The NBA All-Star Weekend is considered the halfway point of the NBA season. Some teams and players look forward to the break to heal up nagging injuries, step away from the game, and to spend time with family. The All-Stars will continue to play, but not to the highest proportions, being that the All-Star Game is a glorified exhibition game. This time of the year people will reveal who they believe is the MVP, Defensive Player of the Year, etc. Here at MMOS, myself, Mike Sykes, and Samar Gaines wanted to give out our own awards, but not the traditional awards. We came up with six categories for our awards. The categories are as followed: The Not MVP (the player who would be the MVP if his team was better), Most Overrated Player, Most Underrated Player, Most Overrated Team, Most Underrated Team, and Player That Caught Our Eye Most this season. So without further ado, on with the awards.
The Not MVP
Eddie McDonald – Anthony Davis
Anthony Davis is one of the superstars of tomorrow and is currently trying to get his New Orleans Pelicans into the playoffs. He is my Not MVP because of the terrific season he is having. Davis averages 24.5 points-per-game (4th in the league), 10.3 rebounds-per-game (10th) and 2.7 blocks-per-game which ranks him first. The former No. 1 overall pick out of Kentucky is shooting 55 percent from the floor and 83 percent from the charity stripe. Bill Simmons asked the following question on his Grantland NBA special on ESPN this past week if you’d rather have LeBron James for the next seven years or Davis for the next 15. I’d take Davis, because LeBron is nearing 44,000 career minutes including the playoffs and is 30 years old.
Mike Sykes – Anthony Davis
This pick is easy. Anthony Davis will probably finish the season leading the league in player efficiency rating, blocks and win shares per 48 while remaining a top 10 scorer in the league. If the Pelicans were a top three seed in the Western Conference Davis would easily win the MVP. But the truth of the matter is that they’re fighting for the last playoff spot in the conference and out of the Thunder, Suns and Pelicans they seem like the least likely candidate to make it. The Pelicans have played well and have even topped the Atlanta Hawks this season because of The Brow, but he will not win MVP with Stephen Curry and James Harden playing the way they are for their teams at the top of the conference.
Samar Gaines – Anthony Davis
This feels like a good time to write about my love of all things Anthony Marshon Davis, Jr. Of course he’s not going to win the MVP award as his Pelicans are likely going to miss the playoffs, but there isn’t a player in the NBA playing better than Anthony Davis right now. The stats are just amazing, he’s leading the league in PER. In fact he has one of the greatest PER’s in the history of the game. One other thing I’d like to throw out there about Davis, he’s 11-12 on shots to tie or take the lead in the last five minutes of fourth quarter or overtime. It’s Anthony Davis’ world and we are all just living in it.
Most Overrated Player
EM- Chris Paul
Let me preface this by saying this has nothing to do with the statistics, but more about leadership and failure in the playoffs. Yes, Chris Paul is a great player, top three point guard in the league, but he lacks….something. The supporting cast around him should be enough to help him get to at least the Western Conference Finals, but Paul has only reached the WFC one time in his career. He could be the best player in the league if he wanted to, but he doesn’t always play with that sense of urgency. Sometimes he is in cruise control mode and other times he is the best point guard we’ve seen in some time.
MS- Bradley Beal
After long thought, Bradley Beal comes to mind here. I should preface this by saying I think he will eventually become a very good shooting guard in the league and he has all the tools to do so. Beal is only 21 years old and has tons of room to grow, but his shot selection makes him a negative on the offensive end at times. Beal is shooting a career high 44 percent from deep this season, but only 4.1 out of his 13.2 shots are coming from beyond the arch this year. On two point shots, Beal is shooting just 42%. That is because 27 percent of his two point attempts come from between sixteen feet and the three point line while only 20 percent come within three feet of the rim. Some of that has to do with coaching, but Beal has to improve his shot selection and take the long two out of his game before he becomes an efficient player in the NBA.
SG- Kevin Love
I think he’s great, one of the best 5 offensive players in the league when he’s right but, I’m going to have to go with Kevin Love for most overrated player in the game right now. Injuries to Kobe Bryant and Carmelo Anthony have forced my hand here as one of those two would be getting this honor. But this season, I’m going to have to go with Love who has been a shell of his former self. Whether the reason has to do with him or things out of his control are up for debate. Love is sporting his lowest PER since his rookie year (I’m not counting his injury-filled 2012-2013 season), his second lowest TS%, by far his lowest ORB%, and his lowest TRB%. There are plenty of factors for this one being his role. Love is being asked to stand on the perimeter in order to space the floor more for LeBron and Co. While this is not a bad thing for the time, it’s looking like a bad thing for Love. His shots per game are down by around 5, his free throws per game are down by around 3, and because he’s not around the basket as much, he’s not had the offensive rebounding opportunities that he’s had in the past.
Most Underrated Player
EM- Jeff Teague
The Atlanta Hawks are the story of the NBA season thus far. Nobody saw this coming as they were a projected 7 or 8 seed in the Eastern Conference. The guy who runs the offense is my most underrated player of the season so far. His name: Jeff Teague. He (currently) leads his team in scoring at 17.2 points-per-game and in assists at 7.5, which ranks him seventh in the NBA. He shoots near 47 percent from the field and 35 percent from beyond the arc. The Hawks play a Spurs-like style of basketball and Teague is the Tony Parker of the Hawks. He is able to score the basketball, while getting his teammates involved. Teague doesn’t get the credit he deserves.
MS- Kyle Korver
Kyle Korver is the easiest pick you can ever make here. Korver is on pace to finish the season shooting at least 50 percent from the floor and the three point line while shooting 90 percent from the free throw line. Korver is not the most dynamic player on the floor, but he can shoot the lights out and creates so much offense when he runs around the floor and sucks defender after defender into his gravity trying to prevent him from getting a clean look. Korver is not the best player on the Hawks, but he may well be the most important player in terms of generating spacing and creating wide open looks for others. He doesn’t have the ball in his hands a lot, but his impact is always felt, nonetheless.
SG- Brandon Knight
Let’s get this out the way: Brandon Knight was deserving of consideration for the All-Star spot that opened up after Dwyane Wade withdrew. Kyle Korver ultimately ended up being the one picked for the spot, which I have no complaints about, as he is very deserving of his first All-Star spot. In saying that, Brandon Knight is becoming the Eastern Conference Mike Conley; an underrated PG who gets looked over by casual fans because he doesn’t put up the insane numbers of the other PG’s in his conference. So far this season, Brandon Knight is posting a 55.4 true shooting percentage and shooting 40% from three, both career highs. He’s also posting a career high 28.2 percent assist rate to go along with a career high 18.4 PER. Brandon Knight is having a career year and helping lead the Bucks from 15 wins last year to 29 wins at the All-Star break. He’s my pick for most underrated player.
Most Overrated Team
EM- Los Angeles Clippers
Much like its point guard, the Clippers as a whole, to me, are overrated. With Paul at the point and the duo of Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan in the front court, this team should be better than the sixth best team in the highly stacked Western Conference. The Clippers were picked by some to win the NBA championship this year, but this team will be lucky to make it out of the first round, especially if Blake Griffin’s current elbow injury doesn’t heal properly or in time for the playoffs. What doesn’t make sense to me is the fact that this team is 21-8 versus the Western Conference, but are 14-12 against the much inferior Eastern Conference. I don’t buy this team as a serious title contender this season.
MS- Cleveland Cavaliers
The Cleveland Cavaliers have won 12 out of their last 13 games since LeBron James returned from his leave of absence, but I still do not think they are a championship-quality team. The fact of the matter is that they have had one of the easiest schedules in the league over the last 13 games. They have played the Lakers twice, Philadelphia once, Utah once, Charlotte once, Minnesota once, Sacramento once and Detroit once. Those are all games that they should expect to win and they did it. There were some impressive wins against teams like Portland, Chicago and the Clippers in the streak, but they still have to make me into a believer. I still have concerns about them on the defensive end and they still do not utilize Kevin Love well enough for him to be a big threat.
SG- Chicago Bulls
So let me start by saying that I think Tom Thibodeau is one of the best coaches in the NBA and Pau Gasol is one of my ten favorite players ever, but the Bulls are overrated in my eyes. You hear all the “experts” saying that the East is going to have to go through the Chicago Bulls, but then qualify it with “if healthy.” Well they haven’t been healthy in three years. Derrick Rose isn’t the only one that has injury concerns as Joakim Noah has been getting nagging injuries over the last few years. Jimmy Butler is starting to get hurt a little more often. Mike Dunleavy Jr. is hurt. Pau Gasol is older and is playing a lot of minutes and Thibodeau is still a madman. The Bulls defense is also uncharacteristically a middle of the road defense. The Bulls rank 13th in defensive efficiency and 15th in points per possession. This is not a very good team right now.
Most Underrated Team
EM- Atlanta Hawks
It might be hard to believe that the number one team in the Eastern Conference is underrated, but hear me out. The Hawks are 43-11 on the season, but most people are questioning whether or not they can keep this up in the playoffs. This team has no true superstar, but a bunch of guys who can score the rock, with five players averaging double digits in scoring. How do you defend a team that has a plethora of scoring options? The team as a whole averages 103.7 PPG, while holding opposing teams to 97 PPG. The Hawks lead the league in three point percentage, shooting 39 percent. Atlanta averages 25.8 assists-per-game on 38.1 field goals per game. This team is the real deal.
MS- Memphis Grizzlies
The Memphis Grizzlies are the two seed in the Western Conference right now and are not too close to make the Warriors sweat in the standings, but they might be playing the best basketball outside of Atlanta right now in the NBA. They’ve got the fifth best defense in the league right now, but when the playoffs come they might be the only team with a big man who can have the most impact on the game through both sides of the ball. Mike Conley is one of the best point guards in the league at this point and does not turn the ball over. Zach Randolph is playing the best basketball he has in years as well. The Grizzlies are extremely dangerous on both ends of the ball but are not being talked about as far as title contention goes. That is a mistake.
SG- Milwaukee Bucks
This should be a good time to say I’m a big fan of what Jason Kidd has done with the Milwaukee Bucks, seeing as I’m picking them for my most underrated team. This team is the league’s second best defense right now at the All-Star break. They have a legit All-star candidate in Brandon Knight, they have a future All-NBA talent in Giannis Antetokoumpo, oh and they have the number two pick of the draft Jabari Parker, who has basically missed the whole season. The Bucks are doing this without the household names or the big budget superstars. They just play hard night after night and they win games.
Player That Caught Our Eye
EM- Kyle Korver
Yes, the love for the Hawks continues. Kyle Korver has a chance to make history this season, if he continues to play and shoot the ball like he has. Korver is on pace to become the only player in NBA history to be a part of the 90-50-50 club. The 90-50-50 club is when a player shoots 90 percent from the free throw line, 50 percent from the field, and 50 percent from the three-point line. Korver is currently shooting 92%/52%/52%. He averages 3.1 threes-per-game and an NBA best 9 PPG on catch and shoots. It’s tough for opposing teams to guard Korver, who often times can sit in the corner, forcing a defender to pay attention to him, leaving a 4 on 4 matchup for his teammates.
MS- Al Horford
With all the winning going on in Atlanta it is hard to overlook the work that Al Horford has put in for the team this season. They have the most wins in the NBA and have developed a system that works for each and every one of their players, but Horford seems to have the best fit in it to me. He’s the Dirk Nowitzki of the long two point jump shot in the NBA. He does not have enough range to stretch it out to the three point line, but still forces opposing bigs to close out and respect him on the perimeter. He’s an excellent passer and a very solid rebounder as well as a defender. Horford is not going to get any MVP consideration because of his statistics, but his impact on both ends of the floor should not go unnoticed.
SG- James Harden
This has been one of the better regular seasons in NBA history, despite the basketball Gods taking away some of our favorite players with injuries. A lot of players have really caught my eye for a number of reasons, but the one who has caught my eye the most has to be James Harden. Over the last two seasons or so the public opinion on Harden has swung way too far left with people criticizing his game due to his knack for drawing fouls at an exceptional rate. He also has a tendency to take plays or even games off defensively. This season Harden has been his usually terrific self on offense, but his defense has taken a major leap from atrocious to very serviceable and it’s rocketed him into the top of the MVP discussion.