Remember when we hotly debated the MVP award two centuries ago? Well, awards day in the NBA is finally here, and the league teased its untimely awards show by releasing the All-Rookie and All-Defensive teams Monday.
With all of the talent in the league, snubs on all of these teams are unavoidable. Some of the best two-way players in the league, like Klay Thompson and Kevin Durant, can’t even crack the top two defensive squads, while this year, the rookie class that suffered from injuries and tepid seasons provided a more eclectic grouping on its first and second teams. Snubs aside, the results provided some surprising appearances and some voting abnormalities that were more hilarious than offensive.
In honor of the selections, we decided to dissect the teams and the votes by coming up with a few awards of our own.
Out-of-Nowhere Award: Willy Hernangomez on the Rookie First Team
Paolo Uggetti: Willy Hernangomez is as fun to watch as his name is fun to say, and he was one of the few bright spots during a Knicks season that was filled with darkness. But when I saw the second-round pick ahead of of high-profile rookies like Jamal Murray and Jaylen Brown, I was shocked. Yet Hernangomez averaged 8.2 points and 7.0 rebounds in 18.4 minutes a game, a far more robust and efficient stat line than Murray’s (9.9 points, 2.6 rebounds in 21.5 minutes), Brown’s (6.6 points, 2.8 rebounds in 17.2 minutes), and even Brandon Ingram’s (9.4 points, 4.0 rebounds in 28.8 minutes). He deserved this spot, even if it’s surprising given his late selection in last year’s draft. Get ready to go on the trading block, Willy. Your team president is apparently averse to youthful success.
Least Defendable All-Defense Vote: Isaiah Thomas
Haley O’Shaughnessy: In Round 2 of the playoffs, the Celtics defense looked best after Isaiah Thomas was hidden in the corner. It’s not luck, as the team likes to say, that this was the case. The season was filled with moments in which Thomas would manufacture points on the offensive end, only to give them up a shot clock later. Boston’s worst defensive rating (108.6) during the regular season was when IT was on the court; its best (99.7) came with him on the sideline. So imagine the surprise (it is luck?) when Thomas received an actual vote from an actual voter for an All-Defensive team.
Who cast it? My money’s on Devin Booker.
Most Likely to Be Used As Whiteboard Material: Draymond Green Getting 99 of 100 First-Team Votes
Uggetti: Draymond Green is the best defensive player in the league. He will likely win DPOY at the NBA Awards on Monday night after winning two NBA titles in three years. He could retire tomorrow and probably have a case for the Hall of Fame. But don’t tell him he’s not the underdog anymore. Green’s motivation needs motivation. He thrives off of conjuring situations where he is being slighted, even when, in reality, he’s being praised as a savant of the modern NBA offense, a trailblazer of positionless basketball.
Green almost needs hatred and disdain to succeed, and even as an unquestionable great player and winner, he’s always going to be looking for shreds of stimulation. Draymond should have been unanimously voted onto the team, but this "snub" is largely meaningless in the grand scheme of things. Just wait until someone tells him and #99Votes becomes a hashtag with which Green punctuates all of his tweets.
Thank you, anonymous NBA voter, you just handed Green and the Warriors another title.
Award for Doing the Most With the Least Time: Yogi Ferrell
O’Shaughnessy: This could go to Joel Embiid, should he win Rookie of the Year during a season when he played in just 31 games. (But Embiid has kept rookie status over a stretch of three seasons, so maybe he isn’t particularly well suited for this award). For now, Mavericks guard Yogi Ferrell did the most with the least time. After going undrafted, Yogi played just 10 games for Brooklyn before the Nets (see: the Nets) waived him. Half a season passed before Dallas, on January 28, offered the former Indiana guard a 10-day contract.
By the time that deal expired, the Mavs had gone 4–1, Yogi had tied a franchise record, and the Mavs had offered him a two-year extension immediately in lieu of the usual second 10-day contract. One-hundred-thirty-nine days later, with 36 fewer games than the standard eligible rookie, Yogi was voted to the All-Rookie second team, receiving seven first-team votes and 49 second-team votes. (This comes two days after the Mavericks picked up his $1.3 million option for next season. Not a bad week.)
Most Valuable Cap Hit: Rudy Gobert
Uggetti: As Utah holds its collective breath as Gordon Hayward enters free agency, its prized center just got a little pricier. Due to the new CBA, Rudy Gobert’s recent inclusion on the All-Defense first team comes with a cap hit increase of $500,000 for the Jazz.
In a world of millions and billions, 500K may seem like the type of pocket change that Steve Ballmer would discard with ease. But in a world where a couple of thousand dollars may push a team into the luxury tax, this development could turn out to be a significant one for Utah, which, cap holds included, is over the cap as of this moment. But hey, congrats to Rudy. Maybe Hayward will see that playing with one of the best defenders in the league could be a reason to stay in Utah.