06-07 Reg Season Awards (Part III)
The last installment of the Painted Area reg. season awards covers the Most Improved & MVP/All-NBA. Like I mentioned in Part I, the amount of missed games matters so you will see no Wade or Yao on my All-NBA teams. Also, I just picked my All-NBA teams without regards to positions. Just how I roll.
Most Improved Player: Kevin Martin (Sacramento)
1) K. Martin--Went from reserve to a #1 option in the span of a few months. His ppg jumped by 10, and he maintained his nice shooting numbers from last year. Was impressed with his savvy play in the playoffs last year and thought letting Bonzi go was the right move at the time. Made KMart my sleeper steal in my fantasy draft expecting him to average about 15 ppg, but he was definitely even better than I anticipated. Has the goods to be a All-Star down the line.
2) M. Ellis--If there is one thing that you can praise Coach Nellie for, it's letting his young players play freely. Averaged 16.7 ppg, 4.3apg & 3 rpg in 34 mins. His points are much better than expected even with the increased minutes and his shooting average made a significant jump--47.6% overall (up 6% points from last year). The one negative is his turnovers which are at 3.5 per, way too high, & more than twice as high than last year.
3) J. Calderon--One of the top back-up points in the league. Jose actually played a few less minutes a game this year but still managed to increase his scoring by 3 points & his assists improved a little (4.5 to 5.1). But most important his shooting percentage shot up from 42% to 52%. Another thing that stands out about Jose's game--he rarely turns the ball over.
4) Biedrins--Playing twice as many minutes this year, and his points & boards are better than expected after adjusting for minutes played. Shooting % is close to last year--63% in 05-06 to 60% in 06-07-- although most of his shots are within 5 feet. Uses his nice athleticism to grab boards all over the paint (9.5rpg) and to be a defensive presence (1.7 bpg).
5) J. Kapono--This Cali dude has always been known as an outside shooting specialist, and has always been good from long-range (41% career 3pt.). But has stepped it up to a new level this year by shooting a whopping 51.7% from 3pt, which leads the league by a wide margin. His overall shooting has jumped from 44% to 49.5%. Riley seems to have put more confidence in him this year, and has been calling plays for him & running him off screens.
Honor Mention: A. Jefferson; Josh Howard; Dev Brown; D. Lee; L. Walton; H. Warrick; G. Wallace; M. Carroll
1) Nowitzki (MVP)--Already a great all-around shooter, but posted career highs in FG% (50%), 3pt. (42%), & FT% (90%). Actually solid defender, better near the painted area; has a tendency to stand too upright when defending farther away from rim. Still needs to be more aggressive on the low block; something to watch for in the playoffs. No one causes more matchup issues for the opposing defense than Dirk--he's basically a 7-foot SF on offense.
2) Duncan--On the surface it might seem like Tim had lost a little something this year by only averaging 20 & 10. But in reality he was as dangerous as he has ever been & one of the most productive players in the NBA. Pop wisely limited Tim's minutes to 34 a game. Duncan gets the #2 slot ahead Nash because of the difference on the defensive end. See Defensive awards (Part II).
3) Nash--Hard to believe a 32/33 year-old point with back issues could improve his game, but that's what happened. Once again flawlessly steered the most dangerous offense in the NBA. But maybe even more impressive than his playmaking was his shooting--53.3% (career high) from the field is sick for a point, and his 3pt. % even gotten taken up a notch (46%, career high). One minor nitpicky thing was the rise in turnovers--seemed to make more uncharacteristic mistakes this year than usual. Also, has to get points off the resume for the defensive deficiencies; though, a solid team defender.
4) Bryant--The Lakers late-season swoon knocked him out of the MVP race; even though injuries played a big part in the Lakers' sputtering. Scoring champ, and averaged 5+ apg & rpg. Put on some legndary scoring displays this year, and nobody hits tougher shots.
5) James--First-teamer no doubt, but something was quite right this year. The main issue is he is just settling for too many jumpers. And the fact remains, he's just not that great of an outside shooter. Some of his decision making seems to have regressed a little this year. I think everyone was hoping for more progression in his game, but this year he seems to have stagnated in his development; maybe it's exhaustion or injury, or maybe Bron hit his ceiling. I really don't think he's done improving--his shot can get better--and I sense the addition of some better surrounding talent will make his job easier. Even with all that said he still put up monster production once again worthy of Top 5 status.
Notes: Boozer was one of the most consistent players week-in, week-out in the NBA, even moreso then LeBron. Very efficient player who's an underrated passer. It's not KG's fault that the T-Wolves are mediocre (look toward the front office), and his production & effort is still top notch on both ends of the floor. TMac almost single-handedly kept the Rockets' offense afloat when Yao was on the shelf. I know his shooting could be better, but everything else he does is on par with Kobe & Bron. I gave Marion the 2nd team nod over Amare because of his defensive effort. Bosh's game rose to a new level & was a key to the Raps' promising new frontier.
Notes: Melo barely played enough games in my eyes to make this list, but his scoring acumen had to be recognized. Even though Amare has lost the upper register of his freakish hops, but he seems to have replaced it with more double-clutch action & vastly improved fundamentals. Parker has become one of the hardest players to contain in the league & is one of the best finishers among guards in the NBA. Many were writing JKidd's obit last year after an isolated torching by Anthony Johnson, but I felt that was blown out of proportion. Kidd's 13ppg, 9 apg, & 8 rpg ain't too shabby for a 33/34 point. And his defense is not as bad as some people think it is. Gave Josh Howard a 3rd Team nod for his all-around package at both ends of the floor. Also, gets props for improving his main weakness of outside shooting & being a great Robin to Dirk's Batman.
Honor Mention: Billups; D. Howard; Iverson; Brand; Paul; Carter; Arenas; J. O'Neal