Tyson Chandler and the acceptance of limitations

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New York Knicks center Tyson Chandler is talented, but he’s also ridiculously limited in terms of what he can actually do on a basketball court.

Chandler is a true 7-footer with a strong build, but he possesses no post game whatsoever. There are no jump hooks, no drop steps, no up-and-under moves — nothing. In 17 games this season, according to Synergy Sports, he has attempted one field goal in a post up situation. One. And there was five seconds left on the shot clock, so it was almost like he was forced into shooting it. He made it, in case you were curious.

Here’s my point. Do you know how many jumpers Tyson Chandler attempted in 2011 from 10-15 feet? Zero. Go ahead, try to picture Chandler’s jumper in your head. You can’t do it. Does he even jump? What’s his form look like? Think about how strange that is — Chandler has been in the league 11 years, and when you try to remember a single image of him taking a jumper, you can’t.

What’s even more odd? Chandler, the same guy who can’t shoot and can’t score on the block, is one of the most efficient scorers in NBA history. How is this possible?

True Shooting Percentage is a weighted efficiency stat that adjusts for 3-pointers and free throws, and in 2011, Chandler beat out every NBA player ever and posted the highest number in history with a 70.8 percent mark. Last year’s campaign was truly the most impressive exercise of scoring efficiency ever.

Until this year, that is. Through 17 games, Chandler’s True Shooting Percentage has somehow jumped up to 75.3 percent — an astronomical number that no player has ever approaches. It’s even more impressive that he’s actually scoring more than he ever has with 15.1 points per 36 minutes. When the attempts go up, the efficiency usually goes down. But not with Chandler.

How can a relatively unskilled basketball player be so good offensively? It’s a decision. Chandler works his tail off, of course, but his offensive prowess has more to do with his conscious effort to only do a certain number of things on the court and not dabble in much else. Roll to the rim. Hit the offensive glass. Seal off a defender. Chandler never steps outside these seemingly menial tasks, but he’s perfected the arts others take for granted. Chandler is completely aware of his immense limitations, and he’s accepted them.

That acceptance of limitations is a skill in its own right — one that few players actually possess. To be in the NBA, an absurd amount of confidence is almost requisite. There’s no room for hesitation or doubt or believing you can’t do something. It’s why Jordan Crawford thinks he can be the next Michael Jordan. It’s why Raymond Felton thinks he can drop 50 at anytime even though he’s never, ya know, actually done it. Self-delusion is necessary for survival in the most competitive basketball league in the world.

And really, Chandler’s ability to stray away from that path and develop at his own rate and be realistic with himself is what makes him the incredible player he is. He’s the perfect teammate — he doesn’t need the ball, he covers your back defensively, and he never mails it in from an effort standpoint. He’s a rock. On a Knicks team filled with guys brimming with confidence, always pushing the limits as to what they can do on the court, Chandler is a grounding influence. While Jason Kidd threads the impossible needle, or Carmelo Anthony takes a 24-foot feat check, or J.R. Smith does J.R. Smith things, Chandler is always there, doing the same things he always does, silently getting better and better.

It makes sense that Chandler is highly regarded for the defensive miracles  he’s performed (the Knicks were a top 5 team in defensive efficiency last year), but he’s also an offensive force who very rarely makes mistakes. He never takes a bad shot, he only turns the ball over once a game, and he grabs about four offensive rebounds per contest. Basically, Chandler creates extra possessions for his team by the handful, and never throws away the ones the Knicks already have.

You see, Chandler is much more than just the Knicks’ defensive anchor. He’s their most efficient scorer. He’s their heart and soul. And for a franchise that’s lacked one over the years, he’s their conscience.

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.