06-07 Reg Season Awards (Part I)
Gonna break the NBA reg. season awards into a 3-parter like the Mid-Season awards. In Part I we will deal with the Rookies & Coaches. I'm somewhat of stickler for playing enough games to qualify for awards, so some prominent names might be left off some of these lists. But with the Rookies, I had to be a little bit more lenient because the pickings were slim in this year's crop.
[In all cases, Jay Aych is doing most of the heavy lifting here, while M. Haubs will chime in at the end of each award with his picks.]
Rookie of the Year: Brandon Roy (Blazers)
Rookie 1st team:
B. Roy--Even though missing roughly 20 games, easily the clear-cut candidate for best rookie. No doubt the best all-around talent in the '06 draft class and was immediately the 2nd option behind Randolph the day he was drafted. B-Roy did not disappoint--16.7, 4.4 rpg, 4.4 apg, 1.2 spg, 45 %, & slightly better 3pt shooting than I expected (37%). Plays like a 10-year vet; heady, mature game.
R. Gay--Was my pre-season sleeper pick for best rookie and maybe if Roy missed a few more games, Rudy might have been the pick. Going into the draft thought he had the highest ceiling of any prospect, it was just a question about his desire. He seems to have put some of those questions to bed with his solid play this year--11 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 1 apg, 1 bpg, & 1 spg. Uses his length very well on both ends of floor.
Bargnani--#1 pick was a mild surprise this year since not much was expected of him this soon. Was advertised as a good shooter, and he definitely lived up to the rep. Can be a terror in pick-n-pop situations for years to come. But before we declare him Dirk II, he needs to prove he can consistently hit off-the dribble. No secret needs work on defense.
Garbajosa--The Euro Robert Horry did not disappoint in translating his savvy jack-of-all-trades game to the NBA--8.5 ppg, 5 rpg, 2 apg & 1.2 spg. Not to mention his typical great all-around defense; best rookie defender. Just a shame the gruesome leg injury will rob him of a chance to help the Raps in a playoff scenario, a setting he always thrives in.
R. Foye--Was supposed to have the most immediate impact besides Roy, but was thrown into a trickier situation in Minny where they had an abundance of guards, and added a veteran combo guard, Mike James, as the starter in free agency (never understood that signing at the time, considering they just drafted Foye a few weeks before). Still found ways to be productive off the bench averaging close to 10 ppg with a few apg & rpg thrown in. His 3pt shooting improved during the year (36%), which is encouraging since this was a weakness thru college. Really think he is still more of a 2-guard; more adept at creating shots for himself than for others.
Rookie 2nd Team:
L. Aldridge--Was sidelined with some injuries this year and also had to compete for minutes with veteran bigs. With minutes sometimes hard to find, LaMarcus was able to be highly efficient in time on the floor--9 ppg, 5 rpg, 1.2 bpg & 50% shooting. Love his soft touch around the basket.
A. Morrison--Defintiely a somewhat disappointing freshman campaign for Adam. Basically, his shot was just way off all year. I understand there were some questions coming in if he could consistently create shots in-between to the degree he did in college, but his outside/spot shooting should have not been this off. Think some people are writing him off to quick. To me, the key was his long-range shooting was off, something that should have no problem translating. This is where I think he is a better than this year's numbers would indicate (33.7% 3pt). If he can get his shooting touch back to where it should be, can't see why he can't be 16-18 ppg guy in this league, similar to a Wally Z.
W. Herrmann--After Roy, no rookie is currently playing better. Has been on a tear the last 2 months, after barely getting off the pine the 1st half of the season. Always thought he was a poor man's version of Nocioni, but is shooting the ball better than I expected from the outside & mixes it up with his patented swooping forays to the rim. Brings great energy at all times, which is staple of Argentine ball. Very good shot selection which is reflected in his 52% shooting, not to mention 43% from 3pt.
C. Smith--Have to admit did not think this guy should have been even drafted. But took advantage of a perfect situation in Minny where there is no frontcourt depth. Better athlete than I realized. Not surprised by the rebounding, which usually translates well for undersized guys. Although nothing more than a career back-up due to his size.
P. Millsap--Another overachieving, undersized PF from the 2nd round. Highly productive in limited minutes--6.6 ppg, 5 rpg, 1 bpg on 51% in 17.7 mins per. Has a lot of potential and can be a starter in the NBA, it just probably will have to be somewhere else than Utah with Boozer around.
M. Haubs' Picks:
ROOKIE OF THE YEAR
1. Brandon Roy, Portland
2. Andrea Bargnani, Toronto
3. Rudy Gay, Memphis
In our preseason picks, I wavered back-and-forth between B-Roy and Randy Foye, before opting to pick Foye (who I think should be 1st Team All-Rookie) on the eve of the season.
Then, on opening night, I attended the Blazers-Sonics game at Key Arena and watched B-Roy look like a 10-year veteran as he ran the show at crunch time and basically made all the plays Portland needed to get the road win. I walked out thinking, "Man, that was a dumb pick I made."
Coach of the Year: Sam Mitchell (Raptors)
1) Sam Mitchell--Commanded the most overachieving team of the year. Raps have closed the season on fire even with some key injuries--won 9 of last 10. Sort of ridiculous that the Raps are going to finish only few wins short of 50, considering they lost Bosh for 12 games and both Bargnani & Garbajosa both missed close to 15 games each. Sam had to integrate 4 new starters around Bosh this year, not to mention had to rely heavily on 3 guys who were not in the league last year. Another thing Sam gets big props for is the considerable improvement on the defensive end--they have gone from one of the worst def. teams to middle of the pack.
2) Jeff Van Gundy--Once again had to deal with injuries to his big guns, Jeff kept the Rockets' ship steady with his attention to detail and unwavering obsession to defense. No surprise another Van Gundy team that is one of the best defensive teams in the league.
3) A. Johnson--The Mavs could finish with 68 wins, that's a good enough reason alone for Avery on this list. Besides the mysterious early season glitch, the Mavs basically did everything they were predicted to do this year.
4) Jerry Sloan--Becoming the Susan Lucci of coaches. Another solid job of coaching, but once again should be edged out by someone slightly more deserving. The Jazz did the typical things that Sloan teams do--great ball movement, good shot selection, and gritty defense. Needs to get more credit for how fluid the Jazz offense is, everyone can't stop gushing about D'Antoni, but the Jazz offense is as nearly pretty to watch. And has been as long as Sloan has been at the helm.
Honor Mention: Popovich; Skiles; B.Scott; D'Antoni; Saunders
M. Haubs' Picks
COACH OF THE YEAR
1. Jeff Van Gundy, Houston
2. Sam Mitchell, Toronto
3. Avery Johnson, Dallas
I think that JVG is generally a miserable human being, I hated his Knicks teams for their brutal style of play, and I hate that he doesn't unlock the true beauty in Yao's game by failing to exploit the big fella's innate passing ability.
That said, there's no question in my mind that little dude has been the best coach this year. The Rockets rank No. 1 in the two most important defensive categories - efficiency (97 pts per 100 possessions) and field-goal percentage (.427) - despite having seemingly subpar defenders overall. He managed to go 22-19 in games when at least one of his two superstars was injured. Oh by the way, these guys are 29-10 when Yao and Tracy are both out there - these guys could be a formidable opponent for the Mavs in the Conference Semis.