FIBA Americas tournament tips off today

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The 2013 FIBA Americas Championship tournament begins in beautiful Caracas, Venezuela, on Friday morning. This is actually the fourth FIBA tournament of the year — following Asia (where Hamed Haddadi was MVP), Oceania (which was just Australia vs. New Zealand a couple of times) and Africa (where Nigeria was just upset despite featuring four players with NBA experience) — but also the one most relevant to the interests of the American basketball fan.

The first few days of the tournament will feature round-robin play in the two groups of five with the top four teams from each advancing into a second round-robin tournament to whittle the field down further to four teams. Those four teams will advance to next year’s FIBA World Cup, but they’ll also play a quick tournament to determine the FIBA Americas champion.

Friday’s action will actually feature a game matching the top two teams in the tournament when Puerto Rico and Brazil face off in Group A action.  Puerto Rico’s backcourt includes Carlos Arroyo and J.J. Barea and its frontcourt includes Renaldo Balkman and Ricky Sanchez, among others, so they’re a team worth watching if one’s clamoring to watch NBA-type players play meaningful basketball. Brazil isn’t nearly as loaded as they could be with Nene, Tiago Splitter, Anderson Varejao and Leandro Barbosa all out of action this summer, but they’re still a team that is very fun to watch with a lot of solid players currently playing professionally in Europe — and recent Utah Jazz draftee Raul Neto plays for them, too.

The three other games on Friday feature Jamaica and Canada where Samardo Samuels vs. Tristan Thompson will likely be a featured matchup; Luis Scola’s Argentinean team taking on an overmatched squad from Paraguay and Venezuela vs. Mexico. The last one would typically be a good game, but new Venezuelan Donta Smith — formerly of the Atlanta Hawks — isn’t going to make up for the loss of Greivis Vasquez, Gregory Echenique and Oscar Torres. Mexico does feature some fun players in Gustavo Ayon, Lorenzo Mata-Real, Orlando Mendez-Valdez and Jorge Gutierrez, however.

The games begin at 10:30 Eastern Time and can be streamed on ESPN3 for those so inclined.

The Greek Freak has arrived, Giannis Antetokounmpo wins NBA MVP

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Mike Budenholzer came in with a plan — an offense built around the fact no one man on the planet can guard Giannis Antetokounmpo.

It worked. The Bucks won 60 games and had the best record in the NBA. Budenholzer picked up Coach of the Year hardware for his efforts.

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 for helping him reach this point, then talking about his father.

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.

Antetokounmpo won the award handily with 941 points to Harden’s 776. The Greek Freak had 78 of the 100 first place votes.

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 and was frustrated with another second.

Antetokounmpo is the first player from Europe to win the MVP award since Dirk Nowitzki in 2007.

Nikola Jokic came in fourth in the voting, Stephen Curry was fifth. Here are the full results:

 

 

Rudy Gobert wins NBA Defensive Player of the Year for second straight season

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Rudy Gobert owns the paint for the Utah Jazz.

And he owns the NBA Defensive Player of the Year award.

Gobert won his second straight DPOY award Monday night, beating out the other 2019 finalists Giannis Antetokounmpo and Paul George.

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

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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

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The Clippers bench play this season was the reason they made the playoffs (and pushed the Warriors to six games in the first round). Montrezl Harrell blossomed into his own as part of that.

However, it was Lou Williams who made it all work, which is why he won his second straight (and third overall) Sixth Man of the Year Award on Monday night. He garnered 96 of the 100 first-place votes.

Williams spoke from the heart about second chances and his faith in himself.

“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.

Indiana’s Domantas Sabonis came in second in the voting, with Spencer Dinwiddie of the Nets third and Terrence Ross of Orlando fifth. Here is the voting breakdown.