It is not unusual for an NBA champion to have no awards except for the big one, so the level of today’s argument starts from a fairly trivial base, namely this:
It is perfectly fine if the Golden State Warriors get no individual awards, as long as they get the one that gets awarded in mid-June. In fact, it might serve as validation for the one thing the team has stood for throughout its brief but eye-watering run of success.
That their strength is actually in their whole-is-greater-than-the-sum-of-their-parts-hood, and a team that gets no individual awards but still gets rings and parades speaks louder than one with a lot of individual bric-a-brac and the late spring off.
Of course, this seems safe to say because (a) more than half (34) of the champions went award-less since awards started being invented in 1954, (b) because the Warriors have no clear no-brainer standout in any category, as Stephen Curry was a year ago, and (c) this could be a big individual awards year for the Houston Rockets.
You see, for every argument you might choose to make for any Warrior and any award, there is an equally compelling if not greater argument for someone else on another team. And no, this is not a contrarian position for the joy of being contrarian – if that’s how you define joy.
Example: The Most Valuable Player award. Had Kevin Durant stayed healthy and maintained his dynamism through his 19-game absence (20, if you count the game in which he was injured), he would have been a compelling non-Westbrookian, non-Hardenian candidate. But he didn’t, and neither Stephen Curry nor Draymond Green had an MVP season on their own.
Example 2: Defensive Player Of The Year. Green has done everything a DPOY can do in his career and has won zero times, which is often used an argument for him winning this one. It’s not a compelling argument, though. What is, is that however you choose your metric, he, San Antonio’s Kawhi Leonard and Utah’s Rudy Gobert are joined at the block-out hip. They play different positions so direct comparisons are at the apples-v.-oranges level, but a vote or either is sufficiently defensible. Likely Result: No Warrior, but at least in a very close vote, because while Green can guard all five positions and Leonard is about to become the category’s designated annual winner, Gobert has been the dominant figure (ADR to Gordon Hayward) on a non-playoff team that will have won 50 games, whose presence makes Utah the clear best defense in the league and whose absence make it 21st.
Example 3: Rookie Of The Year. Not even discussable, Warrioristically speaking. There are two rational possibilities, Philadelphia’s Dario Saric and Milwaukee’s Malcolm Brogdon. Saric will probably win, but not because it’s a very crowded field.
Example 4: Most Improved Player. Two names leap out, neither one Warriors – Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo and Denver’s Nikola Jokic.
Example 5: Sixth Man Of The Year. Now here is a very crowded field, and Andre Iguodala is as good a candidate as any. But he isn’t necessarily BETTER than, say, Houston’s Lou Williams or Eric Gordon, Oklahoma City’s Enes Kanter, or the surprise name in this group, Memphis’ Zach Randolph. Iguodala’s body of work in the role is vital in understanding why the Warriors are, but again, body of work arguments don’t tend to play. Call it Gordon, though I am well prepped to be wrong.
Example 6: Coach Of The Year. Given Utah’s raft of injuries, the clear and ever-present choice is Quin Snyder, who clearly learned from his hot disaster at Missouri and became not only more flexible tactically but more inventive strategically. The award was made for him as opposed to, say, Steve Kerr, who if he guides the Warriors to the title will have led the team with the best players, thus eliminating him as it did two years when Atlanta’s Mike Budenholzer won. Mike D’Antoni in Houston is another appealing choice, having cleared the Toyota Center swamp by inspiring Harden to be all that he could be offensively while tidying up his defense to merely spotty levels. Also Erik Spoelstra in Miami and Mike Malone in Denver, if your taste runs to teams that just missed the playoffs.
Example 7: Executive Of The Year. The two other times the Warriors won the title since moving west, they got this award (Dick Vertleib in 1975, Bob Myers in 2015), which is unusual since the award has only gone to the eventual winner two other times (Jerry Krause in 1996 and Danny Ainge in 2008). Ainge is a candidate again, as is Houston’s Daryl Morey, Utah’s Dennis Lindsey and Milwaukee’s John Hammond.
In sum, the Warriors could come away emptyhanded on an individual level, achieve everything they need to, and walk away happy and fulfilled because they did what needed to be done in unison.
That is, if they’re planning on walking all that talking.