Filling out the NBA Awards ballot is never easy. Well, some decisions are easy. Others require a lot of research.
Players I really like were omitted from categories, but here’s what I decided:
Stephen Curry, Golden State
Rest of the ballot: 2. Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City; 3. Kawhi Leonard, San Antonio; 4. Chris Paul, Los Angeles Clippers; 5. LeBron James, Cleveland.
Comment: One of the easiest picks. The NBA’s best player this season, Curry led the Warriors to the best record in NBA history.
Curry’s 2014-15 MVP season was phenomenal, and he somehow managed to improve, leading the league at 30.1 points per game and making an NBA-record 402 three-pointers. He also led the NBA with 2.14 steals per game.
402Three-pointers by Stephen Curry this season, an NBA record
Defensive Player of the Year
Kawhi Leonard, San Antonio
Rest of the ballot: 2. Draymond Green, Golden State; 3. Avery Bradley, Boston.
Comment: In an era when defense supposedly is impossible thanks to rule changes to favor offenses, the Spurs proved that’s not the case, and Leonard is a big reason.
The forward is a versatile defender and so good that teams sometimes avoid going to the player he is guarding.
Leonard won the award last season and figures to win it a few more times in his career.
Rookie of the Year
Karl-Anthony Towns, Minnesota
Rest of the ballot: 2. Kristaps Porzingis, New York; 3. Devin Booker, Phoenix.
Comment: Another easy call. Towns led all rookies with averages of 18.3 points and 10.5 rebounds and 51 double doubles.
Towns left no doubt why he was the first overall pick in last year’s draft.
Sixth Man of the Year
Enes Kanter, Oklahoma City
Rest of the ballot: 2. Jamal Crawford, Los Angeles Clippers; 3. Andre Iguodala, Golden State.
Comment: On a team with Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, Kanter capitalized on his chances.
Kanter averaged 12.7 points (on 57.6 percent shooting) and 8.1 rebounds in 21.0 minutes.
Coach of the Year
Dwane Casey, Toronto
Rest of the ballot: 2. Steve Clifford, Charlotte; 3. Rick Carlisle, Dallas.
Comment: Casey led the Raptors to their best-ever regular season with 56 wins and another Atlantic Division title. Toronto isn’t as talented as Cleveland but finished just a game behind the Cavaliers.
Most Improved Player
C.J. McCollum, Portland
Rest of the ballot: 2. Will Barton, Denver; 3. Reggie Jackson, Detroit.
Comment: McCollum was a major reason Portland surprised many and made the playoffs, averaging 20.8 points a year after averaging 6.8 points as a backup. Most teams that lose four starters from a playoff team falter, but McCollum helped keep the Trail Blazers in the mix.
14.0Point-per-game improvement by Portland’s C.J. McCollum this season
Guards: Curry, Golden State; Westbrook, Oklahoma City.
Forwards: Leonard, San Antonio; James, Cleveland.
Center: DeMarcus Cousins, Kings.
Guards: Paul, L.A. Clippers; James Harden, Houston.
Forwards: Durant, Oklahoma City; Green, Golden State.
Center: Andre Drummond, Detroit.
Guards: Damian Lillard, Portland; Isaiah Thomas, Boston.
Forwards: Paul George, Indiana; Anthony Davis, New Orleans.
Center: DeAndre Jordan, L.A. Clippers.
Comment: Perhaps the toughest to sort out are the guards. It was tough leaving John Wall, DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry off the teams. All are All-Stars, but I get only six guards.
Guards: Bradley, Boston; Danny Green, San Antonio.
Forwards: Leonard, San Antonio; Green, Golden State.
Center: Rudy Gobert, Utah.
Guards: Klay Thompson, Golden State; Tony Allen, Memphis.
Forwards: LaMarcus Aldridge, San Antonio; Iguodala, Golden State.
Center: Hassan Whiteside, Miami.
Comment: The most subjective of all the teams to pick. A lot of this is the eye test, along with stats. And being on a good defensive team like San Antonio or Golden State doesn’t hurt, either.
All-Rookie Team (regardless of position)
Towns, Minnesota; Porzingis, New York; Booker, Phoenix; Jahlil Okafor, Philadelphia; Myles Turner, Indiana.
D’Angelo Russell, Los Angeles Lakers; Stanley Johnson, Detroit; Justise Winslow, Miami; Willie Cauley-Stein, Kings; Emmanuel Mudiay, Denver
Comment: Unlike last year, there were plenty of contenders. Could have gone a lot of different ways, a testament to the depth of last year’s draft.