I won't say how or why, but save for a couple of examples that I will point out as this series moves along, my votes for the NBA's end-of-season awards count this year. And because one should never cast a vote that they're unable to defend, I'm going to be transparent and list each of my picks for the awards I voted on. Have at me in the comments, and in our Wednesday chats, where I answer questions from all comers.
Friday, the Sixth Man of the Year.
This is the part of the post where I add some text to make it possible to throw to a jump that comes underneath this awesome picture of Toni Kukoc I found.
This isn't some text you're not supposed to see, that I forgot to delete. No, this picture of Toni Kukoc dunking in full view of a running (RUNNING!) Sam Perkins is so magnificent, that I decided to waste 25 seconds of your life with useless text like this in order to be able to post it.
I think you can see where I'm coming from. Throw it down, TK.
This would have been a tough pick had Manu Ginobili(notes) not taken to the San Antonio starting lineup, and had Carl Landry(notes) not been shipped to Sacramento. Thankfully Ginobili's 21 starts and Landry's combined 30 starts made the decision easy for me.
Jamal Crawford was huge for Atlanta this season. About as huge as a shooting guard coming off the bench to take 20-foot jump shots can be. That's not a slam. It's not easy to change the course of the game from 20 feet away, when you're only getting two points at a time, but Jamal's second and fourth quarters consistently helped put teams away.
The idea that Jamal, who is about as upstanding and candid a subject as the NBA provides, finally got to ply his trade on a team that was worth a damn only adds to it. Atlanta may have messily fallen apart in spring, but for a while there they seemed like a team worth paying attention to. And Jamal, at times,was the biggest reason why.
His play in the postseason wasn't as potent, clearly a reported back injury had gotten to him, but Anderson Varejao(notes) was ridiculously effective as an all-world defender for the Cavaliers this season.
Smartly realizing, in the wake of a litany of block/charge calls that didn't go his way against Orlando last May, that his flopping days had to end tout de suite, Varejao instead focused on moving his feet and staying with whoever strayed into his path. This is a pick-and-roll league, and the Cleveland big man was at his best when an opposing big got in Mo Williams'(notes) way.
Don't slough that off, because while the Heat looked outclassed against the Celtics in the first round, they still played well over their heads for the majority of the regular season, and Haslem's ability to rotate and run that 2-3 zone off the bench was undeniably impactful.
Defense is half the game, and Haslem brought it in spades this season.
- Toni Kukoc
- Jamal Crawford