Four Corners: Our inarguable 2016-17 All-NBA teams and awards ballots

The Ball Don’t Lie crew makes their postseason awards picks. (Thanks to Amber Matsumoto on graphics)
The Ball Don’t Lie crew makes their postseason awards picks. (Thanks to Amber Matsumoto on graphics)

The NBA’s end-of-season awards are a neat time capsule to look back on decades later, with the benefit of perspective . Take 2003-04, for example, when Kevin Garnett was the MVP, LeBron James the Rookie of the Year, Ron Artest the Defensive Player of the Year and Zach Randolph the Most Improved Player. That’s intense and fun, and indicative of a weird transitional year in which the Detroit Pistons won the title.

So, the four of us here at Ball Don’t Lie — Dan Devine, Kelly Dwyer, Eric Freeman and Ben Rohrbach — figured snapshots from our coverage this season would be the best way to tell the story of our ballots. Consider this a timeline of moments that helped shape our decisions during an entertaining 2016-17. Keep in mind: these awards are completely subjective. So they also happen to be 100 percent accurate.

EXECUTIVE OF THE YEAR

Bob Myers, Golden State Warriors (unanimous)

July 6, 2016: “Warriors fans got the setup for the mother of all sequels to #ArrogantSZN; non-Warriors fans just got a worthy target for their frustration, anger and derision, an avatar for all their sports hate, a supervillain that lays bare just how sick and money-driven contemporary pro sports is … unless you’re inclined to remember that [Kevin] Durant chose a shorter deal for more immediate flexibility to play where he wanted, and that the Warriors got here by building through the draft with back-half-of-the-lottery scores in [Stephen] Curry and [Klay] Thompson and all-time-second-round-steal [Draymond] Green, in which case you get to hold Golden State up as a paragon of the virtues of scouting, player development and providing a nurturing environment in which young men can succeed beyond their wildest imaginations.”

MOST IMPROVED PLAYER

Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks (unanimous)

Nov. 22, 2016: “Antetokounmpo has been a blog favorite for his varied talents and unique highlights ever since he was drafted with the No. 15 pick in the 2013 draft. However, the 21-year-old had up until this season translated his immense potential into star-level play on a fairly inconsistent basis. Predictions of Most Improved Player honors and an All-Star selection in 2015-16 proved a little early, although very strong stats after being installed as the offense’s primary creator inspired new hope for this season. As such, Antetokounmpo entered his fourth season with something to prove, lest he be known as more of a thrilling oddity than a great player.”

COACH OF THE YEAR (To be continued …)

Gregg Popovich, San Antonio Spurs (Kelly Dwyer, Ben Rohrbach)

Dec. 5, 2016: “His philosophy — shaping young minds so that they might contribute to a greater society in the future — is no different than the one that has served Popovich so well, whether on the basketball court or in his wine business. It is the so-called Stonecutter’s Credo from Jacob Riis: ‘When nothing seems to help, I go and look at a stonecutter hammering away at his rock perhaps a hundred times without as much as a crack showing in it. Yet at the hundred and first blow it will split in two, and I know it was not that blow that did it — but all that had gone before.’  Hammer home the importance of being prepared, educated, respectful, disciplined people, and eventually it might sink in, person by person, so that together we avoid repeating history and meeting a disastrous end. And if Popovich wins a sixth NBA title along the way, that would be nice, too.”

DEFENSIVE PLAYERS OF THE YEAR

Rudy Gobert, Utah Jazz (Kelly Dwyer, Ben Rohrbach)

Dec. 20, 2016: “Gobert has been on the cusp of that stardom ever since making his reputation as a top rim protector in the second half of the 2014-15 season. The big man has remained a very solid player and recently signed a deserved four-year extension that could be worth as much as $102 million. That new deal hasn’t kept Gobert from improving — in fact, he’s having what looks to be a breakthrough season.”

Draymond Green, Golden State Warriors (Dan Devine, Eric Freeman)

Dec. 21, 2016: “It speaks to Draymond’s unrivaled defensive versatility that he ranks among the frontrunners for this award even as more and more fans and media members acknowledge that he can cost the Warriors wins with his antics. The Warriors have enough talent to withstand any injury, but Green might be the difference between a very good team and a championship favorite.”

SIXTH MEN OF THE YEAR

Eric Gordon, Houston Rockets (Eric Freeman, Ben Rohrbach)

Dec. 21, 2016: “The former Clipper and Hornet/Pelican is shooting 43 percent on 8.4 3-point tries per game — essentially the same prolific efficiency as Stephen Curry’s first MVP season. Only the Lakers’ Lou Williams and Jordan Clarkson have scored more points from the bench, and neither has been as impactful as Gordon, who has done his work in lineups that consistently outscore opponents and operate on an elite offensive level.”

Andre Iguodala, Golden State Warriors (Dan Devine, Kelly Dwyer)

Dec. 29, 2016: “After the whistle, Iguodala jumped in the air, put the ball between his legs, around his back and alley-ooped it to an awaiting Shaun Livingston for the dunk. Seriously, watch this:


“As the events unfolded, the announcers dubbed it ‘the greatest fast break that never happened.’ It was a sequence you might see practiced at a Harlem Globetrotters game, Rucker Park or the AND1 Mixtape Tour, and yet the Warriors pulled it off randomly with the relative ease of a layup drill. Of course, the NBA features the best basketball players in the world, and in a few short seconds the Warriors were happy to remind us all of the fact they have a handful of them, even if they were working after a whistle.”

ROOKIES OF THE YEAR

Joel Embiid, Philadelphia 76ers (Eric Freeman)

Jan. 19, 2017: “While the active roster still lacks a great deal of offensive talent, the irrepressible Embiid has brought joy to a squad that previously seemed to depend on abstract hope. On Wednesday, Embiid could be seen imploring the crowd to continue its ‘Trust the Process’ chants and urging on his teammates at every opportunity. Rookies on a nightly 28-minute limit are not supposed to have such a galvanizing impact. And he does it all as one of the most approachable players in the league.”

Malcolm Brogdon, Milwaukee Bucks (Kelly Dwyer, Ben Rohrbach)

March 3, 2017: “Brogdon’s third among rookies in scoring (9.8 points per game) and leads all first-year players in assists (4.2 dimes per contest), 3-point accuracy (42.3 percent from beyond the arc on 2.4 attempts per game), Win Shares and “RPM Wins,” which estimates “the number of wins each player has contributed to his team’s win total on the season.” He’s had some eye-popping moments of explosion — just ask LeBron, Kyrie and Nerlens — and has outplayed veteran free-agent acquisition Matthew Dellavedova, giving Kidd a somewhat surprising stabilizing agent on a Bucks squad that has needed supplementary playmaking alongside top gun Giannis Antetokounmpo.”

Dario Saric, Philadelphia 76ers (Dan Devine)

March 13, 2017: “The NBA Draft Class of 2016 ranks among the league’s least impressive rookie groups of all-time, and Saric winning Rookie of the Year won’t help them in the history books, since he spent the past two years playing in Turkey after being drafted 12th overall in 2014, but at least his effort has capped a stretch that’s added some more respectability to a non-Embiid discussion for the award.”

MOST VALUABLE PLAYER

Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City Thunder (unanimous)

March 25, 2017: “At this point it is fair to conclude that we’re looking at Russell Westbrook, fully formed. After a near-season of telling anyone who would listen that we’d probably never see anything along Westbrook’s lines, he’s come to remind us to take it in now as we can. A prime Westbrook and his fitful team may never look like this again, the setting may never reveal itself in such a way to lead to this sort of end times-style of performance, and the onus is on us to properly document what has and will continue to be a season for the ages.”

COACH OF THE YEAR (Part II)

Mike D’Antoni, Houston Rockets (Dan Devine, Eric Freeman)

“His Rockets, estimated to be a 45-win oddity by most and a flameout by some, are on pace for a 57-win record while working with the No. 3 seed in the West. James Harden reacted fabulously to D’Antoni’s insistence that he act as a point guard, he’s well on his way toward acting as the MVP favorite heading into April (voting season), and no star has paired as seamlessly with his new coach as Harden has in 2016-17 since Derrick Rose’s MVP turn with Tom Thibodeau in 2011 or, perhaps, Steve Nash during his MVP runs under Nash in 2005 and 2006.” March 29, 2017

The BDL crew’s unanimous First Team All-NBA squad. (Thanks to Amber Matsumoto on graphics)
The BDL crew’s unanimous First Team All-NBA squad. (Thanks to Amber Matsumoto on graphics)

FIRST TEAM ALL-NBA

G: Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City Thunder

Aug. 4, 2016: “Let’s focus on what’s most immediately pressing and important here: Russell Westbrook is going to incinerate the freaking NBA this season.

G: James Harden, Houston Rockets

Nov. 7, 2016: “Back in September, our Kelly Dwyer invoked that sainted 1988-89 Michael Jordan season as a template for the havoc about to be wreaked by an unchained Russell Westbrook. Who’d have thought we’d be blessed enough as basketball fans to have two dudes carving that kind of swath through opposing defenses night in and night out this season?”

F: Kawhi Leonard, San Antonio Spurs

Feb. 1, 2017: “Few players have such an impact at either end, let alone both, and Leonard seems fully comfortable in his role as leader of the team with the second-best record in the NBA.”

F: LeBron James, Cleveland Cavaliers

Feb. 7, 2017: “After 15 years and countless big games, James has been at the center of virtually every kind of play, discussion, moment, and controversy that the NBA can offer. Like any all-time great, though, LeBron continues to surprise.”

C: Rudy Gobert, Utah Jazz

March 23, 2017: “Regardless, the rise of Gobert should add intrigue to Utah’s return to the postseason. The 24-year-old is now one of the NBA’s best centers, and he has a chance to ascend to a new level of popularity next month.”

SECOND TEAM ALL-NBA

C: Anthony Davis, New Orleans Pelicans

Oct. 26, 2016: “After a 2015-16 season plagued by injuries that wound up knocking him off the gold-medal-winning U.S. squad at the 2016 Summer Olympics, he reminded us exactly what kind of monster he is, beginning the 2016-17 campaign with a historically productive game the likes of which the league had literally never seen.”

F: Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks

Jan. 3, 2017: “Antetokounmpo has been one of the NBA’s most remarkable, versatile and flat-out best players this season, a legitimate game-changer whose two-way impact has helped the Bucks bounce back from a disappointing 2015-16 season to return to the thick of the Eastern Conference playoff chase.”

F: Kevin Durant, Golden State Warriors

Sept. 5, 2016: “There are few NBA-related things as fun and awe-inspiring as Durant at the height of his powers. A lot of people don’t like the idea of the 2015 MVP in a Warriors jersey, but that same group won’t begin to come around on Durant until they see him in it. In the end, talent usually wins over the unforgiving.”

G: Isaiah Thomas, Boston Celtics

Jan. 31, 2017: “You’d call Thomas’ performance unbelievable … if it wasn’t precisely the kind of thing we’d come to expect from the Celtics’ diminutive destroyer.”

G: Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors

April 3, 2017: “He’s not going to win a third straight NBA Most Valuable Player award this year — even if, quiet as it’s kept, there’s a not-laughable argument for it — but Curry has been something close to MVP-level brutalizing on the competition recently.”

THIRD TEAM ALL-NBA

G: DeMar DeRozan, Toronto Raptors (tie)

Nov. 10, 2016: “DeRozan might not be the very definition of a modern NBA two-guard, but he’s redefining what a wildly successful contributor at the position can look like in 2016, reminding us along the way that variety is the spice of life.”

F: Draymond Green, Golden State Warriors

Nov. 15, 2016: “He’s still checking every box besides the one everyone looks at first, doing it as well as if not better than ever and, thus far, doing it while coloring between the lines. For this iteration of the Warriors to reach its final form, Green doesn’t have to become a fourth Splash Brother; he needs to be everything his three sweet-shooting teammates aren’t so they can wreak havoc and bring ruckus unfettered.”

G: Klay Thompson, Golden State Warriors (tie)

Dec. 6, 2016: “Thompson’s 60 points will be one of the highlights of this NBA season no matter what the Warriors or anyone else accomplishes the rest of the way. What’s incredible, though, is that it feels like this star-laden squad is only getting started.”

G: John Wall, Washington Wizards

Jan. 2, 2017: “This is the kind of stuff that the former No. 1 overall pick’s capable of when he’s in working order and in a rhythm with his teammates. He wasn’t that way to start the season, but he is now, and the Wizards — and those of who like watching dope stuff unfold out of nowhere — are reaping the benefits.”


F: Jimmy Butler, Chicago Bulls

Jan. 2, 2017: “Given how crucial Butler’s play has become for a Chicago team that has struggled mightily with inconsistency and offensive ineffectiveness since a hot start to the season, you’d imagine Bulls fans are totally OK with Jimmy not being M.J. so long as he continues to be what he’s become: the kind of player who can dominate a game and, on the right night, almost single-handedly tilt the outcome through shotmaking and sheer force of will.”

C: Karl-Anthony Towns, Minnesota Timberwolves

Jan. 25, 2017: “Towns is averaging 22 and 12 with three assists and 1.5 blocks per night — numbers matched only by perennial All-Stars with one-name recognition like Kareem, KG, Shaq and Hakeem. To remember that KAT just turned 21, and has only a year and a half of NBA experience under his belt, is to have your mind blown.”

The BDL crew’s All-NBA ballot breakdown.
The BDL crew’s All-NBA ballot breakdown.

Let us know your end-of-season awards and All-NBA picks in the comment section. Thanks for reading in 2016-17, and stay tuned for our playoff coverage, when we’ll be continuing to fill this time capsule.

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