With Cleveland Cavaliers point guard Kyrie Irving being named Rookie of the Year on Monday and accepting the award in Cleveland on Tuesday, the annual Kia Performance Awards have now all officially been handed out. Categories including Most Valuable Player, Defensive Player of the Year, Sixth Man of the Year and Most Improved Player of the Year were first distributed on May 2 to commemorate the efforts of NBA players for their hard work and athletic display on the court.
Right Down Euclid will break down some fascinating stats that the winners of these awards put up this season, including how some recipients match up against previous winners of their respective awards. This post also comes with voting results and possible objections to those who won awards.
Most Valuable Player – LeBron James – #6 SF – Miami Heat
James, who was the only repeat winner out of this year’s Kia Performance Awards class, received his third MVP award in nine seasons, becoming one of eight players to have won the prestigious award at least three times. With his third MVP, this one being his first with the Miami Heat, James joins the elite class of Moses Malone (3), Magic Johnson (3), Larry Bird (3), Wilt Chamberlain (4), Bill Russell (5), Michael Jordan (5) and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (6).
James finished with 1074 total points in the final tally for MVP, outscoring the scoring champ Kevin Durant by 185 points. As much as you would like to argue that the Oklahoma City Thunder poster child should have won the award due to LeBron failing to show up in the waning minutes of crucial games, James almost completely morphed his game to better suit the needs of the Miami Heat.
James ended up averaging 27.1 points (third-lowest in his career), 7.9 rebounds and 6.2 assists while shooting 53.1 percent from the field, numbers only topped once in the NBA (by none other than MJ). James also restricted his shooting game, taking 2.4 three-point shots every game on average and started and played in 62 of the 66 games this season.
The change in numbers and James’ increased presence in the post was due to his offseason training with NBA legend Hakeem Olajuwon. James was determined after a Game 6 loss to the Dallas Mavericks in the Finals last year to finally claim a ring to his own. He has three MVP trophies to speak for his accomplishments, but nothing means more to James than an MVP award.
On the other hand, Durant, who was crowned scoring champion for the third consecutive season, averaged 28.0 points, 8.0 rebounds and 3.5 assists while shooting 49.6 percent from the field. Durant also played and started in all 66 games this season.
I stand by the voters’ decision to reward LeBron’s hard work this season with another MVP award despite the eye-popping performances that Durant put together this season. Only one other player in NBA history had put up numbers like James did this season, so how could you not reward his efforts with an MVP? He restructured the way he played the game of basketball for the betterment of his team. We’ll just have to wait and see if it pans out.
Defensive Player of the Year – Tyson Chandler – #6 C – New York Knicks
I didn’t agree with this selection at all. I know as soon as Chandler came to the Knicks that New York’s defense has a whole greatly improved, but I didn’t think it was big enough of an improvement for Chandler to win Defensive Player of the Year over the Thunder’s Serge Ibaka or previous three-time champion Dwight Howard.
Chandler averaged 9.9 rebounds, 1.4 blocks and 0.9 steals, but also lifted the Knicks as a top-tier defensive unit. New York finished the season second in opponent turnovers per game (17.0), 10th in opponent field goal percentage (44.2 percent) and 11th in opponent scoring (94.7 points).
Ibaka, who trailed Chandler in the voting by 17 points, had a (in my opinion) more solid season than Chandler. The Thunder power forward ended the year third in the NBA in blocks per game, averaging 3.7 blocks. Ibaka also collected 7.5 rebounds, leading the Thunder to a rebound rate of 51.4 (fifth in the NBA).
Ibaka has something instilled in him that I didn’t see from any other player defensively this season. He has the ability to make game-altering plays every single time he’s out on the court. Players feared to come down the middle of the lane because they knew that Ibaka would send them right back.
Sixth Man of the Year – James Harden – #13 G – Oklahoma City Thunder
There was no doubt that Harden was going to be named the Sixth Man of the Year, as the Thunder guard, who only started two out of the 62 games he played this season, quite possibly might have had the best season that a sixth man has ever had.
Harden was a scoring machine off the bench this season, averaging 16.8 points and 31.4 minutes. He also averaged 4.1 rebounds and 3.7 assists while shooting 49.1 percent from the field and 39.0 percent from three-point range. Harden collected 115 of the possible 119 first-place votes, outscoring Louis Williams of the Philadelphia 76ers, the second-place finisher, by 353 points.
Harden was also third on the team in steals (averaged 1.0 steals) and points despite playing 60 games from off the bench. Harden was perfect for the role that Thunder head coach Scott Brooks kept him in all season. Despite how talented and dominant Harden was on the court he never became a fixture in the starting lineup, which is what puts him at an advantage when it comes to matching up.
When Harden comes off the bench he destroys game plans. Coaches still didn’t catch on to Harden’s explosiveness as the season carried on, and that’s why he never showed signs of slowing down. Harden will remain a valuable asset to the Thunder this postseason, and has been. Five games into the NBA playoffs Harden is averaging 18.0 points, 4.8 rebounds, 3.6 assists and 2.4 steals.
Most Improved Player of the Year – Ryan Anderson – #33 PF – Orlando Magic
Anderson became the fifth Magic player to win the Most Improved Player of the Year award, and rightfully so. A closer race than most, Anderson took home 33 of the 121 first-place votes and beat out Ersan Illyasova of the Milwaukee Bucks by 101 points to claim the title of most improved.
Anderson shot a league-high 422 three pointers and also led the league in conversions with 166 made threes while shooting 39.3 percent from beyond the three-point arc.
Anderson, who played in and started 61 games this season, only started in 14 of his 64 games during the 2010-11 NBA season. During that season he averaged 10.6 points and 5.5 rebounds while shooting 43.0 percent from the field and 39.3 percent of his treys.
This season Anderson saw a dramatic increase in playing time, which helped his scoring increase by 5.5 points per game to 16.1. His rebounds also increased by 2.2 rebounds per game to 7.7.
Although he wasn’t the most accurate three-point shooter in the league, Anderson made up for that by taking more shots. Anderson took 1.6 more shots per game in 2011-12 than he did in the previous season.
The Magic have always had a knack for being able to seek out deep-threat talent, with Hedo Turkoglu, who was also a recipient of the Most Improved Player of the Year award, being one of those players. During the season he won Turkoglu shot 40.0 percent from three-point range while averaging 19.5 points, 5.7 rebounds and 5.0 assists. Turkoglu also played a full season, starting in all 82 games during the 2007-08 season.
Rookie of the Year – Kyrie Irving – #2 PG – Cleveland Cavaliers
Always save the best for last, right? After Ricky Rubio went down for the season the Rookie of the Year award was Kyrie’s for the taking, as not other rookie in the NBA had played as close to the level that Irving did in his first season.
Irving collected 117 of 120 first-place votes, which totaled up to 592 points. Rubio finished second in voting, but trailed Irving by more than 400 points. Irving collected his award at Cleveland Clinic Courts on Tuesday. He became just the second Cavalier to win the Eddie Gottlieb Trophy with LeBron James being the only other Cleveland player to win the award.
Irving averaged 18.5 points, 5.4 assists and 3.4 rebounds in 51 games as a starter who played 30.5 minutes every game that he was available. Irving had only played 11 collegiate games at Duke before entering the NBA. Injuries prevented him from playing in 15 of the games this season, with his absence from the court taking place for the bulk of April.
Irving missing April kept him from winning his fourth Eastern Conference Rookie of the Month award. He won the award in January (averaged 18.9 points, 4.7 assists and 3.4 rebounds while shooting 53.5 percent from the field and 44.9 percent from three-point range), February (averaged 19.3 points, 5.6 assists and 3.8 rebounds) and March (averaged 19.9 points, 6.7 assists and 5.0 rebounds). It’s clear from these statistics that Irving improved his game as the season progressed.
Fans from around the world got to witness what Irving is capable of by watching the BBVA Rising Stars Challenge that took place during All-Star Weekend. Irving led the game in scoring with 34 points and dished out nine assists, all while shooting a perfect 8-8 from three land. He was named MVP of the game.
Cavalier fans were also exposed to the clutch gene that Irving took no time in displaying on the court. He was fifth in the league in fourth quarter scoring (6.4 points), trailing only Kevin Durant, Kobe Bryant, Derrick Rose and Kevin Love. Irving also ranked second in the league behind Chris Paul in scoring in the final three minutes (3.2 points). If that’s not enough to prove that Irving loves crunch times, check out the videos below of his two game-winning shots this season. Irving also converted two free throws to win a game against the Sacramento Kings.
Yes; Cleveland may have found their franchise player who is prepared for the long haul on the road to a championship.