Feature Presentation: 2015-16 BDL Comeback Player of the Year
We at Ball Don't Lie enjoy healthy debate about basketball and its strange cast of characters, from Oscar Robertson's "get off my lawn" diatribe on Stephen Curry to D'Angelo Russell's sting operation on a self-dubbed dude named Swaggy P and his Australian hip hop artist fiancé. (Yup, those things happened.) It's NBA with a twist here at the BDL, so we wanted to stir the pot and shake up the league's annual awards.
BDL COMEBACK PLAYER OF THE YEAR
Serioiusly, what happened to the NBA's Comeback Player of the Year Award? The NBA awarded it from 1981-86, and like that ... it's gone. Maybe because the league handed the penultimate honor to Michael Ray Richardson between suspending him for two months and banning him for life for his cocaine use.
The first two Comeback Player of the Year Awards went to Bernard King and Gus Williams in the early 1980s, for "overcoming" alleged sexual assault charges and a contract dispute, respectively. So, yeah, the NBA hadn't quite figured it out just yet, but we're here to restore the spirit of an award that rightfully recognized Paul Westphal and Adrian Dantley in 1983 and '84 for recovering from foot and wrist injuries.
How the NBA lost its way is a mystery, since it's not so difficult to figure out: The BDL Comeback Player of the Year Award goes to the player who made the greatest impact after overcoming the longest of odds.
AND THE WINNER IS: Paul George, Indiana Pacers (unanimous).
George was more than just a rising star. He enjoyed a meteoric rise in his third and fourth seasons, making two All-NBA rosters while coming within three wins of back-to-back NBA Finals appearances. If not for the presence of the star-studded Heat in 2013 and 2014, he would've owned the East at age 23.
It all came crashing to the ground when his right leg met the stanchion at a USA Basketball scrimmage in August 2014. I would provide the footage of the gruesome injury, but I just can't stomach it. His right shin essentially split in two before our eyes, exposing an open tibia-fibula fracture and an uncertain future.
So, yeah, that's the obstacle George faced two months before he was supposeed to embark on a campaign that posed the biggest threat to LeBron James' reign as the swingman king of the East. It's remarkable he even returned for the final six games of last season, however limited his minutes were.
Legitimate questions persisted throughout this past summer about George's ability to ever regain his status as one of the game's best two-way players. (Yup, he was 2013-14 First Team All-Defense, too.)
Then, this happened in a preseason game against the Bulls, and everything was on the table again:
Somehow, George returned this season more powerful than ever before, seeing an uptick in points, rebounds and assists per game, true shooting percentage and player efficiency rating, among other statistical advances from his 2013-14 performance. Oh, and he ranked 10th in the NBA in minutes played for a playoff team, appearing in 81 regular-season games. For that, he received all our first-place votes.
Paul George Career Points, Rebounds and Assists per Game | PointAfter
AND THE NOMINEES WERE ...
2015-16 BDL COMEBACK PLAYER OF THE YEAR RESULTS
1ST (5 PTS)
2ND (3 PTS)
AND NOW A WORD FROM THE ACADEMY ...
We understand some of the fun comes with picking apart the voting panel and publicly shaming their misfires, so we'll do our best to explain ourselves before you folks let us have it in the comment section.
Wesley Matthews, Dallas Mavericks
2014-15: Matthews ruptured his left Achilles tendon with a little more than a month to play in the season.
2015-16: 12.5 PTS (53.4 TS%), 3.0 REB, 1.9 AST, 1.0 STL; 10.9 PER
Kevin Durant, Oklahoma City Thunder
2014-15: Three surgeries on his right foot limited Durant to just 27 games in his MVP defense.
2015-16: 28.2 PTS (63.4 TS%), 8.2 REB, 5.0 AST, 1.0 STL; 28.2 PER
Aaron Gordon, Orlando Magic
2014-15: A fractured left foot disrupted two months in the middle of his rookie season.
2015-16: 9.1 PTS (54.0 TS%), 6.5 REB, 1.6 AST; 16.8 PER
Carmelo Anthony, New York Knicks
2014-15: A nagging left knee injury shut down Anthony after the All-Star Game.
2015-16: 21.8 PTS (53.0 TS%), 7.7 REB, 4.2 AST; 20.3 PER
Doug McDermott, Chicago Bulls
2014-15: Arthroscopic right knee surgery cost him the majority of his rookie season.
2015-16: 9.4 PTS (55.9 TS%), 2.4 REB; 10.8 PER
Jabari Parker, Milwaukee Bucks
2014-15: Parker suffered a season-ending left ACL tear 25 games into his rookie season.
2015-16: 14.0 PTS (53.7 TS%), 5.2 REB, 1.7 AST; 14.7 PER
Julius Randle, Los Angeles Lakers
2014-15: Broke his right leg in his NBA debut and missed the final 81 games of the season.
2015-16: 11.5 PTS (48.3 TS%), 10.3 REB, 1.3 AST; 14.0 PER
CUE THE AUDIENCE REACTION ...
2015-16 BDL AWARDS
IN THEATERS NOW: Bench of the Year • Coach(ing Change) of the Year • Defensive Unit of the Year • (Non-Lottery) Rookie of the Year • Executive (Decision) of the Year • (2nd) Most Valuable Player • Most (Random) Improved Player • Comeback Player of the Year • All-Potential Team • All-Defensive* Team • All-BDL Team
WE REALLY, REALLY LIKE YOU
First and foremost, we'd like to thank Yahoo Sports Photos and Multimedia Manager Amber Matsumoto for her tireless work on graphics. None of this would've been possible without her. And special thanks to Basketball Reference and NBA.com/stats for statistics, whitney for the Vine, Graphiq for the stat box and ProProfs Poll Maker for the poll. We've done our part; it's up to the NBA now to reinstate the award.
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is a contributor for Ball Don't Lie and Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter! Follow @brohrbach