Yesterday, Ian released his annual pre-season picks for the NBA Anti-Awards. Those awards recognize some of the most negative achievements in professional basketball. I wanted to take things in more of a positive direction which is why I created the Anti-Anti-Awards. These awards are the positive, mirror images of the Anti-Awards. Today I’ll introduce you to each award, note the defending champion, and project the 2012-2013 winner. You can get MVP predictions anywhere, but here at Hickory-High we’re chasing some different statistics that hopefully inspire different ways of thinking and a little more creativity.
The Hakeem Olajuwon Award – This award goes to the player who has the highest blocked shot (minimum 1 block per game) to turnover ratio. “The Dream” averaged 3.1 blocks per game and only 3.0 turnovers per game for his career, a ratio that is unheard of in today’s game.
This award isn’t likely to go to dominant big man any more as they turn the ball over at a high rate and don’t block as many shots as they used to. Dwight Howard, for example, is an elite shot blocker, but turned the ball over 49% more often than he blocked a shot. Brandan Wright of Dallas was the surprise winner last year, just ousting Serge Ibaka, with 3.25 blocked shots per turnover. I’m going out on a limb with my 2012-2013 projection – a player I like more than most and believe will continue to focus on just what he does well. That player, Kenneth Faried, had more turnovers than blocks last season, but won’t have the ball in his hands as often this year and will be counted on more for rim protection.
Sleeper candidates: Andris Biedrins posted a solid ratio last season, but he should be more involved on the offensive end this season sans Monta Ellis, which figures to result in more turnovers. Francisco Garcia led all guards by averaging 2 blocked shots per turnover, but he needs to block slightly more shots if he wants to qualify.
The Moses Malone Award – This award goes to the player who plays in at least 90% of his teams games and averages the fewest fouls per 48 minutes. Malone owns the all time NBA record for consecutive games without a disqualification at 1,212 games, more than 14 full seasons.
Steve Nash is the reigning award winner here, but a change in scenery figures to change that. Not that Nash is going to be the most committed defender in the league, but a move out of a defensive free zone in Phoenix is going to make repeating his 1.3 fouls per 48 minutes difficult. I’ll take a different point guard who is going to see his value on the offensive end increase, and thus he will shy away from ticky tack fouls even more than normal. Tony Parker (2.0 fouls per 48 minutes) was a top 10 player when it came to staying on the court a year ago, and with Tim Duncan another year older, the offense will run more than ever through the Frenchman. He is not the type of player to attack the rim with reckless abandon, eliminating the offensive foul from concern. Players like LeBron James and Andre Iguodala routinely rank high in this category, but the odds of them winning remain distant as they are ultra aggressive on both ends of the floor.
Sleeper candidates: Kobe Bryant’s midrange games lends itself nicely to making a run, but he ranked in the top 10 in the NBA in technical fouls, and I don’t see that changing. Michael Redd is a jump shooter in the Suns system, an ideal set up for this award. If he can average more than 20 minutes a game, he could make a strong run at giving Phoenix their first back to back wins in quite some time.
The John Stockton Award – This award goes to the player with the highest ratio of Ast/FGA (minimum 500 minutes played). The award is named for Stockton who recorded more assists than shot attempts in each of his first 14 seasons in the NBA
Steve Nash won this award in convincing fashion last season, and that was with a Suns team that lacked true scoring threats. Needless to say, he will not have that problem in LA, making him not only the odds-on-favorite to repeat as the Stockton Award recipient, but also a good bet to eclipse his career mark of 1.2 assists per field goal attempt.
Sleeper candidates: Andre Miller has been a solid passer for years, but the drawback in Denver is the lack of an elite scorer. Jose Calderon could also contend if he lands on a roster full strong scoring options.
The New York Knick Award – This award goes to the player with the highest TS%. The award is named for the Knicks who have either had on their roster, or currently have on their roster, a top 10 player in season ending TS% in each of the last 6 seasons.
Tyson Chandler and Steve Novak went about it in very different ways, but they were first and second respectively among players who played at least 10 games last season. Chandler’s remarkable 70.8 TS% is a bit more repeatable than Novak’s 68.3, making him a definite contender this season. But what is to stop Kevin Durant from taking a LeBron James like step this year and make use of his lanky frame in the post more? He constantly shoots well over 80% from the line, and given his extremely high free throw rate, that provides a nice bump to his TS%. I’ll take my chances on KD providing the old Larry Bird/Steve Nash stat line (90% free throw, 50% field goal, 40% three pointer) and edging out Chandler in a tight race.
Sleeper candidates: Ray Allen is going to get his fair share of open looks in Miami, but I don’t know how often he will get to the free throw line. Al Horford, assuming health, should also provide a solid number. With Joe Johnson in Brooklyn, I expect Horford’s solid career free throw percentage (76.1%) to help his TS% more than in years past, and he is a lock to shoot 55% from the field (has done so in three consecutive seasons).
The Jason Kidd Award Part II– This award goes to the player with the most assists without recording a single turnover in a game. Jason Kidd has had a Hall of Fame career with many terrific positive statistical contributions, one of which holding the all time NBA record of most assists in a game without a turnover (19).
Chris Paul dropped 15 dimes last season without committing a turnover last season against the Pistons, taking home this award. While he is a good bet to have his share of high assist games once again this season, his value goes behind that of a distributor. Sure, he did it last year, but I’m not banking on a repeat performance. Rajon Rondo is an elite passer, but relies on fitting the ball into tight spaces, making a 0 turnover game unlikely. Mike Conley is my pick this year, as he has a nice compliment of weapons that would make a performance like this possible. The Grizzles have a grind it out big in Marc Gasol and a healthy Zach Randolph can score from a variety of spots. Jerryd Bayless is an underrated scorer and Josh Selby can stretch defenses.
Sleeper candidates: Dwyane Wade could benefit from a LeBron James explosion and fall into a big assist day. Ty Lawson is the shot caller in a nice Denver offense and it wouldn’t surprise me to see him contend in this category.
The Rajon Rondo Award – This award goes to the player 6’1″ or shorter with the highest rebound rate per 48 minutes. Rondo has earned the namesake for years of solid rebounding from the point guard position, thanks to his impeccable anticipation.
Kemba Walker led all averaged size point guards in rebounding, hauling down 6.3 per 48 minutes in his rookie campaign. But the Bobcats can’t possibly miss as many shots as they did last year, can they? I like another young point guard to top this list in 2012-2013 - Isaiah Thomas. At 5’9” he isn’t likely to be identified as a threat, and with DeMarcus Cousins and Thomas Robinson attracting four, if not five, people on the glass, Thomas should have his share of rebounding lanes. He averaged 4.9 rebounds per 48 minutes a season ago, a number that will increase with an added year of experience.
Sleeper candidates: Jameer Nelson has been a solid rebounding little man for quite some time now, and with a bad team that chucks up three pointers, he should gather his fair share of rebounds. Maybe Raymond Felton can use his unusual size (6’1” 205) to make a run at this title.
The Christian Laettner Award – This award goes to the player who attempts the most total shots in a game without a miss. Everybody remembers Laettner’s “perfecto” in 1992 against Kentucky, the most flawless performance in recent memory.
Serge Ibaka nailed all 11 of his field goal attempts against the Spurs last postseason, more consecutive conversions from the field than even Laettner on that magical night. Guys like Kevin Durant or LeBron James are most likely to rattle of a nice streak, but the odds of them ending a game without a miss are remote. My original winner was going to be J.R. Smith, but is there one player in the league who shoots more “heat check” shots? The more he makes, the more he shoots, which isn’t a winning combination for this award. Nicolas Batum has enough size (6’8”) to get his shot off whenever he wants, so when he gets hot, he’ll be hard to contain.
Sleeper candidates: The high scoring duo in Golden State could very easily make a run at this title. Stephen Curry’s quick and accurate release is tough to defend and Klay Thompson displayed elite touch from downtown last season. Without Monta Ellis taking the majority of the shots, expect both of these players to see an increase in shots, and therefore a better shot to qualify for this award.
The Wilt Chamberlain Award – This award goes to the player who had the biggest increase in percentage of free throws made in a single game (minimum of 10 attempts) over his percentage the year previous. Chamberlain was only a 50.4% free throw shooter in 1961 but drained 87.5% in his historic 100 point game in 1962.
Marcus Camby shot under 45% from the stripe last year, by far his worst season in his 16 year career. I am comfortable projecting him as the Chamberlain Award winner this season, as I could very easily see him making 8 of 10 in a game at some point this season. A 35% increase is impossible for most NBA players, and I simply don’t have a lot of faith in the other options.
Sleeper candidates: Blake Griffin’s outside touch seemed to improve as last season progressed, and with a 52.1% last season, he has plenty of room for improvement.
The Steve Novak Award – This award goes to the player who has posts the lowest Turnover Rate this season. It’s named after the current Knicks’ gunner who has ranked in the top 5 (minimum of 50 games played) in TOR in each of the last 3 seasons in which he has qualified.
Lou Williams is my pick here, as I like his new situation in Atlanta. He is careful with the ball, so I am not concerned with his turnover count. In addition to a steady turnover level, Williams will see more scoring opportunities, thus lowering his already solid TOR.
Sleeper candidates: Matt Bonner is the reigning champion, and his situation hasn’t changed at all. Williams’ ex-teammate Jodie Meeks ranked ahead of Steve Novak last year in TOR, but I am not as confident in the increase in minutes that Meeks will see this year. His hands will be on the ball more, and I expect his turnover rate to spike a bit this year as a result.
The Anti-Gilbert Arenas Award – This award goes to the player who rose from seemingly nowhere to become a household name. Arenas, of course, went in the other direction, as he fell out of public favor as quickly as he burst onto the scene.
I cannot recall the last time a player who averaged 10 points for a decent, but not elite, team impressed me as much as Paul George did last season. His stats spiked in nearly every category, including an increase in both usage and efficiency. He’s got great touch for being 6’8” and is on the verge of being the best player on a legitimate playoff team. Indiana is the home of a good fan base, and the 22 year old Paul George is going to approach stardom this season.
Sleeper candidates: Goran Dragic may not be Steve Nash, but he is a starting point guard in this league. Fans in Phoenix won’t forget the legend, but they will be perfectly fine with the replacement. JaVale McGee’s boneheaded plays will be nothing but a footnote, as he possesses all of the physical tools to be an elite center. The addition of Andre Iguodala adds a much needed leadership dimension to this squad, something McGee should benefit from.