Just a few years ago, Mike Conley, the No. 4 pick in the 2007 draft, was labeled a bust.
Since, he’s steadily improved while showing dignity and persistence on the court. This season, he quietly led the Grizzlies – who battled injuries and adjusted to a first-year coach – to the playoffs in a stacked Western Conference.
That attitude earned Conley the 2014 NBA Sportsmanship Award.
As winner of the Joe Dumars Trophy, named for its first recipient, Conley had the NBA make a $10,000 donation to the charity of his choice. He picked St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital for sickle cell anemia research.
Each of the 30 teams nominate a player for the award, and former players – John Crotty, Antonio Davis, Eddie Johnson, Jalen Rose and Isiah Thomas – narrow the pool to one player per division. Then, all players vote on the six division winners.
Conley, the only repeat division winner, won the award after finishing fourth last year.
Here are the full results with first-, second-, third-, fourth-, fifth- and sixth-place votes and total points:
1. Mike Conley, Grizzlies (77-76-55-49-51-21-2,335)
2. Jeff Green Celtics (65-42-44-65-68-41-1,971)
3. Channing Frye, Suns (53-49-70-35-55-61-1,915)
4. Bradley Beal, Wizards (44-49-59-61-71-41-1,897)
5. Damian Lillard, Trail Blazers (48-48-58-66-40-65-1,881)
6. Mike Dunleavy, Bulls (47-68-41-45-34-89-1,832)
I’m often amused by the player who finishes at the bottom of the list.
Maybe the process perfectly selects the six most-deserving players, and someone just has to finish sixth. I suspect, though, someone occasionally slips through and his fellow players weed him out with a lot of last-place votes.
Two years ago, Chris Paul had a whopping 115 sixth-place votes – far more than anyone for any slot. With his flopping, I doubt many players see him as a beacon of sportsmanship.
This year, Dunleavy received more sixth-place votes than anyone else had for any slot. Considering Isiah Thomas and Eddie Johnson are both from Chicago, it’s at least plausible the Bulls forward got preferential treatment in that stage of the process.
On the other hand, Dunleavy had more first-place votes than fourth-place Beal. Paul had the fewest first-place votes in 2012.
It’s interesting Dunleavy finished sixth this season, but Paul finishing sixth in 2012 – that was a real statement.