Since the calender turned to 2013, the NBA had issued only four flopping warnings, something pointed out by Beckley Mason at TrueHoop. You’d like to say that the league early season push to reform behavior had an impact on the incidents of flopping (I’m sure it did have some), but often when the league pushes a particular rule early in the season they relax enforcement as the season moves on. The water finds its level.
Which is bad when it comes to flopping — that became a big issue in the playoffs last year. As we get closer to the playoffs the incidents and attempts by players are going to go up — there is more on the line, which means guys will push the limits of what they can get away with.
Thursday the league cracked down on two flopping incidents with warnings (the first violation for each player). Both are from the same game. First is Chris Paul in the video above, with what is my favorite flop of the year. CP3 is one of the league’s most notorious floppers and this was a particularly egregious attempt to draw a foul on DeMarcus Cousins.
The other is from Tyreke Evans (video below). After Matt Barnes blows the uncontested layup Evans gets the rebound and while there is a little contact Evans sells it like there was a sniper in the third row. It works, he got the foul call (from the referee on the other side of the play, shielded from the acting.
What Evans did is what we will see a lot of in the playoffs — guys are willing to risk a lot for free throws when the games really matter. The league has to be on this.
The Greek Freak has arrived, Giannis Antetokounmpo wins NBA MVP
Now Antetokounmpo has won the NBA MVP award, edging out James Harden (who chose not to attend the NBA’s awards show in Los Angeles Monday). He was emotional in thanking teammates and family for helping him reach this point.
Antetokounmpo averaged 27.7 points and 12.5 rebounds a game, but it was his ability to destroy any defender one-on-one that made the Bucks offense work. Either the Greek Freak got to the basket and finished, he drew a foul, or he drew so much attention the shooters that surrounded him on the floor had clean looks of their own. He also was the Bucks best defender, a guy tasked with tough assignments nightly.
Antetokounmpo was the best player on the best team.
James Harden — who averaged 36.1 points, 7.5 assists, and 6.6 rebounds per game — finished second in the voting, Paul George of Oklahoma City was third. Harden has finished first or second in the voting for four of the past five seasons. Harden believed he deserved to win.
The Jazz had the second best defense in the regular season and it is completely built around Gobert and his abilities in the paint, which is what separated him for this award. Utah’s defense was 20.1 points per 100 possessions better when Gobert was on the court and gave up less than a point per possession with him as the anchor.
This was a deep field with players such as Myles Turner of the Pacers, Joel Embiid of the 76ers and others getting votes as well.
Bucks’ Mike Budenholzer named NBA Coach of the Year
Mike Budenholzer unleashed Giannis Antetokounmpo and from the start that made him the Coach of the Year favorite (and maybe Antetokounmpo MVP).
It was a wire-to-wire win for Budenholzer, who was the frontrunner for this award from early on and was named the NBA Coach of the Year Monday night, the second time he has won this award (Atlanta in 2015).
Budenholzer was the favorite with good reason. The Bucks won 16 more games than the season before and had the best record in the NBA, they improved their net rating by +10.1, and became a top-five team on both ends of the floor. To be fair, part of Budenholzer’s success was a contrast to how poorly the previous coach handled this roster, but give Budenholzer credit for utilizing players well.
He beat out Doc Rivers of the Clippers and Mike Malone of the Nuggets in what was a very deep field for this award.
Clippers’ Lou Williams won second-straight, third overall Sixth Man of Year Award
“Four years ago, I thought I was done, like I was coming to the end of my career,” Williams said.
Williams averaged 20 points a game and he is still one of the better bucket getters in the NBA, an isolation master. What he did better this year, however, was playmaking, dishing out 5.4 assists per game. His teammate Montrezl Harrell — the NBA’s best energy big off the bench last season who finished third in the Sixth Man voting — was the biggest beneficiary of those passes.