of 20-plusers.
Reality Coach of the Year
Jerry Sloan, Jazz: In the 1st trimester article, I wondered how cool it would be if Sloan and Martin Scorsese finally won the highest individual honors in their respective fields in the same year. Well, we're halfway there, with Scorsese finally getting his Oscar for best director...for a movie that isn't even in his own personal top five. (Sorry, but it's not better than "Goodfellas" or "Casino" or "Taxi Driver" or "Cape Fear" or "Gangs of New York", in that order.)
We've come this far with Sloan, who's Jazz are currently fourth in the NBA at 38-19, so why change now?
Fantasy Coach of the Year
Don Nelson, Warriors: Before I continue signing the praises of Nellie, who rocks from his sports coat/gear ensembles to his defense-be-damned style of play, we need to give a lifetime achievement award in the realm of fantasy coaches to Suns' maestro Mike D'Antoni.
D'Antoni is to the Fantasy Coach of the Year award what Michael Jordan was to the League MVP award. The only reason anyone other than Jordan ever won an MVP was straight boredom by the media. And similar boredom has caused me to take my search beyond the revolutionary Mike D to coaches like Nellie and Flip Saunders for Fantasy Coach of the Year.
Nellie has done wonders for Al Harrington, Monta Ellis, and Andris Biedrins, and the Warriors utter neglect on defense leads to huge numbers for the other team—and you can't underestimate that brilliant aspect of his coaching.
As for Flip, he's obviously cool with the fantasy world for a) playing his starters a million minutes a game, b) working in Chris Webber immediately, and c) Webber's newfound center eligibility. Thanks, Flip.
Most Improved Player
Deron Williams, Jazz: I hear a lot of chatter about Kevin Martin and Tyson Chandler for Most Improved, but I don't hear Deron's name mentioned enough in conjunction with this prestigious award. Oh, that's right. How could I hear that chatter over all the deafening "Deron for All-Star" talk?
Martin and Chandler are having breakout seasons and their teams are still alive for the playoffs, but Deron's All-Star-caliber play has the Jazz in position to host a first-round playoff series. We talked about Roy skipping his rookie season on the learning curve, and Deron has skipped his second season, fast-forwarding all the way from rookie to complete player.
When you think back to this time last year, when Deron was just starting to get it, and then you look at the assist leaders and you see Deron second behind Nash at 9.3 dimes per game, you fully understand how far up the mountain he has climbed.
Sixth Man of the Year
Leandro Barbosa, Suns: Last we spoke about trimester awards, Ben Gordon was a mortal lock for his second Sixth Man of the Year award. However, to be eligible for the award, you have to come off the bench for more games than you start, and as we speak, Gordon has started 52 percent of his games this year.
Of course, that then vaults Barbosa into the spotlight, as he has started only 23 percent of his games. Thanks to averages of 16.9 points, 4.2 assists, 2.2 threes, 1.3 steals, .467 from the field, and .848 from the line, Barbosa is the clear-cut choice for this award through two-thirds of the season.
Manu Ginobili, who is the best Sixth Man right now, has started 67 percent of his 52 games, meaning he has 35 starts and 17 reserve appearances. The Spurs have 25 games left, and if Manu comes off the bench in all of them, he will have 35 starters against 42 reserve appearances and he would not only become eligible for the award, he would get my vote over Barbosa.
Fantasy Pickup of the Year
Chris Webber, Pistons: This pick is especially true for leagues that allow position eligibility changes during the season. If C-Webb was center eligible or if he became center eligible in your league, and if you were lucky enough to snag him off waivers, then your team went from bad-to-good or good-to-great or great-to-unbeatable.
In 19 games with the Pistons, C-Webb is averaging 13.2 points, 7.0 rebounds, 2.9 assists, 0.8 blocks, 0.8 steals, and .554 from the floor. Over the past month (12 games), C-Webb has been the 62nd best player across 8-cats, and that's up from his full-season ranking of 97.
Rick Kamla is NBA.com's resident fantasy expert. Rick Kamla will be here all season long to give you his insider analysis on the fantasy basketball world. Kamla is the heady host for "NBA Fantasy Hoops Presented By Toyota," a seven-nights-a-week, one-hour studio show that has become the ultimate guide for NBA fantasy basketball players.
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