76ers replace risk-taking front office with risk-taking front office

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Confession: I liked the Andrew Bynum trade for the 76ers.

They were a middling team capable of making the playoffs but without the proven ability to win a series unless the opponent’s top player was injured. Their roster had limited flexibility, and two starters, Elton Brand and Andre Iguodala, were aging.

The 76ers didn’t necessarily need to make a high-risk, high-reward move, but that was certainly a defensible plan, and that’s what they did. Obviously, it didn’t work, and the previous front office, including President of Basketball Operations Rod Thorn, was pushed out.

Thorn, in an interview with David Aldridge of NBA.com (emphasis mine):

Me: So, what went wrong in Philly?

RT: We went for the stars when we went after Bynum. And it didn’t work out. And we gave up a ton of assets. Not only players, but we lost Iguodala, who was a terrific player. We lost (Nic) Vucevic, who was the second-best rebounder in the NBA. We lost (Maurice) Harkless, who has a chance to be a very good player, and we lost a future first, probably. Not for sure. But (Orlando) has the right for three years, if the first is not in the Lottery, they have the right to take it for three years. Now, chances are, it won’t be in the Lottery, and then we’ll have to give them two seconds. But we had accumulated assets. We made a major move, and it didn’t work out. Bynum never played a minute for us. And now he signs with Cleveland, and we gave up four major assets. That’s tough to overcome. And obviously the ownership was upset about the way the season went for us, and they got other people. It’s (not) a personal thing. They treated me great. I don’t have any problem with them at all. They wanted me to stay in an advisory position. But whether it’s pride or whether it’s ego or whatever, I just don’t like the way it ended. I’ve been in the league 50 years. I’ve done some pretty good things; some other things, not so good. But I’ve done some pretty good things. And I’d like to end it up on the right note. And that’s what it is for me more than anything…knock on wood, I’m relatively healthy, and I think I can help them in some ways. I’m looking forward to it.

In that same article, Aldridge also spoke with new 76ers general manager Sam Hinkie – an extremely revelatory look into Hinkie’s thinking, considering how little he’d shared with the media prior – and this quote stood out. Hinkie, via Aldridge: 

“From the first time I met the owners, they were very clear about where they wanted, and the kind of organization they wanted to build, and the kind of team they’d be proud of, and the kind of team they wouldn’t,” Hinkie said. “I’ve only thought about getting to there. It’s just a league that doesn’t reward treading water. And so sometimes you have to take some risks, and sometimes some risks are smarter to take for some teams, and less smart for other teams.”

This seems hypocritical of the 76ers owners, but it’s not. They trust Hinkie, not Thorn.

And that makes sense.

I liked the Bynum trade. I loved the Jrue Holiday trade. Nerlens Noel, if healthy, was by far the best prospect in the draft. In the meantime, his injury will help the 76ers secure a top 2014 pick, and the Pelican’s first rounder could be high, too.

That’s a great risk on Hinkie’s part – as long as his bosses trust him.

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.