PBT Awards: Sixth Man of the Year


Though none of us have a ballot for the NBA’s official awards, we’ll be presenting our choices and making our cases this week for each major honor.

Kurt Helin

1. Lou Williams, Toronto Raptors

2. Andre Iguodala, Golden State Warriors

3. Isaiah Thomas, Boston Celtics

It was a very different year, with the usual suspects — your Jamal Crawfords, your Manu Ginobilis — not being up to form. Lou Williams was a classic sixth man for Toronto, coming in off the bench as an unrepentant gunner. But the man put up points. Not efficiently, but he put up points. Andre Iguodala willingly came off the bench and led the best second unit in the game, but Williams meant more to Toronto.

Brett Pollakoff

Sixth Man of the Year

1. Isaiah Thomas, Boston Celtics

2. Lou Williams, Toronto Raptors

3. Marreese Speights, Golden State Warriors

There’s an argument to be made for Williams here, simply for the fact that his similar numbers to Thomas have been delivered for the Raptors all season long. While Thomas was fine as a reserve in Phoenix before being traded to Boston at the deadline, his impact with the Celtics was a big reason they made the playoffs, so he gets the nod for his performance over the second half of the season.

Sean Highkin

1. Andre Iguodala, Golden State Warriors

2. Isaiah Thomas, Boston Celtics

3. Corey Brewer, Houston Rockets

Iguodala made a big-time sacrifice for the Warriors by accepting a bench role after being a starter most of his career. It turned out to be a perfect fit, not only boosting Harrison Barnes’ productivity by moving him into a starter’s role but giving Golden State a unique weapon in the second unit as a defensive stopper who can score in transition.

Thomas was signed by the Suns to be a sixth man, but it was an awkward fit with ball-dominant point guards Eric Bledsoe and Goran Dragic. But a mid-season trade to Boston proved to be the actualization of what the Suns had hoped to get from him. He gave the Celtics a clear go-to scorer and late-game closer. They wouldn’t have made their late playoff push without him.

Brewer has been similarly transformative for the Rockets since his trade from the Timberwolves during the season.

Dan Feldman

1. Rudy Gobert, Utah Jazz

2. Isaiah Thomas, Boston Celtics

3. Lou Williams, Toronto Raptors

I’m a letter-of-the-law guy on this, and Gobert met the only criterion for this award – coming off the bench in more games than starting. He far and away had the best season among eligible players, so he gets my vote, even if he did most of his damage once he became a starter.

Thomas and Williams were close, but Thomas got the edge because was more of a catalyst for his team’s offense than Williams was. Both the Raptors and Celtics frequently ran their offenses through their backup point guards, but Williams usually had more of a capable supporting cast on the floor. Thomas was the clear driving force for Boston, especially in crunch time.

Russell Westbrook wins NBA scoring title, says it means “nothing”


Someday, Russell Westbrook will look back with pride on the 2014-15 season, when he won the NBA scoring crown.

Wednesday was not that day.

Westbrook put up 37 points on the final night of the season — 34 in the first half — to finish with an average of 28.1 points a game, just beating out James Harden for the NBA scoring title.

However, as it has been too often lately for the Thunder, Westbrook’s heroic efforts were not enough. Those efforts were enough for the Thunder to beat the Timberwolves 138-113 on the final day of the season, but with the Pelicans beating the Spurs the Thunder are on the outside looking in at the playoffs.

So don’t ask Westbrook about his scoring title, which someone did anyway because it’s their job. Here’s Westbrook’s response, via Royce Young of ESPN.

He’s understandably frustrated.

Still, this is an historic accomplishment. Westbrook and Kevin Durant became the first back-to-back NBA scoring title winners on the same team since Paul Arizin and Neil Johnston of the Philadephia Warriors in 1952 and 1953. It’s been a while.

For Westbrook, his play — a ridiculous run of 11 triple-doubles this year — brought him out of the shadow of Durant in the eyes of casual fans who often asked, “why doesn’t he pass more like a real point guard?” Or, “why won’t he play Robin to Durant’s Batman?”

Because the Thunder have two Batmen. That is clear now.

Westbrook missed 13 games due to a broken hand, plus suffered a nasty facial fracture that required him to wear a mask. None of it slowed him. In a season where Durant was out much of the time battling foot injuries, Westbrook carried the Thunder offense and the team to the brink of the playoffs. Just not one step more.

Someday Westbrook can look back on this season’s effort with pride. But that day is not today.

Russell Westbrook will beat out James Harden to win the scoring title … unless something crazy happens


Heading into the final night of the regular season, Russell Westbrook leads the league in scoring with an average of 28.015 points per game, and James Harden is second with an average of 27.513.

That’s how it’s likely to end up — unless something crazy happens.

Marc Stein of ESPN.com has the numbers:

If Russ Westbrook goes scoreless tonight, James Harden needs 35 points for scoring title. If Russ scores 15, Harden needs 53.

If Russ scores 20, JH needs 59. If Russ scores 25, make it 65. If it’s 30, try 71. Harden needs 77 if Russ scores 35 … and 83 if it’s 40

Westbrook has scored 36, 54 and 27 points in his last three games, and with his team needing a win (and a Pelicans loss) to make the playoffs, we can expect a big night from him against the lowly Timberwolves.

Harden would need to pour in an insane amount of points at home against a very good defensive team in the Utah Jazz to overtake Westbrook for the scoring title. While such a scenario is unlikely, it wouldn’t be completely unprecedented.

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In 1978, George Gervin defeated David Thompson for the scoring title by scoring 63 points on the last day of the season, after Thompson scored 73 in his final game to pose a significant challenge.

In 1994, David Robinson dropped 71 points on the Clippers on the final day of the regular season to wrest the scoring title from Shaquille O’Neal.

We’ll see if Harden has any similar heroics in store tonight. Both games tip off at 8:00 p.m. ET.

LeBron James tops list of NBA’s most popular jerseys for sixth consecutive season


The NBA released its ranking of most popular jerseys for the 2014-15 season, and for the sixth straight year, LeBron James topped the list.

Rankings are based on overall retail sales on NBAStore.com since the beginning of the season.

Top 15 Most Popular NBA Jerseys:                                   

1.      LeBron James, Cleveland Cavaliers

2.      Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors

3.      Kobe Bryant, Los Angeles Lakers

4.      Kevin Durant, Oklahoma City Thunder

5.      Derrick Rose, Chicago Bulls

6.      Kyrie Irving, Cleveland Cavaliers

7.      Tim Duncan, San Antonio Spurs

8.      Carmelo Anthony, New York Knicks

9.      Dwyane Wade, Miami Heat

10.  Blake Griffin, Los Angeles Clippers

11.  Damian Lillard, Portland Trail Blazers

12.  Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City Thunder

13.  John Wall, Washington Wizards

14.  Dirk Nowitzki, Dallas Mavericks

15.  Chris Paul, Los Angeles Clippers

A few surprises here:

– James Harden is having an otherworldly season that has him neck-and-neck with Stephen Curry in a two-man MVP race, yet he’s noticeably absent from the list, perhaps due to his foul-drawing ways not always being aesthetically pleasing.

–  Russell Westbrook has had a similarly insane season, yet teammate Kevin Durant — who was limited in appearing in only 27 games due to injury — finished eight spots ahead of him on the list.

– Legacy guys like Kobe Bryant and Carmelo Anthony finished third and eighth respectively, despite appearing in just 35 and 40 games respectively this season.

The team merchandise list is interesting, too, mainly because the Knicks and the Lakers are in the midst of their worst seasons in franchise history, yet fans still had no problem buying up their gear at a volume higher than that which was sold by 23 of the league’s 30 franchises.

Top 10 Most Popular Team Merchandise:

1.      Chicago Bulls

2.      Cleveland Cavaliers

3.      Golden State Warriors

4.      Los Angeles Lakers

5.      Oklahoma City Thunder

6.      San Antonio Spurs

7.      New York Knicks

8.      Miami Heat

9.      Boston Celtics

10.  Los Angeles Clippers

J.R. Smith: ‘We all know who the real MVP is’


The MVP award has come down to a two-man race as the regular season draws to a close, and it’s essentially an impossible choice.

There are extremely solid arguments to be made for handing it to James Harden or Stephen Curry, and no reasonable person could be upset with either of them winning it based on the incredible performances each has put together over the bulk of the season.

But there are politics where the award is concerned, and we’ve seen voter fatigue surface when the same player’s name continues to come up in the discussion. That may be part of the reason why J.R. Smith believes that no matter who wins it this year, LeBron James remains the league’s most valuable.

From Dave McMenamin of ESPN.com:

“Who? The real MVP?” Smith said … “There’s a lot of speculation about who should get the award, but we all know who the real MVP is.” …

“In actuality, if you really wanted to, you could give it to him every year,” Smith said of James, who won the award four times in his first 11 seasons in the league. “I mean, the numbers, what he does for teams. You see one year removed from a team like Miami — and they probably won’t even make the playoffs — to a team that hasn’t made the playoffs since he left and then, all of the sudden, we’re a 52-win team. So, I don’t think you can do that with anybody else that’s in our league right now.

“Not to knock anything from the other two guys [Stephen Curry and James Harden]. They’re having great years, career years for both of them, but if you want to be realistic about it, you could give it to him every time.”

James’ value to a franchise is almost immeasurable; it’s why a Cavaliers beat writer is going to vote for LeBron, despite the questions of home cooking that his choice will inevitably bring.

But the award almost always goes to the best player on one of the league’s top few teams, and one that’s put up a number of transcendent performances in the very same season. Harden and Curry both qualify this year, just as Kevin Durant did a season ago.

Smith isn’t wrong. But being actually the most valuable is not what the award is about.