Monte Poole's NBA awards at the All-Star break
All-Star Weekend is upon us
With the NBA on sabbatical, also known as the All-Star break, it’s time to hand out invisible hardware. These are not midseason awards, as two-thirds of the season is gone – unless you’re the Warriors, who could play another 103-game season. We start with four awards that don't actually exist...
Most Disappointing Team -- Houston Rockets
From the Western Conference Finals to ninth place in the West. This is an utter mess of a squad. See what happens when talent is collected without regard to such things as chemistry and cohesiveness. The runner-up Washington Wizards would be a distant second.
Most Disappointing Player -- Kyle Korver
Last year, Korver shot 52.3 percent from deep through 53 games, and was an All-Star. This year, he's shooting 38.6 percent from beyond the arc. He’d have to share the award with Clippers guard Lance Stephenson. The runner-up would be Suns forward Markieff Morris, a talented player who shows no sign of maturity, much less professionalism.
Most Pleasantly Surprising Player -- Ish Smith
Before Ish Smith arrived, the 76ers were 1-29. Since acquiring him, Philly is 7-16. Smith was a Warrior for about a minute, and it’s great to see his perseverance be rewarded. The runner-up would be Jazz forward Derrick Favors.
Comeback Player of the Year -- Paul George
George would be the leader approaching the stretch. His is a truly inspiring story of excellence following agony. The runner-up would be Thunder forward Kevin Durant.
Coach of the Year -- Brad Stevens
This one is complicated because the Warriors have created such unique circumstances. Luke Walton was fabulous but has no official record. Steve Kerr is 48-4 but has coached only nine games. Meanwhile, Stevens is going to win 50 games with a young roster filled with role players. He is a maestro. We marvel at his work. Runner-up: Walton/Kerr, Warriors. Winning at historic levels cannot go unnoticed.
Most Improved -- C.J. McCollum
Several players have developed nicely, but none has been gone from such relative obscurity to become a key member of a decent squad. When a team loses four starters yet enters the break holding a No. 7 playoff seed, someone has shattered expectations. McCollum replaced Wes Matthews and is having a better season. Runner-up: G Steph Curry, Warriors. Doesn’t seem fair, does it?
Rookie of the Year -- Karl-Anthony Towns
In this darkest of seasons, beginning with the loss of franchise icon Flip Saunders and continuing through team’s 55-loss pace, Towns has been a beacon. The best that can be said of a rookie during his first season is that he looks like the real deal. KAT is a legitimate cornerstone for a team and town that needs it. Runner-up: C Nikola Jokic, Nuggets. A force. And, no, we didn’t forget KP or Jahlil.
Sixth Man of the Year -- Andre Iguodala
This award typically goes to someone who comes off the bench shooting, providing a jolt of offense. Iguodala comes off the bench and immediately does to a game – at both ends – what a conductor does to an orchestra, speeding things up or slowing them down as he sees best for the moment. He also guards LeBron, KD and ‘Melo. Runner-up: (Tie) F Will Barton, Nuggets and Ryan Anderson, Pelicans.
Defensive Player of the Year -- Draymond Green
He’s superb on the ball or within scheme, guards 1-through-5 and his rebounding in traffic – against appreciably bigger, taller players – is astonishing. If choosing Steph over Monta lifted the Warriors into a contender, choosing Draymond over D-Lee has taken them to the top. Draymond’s D changes the game, and the numbers back it up. Runner-up: F Kawhi Leonard, Spurs. Beyond terrific, but loses a close race.
MVP -- Steph Curry
Curry leads the NBA in scoring and is on pace to demolish his record for most 3-pointers in a season, which was set a year ago. His percentages are up; he’s the sole member of the 50-40-90 Club. He’s the essential ingredient of the conceivably most remarkable team we’ve seen in recent years and maybe ever. He’d be practically perfect if not for those annoying turnovers. Runner-up: G Russell Westbrook, Thunder. Only Curry is more electrifying.