This is the time of year when we give out our midseason awards. But before we get to the drudgery of Sixth Man Award and Most Valuable Player, let’s start the festivities with a special award for individual achievement that goes to Rashad Vaughn.
Vaughn is a shooting guard for the Milwaukee Bucks and the second-youngest player in the NBA.
He is one of the dozens of rookies who have made virtually no impact in their first season. He is averaging 2.5 points and 1.2 rebounds in 11.1 minutes while shooting an absolutely frigid .303 from the field.
But in Friday’s overtime win over Atlanta, Vaughn had a once-in-a-decade boxscore line of 12 trillion.
Twelve minutes, all zeros. Unbleepingbelievable.
We have been tracking trillions since the inception of this site. We have compiled the best (worst?) of them at the end of each of the last three seasons. During that time, there have been tens of thousands of boxscore lines and only three double-digit trillions. And no one has had a 12 trillion. Until now.
Maybe Mark Titus, the founder of Club Trillion, knows of a better (worse?) trillion than Vaughn’s. But according to our official and unofficial records, the only other 12 trillion we know of belongs to Damon Jones, who had his on the bright stage of Game 1 of the 2007 NBA Finals. The next time someone brings up LeBron James’ record in the Finals, remind them of all the help he got from his fantastic supporting cast.
Congratulations, Rashad. Now, on to the actual awards.
Oh, one other thing. Our publisher objects to the use of the phrase “snotty remark.” So our snotty remarks are referred to below as “tasteless jokes,” which is much more pleasant, don’t you think?
EXECUTIVE OF THE YEAR: Donnie Nelson of Dallas did a nice job of going to Plan B after getting ditched by DeAndre Jordan. I thoroughly love what Neil Olshey is doing in Portland, although it would nice if someone on a rookie scale deal besides C.J. McCollum took advantage of the opportunity they are being given.
And plenty of us owe an apology to Phil Jackson, who rolled the dice on Kristaps Porzingis and won big while adding real NBA players and maintaining flexibility. The Knicks could make the playoffs and add a top-tier free agent, which would have them right back in the Eastern Conference mix.
The winner, however, should be San Antonio’s R.C. Buford, who landed the biggest fish of the offseason in LaMarcus Aldridge, also added David West and has not been hurt at all by the departures of Marco Belinelli, Cory Joseph and Tiago Splitter. The Golden State Warriors aren’t the only team that is infallible at home and on pace for 70 wins.
TASTELESS JOKE: The 76ers hired Jerry Colangelo because Sam Hinkie’s analytics showed that two GMs are better than one.
COACH OF THE YEAR: Yes, Golden State’s Luke Walton can win this award. If he won Coach of the Month, he certainly can win Coach of the Year. Which he should, unless Steve Kerr comes back at some point. Or the Warriors surrender the top seed. Then what? That oughtta be fun.
In the East, Derek Fisher should get some consideration if the Knicks make the playoffs; ditto Scott Skiles and the Magic. In the West, Rick Carlisle has performed career resuscitation on Deron Williams, Raymond Felton and JaVale McGee and has the Mavericks targeting the playoffs, where they could be a pain in the neck.
But if Walton somehow doesn’t win, the award should go to Gregg Popovich, who has reinvented the Spurs. Again.
TASTELESS JOKE: Give me one reason why someone should take the Brooklyn Nets job.
DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR: The analytics era has somehow minimized the importance of defensive rebounds and blocked shots, which were still an important part of defense the last time I checked.
For example, Miami’s Hassan Whiteside is third in defensive rating and defensive win shares, which validates his defensive impact for the analytics crowd. But Whiteside also grabs 8.2 defensive rebounds per game while his 3.97 blocks is more than five teams are averaging and would be the most by any player since Dikembe Mutombo’s 4.49 in 1995-96. And let’s not forget that Whiteside is backstopping a top-five defense that has Goran Dragic and Dwyane Wade on top.
If you like perimeter guys, it’s a two-man race between Kawhi Leonard’s individual technique and Draymond Green’s versatility. But Whiteside is the pick here.
TASTELESS JOKE: Imagine how many points James Harden would score if he were guarded by James Harden.
MOST IMPROVED PLAYER: The biggest reason for Golden State’s dominance this season is that it has not one but two players who already were very good and have made quantum leaps. Stephen Curry’s six-point jump is certainly startling, although that is where most of his discernible uptick has been and can be somewhat attributed to taking (and making) more shots. Teammate Draymond Green, however, is seventh in assists, 12th in rebounds and 15th in 3-point shooting; he was nowhere near the league leaders in any of those categories last season.
Among players beginning off a lower platform, those worth mentioning include Denver’s Will Barton and Gary Harris, Atlanta’s Kent Bazemore, Boston’s Jae Crowder, Utah’s Rodney Hood and Portland’s Allen Crabbe and C.J. McCollum. Given how many times players making the jump from good to great have been overlooked by voters, don’t be surprised if McCollum wins over Green, who is our choice.
TASTELESS JOKE: Markieff Morris has overtaken DeMarcus Cousins as Most Impugned Player.
SIXTH MAN AWARD: The reserve with the highest scoring average is Ryan Anderson, whose Pelicans are terrible. Next is Will Barton, whose Nuggets are almost as bad. Mo Williams has fallen out of the Cavs rotation and off the radar. Enes Kanter’s numbers have slipped in January. It remains to be seen whether Zach Randolph, Taj Gibson, Victor Oladipo and C.J. Miles come off the bench enough to qualify. And while Swiss Army Knife Andre Iguodala of Golden State may be the NBA’s best non-starter, he is 188th in scoring at 7.2 points per game.
There is an intriguing combo in Utah, where currently injured Alec Burks and Trey Burke combine for nearly 27 points per game. But I want to put this out there: The only team with three double-digit scorers off the bench is the Sacramento Kings with Darren Collison (13.7 ppg, 4.6 apg), Omri Casspi (12.7 ppg, 6.5 rpg, .473 threes) and Marco Belinelli (11.2 ppg).
The Kings are one game behind Utah for the last playoff spot in the West. If Sacramento secures the spot, Casspi would have a strong case. He is the main reason why Rudy Gay is available.
TASTELESS JOKE: Ty Lawson probably didn’t think he would be eligible for this award.
ROOKIE OF THE YEAR: Philadelphia’s Jahlil Okafor still leads all rookies in scoring and now has an NBA point guard throwing him the ball, so he probably shouldn’t be totally dismissed just yet. But this is starting to look like a two-man race between Minnesota’s Karl-Anthony Towns and New York’s Kristaps Porzingis.
Towns has the statistical advantage in scoring, rebounding, shooting and PER – and has virtually no chance to win because the Timberwolves are on pace for another 55-60 losses playing in a frozen tundra while the Knicks are chasing a playoff berth and playing in the nation’s media capital.
Throw in Porzingis’ engaging personality and don’t be surprised if Phil Jackson is wearing a poop-eating grin come May.
TASTELESS JOKE: Yes, Jason Terry, Sasha Kaun is a rookie.
MOST VALUABLE PLAYER: Stephen Curry is the best team’s best player. It is hard to imagine a scenario in which he doesn’t win his second straight MVP, which would make him just the 11th player to do so.
The rest of the top five are Kawhi Leonard, the second-best team’s best player; LeBron James, whose Cavs are running away with the East; Kevin Durant, whose Thunder are 27-9 with him in the lineup; and Draymond Green, who won’t siphon enough votes away from Curry to cost him the hardware.
At 31, James is at least four years older than anyone mentioned above. He is the only player averaging 25 points, six rebounds and six assists. He makes more shots than he misses. He is fourth in PER (26.93), fifth in win shares (6.5) and 11th in defensive win shares (2.3). And until about three weeks ago, he was without his best teammate.
If you want to admit to LeBron Fatigue, that’s fine. But anyone who thinks he is no longer the best player in the game is nuts.
TASTELESS JOKE: Durant probably thinks being fourth in the MVP race is another slight by another media member.
TRIVIA: When DeAndre Jordan sat out a game this week, he ended the longest current streak of consecutive games played at 360. Which player now has the longest streak? Answer below.
THE END OF CIVILIZATION AS WE KNOW IT: Timofey Mozgov riding a bear? Timofey Mozgov riding a bear.
QUOTE OF THE WEEK: Former Utah Jazz castoff and CBS Sports NBA analyst Raja Bell, illustrating his ability to hold a grudge:
“They’ll never get rid of Gordon (Hayward), but for his sake I would hope they’d let him go and see what it’s like to play in other places in the NBA where they do things a little more professionally and are up with the times. Forgive me, Utah.”
TANKS A LOT!: Entering Monday’s games, the 76ers are 4-7 since a 1-30 start. Seven teams have the same record or worse over their last 11 games.
LINE OF THE WEEK: Jimmy Butler, Chicago at Philadelphia, Jan. 14: 49 minutes, 15-30 FGs, 2-4 3-pointers, 21-25 FTs, 10 rebounds, six assists, three steals, four turnovers, 53 points in a 115-111 overtime win. The Bulls were without injured Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah and in danger of losing to the woeful 76ers until Butler put them on his back with a career high. He is the first Bull to score at least 50 points since Jamal Crawford in 2004.
LINE OF THE WEAK: James Harden, Houston vs. Cleveland, Jan. 15: 38 minutes, 2-10 FGs, 0-5 3-pointers, 7-7 FTs, five rebounds, five assists, one block, three steals, five fouls, eight turnovers, 11 points in a 91-77 loss. Harden was held to a season low and so were the Rockets, which is not a coincidence. Harden also matched a season low for buckets and was one shy of his season high for turnovers.
TRILLION WATCH: Even before Rashad Vaughn’s historic lack of effort unseated Atlanta’s Lamar Patterson as the season leader, it was a pretty good week for the heroes of zeroes, with rookies leading the way. There were 2 trillions by Washington’s Jarell Eddie on Monday and Houston’s Montrezl Harrell on Tuesday. There was also a joint effort by Philadelphia’s Richaun Holmes (3 trillion) and Isaiah Canaan (5 trillion) vs. Chicago on Thursday.
GAME OF THE WEEK: Golden State at Cleveland, Jan. 18. This is the Cavaliers’ chance to avenge their hard-fought loss in the Bay Area on Christmas and “make a statement,” as guard Kyrie Irving said. The Warriors may also be looking to make a statement after Saturday’s surprising 18-point loss at Detroit. No NBA team has ever gone an entire season without consecutive losses.
GAME OF THE WEAK: Minnesota at New Orleans, Jan. 19. Even with two straight wins, the Pelicans have the same number of victories as the Timberwolves, who have lost 21 of 25 since Black Friday. Both teams are on pace to lose between 55-60 games.
TWO MINUTES: Last summer, our site reported exclusively that Kobe Bryant was still in the mix for the 2016 Olympics, even though he had missed most of the previous two seasons with injuries. That is no longer the case, because this weekend Bryant said his last NBA game this season will be his last game, period. “I think as beautiful as it would be to play for our country – when I say my last game is going to be my last game, I’m going to retire, then that’s it,” he said. “It’s not like I’m going to walk off the stage and then [say], ‘But I’m going to come right back for a minute. Hold on one second.’ You know what I mean? I think it’s pretty sweet to have the final game be in a Laker uniform and support the players from afar.” Bryant won Olympic gold medals in 2008 and 2012. … Here’s a small indicator of the East closing the gap on the West: All five of Philadelphia’s wins have come against the West. … If the Pistons miss the playoffs by two games or less – they currently are sixth in the cluttered East – they can look back on their season series with the Grizzlies. On Dec. 9, Matt Barnes made this ridiculous halfcourt runner to deal Detroit a 93-92 loss. On Thursday, Mario Chalmers lost the ball, recovered it and threw in this prayer to hand the Pistons a 103-101 setback. … In Tuesday’s win vs. Chicago, Milwaukee had five turnovers, a season low. The next night at Washington, Milwaukee had 27 turnovers, a season high. … In early December, Suns forward Markieff Morris had a stretch of seven games in which he played seven total minutes. Later that month came another stretch of eight games when he played 26 total minutes. But Phoenix is done – it lost at Minnesota by 30 points on Sunday and has won once since Dec. 18 – so Morris is not only back in the rotation, he is starting and clearly being showcased for a possible trade. Morris has averaged 14.0 points and 7.7 rebounds in nearly 28 minutes over three games since being taken out of mothballs.
Trivia Answer: Tristan Thompson with 327. … Happy 54th Birthday, Cozell McQueen. … Forget Powerball? I wanna know if anyone parlayed the money line on the Warriors losing and the Sixers winning on Saturday night.
Chris Bernucca is the managing editor of SheridanHoops.com. His columns appear Monday during the season. You can follow him on Twitter.