NBA Awards 2008 Revisited

 by Jon Nichols

I’m going to be taking a look at the award winners for the 07-08 season as voted on by the media and see how those match up with what my Composite Score statistic tells me.  Be warned: you probably won’t agree with everything you read below, and you may find some of it shocking.  But before you decide to put me on your personal “ignore” list, try to think about what these numbers are telling us.  They may not be perfect, but they can show how we overrate certain things and how some players who greatly help their teams win are underrated.  Of course, I don’t claim to be smarter than the experienced media members who’ve been covering this game for years.  But I’m going to show you what I got anyways…

Most Valuable Player
Actual Winner: Kobe Bryant
Composite Score Winner: Kevin Garnett
Composite Score Honorable Mentions: Chauncey Billups, Paul Pierce, Manu Ginobili

For the sake of discussion, I’m going to interpret “Most Valuable” as “Most Productive.”

The cat’s out of the bag.  Kobe Bryant ranks as just the 8th best player in the league according to my numbers.  Probably even more surprising to some people is that he ranks as just the 11th best offensively.  Don’t stop reading!  There’s a reason for this.  One, he wasn’t as deadly efficient as say a Chris Paul or Chauncey Billups, and efficiency plays a large role in my rating system.  Also, although the Lakers were obviously much better on offense when he was in the game, they were still ok even when he wasn’t playing.

Garnett was actually only a little better on offense, ranking 7th in the league.  But his defense simply blows the competition away.  His offensive and defensive talents combined make him the top player.  Billups’ rank may surprise some people, but he was tremendous on offense and not too shabby on defense.  Pierce and Ginobili were solid on offense and excellent on defense.  Actual MVP runner-up Chris Paul ranks 6th according to my system, just behind LeBron James.

Rookie of the Year
Actual Winner: Kevin Durant
Composite Score Winner: Jamario Moon
Composite Score Honorable Mentions: Carl Landry, Joakim Noah, Thaddeus Young

As it turns out, Kevin Durant rated quite poorly in my system.  His final numbers put him as the 223rd best player in the league, in the 31st percentile.  Why so low?  For one, although he scored in bunches, he did it quite inefficiently.  His offensive rating was a very low 100.  However, his PER was slightly above average and his plus-minus was practically zero, so he still ranked as an above average offensive player.  Defense was a different story.  Durant rated terribly in every defensive category, putting him near the bottom of the league.

Unnoticed in Canada, Moon had a tremendous season.  He was very good on offense and dominant on defense, ranking as the 10th best defender in the league.  Overall, he ranked as the 2nd best player on his team and the 15th best player in the league.  The honorable mentions were far behind Moon.  Simply put, he was the best rookie in the NBA last year, and it wasn’t even close.     

Durant’s case shows that sometimes people are just looking at the wrong numbers.  He may have scored a lot of points, but he did it in a bad way, and he appeared to have totally ignored the other end of the floor.  Despite that, when all is said and done, he still may end up being a superstar.

Coach of the Year
Actual Winner: Byron Scott
Composite Score Winner: Byron Scott

Unfortunately, I don’t have any numbers for coaches.  So I’ll go with the media on this one.

Most Improved Player Award
Actual Winner: Hedo Turkoglu
Composite Score Winner: Kendrick Perkins
Composite Score Honorable Mentions: Andrew Bynum, Rajon Rondo, Mike Dunleavy

This one was a toss-up, as Perkins and Bynum both made tremendous improvements over last year.  Perkins went from being ranked 182nd in 2007 to 12th this year, and Bynum went from being ranked 152nd in 2007 to 11th.  However, Perkins stayed healthy and his team was dominant, so he gets the nod.  Perkins was solid and efficient on offense this year, but the real story was his defense.  He ranked as the 2nd best defender in the league, behind only his frontcourt partner, Garnett.  Bynum was great on both ends, ranking near the top in both offense and defense.

Rondo was another key player in the Boston defense, and his numbers reflect that.  Dunleavy became one of the better offensive players in the league.  Turkoglu was left off the list but it wasn’t his fault.  He was very good this season; he simply wasn’t that bad in the past.  Turkoglu has always been an underappreciated player.  It took a strong season from him for people to finally notice that.

Defensive Player of the Year
Actual Winner: Kevin Garnett
Composite Score Winner: Kevin Garnett
Composite Score Honorable Mentions: Kendrick Perkins, Chuck Hayes, Manu Ginobili

No argument here.  As I mentioned earlier, Garnett was far and away the best defender.  He’s always been a great defender, and ranked 6th in the league in 2007.  The only difference this time is that he was part of a much better overall defensive team in the Celtics, which undoubtedly helped his numbers even more.  Chuck Hayes has always been an underrated defender (22nd in 2006 and 13th in 2007), but he took it to a new level this season.  Ginobili has also always been good (he ranked 1st defensively in 2005), but you wonder how much of his numbers are a product of Bruce Bowen taking the other team’s best perimeter player combined with the Spurs’ overall superb team defense.

As a side note: Does anyone else find it odd that there is an award for Defensive Player of the Year, but not a similar one for the Offensive Player of the Year?  I assume it’s because most people tend to overlook defense and in essence consider the MVP award to be all about offense.  That would explain the media’s voting for that award in the past, including this year’s selection of Kobe Bryant.  Composite Score, on the other hand, weights offense and defense equally, inevitably leading to confused and angry e-mails from my readers. 

Sixth Man Award
Actual Winner: Manu Ginobili
Composite Score Winner: Manu Ginobili
Composite Score Honorable Mentions: Leon Powe, Carl Landry, Bobby Jackson

If Ginobili is considered a 6th man (which is slightly debatable), he’s the clear winner of this award, and will be seemingly for eternity as long as he comes off the bench.  Ginobili received a bit more hype than usual this year, but I still say he’s underrated.  His overall Composite Score ranks since I began keeping track of it in 2004 are as follows: 28, 1, 1, and 5. Yes, you heard right.  By my numbers (which are based on the numbers of some very smart folks), Ginobili was the best player in the league in 2005 and 2006, and not too bad in ’04, ’07, and ’08.  This should also be a tribute to the dominance of the Spurs; on most other teams, Ginobili would rank very high, but probably not this high.

Powe has become a solid player who plays his role to perfection on both offense and defense.  The Houston Rockets actually had two bench players at the top of this list in Landry and Jackson, which may help explain how the team won so many games even after Yao Ming went down with an injury.

            So there you have it.  There were some surprises.  But in the end, the media did a good job and didn’t make any terrible picks, with the possible exception of Durant.





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