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Tuesday, May 15th, 2012 at 11:30 am  |  34 responses

Links: How I Voted…

Decision 2012!

by Lang Whitaker | @langwhitaker

Hey everyone. My name is Lang, and I used to hang out around these here parts pretty regularly. That ended about a year ago, when I left SLAM’s full-time employ to become SLAM’s Editor at Large. What does this mean? Nobody knows! I still pop by the office from time to time though, and SLAMonline is still my browser’s homepage. But now I have time to do some things. I can, for instance, take walks during the day, and I can work on projects that take months instead of hours. And, best of all, I have time to watch even more basketball than I ever could.

A few years ago, the NBA asked me to vote in their annual post-season awards. They ask something like 150 media members to vote, so there are a lot of voters out there, but this was a big deal for SLAM. Historically, SLAM had always been a bit of an outsider, and it took us a while to kinda get a foot inside the door of the establishment. Maybe this was a good thing, maybe it wasn’t, but it did give us some legitimacy and recognition. Every year I’ve done this, I’ve posted my ballot here on SLAMonline, to be transparent and let you guys know how I voted, and also to give you the chance to call me an idiot if you disagree.

Anyway, here are all the individual categories for which I was asked to vote. I don’t know why I was picked for these categories, I just was. SO! Here’s how I voted:

SIXTH MAN
1. James Harden
2. Lou Williams
3. Al Harrington
Pretty obvious, to me. In the third slot, for me it came down to either Harrington or Jason Terry. Terry’s numbers were down just slightly from what he did last season, while Harrington’s were up, and Denver actually finished with a better record than Dallas, so I went with Al. (And he ended up finishing fourth in the actual balloting behind Terry.)

ROY
1. Kyrie Irving
2. Kenneth Faried
3. Ricky Rubio
I was so vexed by this category and the Most Improved Player category (more on that later) that I called Ben at the SLAM Dome to get his input. (And it turned out that Ben saw things the same way I was seeing them.) Irving was the clear-cut winner to me. But what to do about Ricky Rubio? He came in, earned the starting role and was one of the biggest stories of All-Star Weekend. Kid even got a SLAM cover. Now, obviously, Ricky blew out his knee and missed the last 25 games of the season. Does that disqualify him from consideration? Then again, Rubio did play in 41 games, which is only five less than Faried, who had to work his way into Denver’s rotation. So that left Ricky in at the three slot. The other guy I considered heavily was Isaiah Thomas in Sacto, who played 65 games and worked his way into the starting lineup, but he also got all those minutes on a team that finished 28 games behind San Antonio in the West, and he averaged about half the assists Rubio did while averaging about the same ppg.

DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR
1. Dwight Howard
2. Tyson Chandler
3. Serge Ibaka
Now, obviously I was in the minority here, as Chandler ended up winning this category. When the award was announced, these facts were cited: “The Knicks ranked among the top half of the League in several key defensive categories, including opponent turnovers per game (17.0, second), opponent field-goal percentage (.442, 10th), and opponent scoring (94.7 ppg, 11th). Opposing teams averaged 22.5 more points and shot .520 from the field when Chandler was not in the lineup. Opponents shot .438 with Chandler in the lineup. In addition, Chandler grabbed 22.1 percent of his team’s defensive rebounds when he was on the floor.” Yes, Dwight won this award the last three years in a row, and people talked about fatigue with Dwight winning, although to me that was no reason to discount him this season. And maybe some people were tired of the circus of whether he would or wouldn’t be traded. Fine. But I still thought no player was as important to his team’s defense and had more impact defensively than Dwight Howard. Magic opponents shot .442 when Dwight was on the floor, and he averaged 14.5 rebounds per game to go with 2.1 blocks. (Chandler averaged 9.9 rpg.) I watched more Knicks games this season than I ever had before, and Chandler was fantastic all year, the guy who just came to play every night despite the circus that was the Knicks this season.

COACH OF THE YEAR
1. Gregg Popovich
2. Tom Thibodeau
3. Frank Vogel
Really tough call here. What Thibs and the Bulls did without Derrick Rose all season was remarkable, obviously. But the Spurs finished with the same record as the Bulls (50-16), and Pop managed to consistently rest guys throughout the season. More than that, check this out: The Spurs had 10 guys who averaged at least 20 minutes per game. (And that doesn’t count Tiago Splitter, who averaged 19 mpg.) On the flip side, the Spurs had only one player average over 30 minutes per game, and that was Tony Parker, who averaged just over 32 mpg. He kept all those guys engaged and fresh and playing hard enough to win the Western Conference and still managed to get guys rest (only one guy played all 66 games—Danny Green).

MOST IMPROVED
1. Ryan Anderson
2. Ersan Ilyasvoa
3. Goran Dragic
This was probably the hardest category for me to figure out, because of one guy: Jeremy Lin. Now, one disclaimer: Pretty much everyone in this category, historically, is someone who has seen a jump in minutes from the previous season. That said, Jeremy Lin went from being cut to making two SI covers and a SLAM cover and, for a while there, being the biggest story in sports. I was at that Knicks-Lakers game when he went for 38, and after covering the NBA for SLAM for a dozen years, I can’t say I’ve ever been at a game where something quite like that happened. So he had an undeniable impact on not just the NBA, but on the entire sports world. All that said, do you know how many games Jeremy Lin actually played this season? Thirty-five, which is just over half of a season. And he only started 25 games. So I didn’t include him on my ballot at all, and he ended up finishing fifth.

MVP
1. LeBron James
2. Kevin Durant
3. Kobe Bryant
4. Chris Paul
5. Tony Parker
This is exactly how the final award ended up going, except KB and CP flip-flopped. I went Kobe first only because dude averaged 28 ppg in his 16th season and managed to play in 58 games, and for everyone talking about all the problems with the Lakers all season long, they still won their division and finished third in the Conference.

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  • http://slamonline.com Ben Osborne

    Good votes, good piece. Still seems exciting to me that we get to vote!

  • http://www.slamonline.com Lang Whitaker

    Dangit, I wanted to get First! on here.

  • http://www.slamonline.com Cheryl

    My only issue (and it’s not really an issue because I understand the slight–it happened to Phil Jackson every year) is the absence of Erik Spoelstra from the COY list. Managing egos is a huge part of coaching in the league these days (ask Stan Van Gundy and his brother for that matter)and it is an aspect of ‘Spo’s coaching abilities that get overlooked and undervalued. I don’t need to get into the details here, right? Anyway, what Pop did this season was amazing, and for all the reasons you mention as well as his ability to develop young players and integrate them into their system. He would have received the top spot in my ballot, too. But Erik should have been in the converstation, in my opinion. BTW, HI LANG! Miss you around here. :)

  • Pokemon Master Ash Your Mother

    lebron > wade :)

  • http://www.slamonline.com Lang Whitaker

    I hear ya, Cheryl. Thanks.

  • KHALID SALAAM

    No major complaints. Though im still surprised Ryan Anderson won MIP. I liked Avery Bradley for this category. Anderson was already a solid rotation player last season. Bradley was playing for the Erie Bayhawks or whatever DLeague team the Celts are affiliated with. Now he starts and plays both ends. Dude is a player….i actually had Durant for MVP with Lebron a close 2nd. But my biggest beef is with ROY. I just think that what Shumpert did (a rook who became one of the 10 BEST DEFENSIVE PLAYERS IN THE LEAGUE) is far more impressive than people understand. Him being slept on is a straight joke. Seriously…..btw, The Links are still dope, i love nostalgia.

  • KHALID SALAAM

    No major complaints. Though im still surprised Ryan Anderson won MIP. I liked Avery Bradley for this category. Anderson was already a solid rotation player last season. Bradley was playing for the Erie Bayhawks or whatever DLeague team the Celts are affiliated with. Now he starts and plays both ends. Dude is a player….i actually had Durant for MVP with Lebron a close 2nd. But my biggest beef is with ROY. I just think that what Shumpert did (a rook who became one of the 10 BEST DEFENSIVE PLAYERS IN THE LEAGUE) is far more impressive than people understand. Him being slept on is a straight joke. Seriously…..btw, The Links are still dope, i love legit nostalgia.

  • http://www.waihak.blogspot.com Tariq

    All your votes make sense. Evan Turner should win Best Voice.

  • LS

    Thanks for including Goran (Gogi) Dragic for MIP consideration! Hope the Rockets can keep him!

  • http://slamonline.com nbk

    So someone gave Josh Selby a 3rd place vote for ROY. Will someone find out who did that and have that person’s right to vote stripped away.

  • http://idunkonthem.blogspot.com albie1kenobi

    the legendary Lang!

  • http://slamonline.com nbk

    I had everything the exact same as Lang except for MVP Kobe would have come in 5th on my imaginary ballot.
    .Just curious though, did you consider Kawhi Leonard for a ROY vote Lang? He worked his way into San Antonio’s starting lineup and took on the biggest defensive assignments on most nights.

  • http://www.slamonline.com Eboy

    *rises out of mothballs*……uhm….is there a link to a Ping Ping story I’m missing here or something?

  • underdog

    Mentioning Isaiah Thomas was a nice touch. Dude deserves more recognition.

  • http://www.slamonline.com Cheryl

    LOL, there’s gonna be a bunch of mothballs around here today, E!

  • KHALID SALAAM

    I see some familiar names on here..

  • matt the jazz fan

    good piece but I would have been interested in the respective merits of the most improved candidates on your ballot rather than just in the reasons (that I tend to agree with) why Jeremy Lin was kept off.
    and yes I remember the big deal it was when SLAM go the vote the first year.
    @Lang are you sort of intimating that in hindsight, this wasn’t a good thing?

  • http://www.slamonline.com Lang Whitaker

    @nbk: Yeah, I did. Shumpert, also. But I didn’t feel like either of them had as big an impact as the guys I voted for.

  • http://www.slamonline.com Lang Whitaker

    @matt: Nope, not at all.

  • Dirtybird

    I’m looking foward to the teams, now.

  • http://slamonline.com nbk

    for sure Lang – thanks for posting your votes and explaining them. I wish the majority of media members with that privilege did the same.

  • KHALID SALAAM

    Good work Lang but Shumpert is my ROY–a rook becoming one of the top 10 best Def players in the L is impressive. More so than people realize.

  • http://slamonline.com SWIFTboy

    Bring back The Links!!!

  • http://slamonline.com SWIFTboy

    Okay, not really. Dunleavy getting into a scuff up with Ibaka a few weeks back reminded me of when you used to post the never ending supply of goofy pics of that dude though.

  • Rasheedionics

    No Slammys Lang???? Man I missed those.

  • Rasheedionics

    And Chery, I hear you about Erik Spoelstra but we must not forget that unlike many other superstars in the league history, D Wade and Bron happen to be one of the ego-less Superstars we ever had… almost to the fault. Part of their demise last year was that they tried to hard to make each other happy. So I think Spoelstra’s job on that front wasn’t that demanding.

  • http://www.slamonline.com Nick Tha Quick

    ” D Wade and Bron happen to be one of the ego-less Superstars we ever had.” Real gem. Speaking of Lang, whatever happened to the Official Player of the Links?

  • http://sdfklf.com Jukai

    As the anti-establishment in the establishment, you should have done at least one joke vote, Lang. Looking at Ivan Johnson being strangely missing from dat MVP vote.

  • http://www.slamonline.com Lang Whitaker

    @Jukai: I voted him best teeth.

  • MikeC.

    I agree that Shumpert should be ROY. He already has the old man tricks like “let the guy get a step and strip him from the side” and he’s a rookie. It was tough seeing him go down in the Playoffs. Lots of old-school names popping back up today. Can we get a throwback Links day? Kick it old-school with the plain grey background and black text? Maybe throw some animated .gifs in there too? If we can get this, I’ll install Netscape to view it and pull my Jamal Mashburn Mavs jersey out of the history bin.

  • matt the jazz fan

    I second Mike C.’s call (as a semi-regular old-school name).

  • http://www.twitter.com/hurstysyd Hursty

    I miss this. I don’t think many people expected Indiana to finish 3rd in the East, even with the addition of David West.
    Looking forward to the Teams.

  • serevei

    kobe’s barely even all nba 2nd team this year… ridiculous that he was given 4th in voting…absolutely disgraceful

  • Y you spell it fiyah

    Cheryl – This might sound weird, but I don’t think the egos on the Heat are that big. They have big expectations and insecurities but compared to the KG’s and the Shaq’s and the AI’s and the Marbury’s? Spo has three pretty low-key, normal guys. They don’t have big personalities that have to be managed, they have high-stakes interests that have to be protected, and there’s a big difference between the two.

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