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In Wilbon's World

Opening up the ballot

Votes for any and everything in sports should be made public, from Hall of Fame ballots to post-season awards for professional leagues. And as someone who covers professional basketball for ESPN/ABC (The Washington Post prefers staff writers not vote on post-season awards, so I do so while wearing my other hat) I turned in my ballot Wednesday night for the 2009-10 awards. So here, with explanations in some cases, is my ballot for the NBA's post-season awards.

No long explanation needed for voting LeBron James the league's MVP. He was the best player in the league all season, led his team to the best regular-season record while playing at a level only a handful of players in history have ever reached. Dwight Howard, my runner-up and easily the league's best defensive player, led a team in major transition (Vince Carter in, Hedo Turkoglu out) to the second best record in the Eastern Conference. As impressive a year as Kevin Durant had, I couldn't see voting for him ahead of Kobe Bryant, who despite various injuries virtually the entire season led his team to the best record in a conference where all eight playoff teams won 50 games.

Most Valuable Player

1. LeBron James
2. Dwight Howard
3. Kobe Bryant
4. Kevin Durant
5. Amare Stoudemire

Rookie of the Year

1. Steph Curry, Golden State
2. Tyreke Evans, Sacramento
3. Brandon Jennings, Milwaukee

This was the toughest vote of all, the one for Rookie Of the Year. Even though Brandon Jennings is the only one of the three to contribute to a playoff team, the vote should be split right down the middle between Steph Curry and Brandon Jennings. After traveling to northern California three weeks ago to see Curry and Evans each play against the Lakers, I had decided my vote was going to Evans. Twenty points, 5 rebounds, 5 assists. Only people named Oscar, Michael and LeBron had done that. Evans is a pretty darn good defender for a rookie, smart, controlled, a worker.

But Curry also has a historical distinction: He's the first rook in history to shoot as high as 45 percent from the floor, 40 percent on three pointers, and 85 percent from the foul line. The kid led all rookies in assists, steals, three-point shooting and foul shooting. He had twice as many 30-point games as Evans. And if you make the case that Curry benefited inordinately from Don Nelson's warp-speed offensive system that's unlike anything else in the league, you also have to consider Curry had to share the backcourt with Monta Ellis, who has to be one of the more maddening teammates in the league. Passing is only something he does as a bail-out. Ellis makes Gilbert Arenas look reticent.

Anyway, I submitted my first vote with Evans' name, then changed it, then called the NBA office at least twice more to considering changing it again. That's how even these two are. I know, I know...Brandon Jennings played for a winning team. He also played with Andrew Bogut and (after the All-Star break) John Salmons, two polished veterans. I could make the argument and do it passionately for all three, which bodes well for the league. (By the way, what was Minnesota thinking, drafting Ricky Rubio ahead of Curry?) I wound up sticking with Curry, which I'll certainly not regret. Talk about finishing strong; Curry for the month of April averaged 26 points, 8 assists, 6.4 rebounds and 2.63 steals. Most rookies hit some kind of wall; Curry ran right through it. He could finish as rookie of the month for three of the last four months...Still, I wouldn't mind seeing the votes split right down the middle, as happened in 1995 for Grant Hill and Jason Kidd, for the same award.

Coach of the Year

1. Scott Skiles, Milwaukee
2. Scott Brooks, Oklahoma State
3. Alvin Gentry, Phoenix

Wouldn't you rather have Brooks' Thunder roster than Skiles' roster in Milwaukee? Of course, you would. Even after Bogut suffered that gruesome injury the Bucks just kept on winning. If Bogut was healthy they'd take Atlanta right out of the first round. Gentry can't get enough credit for getting the Suns to play better defense and developing the bench (Jared Dudley, Lou Amundson, Channing Frye, Goran Dragic), which also led to the best chemistry the team has had in years. He benched Amare Stoudemire for not rebounding one night, which turned around the season, put Robin Lopez in the starting lineup, sent Frye to the second unit and weaned the team from having to play every possession with Steve Nash...Thing is, Nash and Stoudemire are all-league players, as are Durant and (soon enough) Russell Westbrook while Skiles has no such mega talents to work with.

Defensive Player of the Year

1. Dwight Howard, Orlando
2. Josh Smith, Atlanta
3. Gerald Wallace, Charlotte


1st Team

F LeBron James
F Amare Stoudemire
C Dwight Howard
G Kobe Bryant
G Dwyane Wade

2nd Team

F Kevin Durant
F Dirk Nowitzki
C Chris Bosh
G Jason Kidd
G Steve Nash

3rd Team
F Carmelo Anthony
F Gerald Wallace
C Andrew Bogut
G Joe Johnson
G Deron Williams

6th Man of the Year

1. Jamal Crawford, Atlanta
2. Lamar Odom, L.A. Lakers
3. Jason Terry, Dallas

Most Improved

1. Marc Gasol, Memphis
2. Aaron Brooks, Houston
3. Joakim Noah, Chicago

Please, don't tell me Andray Blatche belongs on this list considering he tried to undermine his coach's authority, then tried to beg his way into a triple-double one night. That's poisonous. The award usually goes to somebody who makes the most of increased playing time, and Blatche did a good job there. But if the two men were at the top of the draft board and you chose Blatche over Gasol you'd have a team stuck in last place. Gasol's rebounding, defense and shooting percentages are all likely to increase again. If Noah had been healthy the entire year, he'd have averaged more than 11 rebounds a game and would have gotten the vote.


Michael Wilbon

 |  April 17, 2010; 3:59 PM ET  |  Category:  Andray Blatche , NBA Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
Previous: Don't mess with perfection | Next: Wilbits: Playoffs vs. draft


Please report offensive comments below.

Wilbon is always quoting two unnamed teammates of Blatche who bad-mouth him. I'd bet a nickle that those unnamed teammates are Jamison and Butler. Once EG and Flip realized that they, along with Haywood, were detrimental the to growth, harmony and success of the team, they scrapped them for salary cap space. Only then was Blatche able to demonstrate what many of us knew he could do all along.

Maybe, if Wilbon spent some time at Wizards games instead of just listening to the "sources" and then mailing it in, he might get it right. On second thought, I'd rather that Wilbon stay away from the Wizards. He'd never get it right anyhow.

Posted by: Fief1 | April 18, 2010 6:03 PM
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Amare over Durant is wrong.

Posted by: CommieX | April 18, 2010 4:13 PM
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Posted by: hessone | April 18, 2010 8:44 AM
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Last I checked, class had nothing to do with any of this..

Posted by: eyekey416 | April 18, 2010 4:28 AM
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Totally disagree on Blatche... this is an ageism thing. Considering the way Eddie Jordan failed to let Blatche play through his mistakes and immaturity it's no wonder he clashed with Flip.

This guy is 24 years old (as am I), I've had as many bouts with maturity and accountability being a young professional as him, and that doesn't mean I don't care about my performance. It's inevitable because one is acclimating themselves to adulthood. You don't accept the role immediately, and you look for guidance you can trust. The trust issues were imminent, especially when he was out of nowhere the focal point of the offense. I love Twan and think he is as class and efficient a player as the Wizards organization has ever had, but his needling of Blatche I think made him too timid a player. Once the mother let her cubs find their own way, I think his play was what everyone believed if could have been.

Is he any less cancerous than a JR Smith, Nate Robinson, or Rasheed Wallace? All those guys play vital roles on playoff teams..and Blatche is a better player than any of them. Let this guy be the man in the box and give him and Flip time. He respects Flip, I feel. And Flip is forthright with him... has he ever not responded when he's been belittled by his coach?

Posted by: mjsciann1 | April 18, 2010 1:17 AM
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With the exception of Durant to first team and Amare to second I am in full agreement---as if you care. None the less good job Mr.Wilbon.

Posted by: mfowler1 | April 17, 2010 11:05 PM
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Good calls. Blatche's shameless, selfish attempt at a triple double at the expense of just playing basketball shows the guy has no class whatsoever.

Posted by: CHAS4 | April 17, 2010 7:35 PM
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