Miami Heat: Team Season Awards

By Nekias Duncan: Staff Writer @ Hoopstuff…

With the regular season coming to a close, and the Playoffs set to start this weekend, it’s a fair time to hand out team awards. Currently locked into the second seed, and riding another 50-win season, the Miami Heat have had a productive, but sluggish regular season.Miami showed flashes of excellence, but ultimately coasted through most of the year.

Best Player: LeBron James

Stats: 27.1 ppg (1st), 6.9 rpg (1st). 6.4 apg (1st), 1.6 spg (T-1st), 0.3 bpg (T-7th), 56.7% FG (3rd), 37.9% 3PT (4th), 75% FT (7th)

This selection doesn’t need much explaining. LeBron James is, at worst, a top-two player in the entire NBA, and is the engine that makes Miami go. James is the only player in the league leading his team in points, rebounds, and assists, and considering he’s tied for the team steals lead with Mario Chalmers, his defensive impact is felt on the team as well. LeBron’s numbers are basically down across the board from last season outside of his scoring and field goal percentage,but so was his effort this year. LeBron’s defensive effort simply wasn’t there for most of the year, and Miami’s team defensive numbers took a hit because of it. Regardless, James played much better (and harder) on both ends of the court over the last couple of months (27.5 ppg, 6.8 rpg, 6.2 apg, 119 ORtg, 106 DRtg since March 1st), and that should bode well come playoff-time.

MVP: Chris Bosh

Stats: 16.2 ppg (3rd), 6.6 rpg (2nd), 1.1 apg (7th), 1 spg (4th), 1 bpg (2nd), 51.6% FG (5th), 33.9% 3PT (9th), 82% FT (3rd)

If we’re being completely honest about it, Chris Bosh has always been the most valuable member of the Big Three when you look at it from an on-court perspective. Offensively, he’s had to sacrafice his touches and, at the same time, expand his game more than anyone. Dwyane Wade was the one that lured James and Bosh here, and James is the best player quite easily, but it’s Bosh who makes the thing work.

His mid-range (career 45.6% FG shooter between 16-22 feet), and now three-point range provides the floor spacing necessary for the Heat offense to be as deadly as it is. Bosh went 50-168 (29.8%) from three during his seven-year stint with the Raptors; he’s 74-218 (33.9%) THIS SEASON. Bosh not only had to extend his range (his average shot distance is 11.8 ft during his stint in Miami — 13.8 ft this season — compared to 9.6 ft during his stint in Toronto), but also beef up to play as the “center” in Miami’s offense — according to Basketball Reference, Bosh has played 88% of his minutes at center over the last two seasons, compared to 61% during his career in Toronto. Bosh has become a very good help defender in Miami’s frenetic scheme, meaning he’s giving Miami two-way impact that’s needed despite being the 3rd scoring option behind Wade and James. Chris Bosh never gets enough credit for what he’s done since joining the Heat, so it’s only fitting he gets this well-deserved, albeit fictional award.

Most Improved Player (MIP): Mario Chalmers

Last Year’s Stats: 8.6 ppg, 3.5 apg, 2.2 rpg, 1.5 spg, 0.2 bpg, 1.6 tpg, 42.9% FG, 40.9% 3PT, 79.5% FT

This Year’s Stats: 9.8 ppg, 4.9 apg, 2.9 rpg, 1.6 spg, 0.2 bpg, 2.2 tpg, 45.3% FG, 38.5% 3PT, 74.2% FT

Make no mistake about it; Mario Chalmers is still the Heat’s whipping boy if you will. He and LeBron James have that big brother-little brother bond where they always seem to be bickering with each other, but the love between the two are strong. Because of his role and the other talent on this team, the base statistics won’t properly show how good of a point guard Mario Chalmers is. Chalmers has grown as a decision-maker and as a player overall. His assists have jumped up to its highest amount since he nearly averaged 5 a game in his rookie season in 08-09, the same season Dwyane Wade had the best post-Jordan season of any SG when he averaged 30.2-5-7.5-2.2-1.3. Chalmers still has his moments where he forces an issue or two, but he’s cut down on his foul trouble issues that have plagued him the last two seasons. He’s playing a little smarter on both ends, taking better shots, and as a result, his numbers have seen solid improvement. More than likely, Chalmers can give a team around 14 points and 6 assists as a traditional starting PG. He won’t get to man the ball as long as the Big Three are on the roster. But that’s okay. Mario Chalmers, like Chris Bosh to a lesser extent, has grown more comfortable — and reliable — in a reduced role.

Most Valuable Reserve (MVR) & Defensive Player of the Year (DPOY): Chris Andersen

Stats: 6.6 ppg, 5.3 rpg, 0.3 apg, 1.4 bpg, 0.4 spg, 64.4% FG, 71% FT

Andersen is the only player on the team taking home two awards, and deservedly so.

He’s the energy big, and has been Miami’s most reliable rim protector as he led the team in blocks per game. Anderson is one of three bench players (Taj Gibson and Timofey Mozgov) — 15 players overall — to average at least 1 bpg and have opponents shoot under 48% FG at the rim against them. Quite frankly, Andersen makes a bit of a difference for Miami, shown by his +1.6 on-off rating this year, compared to it being -0.2 last year. In most cases, Andersen is on the court with Miami’s 4th quarter unit (Allen-Wade-LeBron-Bosh; Chalmers-Allen when Wade is out). Spoelstra trusts Andersen, as he should.

The Alonzo Mourning Leadership Award: Udonis Haslem

This award was a late addition — late, as in “let me add this in before I send this to the editor. Regardless, Udonis Haslem more than deserves this award for being an outstanding locker room presence, and continuing to exemplify the grit-and-grind Miami Heat culture of old. Haslem started off the season banged up, and didn’t really crack the rotation until after the All-Star break. Instead of complaining about it, Haslem just continued to tell people that the Heat would need him eventually. Sure enough, Haslem has been a much needed presence on the defensive end, with his most notable performance coming against Roy Hibbert during Miami’s 98-86 victory over the Pacers on April 11th.

Haslem has been more than an undersized, put-the-POW-in-power forward off the bench for Miami. He’s been a mentor to the oft-troubled Michael Beasley, who has seemingly taken Udonis Haslem’s spot on the bench. He’s been an emotional pillar for Miami. He hasn’t needed touches to do so — just grit and effort. That is the reason why Miami wouldn’t trade Haslem to bring in Evan Turner before Indiana eventually did so. Although Haslem’s base stats aren’t much to be in awe of (3.7 ppg, 3.7 rpg in 14.2 mpg), one statistic worth mentioning is his 1,510 career offensive rebounds, which is 1st in Heat franchise history. The man he passed? Alonzo Mourning. How fitting is that?

Utah Jazz: Season Grade And Analysis

By Mike Elworth: Owner and Publisher/Hoopstuff..

Record: 24-57- 15th in West

Analysis: It was well known that the Jazz weren’t going to be winning much this season, as they were set on developing their young talent and although they were pathetic until Trey Burke was able to play a third into the season, for a rebuilding team, their season was rather strong.

Positives: They learned that they have a franchise point guard in Trey Burke, a star perimeter player in Gordon Hayward, a franchise big man in Derrick Favors, a very talented sixth man in Alec Burks and they will also receive an excellent pick in an incredible draft.

Negatives: Enes Kanter and Derrick Favors’ inability to become a starting big man duo, Ty Corbin’s rotations, the fact that they were starting Richard Jefferson and Marvin Williams consistently and a lack of playing time for Rudy Gobert were all big negatives. The Kanter/Favors problem is by far the biggest because it looks as though they will have to trade Enes Kanter, as he is way too talented to be starting the game on the bench.

MVP: Gordon Hayward- 16.1 points, 5.0 rebounds, 5.1 assists per game… Hayward is one of the rare NBA players that averages at least 15 points, 5 rebounds and 5 assists per game and although his shooting numbers were low, he has always shown that he is far better than 41.4 percent from the field and 30.9 percent from 3 and so he should improve next season. Speaking of next season, he is a restricted free agent, but no matter the cost they have to retain him, as will be an All Star very soon and is the closest thing they have to a franchise player.

LVP: Ty Corbin- Yes, he is their coach, but there was no player less valuable than him. His inability to get Favors and Kanter to work together is partially his fault, starting Richard Jefferson and Marvin Williams on a rebuilding team was pointless, Rudy Gobert’s lack of playing time in a rebuilding season was even more pointless and there is no reason why Burks (28 minutes per game), Kanter (27), Favors (30) and Burke (32) shouldn’t have played every minute they could handle.

What’s Next: They have three things that they have to do during the offseason; 1, resign Gordon Hayward, 2, trade Enes Kanter for the best package they can find and 3, make the most of their excellent draft pick.

Summary: They found a very nice 3 man foundation of Hayward, Favors and Burke and saw all 3 and Kanter improve, all while giving them a chance to win the Draft Lottery, which is about as strong of a season as any rebuilding team can go through.

Grade: B+

New Orleans Pelicans: Season Grade and Analysis

By Jennifer Fazioli: Lead Writer @ Hoopstuff…

Record: 33-48 * 12th in West

Analysis: The season was a disappointing one for the Pelicans who were thought to be a sleeper pick for the playoffs in the West. Derailed by injuries, they never really had their core together for any significant length of time forcing head coach Monty Williams to use far too many lineup combinations to ever gain any consistency and rhythm with his starting rotation. The Pelicans were looking to build a core around second year franchise player and All Star Anthony Davis, guard Eric Gordon, and point guard Jrue Holiday, acquired in a draft night trade with the 76ers. But all had various injuries throughout the season and were never able to fulfill the potential that the Pelicans front office saw when they built the team this offseason. Now the Pelicans have to hope that an offseason of rest and development along with a full training camp with their full starting rotation will be enough to get this team to that level. Losing their first round draft pick to Philadelphia in the trade they executed for Holiday (top 5 protected) certainly does not help in the continued rebuilding process going forward.

Positives: Anthony Davis earned his first All Star bid and proved why he was the number one draft choice in 2012. He averaged 20.8 PPG and 10.0 RPG with a true shooting percentage of 58.2 and the 4th highest PER in the league (26.54) behind only Kevin Durant, LeBron James, and Kevin Love. Davis had 36 double-doubles in just 67 games this year and averaged 2.8 blocks per game, good for the most in the league. Davis and Ryan Anderson, though playing the same position, seemed to work well together for the short periods of time they were on the floor together, calming some of the fears of Pelicans’ fans that the tandem would not be effective when on the floor at the same time. When Davis and Anderson were on the court the Pelicans outscored opponents by 10.3 points per 100 possessions a complete turnaround from the season before. Because they play different styles (Anderson is an adept 3 point shooter while Davis does most of his work within three feet of the rim; Davis excels at protecting the paint while the Pelicans’ defense is better when Anderson is on the bench) their games should be able to complement one another as they gain more playing time together.

Negatives: Injuries. The inability of Davis to stay on the floor consistently could be an issue going forward. He seems to be the Kyrie Irving of the Pelicans, felled by seemingly innocuous ailments that just keep popping up, never leaving him out for long but also never permitting him to play a steady stretch of games. Gordon managed to stay healthy for most of the season, playing in the most games he has since his rookie season but health is always a major issue with Gordon and the question is not if something will crop up, but when; not exactly a tendency you want in your starting two guard. Holiday, the team’s starting point guard was lost in January to a stress fracture he never recovered from. And Anderson, as well as he played early, was lost just 22 games into the season with a herniated disc that eventually required surgery. The Pelicans also have a great deal of money tied up in Anderson. If they don’t feel he and Davis can play well together on a long term basis his contract may leave him difficult to trade. The same is true of small forward Tyreke Evans, far from the most efficient player and generally viewed as a bad free agent signing by Pelicans’ management. Evans, obviously brought in to be a starter, ended up sharing time with Al Farouq-Aminu but has a cap hit of over $11 million next season and is signed through 2016.  Moreover the Pelicans lacked a strong starting center perhaps some of the reason, despite Davis’ presence, that the team suffered on the defensive side of the ball this season, ranking 26th in the league with a defensive rating of 107.8.

MVP: Anthony Davis. Davis was the lone bright spot in an otherwise disappointing year that failed to live up to preseason expectations and should be in the league MVP discussion for years to come. He has been posited as the biggest challenger to James and Durant for the award over the course of the next five years.

LVP: Several Pelicans players failed to step up when presented with the opportunity this year including Jeff Withey, Luke Babbitt, Evans, and Darius Miller but all have fairly limited skill sets. So I’m going to pick on Austin Rivers for the simple fact that he was the 10th overall pick in the draft in 2012 and that carries weighty expectations that he has not even come closing to reaching. While not the complete disaster that his rookie season was, Rivers only took a small step forward this year and is still just a marginal player on a team that is looking to contend. With a true shooting percentage of just 47.1 and a PER of 11.27 Rivers is remarkably inefficient and when Williams was forced to use him at the point late in the season with both Holiday and Brian Roberts out due to injuries, it became obvious that he does not know how to create for others when his own shoot isn’t falling. Rivers is still very much a work in progress.

What’s Next: Doing anything and everything to acquire the Phoenix Suns training staff. Barring that actually happening, hoping that the depth in this draft is better than it has been predicted to be as they do not hold a first round selection. The Pelicans were bad enough to miss the playoffs by 16 games but not awful enough to hold on to their first round pick, instead ceding it to the Sixers leaving them in no man’s land for the future. They could look to trade Evans or Anderson in the offseason but the focus must be on acquiring a reliable center to complement Davis; something that will admittedly be hard to pull off. Jason Smith and Greg Steimsma are both unrestricted free agents and the Pelicans will have to decide if they are worth bringing back (probably not) and the free agent options run the gamut from Ryan Hollins to Chris Kaman to Spencer Hawes – not exactly awe inspiring. Andrew Bogut would be an intriguing option especially on the defensive end but is not without risk as he has quite a lengthy injury history as well. The Pelicans needs also extend to securing a reliable backup point guard and more perimeter players for a bench lacking some quality depth; all of which is difficult to do without having a first round pick.

Summary: The Pelican’s season did not live up to the promise it showed on paper but a great deal of that had to do with injuries. It is not an indication that the entire roster needs to be turned upside down but without a first round draft pick and only about $9 million in projected cap room next year they will need to be wise with their spending. Still when you have one of the best young players in the league on your team there is always hope.

Grade: C-

Denver Nuggets: Season Grade and Analysis

By Josh Morgan: VP and Director of Content…

Record: 36-44 11th in the West

Analysis: By many observers accounts the Nuggets had the worst offseason of any team in the league. They lost their GM Masai Ujiri, one of the best young executives in basketball, their coach George Karl, one of the best coaches in the game, Andre Iguodala, arguably their best player, traded Kosta Koufas, a solid bench player for Darrell Arthur who has not produced much at all, let Corey Brewer leave and did not pick up anything on the free agent market besides Nate Robinson and JJ Hickson, both of whom have missed chunks of the season due to injury. Danilo Gallinari then suffered a setback when it was discovered his surgically repaired knee needed another operation and he would miss this season as well. To say this season was looking difficult would be an understatement. Ty Lawson put this team on his back however and into February it was possible that they could sneak into the playoff picture. Their horrendous defense, 28th in the league giving up 106.3 points per game, was just too much to overcome in the end however and now the Nuggets will have a selection in the lottery to improve a roster in dire need of an upgrade.

Positives: Lawson has turned into a franchise player. He has taken on a bigger role as a playmaker and though he is somewhat turnover prone, averaging 3.2 a game, he dishes out 8.8 assists and uses his incredible speed with the ball in his hands to get to the rim and either finish or find one the athletes at the rim for easy dunks. He needs to improve upon his shooting, as his percentages have slipped each year in the league, but if this team is able to take some pressure of him by getting more talent around he will be able to get easier shots with the floor spread.

The player the Nuggets received in the sign and trade for Andre Iguodala, Randy Foye, actually put up better numbers than Iggy and at more than nine million dollars less. Foye is averaging 13 points, 2.9 rebounds and 3.4 assists per game and is one of the better three point shooters in the league. The Nuggets may have taken some heat for not getting much in the deal when it happened but Foye has played very well for them.

Negatives: JaVale McGee. Sure he has his moments where he looks like a fool but he is a talented player that put up some good numbers in the first season of his four year, 44 million dollar deal last season. He didn’t even get a chance to have his normal blooper reel this year however as he only played five games before injuring his left tibia and missing the rest of the season. Eleven million dollars down the drain.

Coach Brian Shaw was brought over from Indiana with a defensive pedigree but wow, what a disaster this team has been on that end of the floor. They are giving up two more points a game than they score and when you average 104 points per game that is some horrendous defense. Their bigs, Kenneth Faried and Timofey Mozgov, are actually decent defenders but when your backcourt is as bad as theirs is on the defensive end there isn’t much they can do. Someone needs to develop some pride in stopping their man or the Nuggets will struggle next season as well.

MVP: Ty Lawson: 17.6 points per game, 8.8 assists, 3.5 rebounds and 1.6 steals

He is their cornerstone and should’ve been an All Star this season.

LVP: JaVale McGee, he barely played but the eleven million dollars they are paying him is just money down the drain this season. Danilo Galinari could be included but McGee actually saw some action this year.

What’s Next: Getting healthy would be a great first step. McGee and Galinari are taking up a lot of cap space to not play more than five games. Then finding someone, anyone at all to defend on the perimeter is an absolute must. They are one of the best scoring teams in the league but when you give up 106 points per game you just won’t win consistently. Whatever cap space they do have should go towards finding a defensive stopper or at least someone that gives some effort on that end. The lottery pick they have could be used for this as well.

Summary: Terrible defense, injuries to big money players and not enough talent around Ty Lawson doomed the Nuggets season. It’s just that simple.

Grade: C- I cut them some slack because of the injuries to Gallo and McGee. If they were playing they could’ve snuck into the picture for the final playoff spot in the West, at least in my opinion.

The NBA’s Newest Franchise Players

By Mike Elworth: Owner and Publisher/Hoopstuff…

Each season young and even veteran players take their games to another level, a level of stardom and a level to where they can be considered their team’s franchise player and the player that said team will build around long term. This season there were 7 cases of a team finding a franchise player, which means that 7 franchises are in far better shape now than they were to start the season.

Joakim Noah- Chicago Bulls

- Noah is first, but just because he is a special case. The Bulls already have a superstar, a franchise player and an MVP in Derrick Rose, but as he has played in only 10 games in 2 seasons there is concern that he won’t be his All Star self again. This has put their long term potential in doubt and although it still is, at least the Bulls have found a player that they can build around if Rose cannot stay healthy. This player is the NBA’s new best center, Joakim Noah. Noah is one of the NBA’s best defenders and will probably win the Defensive Player of the Year Award this season, but he is also an elite rebounder, a strong scorer and is the best big man distributor since David Robinson. Noah has gone from an All Star to one of the best players in the league and has given the Bulls a 2nd franchise player. He could conceivably be 3rd in the league in MVP voting this season and has given them a plan B when it comes to building around a player.

Anthony Davis- New Orleans Pelicans

- Davis is only 21 and is already an Olympic gold medalist, an NBA All Star and one of the NBA’s best players. After a strong rookie season, he has taken his game to the next level and is the only player in the NBA averaging at least 20 points, 10 rebounds and 2 blocks per game and has already become the franchise player for New Orleans that most knew he would become.

John Wall- Washington Wizards

- John Wall has put together an entire season of All Star play for the 1st time, he has played better than any guard in the East and he’s rewarded the Wizards for their confidence in him in the form of a max contract given to him. He has played in each game this season but 1 and it seems that all he had to do to become a star and a franchise player is stay healthy.

Eric Bledsoe- Phoenix Suns

- Bledsoe is the only player on this list that will be a free agent this offseason, but despite missing a large portion of the season, he has proved that he is a franchise player and an elite player on each side of the floor. If it wasn’t for his knee injury, he would have made the All Star team, his 1st season as a starter and the Suns have to resign him no matter the cost (he is a restricted free agent, so they can match anything), as he has proven that he should be the heir to Steve Nash as the alpha dog in Phoenix.

DeMarcus Cousins- Sacramento Kings

- Like Wall, Cousins rewarded the Kings for his new max contract by having by far his best season on the court and his best when it comes to his behavior (although he still has had a few problems). He is one of the NBA’s best offensive big man, he is leading all centers is scoring, he is one of the league’s best rebounders and he is an animal. If he can continue to play this well, but more importantly, continues maturing, he can be one of the league’s top players. However, with his incredible season, he has proven after a lot of uncertainty that he is the Kings’ franchise player and will be for as long as he behaves.

Andre Drummond- Detroit Pistons

- The Pistons’ franchise is a mess. Joe Dumars has left (he was going to be fired anyways), the Josh Smith signing was an incredibly poor move, they are about to lose Greg Monroe, Brandon Jennings doesn’t fit on the roster, they chose Kentavious Caldwell Pope instead of Michael Carter Williams and they have no talent on the perimeter, but they have Andre Drummond. Drummond is only 20, but is already their best player, the NBA’s 2nd leading rebounder, is 2nd in the league in field goal percentage, is 10th in blocks, is one of the best centers in the NBA and he has given the Pistons a franchise player to build around for a very, very long time.

Ty Lawson- Denver Nuggets

- Lawson has very quietly lead the Nuggets all season long to respectability, despite a lack of talent on their roster due to injury. Leading the team in points and assists (3rd in the NBA), he actually has lead the Nuggets to a record that would have them in the running for a playoff spot in the East, despite their 2nd offensive option being Wilson Chandler, who is only averaging 14 points per game. Lawson isn’t the talent of the rest of the players on this list, but there is no denying that he has become a franchise player for the Nuggets.

Los Angeles Lakers: Season Grade and Analysis

By Josh Morgan: VP and Director of Content…

Record: 25-55- 14th in the West

Analysis: Coming into the year with Kobe still rehabbing his Achilles the expectations for the Lakers were tempered but I don’t think anyone expected them to be quite this bad. Pau Gasol was and still is franchise center and it was possible that if the veterans around him stayed healthy they could tread water until Kobe Bryant found his way back to the court. It seems as if father time has caught up to him finally and after playing just six games he fractured his tibia and would miss the rest of the season. The remaining veterans started dropping like flies and though a few of the younger guys played well, notably free agent pick up Kendall Marshall and Jodie Meeks, a spot in the lottery appeared on the horizon in January. They won’t stay down for long but this season has been nothing short of a disaster for one of the cornerstones of the NBA.

Positives: As mentioned above Kendall Marshall came to Los Angeles in December after being thrown on the trash heap by Phoenix and Washington and from day one took to Coach D’Antoni’s system extremely well and showed his former teams what they were missing. He is averaging just under 8 points per game but his shooting has improved, one of the biggest knocks on him coming into the league, and his 8.7 assists per game are good for fourth in the league. The Lakers may have found their long term starter at the point in Marshall whoever the coach may be going forward.

Jodie Meeks took advantage of the most playing time in his career to lead the team in overall points averaging 15.6 per game with 2.5 boards, 1.8 assists and a steal per game and will force the Lakers to make a decision on whether to bring him back. He would be a great bench scorer for this team when they rebuild and in the mean time will be a good offensive piece around Marshall, Pau and Kobe.

Negatives: Kobe only playing six games was a pretty big surprise. He is one of if not the most competitive person in sports and it was assumed he would come back with a vengeance and get the Lakers back on the right track. He got derailed in December however, Steve Nash missed the vast majority of the season, only playing 15 games and though Pau had his moments, he missed 22 games as well. These injuries to their two best players and their assumed point guard were too much to overcome.

MVP: Pau Gasol: He will miss 22 games but this was a bit of a bounce back season for Gasol, nearly averaging a double double at 17.4 points per game, 9.7 rebounds and 3.4 assists. They have tried to move him for the past few years but he just ignores the rumors and plays, usually at a very high level.

LVP: This may be unfair, as he was injured coming into the season and got injured again in December, but with thirty million dollars coming his way this year Kobe Bryant is their least valuable player.

What’s Next: They need to use their lottery pick wisely and find a player can fit with Kobe for the final few years of his career and be able to take over once he decides it’s time to move on. The offseason will be an interesting one, as the future of D’Antoni is definitely in doubt and they have plenty of holes to fill on their roster. Will they be able to convince the Wolves to part with Kevin Love? Will they pull off a shocker no one sees coming to add the franchise player they need? Mitch Kupchak signed back on with an organization that has more questions than answers right now. It is Los Angeles though, they will be back whether you are a fan or not.

Summary: Injuries to veterans and not enough young talent around them killed the Lakers. They did have a few surprises, such as Kendall Marshall and Jodie Meeks, but they were not enough to lead a team out of the bottom of the Western Conference. The lottery is not a place the Lakers have been recently but that’s where they are in a very good draft class. The turnaround could be quick.

Grade: D-

Boston Celtics: Season Grades And Analysis

By Mike Elworth: Owner and Publisher/Hoopstuff…

Record: 25-55- 12th in East

Analysis: The Celtics traded Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce in the offseason and with Rajon Rondo expected to miss a large portion of the season, the playoffs weren’t expected for the Celtics, however, Rondo missed 2/3rd’s of the season and the Celtics played far below even modest expectations on their way to being a bottom dweller in the NBA.

Positives: Avery Bradley, Jared Sullinger and Kelly Olynyk all showed a lot of potential, rookie coach Brad Stevens proved that he belongs in the NBA, they will have a probable top 7 pick in an excellent draft and All Star Rajon Rondo should be healthy next season, which means they can make the playoffs.

Negatives: A big lack of wins, missing the playoffs after more than a half decade of excellence, consistent Rajon Rondo trade rumors and the realization that they are in deed rebuilding (if the offseason didn’t already say enough) are all negatives of the season.

MVP: Avery Bradley (14.7 points per game and excellent defense) and Jared Sullinger (13.3 points and 8.7 rebounds per game) are tied for the honor, as Jeff Green didn’t lead this team the way he was capable of and Rondo missed most of the season and they each solidified their places as their 2 best young long term building blocks.

LVP: Jeff Green- As I just wrote, Jeff Green was expected to lead this team with Rondo injured, but he just didn’t play well enough. His points, rebounds, efficiency and their lack of wins showed that he is unable to be a strong first or 2nd option in the NBA, although to be fair, we kind of already knew this. Regardless, he was just underwhelming this season.

What’s Next: They have to resign Avery Bradley, make their annual decision on whether they should trade or keep Rajon Rondo, get ready for the draft, where they have 2 1st round picks and try and trade the salaries of Jeff Green and Gerald Wallace.

Summary: The lack of wins is a little disconcerting, but with no Rondo for most of the season, this team had little chance of being a playoff team. However, they did get to see their impressive collection of young talent grow and they found themselves a very strong coach, so the season wasn’t all a waste.

Grade: C-

 

Detroit Pistons: Season Grades and Analysis

By Jennifer Fazioli: Lead Writer At Hoopstuff…

Record: 29-52, 11th in the East

Analysis: Where have the ‘Bad Boys’ of the 1980s gone? The closest Detroit fans will come to reliving the Pistons’ heyday this year is the ESPN ’30 for 30’ documentary on those 80s teams scheduled to air this week. This year’s team was just bad and not in a good way. Heck, where was the defensive scrappiness that led the 2004 team to a championship title over the Lakers? If they gave out awards for worst executive of the year Joe Dumars would be at the top of the list for yet more head scratching signings this offseason including bringing in Josh Smith at four years/$54 million and giving $8 million a year to Brandon Jennings when no one else in the market was bidding at that rate for his services. Smith, playing out of position at small forward, never meshed with Andre Drummond or Greg Monroe and put up the worst statistical shooting season of his career, shooting just 42 percent from the field and 26 percent from 3-point range, though that didn’t stop him from jacking up such shots at a steady rate. The Pistons poor play resulted in the firing of first year head coach, Maurice Cheeks, just 51 games into the season as well as the nonrenewal of Dumar’s contract as president of the team.

Positives: The decision to draft Andre Drummond with the ninth overall pick in 2012 was one of the few good ones Dumars has made in the last several years. Drummond proved to be one of the best big men in the game today and gives the Pistons at least a modicum of a foundation to build on for the future. Charlie Villanueva finally comes off the books as does Rodney Stuckey, who despite the Pistons attempts to make him into a starter, is better as a backup, coming off the bench. The team will have about $35 million in cap space to work with and potentially holds a high draft pick so there is room to build.

Negatives: Three more years of Josh Smith at $13.5 million per year – enough said. Two more years of the inconsistent Jennings is almost just as bad. A looming decision on whether to keep third year big man Greg Monroe in the fold or seek to trade him; a choice that never would have even been in consideration if not for the signing of Smith. A frontcourt with Drummond, Smith, and Monroe has proven to be untenable and might be part of the reason for Smith’s historically bad play. The need to replace both a general manager and head coach (the odds of interim head coach John Loyer remaining in that position are slim to none) suggests a team starting all over that might not be good for several more years.

MVP: Andre Drummond and it isn’t even close. Drummond is averaging 13.4 PPG, 13.2 RPG, and 1.6 blocks per game with a very efficient PER of 22.51 (third best among all centers). Over his last five games he is putting up 17.8 PPG and 18.8 RPG while shooting 66 percent from the field. Drummond has shown the ability to handle heavy minutes, finish in the paint and shot block down low like a champ. The one knock on him coming out of college was his ‘motor’ but there are few that play as aggressively as he does particularly on the offensive boards (where he leads the league), thus turning that assumption on its head. He is just the second player in the history of the league to average 13 points, 13 rebounds, 1.5 blocks, and 1.0 steals per game during his first two seasons in the league. The other? Hall of Famer Bob McAdoo. Not bad company for a player that fell to the ninth pick due to questions about dedication to the game. Drummond’s offensive game is a work in progress and mostly still comes in the form of layups and dunks but he is just 20 years old and continuing to develop. The Pistons may have the league’s future best center in the game in their fold.

LVP: Josh Smith. Jennings would be exhibit 1B but this ‘award’ clearly belongs to Smith. Playing out of position hasn’t helped, but Smith is averaging career lows in shooting percentage (41.9), free throw percentage (53 percent), and PER (14.11). Smith has been unable to stretch the floor to create space in the paint for Monroe and Drummond to operate because his jump shot is one of his biggest weaknesses. Putting him at small forward encourages him to shoot more often (16 attempts per game compared to a career average of 13.2) for a lower percentage (41.9 vs. 45.9 percent career average). Some of his shots are so inefficient they essentially function as turnovers. Smith’s defense has been subpar also as he does not do well at guarding the three since he’s not accustomed to having to man the perimeter.

What’s Next: Because they will have at least the eighth worst record in the NBA they will get to hold on to their lottery pick this year instead of handing it over to Charlotte (as it was top 8 protected; the Ben Gordon trade that just keeps on giving – another one of Dumars’ mystifying decisions). Thus the Pistons get to avoid the purgatory of missing the playoffs and having no first round draft pick. They have many needs in the draft but their best option might be Syracuse point guard, Tyler Ennis, a quick, true pass-first point guard that should really help out their bigs down low. He has been excellent in the pick and roll game and has proved to be a solid leader, something this team could desperately use. Despite being tied in to Jennings for two more years, they could look to try to off load him however difficult this might prove to be or they could slide him over to the two guard when Ennis and he are on the floor together.

Summary: For a team that entered the season having doled out a great deal of money during the offseason (notice most expensive does not equal best) and whose expectations were to be in the top half of the Eastern playoff race, this season was enormously disappointing, even more so than Milwaukee’s halfhearted attempts to lock down the 8th seed from the outset. Now they may be looking to trade a lottery pick from three years ago (Monroe) and are locked in to two bad signings that dragged the entire team down offensively. The trio of Monroe, Drummond, and Smith just does not work well together as currently constructed. They also have to find themselves a new general manager and their ninth head coach in the past 13 seasons. This was not a team that was looking to rebuild but now they may have no choice in the matter.

Grade: F

Philadelphia 76ers: Season Grades And Analysis

By Mike Elworth: Owner and Publisher/Hoopstuff…

Record: 17-63- 14th in East

Analysis: Well they wanted to tank and tank they did. Apparently losing a lot just wasn’t enough so they decided to become pathetic by trading Evan Turner and Spencer Hawes for peanuts.

Positives: There is Michael Carter Williams’ Rookie of the Year campaign, where he looks like he could be an All Star and their franchise player for the next decade, they will have a pick no lower than 5th in an incredible draft and we got to see a lot of D-League players who won’t play in the NBA again; that was fun, I think.

Negatives: There was the 26 game losing streak tying an NBA record, besides MCW, Thaddeus Young and Tony Wroten, there isn’t a single player on their team who would be playing for anyone else, they are the least talented team right now possibly in a decade, they weren’t able to receive anything for 2 starters (Turner and Hawes) and did I say they lost 26 straight games?

MVP: Michael Carter Williams- 16.7 points, 6.1 rebounds and 6.3

LVP: When you are so lousy as a team and are so young, it really is difficult to say who is the LVP, but I will say Noel, because he didn’t play all season.

What’s Next: They have 2 of the 1st 10 picks in an excellent draft, where they should draft 2 long term starters and that top 5 pick should give them another All Star talent next to MCW and Nerlens Noel. They also have about 6 2nd round picks because of trades, so how they maneuver in the 20-60 range in the draft will be interesting.

Summary: They deserve an F for what they did on the floor, but they accomplished their goals of acquiring picks and getting in excellent position to receive the number 1 pick in the draft, all while maintaining a perfect cap, which gives them an A in that department.

Grade: C

 

 

Orlando Magic: Grading and Analyzing the Season

By Josh Morgan: VP and Director of Content…

Record: 23-56 13th in East

Analysis: There was plenty of young talent coming into the season for the Magic but the inconsistencies and almost ineptitude on the offensive end led to a bottom third finish in the East. The playoffs were never a possibility but I expected more from a team with the talent they have.

Positives: Arron Afflalo turned into a go to player this year offensively and with the Magic not cashing in on his trade value at the trade deadline, he should make for a very good combo at the guard with Victor Oladipo going forward. He was already a very good defender but this season he has taken advantage of a larger offensive role and did not disappoint. If Oladipo can settle into his role as a point guard, they have a solid backcourt to go along with a franchise center in Nikola Vucevic.

Negatives: The offensive troubles were too difficult to overcome, ranking 24th in points per game and shooting very poorly from everywhere on the floor. They were middle of the pack in turnovers as a team but Oladipo averaging over 3 a game while playing over 30 minutes does not bode well for his transition to a point guard. They have a decent starting five on the defensive end but they desperately need scorers at any and every position and for Oladipo to figure things out as a playmaker.

MVP: Arron Afflalo: 18.6 points per game, 3.7 rebounds, 3.4 assists

LVP: Andrew Nicholson: 5.4 points, 3.3 rebounds in just 15 minutes per game

What’s Next: Getting more consistent scorers on the wing would do great things for this team, helping to spread things out for Afflalo, Oladipo and Vucevic. Whether that be through the draft or free agency, a consistent scorer and shooter is a must find.

Summary: I honestly expected more from the Magic, though not a playoff berth. There is young talent on this roster but something coach Vaughn was saying just didn’t click. A good draft and free agency period could have them making some noise next season.

Grade: D