Sheridan’s Postseason Awards Ballot: Durant is MVP, Thibodeau is Coach of the Year

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voterIn a break with tradition, I am casting my NBA awards ballot after the 81st game, not the 82nd. It’s a rarity, but this season I will not hem and haw and sleep on it until the afternoon after the final day of the season. You’re welcome.

I have been an official NBA postseason awards voter for nearly a decade, and it would have been longer if not for a rule at the Associated Press, where I worked from 1987-2005, forbidding beat from voting for postseason awards (It is OK for them to declare the national champion in college football, but it is not OK for them to vote in other sports. Does that make sense?).

It is a privilege that I do not take lightly.

Chris Bernucca’s Postseason Award Choices

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Image.AdamSilverTransparency is a two-way street.

For years, NBA media members – echoing the sentiments of its passionate fan base – wanted more transparency from Commissioner David Stern and his executive staff. Whether it was a lottery drawing, a suspension in the playoffs or a referee scandal, folks felt like they were entitled to an explanation. And they were.

Stern grudgingly came around. He arranged for the media to meet with referees prior to the season about rules changes. He allowed the media into the lottery drawing. He okayed press releases that admitted, Yes, we blew that call.

Since replacing Stern as commissioner less than three months ago, Adam Silver has taken the NBA’s transparency up a notch. He declared that there will be an open dialogue about officiating and is walking the walk by making internal memos available to the media.

But Silver is getting something back, too. At All-Star Weekend this year, the media presented the notion of transparency with regard to how its members vote on postseason awards, and the commissioner bought in. 

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Sixth Man Rankings: Morris and Gibson are in a Deadlock

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question markWith just one more week to go in the NBA season, it’s time for our final round of “Name That Big Man!”

SH Blog: David Lee defends his case as a good player for Warriors, Bogut seemingly has higher praise for Green than Lee

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DavidLee1SHThere has been plenty of drama surrounding the state of the Golden State Warriors for the past month or so, mostly involving the front office and the coaching staff.

Will there be some new drama when their injured starting power forward makes his return at some point this season? Tim Kawakami of Mercury News has long been an advocate of the idea of not over-utilizing David Lee, and his recent article suggests that the defensive-minded Draymond Green may need more playing time – even if it means at the expense of Lee. Most that watch the Warriors on a regular basis would probably agree with that notion – yours truly included –  but Mark Jackson has never accepted the idea of bringing Lee off the bench or playing him anything less than 35 minutes in most games.

At the same time, Green has been such a phenomenal player (although you’d never know it from looking at his stats alone) for the team, and it has come to recent attention that he actually fits in quite nicely with the starting unit. There have been no holes on the defensive end, and Green’s ability to set bruising screens (yes, they are more effective than Lee’s screens) against the opposition has really helped open things up for the offense. Green can also guard multiple positions, space the floor better than Lee,  and is also more of a willing passer (at least partly due to his own ineptitude in getting his own shots) and a really good one at that, so it appears to be within reason to wonder what really happens when Lee returns. 

Sixth Man Rankings: Championing Dallas’ second unit, Vince Carter is thriving

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As the Dallas Mavericks compete for one of the most competitive No. 8 seeds in NBA history, they’ve relied heavily on Vince Carter to provide veteran leadership and production to the team’s second lineup.

While he is the team’s sixth man by assignment, coach Rick Carlisle still considers him one of Dallas’ most important players. This is evident by Carter’s defined role in the final minutes of close games.

Carter is averaging nearly seven fourth-quarter minutes per game in 2013-2014, nearly two more minutes than he receives in any other quarter.

While his per game stats of 12.1 points, 3.6 rebounds and 2.7 assists indicate that Carter’s a shell of the All-Star he used to be, it’s misleading to think that Carter is fading. When extended out to 36 minutes, Carter’s 17.8 points, 5.3 rebounds, 3.9 assists show he’s still a versatile contributor.

Moreover, Carter’s playing like he embraces efficiency more than ever:

Over his last 20 games, Carter’s offensive rating has exceeded 110 points per 100 possessions.

This has done wonders for Dallas’ second unit. Reunited with former Nets teammate Devin Harris, the Mavericks’ bench has transformed from a weakness in recent years to a relative strength.

“As a whole, the five-man second unit of Devin Harris, Jae Crowder, Nowitzki, (Brandan) Wright, and Carter is scoring 117.4 points and allowing just 87.8 per 100 possessions this season, both elite marks. The unit’s 29.6 net rating — the difference between points scored and points allowed per 100 possessions — is 5th-best in the NBA since Jan. 18 among lineups with at least 50 minutes played. (Jan. 18 was Harris’s season debut.)” - Per Bobby Karalla of Mavs.com

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As you can see, Carter has found his comfort zones on the court. When Carlisle puts Carter alongside Dirk Nowitzki and Jose Calderon in the rotation, Dallas’ perimeter threats open up driving lanes for Monta Ellis.

On to the rankings.

RANK Player RUNDOWN RECENT
1 Phoenix Suns MARKIEFF MORRIS, F, PHOENIX: ”No player has logged more minutes as a reserve. Morris has averaged 16.7 points on a sterling .617 true shooting percentage since the break, all off the bench. Phoenix has outscored opponents with him on the floor in 16 of his last 23 outings.” – Bradford Doolittle 1
2 Taj Gibson headshot TAJ GIBSON, F, CHICAGO: Gibson has earned seven starts this season and looks poised to take over the role full time next season. In those seven games, Gibson has averaged 20.6 points and 9.7 rebounds. For this season, though, he still qualifies as a sixth man. 2
3 Oklahoma City Thunder REGGIE JACKSON, G, OKLAHOMA CITY: Took a few games off with a back injury but is still shooting better than 40% from deep on the month. 3
4 SAS_Ginobili_Manu MANU GINOBILI, G, SAN ANTONIO: San Antonio’s dominance has actually hurt Ginobili’s case. He’s averaging such few minutes over the team’s recent surge that his per game numbers now fail to tell the story of his on-court efficiency.  4
5 Dallas Mavericks Media Day 2013-2014 VINCE CARTER, G-F, DALLAS: He’s shooting 45% from deep since the All-Star Break, keeping the Mavericks in the fight for a spot in the playoffs.  
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DROPOUTS: Jamal Crawford (5).

FIVE TO WATCH: Alec Burks, G, Utah; Patty Mills, G, San Antonio; J.R. Smith, G, New York; D.J. Augustin, G, Chicago; Nick Young, G, LA Lakers.

OTHER RANKINGS: Rookie | Most Improved | MVP | Power

Jacob Eisenberg is a student at Emory University, spending the spring semester abroad in Brazil, and covers the NBA for SheridanHoops.com. Check out his website and click here to follow him on Twitter.