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NBA Roundtable: Regular Season Wrap-Up

Sean Burch, Andrew Seah, Sareen Tavidian |
April 19, 2014 | 12:09 p.m. PDT

Sports Staff

JR Smith epitomized the Knicks' lousy season. (Twitter/@nyknicks)
JR Smith epitomized the Knicks' lousy season. (Twitter/@nyknicks)
The roundtable will still be going strong during the playoffs, but for this week, our panel wraps up the best and worst (mostly the Knicks) from the regular season.

1) Who was the most disappointing team in the NBA this year?

Sean Burch: At first I wanted to say the Golden State Warriors, if only because it feels like they could’ve had an even better season if Mark Jackson didn’t insist on archaic two-big lineups despite playing better as a small-ball squad. Unless he is being guarded by Nate Robinson, there should never be an iso post-up for Jermaine O’Neal in 2014, and even then, I still don’t like it. But the answer to this question has to be the Knicks, right? After winning 54 games last season, the Knicks and their fans had high hopes for 2014. And in typical Knicks fashion, they crashed and burned in spectacular fashion. They couldn’t make the playoffs in a historically bad Eastern Conference, despite Atlanta going 8-20 in February and March and trying to offer the 8th seed on a platter. Between the endless bewildered looks of Mike Woodson, Carmelo checking out fans not named La La, Raymond Felton getting arrested for his gun stash, and the performance-art that was Andrea Bargnani, the answer to this question is obvious. At least they got Phil Jackson. 

Andrew Seah: Definitely the New York Knicks. What’s more disappointing – that they briefly looked like the team most envisioned and went 2-0 after they were eliminated from the playoffs or that they wasted another stellar year from offensive dynamo Carmelo Anthony? Melo is turning 30 in a month, has upped his production across the board – three point percentage, rebounds, steals, PER – from last year, and has generally been the only bright spark on the team outside of Tim Hardaway Jr. For his efforts: a dreadful year with no playoff action and plenty of extraneous storylines that range from the absurd (Raymond Felton’s gun charges) to the unfortunate (Iman Shumpert’s injury problems) to the downright silly (trading for Andrea Bargnani). 

Sareen Tavidian: The New York Knicks were definitely my biggest disappointment, because they were a team had enough talent and potential to make it to playoffs. Nevertheless, their lack of team chemistry on the court destroyed all hope.

2) Who had the most surprising regular season?

DeMar DeRozan and the Raptors are among the NBA's more surprising teams. (Twitter/@Raptors)
DeMar DeRozan and the Raptors are among the NBA's more surprising teams. (Twitter/@Raptors)
Burch: I shouldn’t have been surprised, but I’m going with the San Antonio Spurs. They lost a heartbreaking series to Miami last year in the Finals, and it felt like maybe that was their last stand as a great team. Wrong. They’ve shown no signs of a Finals hangover, and instead went out and won 62-games and secured home court throughout the playoffs. Their point differential was nearly plus-8 per game. At this point I’m assuming they’re going to keep doing this until 2025 and Ginobili is completely bald. Every year we assume they’re too old, but they always find guys to plug in around the Duncan-Parker-Ginobili and make it work. The Spurs will never die. Honorable mention: Phoenix Suns. 

Seah: Brooklyn Nets. It’s a tale of two cities with this one. Is it any surprise that ragtag bunch of aging veterans are now considered in some circles as Miami’s biggest threat in the East? The Nets went from laughing stock to dark horse contender, completely bypassing mediocrity in the second half of the season – after losing starting center Brook Lopez for the rest of the season. At one point, they held the best post All-Star record before San Antonio went on a rampage. They’ve found their identity in small ball, with Paul Pierce slotting in admirably as a nominal power forward. And let’s not forget Andray Blatche, who has managed to skew his nightly frustration-astonishment balance towards the latter through a maturation that no one could really see coming. They might not even make it past the first round of the playoffs, but boy has it been an eventful ride. 

Tavidian: The Toronto Raptors are the most surprising team. Despite the loss of Rudy Gay, the team moved forward stronger than ever due to the Raptors’ coach Dwane Casey. Casey effortlessly flipped the team right side up and turned them into the third seed out East.

3) Who gets your MVP vote?

Burch: Kevin Durant. Normally I think the MVP should just go to the best player in basketball, and I still think LeBron is the best. But I’m breaking my own arbitrary rule and saying KD. 32-7.5-5.5 on near 50-40-90 should count as 1.5 MVPs. 

Kevin Durant will finally get his MVP this year. (Twitter/@Thunder)
Kevin Durant will finally get his MVP this year. (Twitter/@Thunder)
Seah: Durant. Too sharp, too clinical, too efficient. While the Oklahoma City Thunder ebbed and flowed throughout the season, Durant’s production, intensity and effort remained a constant. When Russell Westbrook was out, he was effectively the one-two punch all by himself. It’s still a toss up between him and LeBron, but it’s a testament to the ‘Slim Reaper’ that he’s now considered an equal to King James. 

Tavidian: Durant without a question. As I’ve mentioned before, the NBA has run out of reasons not to present him with this title. His versatility is undeniable and his passion towards the game and perseverance is something else. With the absence of Russell Westbrook, Durant singlehandedly led the team to the top of the West.

4) Who gets your Coach of the Year vote?

Burch: Gregg Popovich. He’s made Boris “Blob City” Diaw into a useful player again! That should be enough right there. Still, the Spurs were able to get the best record despite having no one average over 30 minutes per game. 

Seah: Popovich. Under his stewardship, the Spurs have: the best record in the NBA, home court advantage throughout the playoffs, and had a league-best 21-game winning streak. Not convinced? No one on San Antonio’s roster has averaged more than 30 minutes over the season. Let that nugget sink and stew. 

Tavidian: Popovich has never failed the Spurs and he is a great candidate however, another coach stole the spotlight this season. While many fans believed the Phoenix Suns were doomed this season, coach Jeff Hornacek helped prove otherwise. He instilled hope in the team, as well as the fans in Phoenix, leaving the Suns only one game short of making it to playoffs.

5) Who gets your Rookie of the Year vote?

Burch: Michael Carter-Williams. But this award should be vacated for this season. I didn’t want to select someone from a team that lost 26 straight games, but who else was there? I guess you could argue Oladipo, but the Magic only won four more games than the Sixers. 

Seah: Carter-Williams. Yeah, he can’t really shoot, but he still topped the rookie pool with 16.9 points, 5.5 rebounds and 6.3 assists per game. With Evan Turner out of the mix, he figures to be Philadelphia’s young hope for the future and judging by this season, their faith is not misplaced. 

Despite a 26-game winning streak, Michael Carter-Williams is the favorite for Rookie of the Year. (Twitter/@76ers)
Despite a 26-game winning streak, Michael Carter-Williams is the favorite for Rookie of the Year. (Twitter/@76ers)
Tavidian: Victor Oladipo from the Orlando Magic definitely deserves the award. Making NBA history, Oladipo is one of two players to ever have a triple-double during his rookie season. Oladipo also had good statistics for a number of games this season, including a win against the New York Knicks where Oladipo scored 30 points and had 14 assists. His evident passion and drive for the game makes him the perfect candidate.

6) Who gets your Defensive Player of the Year vote?

Burch: Joakim Noah. The Bulls were second in defensive efficiency and first in points allowed this season, and Noah was the main catalyst. 

Seah: Noah. Noah is the embodiment of Tom Thibodeau’s suffocating defence. On the court, he’s a bundle of flailing limbs and deceptively agile lateral movement. He grabs boards at elite levels (11.2 rebounds per game), and marshals the defence vocally, spiritually, and by example. His indefatigable effort on the little things – weak-side help, never giving up on a mismatch when switched onto a smaller guard, hustling for loose balls – is truly what makes him worthy. 

Tavidian: Noah has been very strong defensively this season and will probably be given the title to match his skill.

7) Who gets your Most Improved Player vote?

Burch: Markieff Morris. Dragic is probably going to win, but we always knew he was pretty good. Having the right system and spacing around him just allowed Dragic to take it up a notch. Morris, on the other hand,  didn’t seem like a dark horse sixth-man candidate heading into the season. But his shooting increased by eight percentage points and his scoring average went up over five points in only four more minutes of playing time. 

Seah: Lance Stephenson. One could say the Indiana Pacers acquired a new starting shooting guard this year – such are the purposeful strides Stephenson has made this season. The 23-year-old shooting guard averaged career-bests in all discernible areas (shooting, passing, rebounding), and when he does one of those crazy Lance Stephenson things, we await with cautious excitement rather than imminent frustration. And if that doesn’t impress you, Stephenson leads the Pacers in assists (4.6) and rebounds per game (7.2) – even though he’s a secondary ball handler who starts alongside behemoth Roy Hibbert.  

Tavidian: Blake Griffin has been giving us gold for the past two seasons. He is flawless up and down the court, defensively and offensively, and has us head over heels with his impeccable talents. He has gained more versatility on the court, probably due to the fact that he has been given more minutes. However, minutes only play a small part in Griffin’s transformation. His free throw average and rebounds have given us a reason to put him in this category. Although his scoring average has gone down, he has proven that dunks and alley-oops are not all that he’s good at – but that his mid-range shots also have some flair.



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