There are many ways to measure a star’s “value” – statistics, impact, team success, consistency.
Golden State Warriors point guard Stephen Curry excels by all those measures. He gets my vote for NBA Most Valuable Player.
This isn’t about sentiment. It’s not because I’ve known Stephen and his family since he was a little kid. It’s not because of what he did at Davidson.
I voted for him because, in a close call over the Houston Rockets’ James Harden and the Cleveland Cavaliers’ LeBron James, I believe Curry had the most impactful season in the NBA. The Warriors have the best record in the league and good as the team is around him, he’s essential to that team’s success.
He’s a scorer (23.8 ppg.), a shooter (first in free-throw percentage at 91.4 percent, third in 3-point at 44.3 percent), and a facilitator (sixth in assists at 7.7 per game). He’s worked hard to be a better defender this season. He’s savvy enough to blend his talents with the emerging stardom of teammate Klay Thompson.
Two players of that much talent don’t always co-exist as smoothly as Golden State’s Curry-Thompson backcourt. Remember the Kevin Garnett-Stephon Marbury divorce with the Minnesota Timberwolves? These things don’t always work out as they are intended.
I don’t think it’s automatic that the Most Valuable Player be the best player on the best team. But in this case, that’s a pretty solid argument.
Here’s my complete NBA awards ballot and why I voted how I did:
1. Curry, 2. Harden, 3. James, 4. Russell Westbrook, 5. Anthony Davis.
Reasoning: You could name LeBron James MVP every season and feel good about the call. But I think Curry and Harden were more responsible for their team’s success this season.
First team: Curry, Harden, James, Davis, Pau Gasol
Second team: Westbrook, Chris Paul, LaMarcus Aldridge, Blake Griffin, Marc Gasol
Third team: Klay Thompson, John Wall, Paul Millsap, Tim Duncan, DeMarcus Cousins
Reasoning: The NBA still requires voters to pick two guards, two forwards and a center for each team. I lean toward team success on close calls, which gave the nod to Duncan over Utah Jazz forward Gordon Hayward. Third-team center Cousins’ numbers were too good to disregard even on a bad Kings team.
Coach of the Year
1. Mike Budenholzer, 2. Steve Kerr, 3. Brad Stevens
Reasoning: Budenholzer’s Hawks were supposed to be marginal to reach the playoffs this season and they clinched the Eastern Conference’s top seed weeks before the end of the regular season. Kerr had a spectacular season for a rookie coach. Stevens overcame a season of roster churn (22 players appeared in games) to get the Celtics into the playoffs.
Defensive Player of the Year
1. Kawhi Leonard, 2. Marc Gasol, 3. DeAndre Jordan
Reasoning: The choices were abundant. I just as easily could have voted for Chicago’s Jimmy Butler or New Orleans’ Anthony Davis. Leonard has been crucial to the Spurs, injecting youth, athleticism and intensity into an aging team.
Most Improved Player
1. Butler, 2. Draymond Green, 3. Rudy Gobert
Reasoning: Butler’s improved play at the offensive end was a huge factor in the Bulls surviving another Derrick Rose injury. Golden State’s Green is an elite defender shooting 42 percent from 3-point range. Utah’s Gobert is going to be an elite rim-protector.
1. Louis Williams, 2. Isaiah Thomas, 3. Jamal Crawford
Reasoning: After stops in Philadelphia and Atlanta, Williams has found a home in Toronto, embracing this reserve role. Thomas changed the Celtics’ season after the trade deadline, taking over fourth quarters.
Rookie of the Year
1. Andrew Wiggins, 2. Nikola Mirotic, 3. Nerlens Noel
Reasoning: Minnesota’s Wiggins led all rookies in scoring (16.9 per game) by a wide margin. Chicago’s Mirotic was a major contributor on a playoff team. Philadelphia’s Noel is top-10 in the NBA in blocks and steals.
First team: Leonard, Marc Gasol, Jordan, Butler, Green
Second team: Anthony Davis, Tony Allen, James, Paul, Serge Ibaka
Reasoning; Charlotte Hornet Michael Kidd-Gilchrist is now in the discussion for one of these teams. His time will come.
First team: Wiggins, Mirotic, Noel, Elfrid Payton, Zach LaVine
Second team: Boj Bogdanovic, Rodney Hood, Jordan Clarkson, Marcus Smart, Jusuf Nurkic
Reasoning: Bogdanovic and Smart get extra credit for contributing to playoff contenders. Hood excelled in the second half of the season.
Bonnell: 704-358-5129; @rick_bonnell