Ah, our annual ritual is back: The Stiffys!
After accidentally skipping a year (thanks to the NBA lockout, 2012 screwed a lot of things up for us here at Denver Stiffs), our annual regular season awards are back.
When we last conducted this exercise, Carmelo Anthony and LeBron James jointly walked away with the prestigious Stiff of the Year Award ... thanks in large part for screwing the franchises that drafted them. But what a difference two seasons makes. Not only have our Nuggets thrived in the post-Melo Era, but the Knicks have thrived, too (well, by Knicks standards). And I don't think anyone looks at James as a big Stiff anymore for stabbing Cleveland in back ... after all, he might be playing there again in two years!
So while anyone can tell you who the most valuable player is, who the best coach is, etc. it takes much more creativity and in-depth analysis to determine who the least valuable player is, who the most ineffective coach is, and so forth.
So without further adieu, here are the 2012-13 winners and not-winners of our annual Stiffy Awards!
STIFF OF THE YEAR: DWIGHT HOWARD
Is there really any debate on this one? Not only did Howard ruin the Magic for a decade by forcing a trade to the Lakers, but he has turned a would-be champion Lakers team into a possibly lottery-bound Lakers team - making me look like complete idiot for predicting a Lakers championship in the process. Worse, throughout the season Howard has hinted that he may not even stay in Los Angeles at season's end because he can't handle the pressure that comes with being a Laker. Gee, thanks Dwight.
While the Melodrama may have lasted longer than anyone cared for, the Dwightmare seems to be never-ending. And as soon as the 2012-13 regular season over (and it may be very soon for the Lakers), the Dwightmare will be up and running full force as ESPN and their ilk run endless "Where will Dwight go?" pieces on the air. I just wish this giant cry baby would go away already.
Honorable Mention: Andrew Bynum, Rudy Gay
Nate's Pick: Howard | Jeff's Pick: DeSagana Diop (huh?) | Colin's Pick: Howard
NON-STIFF OF THE YEAR: LEBRON JAMES
James gets to add this prestigious award to his ever-growing trophy collection, right alongside his Stiff of the Year from 2011. Let's give James credit where credit is due: since departing Cleveland in 2010 he has been the NBA's most dominant force, will have (by June's end) appeared in three straight NBA Finals and will probably have two rings. It may have taken James a while to grow up, but he appears to finally have done so and will remain a force to be reckoned with for years to come.
Honorable Mention: Kevin Durant, Tim Duncan, James Harden
Nate's Pick: James | Jeff's Pick: James | Colin's Pick: James
WORST ROOKIE OF THE YEAR: ROYCE WHITE
This one was a tough call between Royce White (who never appeared in a single game), Austin Rivers (who played poorly in 61 games before breaking his hand) and Thomas Robinson (who played poorly in 51 games for the Kings before being traded to the Rockets where he played ineffectively for the remainder of the season ... thus giving Robinson the rare distinction of being a top-five pick to get traded in-season). I have to go with White for not playing in a single game and being a complete headache for Rockets management in the process.
Honorable Mention: Thomas Robinson, Austin Rivers
Nate's Pick: Austin Rivers | Jeff's Pick: White | Colin's Pick: White
BEST ROOKIE OF THE YEAR: DAMIAN LILLARD
I don't think the Hornets will be the least bit disappointed for drafting Anthony Davis first overall, but Lillard may prove to be a once-in-a-generation point guard as his career progresses in Portland (and why does it have to be in Portland of all places?! Why couldn't the Bobcats or Wizards drafted this guy?!). I would take Lillard today over every point guard in the NBA except Chris Paul and Kyrie Irving.
Honorable Mention: Anthony Davis
Nate's Pick: Lillard | Jeff's Pick: Lillard | Colin's Pick: Lillard
WORST DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR: DWIGHT HOWARD
For someone who was supposedly a defensive stalwart prior to joining the Lakers, Howard has instead proved to be a leaky sieve, allowing just about any opposing player - big or small - to go right at him at score at the rim. And thus, it should be no surprise that the Lakers rank 7th in opposing team scoring and might miss the playoffs, despite having an assortment of talented players and Kobe Bryant having one of the best "old man" seasons of all team.
Honorable Mention: James Harden
Nate's Pick: Harden | Jeff's Pick: Andre Miller | Colin's Pick: Austin Rivers
BEST DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR: ANDRE IGUODALA
Admittedly a homer pick here, but Iguodala undoubtedly improved the Nuggets perimeter defensive upon arrival in Denver and sparked an improved nightly defensive presence from his teammates, notably Ty Lawson, Corey Brewer, Danilo Gallinari and Wilson Chandler. With Iguodala leading the way, the Nuggets rank second overall in steals and third overall in blocked shots.
Honorable Mention: Tim Duncan, Larry Sanders, Joakim Noah
Nate's Pick: Iguodala | Jeff's Pick: Iguodala | Colin's Pick: Iguodala
LEAST IMPROVED PLAYER OF THE YEAR: MICHAEL BEASLEY
I have to agree with my colleagues Nate and Jeff on this one. Now in his fifth NBA season, Beasley has officially gotten worse with age - posting career-worsts in points, rebounding and field goal percentage despite getting ample opportunity on a crappy Phoenix Suns squad to showcase his "talents". Since Kevin Durant was drafted second overall in 2007, the second overall pick seems to be a cursed selection ... although I'm optimistic that Derrick Williams and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist can reverse that trend.
Honorable Mention: Enes Kanter, Jimmer Fredette
Nate's Pick: Beasley | Jeff's Pick: Beasley | Colin's Pick: Carmelo Anthony
MOST IMPROVED PLAYER OF THE YEAR: JAMES HARDEN
It might seem odd to select an Olympian and former NBA Sixth Man Award recipient as a "Most Improved Player," but Harden raised his scoring average by nine points, his assists average by two and almost picked up an extra steal per game while leading the Rockets from lotteryland to a playoff spot in just one season. And as a good friend who knows the inner-workings of the NBA recently told me: "When you trade a top-15 player, it's never a good idea." I'm sure that's what Oklahoma City's Sam Presti is thinking these days in light of Harden's dramatic improvement.
Honorable Mention: Larry Sanders, Kosta Koufos
Nate's Pick: Ty Lawson | Jeff's Pick: Sanders | Colin's Pick: Sanders
WORST SIXTH MAN OF THE YEAR: ANTAWN JAMISON
Ah, it's so much fun ripping on the Lakers, isn't it? Jamison is old, yes, but the guy did average 17.2 ppg just a season ago and saw his production (along with his minutes) plummet this season across the board. Jamison was one of the reasons I thought the Lakers would turn in a great season and instead, he has been one of the many reasons why they've been largely ineffective as he's yet another old, offense-first player that the Lakers don't really need. Jamison now joins Mitch Richmond, Glen Rice, Gary Payton and (probably) Steve Nash on the list of "formerly awesome scorers whose career died when they became a Laker."
Honorable Mention: Michael Beasley
Nate's Pick: The Entire Blazers Bench | Jeff's Pick: Anthony Morrow | Colin's Pick: Manu Ginobili
BEST SIXTH MAN OF THE YEAR: J.R. SMITH
Former Nugget J.R. Smith has been on fire lately and is a huge reason why the Knicks recently won 13 straight games and will win their division for the first time since Jeff Van Gundy was their head coach. Moreover, Smith has made an assortment of difficult clutch shots all season long, living up to his "one man comeback" nickname that was bestowed upon him here in Denver by Scott Hastings.
Honorable Mention: Corey Brewer, Andre Miller, Wilson Chandler
Nate's Pick: Brewer | Jeff's Pick: Brewer | Colin's Pick: Smith
LEAST EFFECTIVE COACH OF THE YEAR: MIKE D'ANTONI
I must confess that I thought D'Antoni would be a good hire for the Lakers. After all, he had previously coached Steve Nash to back-to-back MVP seasons, was supposedly respected by Kobe Bryant and a ran an up-tempo offense beloved by most NBA players. But when you make Bernie Bickerstaff look like a better choice for head coach and have Lakers fans begging their franchise to grossly overpay for Phil Jackson, you're officially the Least Effective Coach of the Year.
Honorable Mention: Byron Scott, Doug Collins
Nate's Pick: Scott | Jeff's Pick: Keith Smart | Colin's Pick: D'Antoni
BEST COACH OF THE YEAR: GEORGE KARL
Is there really any question here? I could see the NBA mainstream media falling prey to their East Coast bias by voting in Woodson as the 2012-13 COY, but if Karl had this Nuggets roster with Woodson's schedule, Karl's team would have won 60-plus games. Easily. Karl has put together one of the more remarkable seasons - not just in Nuggets regular season history, but in NBA regular season history. Nevermind the fact that Karl didn't have a single player who got a sniff at an All-Star selection, but he overcame that, the NBA's most difficult schedule for any team and a myriad of injuries to key players (including Chandler, Lawson and Gallo) while delivering the most wins ever for an NBA Nuggets team and a 15-game win streak, too.
Honorable Mention: Gregg Popovich, Eric Spoelstra, Mike Woodson
Nate's Pick: Karl | Jeff's Pick: Karl | Colin's Pick: Karl
WORST EXECUTIVE OF THE YEAR: GEOFF PETRIE
At this point, Petrie may just be a stooge for the Maloof brothers as they attempt to purposefully ruin the Sacramento Kings roster in hopes of engendering NO fan support so the team can be more easily moved to a more lucrative market (i.e. Seattle). But regardless, Petrie's draft misses and trades deserve more than just some head scratches. After missing out on Lillard by drafting Robinson fifth overall, Petrie then traded Robinson for a role player who will have little impact on the Kings. And Petrie still deserves to be zinged for drafting Fredette last year over Klay Thompson, Alec Burks, Kawhi Leonard and Iman Shumpert. Why do I think had Fredette not been drafted 10th by Petrie that he'd have plummeted even further down the draft board?
Honorable Mention: David Kahn, Bryan Colangelo
Nate's Pick: Sam Presti | Jeff's Pick: Kahn | Colin's Pick: Kahn
BEST EXECUTIVE OF THE YEAR: MASAI UJIRI
Ujiri deserves this award for several years of astute moves, but his last two major moves - trading for Iguodala in the off-season and stealing Evan Fournier with the 20th overall selection in the 2012 NBA Draft - combined with his decision to do nothing at the trade deadline (notably hanging on to an injured Chandler) proved to be the final pieces in a complicated Nuggets puzzle that has produced the franchise's best NBA regular season ever.
Honorable Mention: Daryl Morey
Nate's Pick: Morey | Jeff's Pick: Ujiri | Colin's Pick: Ujiri