The Rubio Dilemma deepens for Wolves

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Ricky Rubio is supposed to be the savior. That’s the plan. He’s the piece that will come in and make all the misfit toys shine like new. And to be honest, even with the Timberwolves sucking for another year, the idea of Rubio being added to Micheal Beasley and Kevin Love with Wes Johnson thrown in is pretty exciting. That’s a core you can see winning. Or at least, the 18 year old Rubio who was drafted. Because, as the New York Times points out, Rubio’s kind of slipped. Hard.

Rubio didn’t look great in FIBA play this summer, and that’s carried over to his Euroleague play this year. He’s shooting 32%. The kid’s never been known for a great jumper, but that’s a big step backwards. That has to put a damper on the Wolves to some degree in their hopes of him being the savior. But more alarming is the following passage from The Times:

“The bottom line is, why would he want to play in Minnesota?” a senior member of Rubio’s camp said this month. “He’ll continue to say all the diplomatic things, and Minnesota needs to keep his value up for trade purposes, but the family’s preference is to be on the East Coast, specifically New York, Miami or Boston. He wouldn’t be troubled if he has to stay another year.”

But the Timberwolves have leverage. They hold his exclusive draft rights, meaning they are the only N.B.A. team with whom he can negotiate. Their latest strategy in trying to persuade Rubio to sign may center on the possible N.B.A. lockout of players after the collective bargaining agreement expires June 30. The terms of the new agreement will probably be significantly less favorable for rookies.

via Ricky Rubio, No. 5 N.B.A. Pick, Struggles in Europe – NYTimes.com.

Minnesota fans will be quick to point out this is a New York paper, and all New York media has been spinning the story that Rubio wants to come to New York from the beginning, that there’s been no word from Rubio publicly that that’s what he wants. There’s just been word from just about every source around him that that’s what he wants.

So the problem now isn’t just one of whether or not he’ll be willing to sign and commit to the Wolves, which he has at least never indicated he wants to do (whether he’s indicated he doesn’t want to or not), but that he’s not looking like they dynamite point guard he did two years ago. He’s being billed as the savior, but in reality, he may just be a very good point guard. And if that’s the case, he’s still a building block for the Wolves, but no the answer.

One other problem not mentioned in this article? Rollbacks.

Should the CBA greatly restrict cap space and revamp salaries as it’s expected to, there’s a strong contingent that believes there will be salary rollbacks. Which means that Rubio could sign under the current rookie structure, and still have his deal revamped into the new system. There’s no guarantee of more money in the event he decides to come over and sign now.

Things are just never easy for the Timberwolves.

Bill Russell to Shaq, Kareem during awards show: “I would kick your ass”

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Bill Russell is one of the greatest basketball players to have ever lived. His dominance for the Boston Celtics is unquestioned.

And, he apparently knows it.

Russell received a lifetime achievement award on Monday night during the 2017 NBA Awards. Joined on stage by NBA big men Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Shaquille O’Neal, David Robinson, Alonzo Mourning, and Dikembe Mutumbo, Russell opened his acceptance speech of the award with a little joke.

Via Twitter:

Tell ’em, Bill

Russell Westbrook has to choke back tears during emotional MVP acceptance speech

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Russell Westbrook was a tornado on the court this past season, tearing fearlessly through the NBA, leading the Thunder to the playoffs, and eventually himself to winning the MVP Award on Monday night.

It was a different side of Westbrook we saw when he accepted the award, barely able to hold back the tears in thanking his parents, teammates, and everyone who helped him get to that point.

Russell Westbrook wins the 2017 NBA MVP Award

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Russell Westbrook or James Harden for the 2017 NBA MVP? We finally have our answer.

On Monday night Westbrook, the Oklahoma City Thunder star, took home the Maurice Podoloff Trophy, earning him the right to be called the league’s most valuable player for the 2016-17 NBA season.

Westbrook had 68 first-place votes, runner-up James Harden had 22, however, Harden had so many second place votes that this was the closest race in a decade (although it wasn’t that close). Kawhi Leonard finished third, LeBron James fourth, and Isaiah Thomas fifth.

The MVP debate raged on the entire regular season, but the Oklahoma City Thunder star hit new heights in 2016-17, averaging a triple-double for the entire season, a feat not seen since 1962 when Oscar Robertson did it. That pushed him over impressive numbers by Houston Rockets star Harden, who was incredible as he moved to play the point guard position full-time for NBA Coach of the Year Mike D’Antoni.

Whether you picked Westbrook or Harden, I’m not so sure that there was a wrong answer. Granted, the Rockets were a much better team and in fact gave some of the best squads in the Western Conference a run for their money. Harden and D’Antoni seemed like a natural pairing, and his move to the point guard position was inspired. Houston finished third in the Western Conference last season, a mark that most of us did not expect them to achieve without the likes of Dwight Howard.

In comparison, the Thunder were only in playoff contention because of Westbrook and even then, they scraped by the entire season. Oklahoma City had just three players with a positive VORP For the season, in stark contrast to the Rockets. While basketball purists might rightly point out that Westbrook’s contribution to his team was still centered around himself, the debate will have to rage on with the trophy now firmly in the Thunder star’s grasp.

Plus, if you ever watched the guy it would be hard not to point to him as MVP. Westbrook was just flat out ridiculous.

It is difficult to understate just how significant Westbrook’s statistical achievement is for the season. He averaged 31.6 points, 10.7 rebounds, and 10.4 assists per game. The ability of a player to achieve that record with modern defenses in the NBA being what they are is impressive, even if you want to argue that many teams allowed Westbrook to operate while concentrating on his lesser teammates.

In the age of advanced statistics, when an analyst with both a spreadsheet and a pair of working eyes may slide to the side of Harden, it is still an astonishing thought to think Westbrook dominated so wholly against his opponents statistically. Indeed, if you ask me who had a genuine impact and who was more impressive, the answer would have to be split between the two.

So here we are, at the end of the year and everything is as we thought it would be. Russell Westbrook is the individual season champ as a player, the best of the best. The Golden State Warriors are the team champions of 2016-17. You could argue against either of them, but I don’t think it would do you any good. Westbrooks season is a statistical anomaly we are unlikely to see again. NBA MVP voters have got it wrong a lot of the time over the years, but this isn’t one of them.

Russell Westbrook is your NBA MVP.

Draymond Green wins 2017 NBA Defensive Player of the Year

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There were a lot of incredible candidates for the 2017 NBA Defensive Player of the Year Award, but make no bones about it: Golden state Warriors forward Draymond Green was the most deserving.

Monday night Green was announced as the Defensive Player of the Year during the NBA’s Awards Ceremony.

In a year in which the Warriors were coming off a 73-9 season, and after an offseason where they added Kevin Durant, Green’s importance to the team was never overstated. His tenacity on defense and switchability allowed the Warriors to continue to be one of the best defensive squads in the NBA. Golden State finished second in the NBA in defensive efficiency in 2016-17, and part of that was due to Green acting as they lynchpin.

A unique defensive player, Green was able to take some of the pressure off of Durant as well as boost his impact on defense. A player who at times had to guard all five positions, Green led his team in defensive win shares.

To take home his DPOY award, Green got 73 out of a possible 100 first place votes (from select media members), comfortably beating out Utah Jazz big man Rudy Gobert, who was second, and San Antonio Spurs MVP candidate Kawhi Leonard, who was third. Robert Covington of the Philadelphia 76ers was fourth, followed by LeBron James fifth.

Much like the MVP award this season, a real argument could be made for either Leonard or Gobert’s candidacy for DPOY. However, With yet another 60+ when season under his belt, it made sense that Green was seen as the key by voters for the Golden State defensive attack.

Green finished with 73 first place votes, while Gobert trailed with 16 and Leonard with 11. Green finished with 434 total points. Gobert was second with 169.

Durant was the 2017 NBA Finals MVP, and voting for DOPY closed before the playoffs began. But if anyone watched the great playoff run by the Warriors — one where they only lost one game — Green’s importance is easily understood.