As the 2015-16 NBA season comes to an end, we hand out the seventh edition of our annual Stiffy Awards ...
STIFF OF THE YEAR: BLAKE GRIFFIN
Shockingly, none of my Denver Stiffs colleagues selected the Los Angeles Clippers' Blake Griffin for this year's highest honor, and yet to me Griffin is the overwhelmingly obvious choice. First, Griffin injured his quadriceps muscle in a game versus the Los Angeles Lakers on Christmas Day. That injury was originally supposed to leave Griffin off the roster for about five games but it ended up being 13. During those 13 games, the Clippers won nine straight and 11 games total. Then, while traveling with his team to Toronto, Griffin got into an altercation at a restaurant with the team's assistant equipment manager, punched him in the face and broke his hand. Combining the quad injury, the self-inflicted broken hand injury and the four-game penalty for the punch, Griffin missed 45 games and yet his Clippers went 30-15 (67%) without their perennial All-Star and Kia Motors pitchman - in line with where they've been for the previous three seasons.
Frankly, for exposing the general public to those nonsensical Kia ads alone Griffin should be given a Stiffy Lifetime Achievement Award. But for now he'll have settle for the 2015-2016 Stiff of the Year honors.
Runners Up: Ty Lawson, Josh Smith
Adam's Pick: Markieff Morris | Jeff's Pick: Matt Barnes | Mike's Pick: Tayshaun Prince | Daniel's Pick: Josh Smith | Zach's Pick: Lawson
NON-STIFF OF THE YEAR: STEPHEN CURRY
When you're the best player on a team coming off an NBA Championship that is on target to meet or exceed the NBA's all-time regular season wins record of 72 games, you're the NBA MVP. Not much room for argument there. Simply put, Stephen Curry is having a season for the ages - highlighted by his record-shattering three-pointers made - and should be rewarded with his second-straight MVP Award.
Runner Up: Russell Westbrook
Adam's Pick: Curry | Jeff's Pick: Curry | Mike's Pick: Curry | Daniel's Pick: Curry | Zach's Pick: Curry
WORST ROOKIE OF THE YEAR: MARIO HEZONJA
For the second consecutive season, the NBA Draft's fifth overall selection is our Worst Rookie of the Year Award recipient. Playing for a young, inexperienced Orlando Magic team that theoretically had plenty of minutes available to Mario Hezonja to participate in, the young Croatian wasn't able to take advantage of the opportunities bestowed upon him and will need a re-boot next season. Given that he just turned 21, here's hoping that Hezonja will be a productive and exciting player from his sophomore season onward.
Runners Up: Frank Kaminsky, D'Angelo Russell
Adam's Pick: Jahlil Okafor | Jeff's Pick: Okafor | Mike's Pick: Hezonja | Daniel's Pick: Marcelo Huertas | Zach's Pick: Hezonja
BEST ROOKIE OF THE YEAR: KARL-ANTHONY TOWNS
The New York Knicks' rookie center Kristaps Porzingis has been an inspiring and exciting story, but even his rookie campaign doesn't compare to the exemplary one that Karl-Anthony Towns has had for the Minnesota Timberwolves. Towns's stat line of 18.3 ppg (on 54.6% shooting), 10.3 rpg and 1.7 bpg is terrific and he has produced while starting in all of the Timberwolves game ... and all while playing for Sam Mitchell!
Runner Up: Kristaps Porzingis
Adam's Pick: Towns | Jeff's Pick: Towns | Mike's Pick: Towns | Daniel's Pick: Towns | Zach's Pick: Towns
WORST DEFENSIVE PLAYER(S) OF THE YEAR: SACRAMENTO KINGS
While there were plenty of crummy defenders throughout the NBA this season, no one particular player stood out as an especially awful defender above and beyond his peers. That said, the Sacramento Kings as a team (despite amazingly beating the Nuggets on Saturday night at Denver's Pepsi Center) are playing historically awful defense and it's resulting in a would-be / could-be playoff team missing the post-season for the ninth consecutive season.
Runner Up: Los Angeles Lakers
Jeff's Pick: Jeff Green | Mike's Pick: J.J. Barea | Daniel's Pick: Sasha Vujacic | Zach's Pick: Kobe Bryant
BEST DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR: KAWHI LEONARD
Completely opposite of the Kings are the world-beating San Antonio Spurs who - to date - haven't lost a home game and are playing historically great defense. The Spurs' defensive anchor is All-Star and former NBA Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard who looks poised to receive his second consecutive Defensive Player of the Year Award. And it's well deserved.
Runner Up: Draymond Green
Jeff's Pick: Leonard | Mike's Pick: Green | Daniel's Pick: Leonard | Zach's Pick: Leonard
WORST SIXTH MAN OF THE YEAR: JOSH SMITH
Just how bad has Josh Smith been this season? Not only did the team - the Clippers - that signed him as a free agent before the season began eventually cut him, but the team - the Houston Rockets - that took him back (where, coincidentally, Smith had been the previous season) have DNP-CD'd him for the last 15 consecutive games.
Runner Up: Lawson
Adam's Pick: Josh Smith | Jeff's Pick: Jeff Green | Mike's Pick: Lawson | Daniel's Pick: Green | Zach's Pick: Marco Belinelli
BEST SIXTH MAN OF THE YEAR: BORIS DIAW
I have to give my colleague Adam Mares credit here for calling the Spurs' Boris Diaw on this one. While Diaw's stats don't jump off the page, he has undoubtedly been the anchor for the Spurs bench and is a big reason why they met set the record for most home wins in a single season. I really wanted to pick the Denver Nuggets own Will Barton here, but Barton's inconsistency and the Nuggets win/loss record probably leaves him just shy of winning this award.
Runners Up: Will Barton, Andre Iguodala, Jamal Crawford
Adam's Pick: Diaw | Jeff's Pick: Crawford | Mike's Pick: Barton | Daniel's Pick: Barton | Zach's Pick: Ryan Anderson
LEAST IMPROVED PLAYER OF THE YEAR: TY LAWSON
Has any player in NBA history - barring a severe injury - fallen off a production cliff at the age of 28 quite like Ty Lawson did this season? Jettisoned from the Nuggets in exchange for essentially nothing during the off-season after several off-the-court incidents, Lawson failed to produce in Houston and has seemingly cursed his new team - the Indiana Pacers - since arriving just a few weeks ago. When you go from 15.2 ppg and 9.6 apg to 5.7 ppg and 3.3 apg just a season later, you are the Least Improved Player of the Year.
Adam's Pick: Lawson | Jeff's Pick: Lawson | Mike's Pick: Lawson | Daniel's Pick: Anthony Bennett | Zach's Pick: Lawson
MOST IMPROVED PLAYER OF THE YEAR: C.J. MCCOLLUM
If you're wondering how the Portland Trail Blazers - stripped of key players like LaMarcus Aldridge, Wesley Matthews, Robin Lopez and Arron Afflalo - somehow still sneaked into the middle of the Western Conference Playoffs, look no further than the vast improvement by C.J. McCollum. Leaping from 6.8 ppg and just three starts last season to 20.7 ppg and 73 starts this season, McCollum should be a slam dunk for the NBA's Most Improved Player Award.
Adam's Pick: McCollum | Jeff's Pick: Damian Lillard | Mike's Pick: Curry | Daniel's Pick: McCollum | Zach's Pick: McCollum
WORST COACH(ES) OF THE YEAR: DEREK FISHER AND BYRON SCOTT
For the second year in a row, I'm handing out this prestigious coaching award to two ex-Lakers players who are proving yet again what an awful decision it is for organizations to hire ex-Lakers to be head coaches. Fisher goes back-to-back here, following up his dreadful 17-65 record from 2014-15 with a 23-31 record this season before being canned by his former coach-turned-Knicks GM Phil Jackson. Better yet, before Fisher guided the Knicks into the standings toilet he got in trouble during the off-season for dating Matt Barnes's wife. And then, soon after Fisher was fired by the Knicks, he was caught on Instagram hanging with Barnes's wife again (it should be noted that Barnes and his wife are separated). This year, Fisher is joined by fellow Lakers teammate Byron Scott who will finish the 2015-16 season by accomplishing a tremendous feat: overseeing the three worst seasons in Lakers franchise history since the team moved to Los Angeles from Minneapolis in 1960.
Adam's Pick: Fisher (and his replacement, Kurt Rambis) | Jeff's Pick: Scott Skiles | Mike's Pick: Scott | Daniel's Pick: Scott | Zach's Pick: Fisher
BEST COACH OF THE YEAR: TERRY STOTTS
George Karl might be struggling in Sacramento this season, but his "coaching tree" is doing pretty well - evident by the coaching job that Dwane Casey is doing in Toronto and Terry Stotts is doing in Portland. Stotts - now in his fourth season with the Trail Blazers - is taking a roster that been stripped of four starters during the off-season and has turned them into a potential five-seed in the tough Western Conference. And Stotts has done it by developing youngsters like McCollum, Allen Crabbe, Mason Plumlee and Ed Davis.
Runners Up: Gregg Popovich, Steve Kerr
Adam's Pick: Stotts | Jeff's Pick: Stotts | Mike's Pick: Popovich | Daniel's Pick: Stotts | Zach's Pick: Stotts
WORST EXECUTIVE OF THE YEAR: RYAN MCDONOUGH
Wow. There are so many choices for the our Worst Executive of the Year Award recipient this season that I'm not sure where to start. The Kings' Vlade Divac was unable to exert any control over his roster or back his head coach, Karl, leading to a ninth-consecutive non-playoff season in Sacramento. The Philadelphia 76ers' Sam Hinkie's seemingly endless tanking job reached an all-time low with his 76ers now only tying a record for futility for most games lost to begin a season but threatening to tie their own franchise's dubious NBA record with just nine wins for the entire season. And the Clippers' Doc Rivers - who also serves as head coach - screwed himself by bringing Lance Stephenson and Josh Smith aboard, both of whom nearly sunk the Clippers season as if Griffin's broken hand incident wasn't enough. But this year's award has to go to the Phoenix Suns' Ryan McDonough who should write a book titled "How to Take a 48-Win Team and Turn it Into a 20-Win Team in Just Three Years!" Other than stealing Devin Booker with the 13th overall pick in the 2015 NBA Draft, virtually every move McDonough has made since arriving in May of 2013 has been a bad one.
Runners Up: Vlade Divac, Doc Rivers, Sam Hinkie
Adam's Pick: Divac / Rivers | Mike's Pick: Hinkie | Daniel's Pick: Divac | Zach's Pick: McDonough
BEST EXECUTIVE OF THE YEAR: R.C. BUFORD
The San Antonio Spurs' R.C. Buford (with help from head coach Gregg Popovich) maneuvered the off-season in ways never-before-seen in the NBA and the result has been one of the best regular season teams in NBA history. Somehow, someway Buford was able to add the perennial All-Star Aldridge to his roster along with season veterans like David West, Kevin Martin and Andre Miller. The Spurs could set the NBA's all-time best home wins record and have won a franchise record 64 games ... and they still have six games to play!
Adam's Pick: Buford | Mike's Pick: Buford | Daniel's Pick: Stan Van Gundy | Zach's Pick: Buford