Author: Kurt Helin

Stephen Curry

PBT Extra: Our mid-season awards for MVP, Most Improved, Defense


Welcome to the second of our mid-year award picks. We’ve already tackled Coach of the Year, Rookie of the Year and Sixth Man.

Now Jenna Corrado and I I move on to Defensive Player of the Year (maybe the most wide open of the races at the halfway point), Most Improved and the big one, MVP.

Of these only one seems sewn up for the year, with all the injuries to rookies it’s hard to imagine anyone but Andrew Wiggins winning ROY. Right now MVP seems like a Stephen Curry/James Harden race, but that could change.

Three Things We Learned in the NBA Thursday: Derrick Rose is looking like himself again

Chicago Bulls V San Antonio Spurs

If you watch closely every night in the NBA you can learn a little something. We know you are busy and can’t keep up with every game, so we’re here to help with those lessons from another night in the Association. Here’s what you missed while laughing at as bad a failed dunk as you’ll see….

Derrick Rose is looking like vintage Derrick Rose, and the Bulls are following along. One win alone does not mean the Bulls’ slump is over — even if they did beat the Spurs Thursday, the Mavericks are up on Friday — but there are some promising signs. One is that Thursday was by far the best the Bulls defense has looked in a long while, holding the Spurs regular starters to 81 points on 37 percent shooting. But bigger than that is Derrick Rose looks to be back to being Derrick Rose. He had 22 points on 9-of-16 shooting in the win, but the key is he is doing it attacking — 11 of his 16 shots were inside 8 feet of the rim. This has been the trend of late, he’s got a feel for the game and attacks again. Also, his three pointers are falling — he was 2-of-4 against the Spurs and is shooting 42 percent from three over his last 10 games. If Rose is back and the Bulls start to find their defense… well, let’s see them do it for a few games in a row before we say the slump is fully over.

No LaMarcus Aldridge, no Robin Lopez, no win for Trail Blazers. Portland is currently the three seed in the West at 31-13, but in the unforgiving Western Conference that means they are just four games ahead of being the seven seed. That is what losing LaMarcus Aldridge for 6-8 weeks really means — especially with Robin Lopez also still out with a hand injury. The Blazers also lost Nicolas Batum to a wrist injury in the third quarter (no word yet on how serious that may be). That’s three starters and a key bench player out for Portland right now, which means some off nights where they fall to teams like the Celtics. A few more of those and suddenly the Blazers are sliding down the standings a little. Blazers fans should be a little concerned.

Only one thing of interest happened in the Clippers/Nets game. And it didn’t have anything to do with the game — that was as bad a rout as you will see. The Nets are a bad team and the Clippers specialize in crushing bad teams. No, the only interesting thing was this Vine, which ended up all over social media. Blake Griffin having fun with one of the Clippers’ staff.

Evan Turner drains game-winning three, Boston beats Portland (VIDEO)

Evan Turner

Portland came in a little bit tired, they had played the night before in Phoenix, and they were without their star forward LaMarcus Aldridge, who will be out 6-8 weeks with an injured thumb. Still, a whole lot of big shots from Damian Lillard and Wes Matthews made this look like Portland was going to have too much firepower and get a win at home.

But Boston went on a late 10-3 run, got within one and had time for one last shot. Jared Sullinger tried to pound the ball into the paint but Matthews comes by and knocks it away — Sullinger dives to the floor to get it, comes up and from a seated position fires a pass out to Evan Turner.

Who nails the three.

Boston would win the game, snapping a 24-game road losing streak against the West.

Who should be the All-Star Game reserves? Here’s our picks.

2015 All-Star logo

Now we know the starters for the All-Star Game in New York Feb. 15.

We also know that Mike Budenholzer and Steve Kerr will be the coaches. We know that Ariana Grande will be the halftime entertainment. We know that some confused out-of-town fans will take the train to Penn Station then still ask someone how to get to Madison Square Garden from there.

What we don’t know is who will be the reserves for the All-Star Game. With the starters in place the coaches from around the league vote to round out the rest of the field. Those reserves will be announced officially Jan. 29. But we’re not that patient, so we’re giving you our picks today. The entire team at ProBasketballTalk — Kurt Helin, Brett Pollakoff, Dan Feldman and Sean Highkin — have made their selections, and while we agree on some we also discuss below where we disagree.

Like the coaches do, we picked two backup guards, three backup front court players and two wild cards.

(For the record, we are not dealing with the Kobe Bryant injury in this post, nor potentially LaMarcus Aldridge. It is very likely Kobe will be out of the All-Star Game, at which point Commissioner Adam Silver gets to pick his replacement on the team, while Steve Kerr would pick who will start in his place.)



Kurt: This is just a brutal set of choices — it’s not that just there are guys like Klay Thompson, Mike Conley, Tim Duncan and Dirk Nowitzki who just missed my cut, it’s that guys like Tony Parker or Monta Ellis are deserving and can’t even get close to serious consideration. The West is just overloaded with talent. The hardest call for me was whether or not to include Kevin Durant on the team — he’s been amazing when he’s played but missed a lot of time. In the end, I just can’t keep the second best player on the planet off the squad if he’s healthy, and clearly he is.

Brett: The West is just too stacked this year, which means plenty of deserving players will end up getting shut out. Klay Thompson and DeMarcus Cousins are the biggest snubs, and of course, guys like Dirk Nowitzki and Tim Duncan would get in if the talent pool was more diluted. I don’t see Klay usurping any of the guards, and if Cousins gets in, it may be at Howard’s expense. But I simply couldn’t justify leaving any of the guys I selected off of the roster.

Dan: With my criteria, Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook were slam-dunk choices, where others might debate whether they’ve played enough. Very little separated DeMarcus Cousins, Tim Duncan, Chris Paul and Damian Lillard (in) and Dirk Nowitzki and LaMarcus Aldridge (out). Because I’m not worried time missed, I also gave serious to Kawhi Leonard, whose impact on the Spurs in limited action is unquestioned. Klay Thompson wasn’t too difficult an omission, which says a lot about the West. And if Thompson didn’t come that close, other seemingly reasonable candidates like Mike Conley, Tyson Chandler, Gordon Hayward, DeAndre Jordan, Derrick Favors, Goran Dragic and Draymond Green didn’t have much of a chance.



Kurt: Finding enough representation for the Hawks was the challenge, because you can argue they should have four guys. I couldn’t select Kyle Korver over Jeff Teague and I couldn’t leave off any of the other guards — Kyrie Irving and Jimmy Butler have been fantastic and deserved their spots, and without LeBron in Miami Wade has stepped up his game this season.

Brett: You could make a case for the Hawks getting four players in — I mean, the team has won 27 of its last 29 games. But Bosh is worthy, so Horford (regrettably) just misses the cut.

Dan: Kyrie Irving vs. Jeff Teague was my toughest decision in this process. Teague has been better this season, but I pick All-Stars based on which player I believe is best at this moment. That’s still Irving, who has a stronger track record but has been (somewhat fairly, somewhat unfairly) tainted by the Cavaliers’ early struggles. By the same logic, I wasn’t going to punish Kevin Love for Cleveland marginalizing him.  Nikola Vucevic, Kyle Korver, Kemba Walker and Andre Drummond also drew consideration.

PBT Extra: Mid-Season NBA coach, rookie, sixth man of year

Minnesota Timberwolves v Denver Nuggets
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We are halfway through the NBA season, the time one can finally start to think seriously about post-season awards.

Nothing is decided yet — well, after all the injuries Rookie of the Year seems pretty close, Andrew Wiggins is the best man left standing — but there are some clear frontrunners set.

Jenna Corrado and I discuss the leaders for Coach of the Year, Rookie of the Year and Sixth Man of the Year in this latest PBT Extra. Suffice to say there is a lot of Mike Budenholzer love in the coaching pick.