With the season coming to a close on Wednesday, 16 teams are preparing for the playoffs while the other 14 teams are going home. Of the 14 teams left out of the postseason dance, some are left heartbroken after coming up short, while others are just happy with the progress their teams made throughout the year. Players on these teams often go unrecognized as a result of their team’s lack of success, which just isn’t fair. Players like Kevin Love in his Timberwolves days, and Demarcus Cousins in his Kings days would consistently put up huge stat lines without playing any playoff games, so in their honor we shall recognize the winners of the non-playoff team end of the year awards.
Most Valuable Player: Anthony Davis
Every season since Davis’ first and only playoff appearance in 2015, people around the NBA have expected him to take the next step as a superstar. Individually, he has taken that step, as he averaged 28 points, 11.8 rebounds, 2.2 blocks, and 1.3 steals per game this season.
Without context, that is an absolutely elite season that would make Davis an MVP candidate easily. With context, however, you recognize that his team only won 34 games, which makes it incredibly difficult to even include him in the top 5 of the MVP voting. Lucky for Davis, however, winning is not a requirement in these awards, and his elite numbers make him the easy choice for MVP of the non-playoff teams.
Coach of the Year: Erik Spoelstra
After starting 10-31, the Heat completely turned their season around and finished the year 30-11, ending with a 41-41 record. They were the biggest feel-good story of the second half of the season, and many thought they deserved a playoff spot for how hard they fought, but in the end they came up one game short.
Even though the team is probably feeling pretty down on themselves, they still have a lot to be proud of, and none of it would have been possible without Erik Spoelstra leading the way. Spoelstra was able to develop his young and inexperienced cast of players so well that the team finished with eight players averaging double-digit points, which led the league.
Most teams would have thrown in the towel mid way through the season and decided to tank for a good draft pick, but Spoelstra believed in his team. He knew that his team could make the playoffs no matter what, and even though they came up short their valiant effort should not go unrecognized.
Most Improved Player: Nikola Jokic
For the most of the year, the Nuggets held onto the eight seed in the West. Jokic was the biggest reason the team had such success. After coming on the scene last year as a surprise member of the All-Rookie First Team, he built on that and took his game to a whole new level. In the last 41 games he played this season, he averaged 19.7 points, 11.5 rebounds, and 5.8 assists per game while shooting 58% from the field.
His offensive talent is unmatched by any big man in the league because of his elite passing ability for a player his size. He can score from anywhere on the court, and when he is doubled he almost always makes the right play to find the open teammate. Similar to the Heat, his Nuggets finished one game back of the playoffs, but his team was projected to be at the bottom of the table before Jokic took the step forward he did this season.
What is also incredibly impressive is Jokic’s offensive rating of 126, demonstrating that the Nuggets with him on the court had one of the best offenses in the entire league. Moving forward, the Nuggets have found their cornerstone to build around.
Defensive Player of the Year: Anthony Davis
Yes, Anthony Davis is walking away with two awards in this ceremony. Davis not only had the tremendous offensive year that got him the MVP, but his defensive dominance is also on a whole other level. He was second in the NBA in blocks per game at 2.2, and was seventh among power forwards and centers in steals at 1.3 per game.
Looking into the deeper individual defensive numbers is when his dominance becomes obvious. With Davis as the defender, players shoot 6.3% worse from the field, and only 41.5% total. In the paint, players shoot 7.7% worse as well, showing his ability to be an elite rim protector. His defensive rating is 102 as well, showing that even though his team may not be very good around him, teams still struggle to score when he is on the court.
Overall, Davis should one day win this award for real as long as he can help his team win a few more games in the future. For now, however, this made up award should make due.
Sixth Man of the Year: James Johnson
I already discussed the turnaround of the Miami Heat, but besides Coach Spoelstra, Johnson helped right the ship midway through the year as well. He did a little bit of everything when he subbed into the game, as his numbers show. He averaged 12.8 points, 3.6 assists, 4.9 rebounds, 1.1 blocks, and 1.0 steals per game, showing his multifaceted ability.
He also contributes in a lot of ways that don’t show up in the box score. His willingness to accept any role he is put into makes things a lot easier for the rest of the team. He can guard practically any position on the court to a certain extent, and he is very unselfish about his contributions. He is always willing to do what’s best for the team before what’s best for himself, and that is why he has finally broken out into a solid role player in the league this year.
Kings, NBA Announce Start of Joint Investigation into Allegations Against Luke Walton
The Sacramento Kings and the NBA have announced that they have started a join investigation into the allegations of sexual assault made by
Kelli Tennant, a former host on Spectrum SportsNet LA, in a civil suit filed against new head coach Luke Walton from alleged incidents back in 2014.
“The Kings and the NBA take these allegations very seriously and will collaborate to conduct a complete and thorough investigation,” the team and league said in a statement.
The Kings’ investigation will be led by Sue Ann Van Dermyden, the founding partner of Sacramento law firm Van Dermyden Maddux, and Jennifer Doughty, a senior associate attorney at the firm, while the league’s investigation will be led by Elizabeth Maringer, the league’s senior vice president and assistant general counsel, integrity and investigations.
Tennant held a news conference earlier this week to comment on the allegations to which Walton’s attorney responded by calling the allegations “baseless” and calling Tennat “an opportunist”.
Walton became the head coach of the Sacramento Kings immediately following his dismissal as head coach of the Los Angeles Lakers earlier this month.
Former NBA Player Sebastian Telfair Convicted in Gun Case, Faces 15 Years in Prison
Former NBA player and once highly touted young prospect Sebastian Telfair has been convicted of possessing a firearm and could face up to 15 years in prison, according to TMZ Sports.
Telfair, 33, was busted back in June 2017 in Brooklyn, New York after cops found several weapons in his possession during a traffic stop.
Telfair, a high school phenom, played for the Boston Celtics, Portland Trail Blazers, Los Angeles Clippers, Minnesota Timberwolves, Oklahoma City Thunder, Toronto Raptors, and Phoenix Suns, among others, throughout his 12 seasons in the NBA, but many believe that he never reached his full potential.
Telfair plead not guilty and tried to fight back the charges, but a jury found him guilty on Wednesday of felony criminal possession of a weapon.
Telfair, who could face up to 15 years in prison, is scheduled back in court in June for sentencing.
Sports Reporter Suing Kings’ Luke Walton for Sexual Assault Allegations
Sacramento Kings new head coach Luke Walton is already in the news, but for all the wrong reasons, and he has hired attorney Mark Baute to defend him against the allegations of sexual battery made by sports reporter Kelly Tennant, who is suing Walton.
According to TMZ Sports, Walton and his legal team are blasting the accuser, and Baute issued the following statement;
“Luke Walton retained me to defend him against these baseless allegations,” Baute said.
“The accuser is an opportunist, not a victim, & her claim is not credible. We intend to prove this in a courtroom.”
According to the suit, Tennant, who worked as a reporter for Spectrum SportsNet and SportsNet LA, claims that while Walton was an assistant coach for the Golden State Warriors, he asked her to come and meet him at the Casa Del Mar Hotel in Santa Monica, California, to drop off a book she had published.
Tennant says that she asked Walton to write the forward in her book due to a business relationship that the two had had for several years.
Upon arriving at Walton’s hote, he conviced her to come up to his room so that the two could “catch up” and upon arriving in his room Walton pinned her to the bed and placed his hips and legs over her body, forcing kisses on her neck, face, and chest.
Tennant claims that she screamed for him to stop and attempted to break free, but Walton held her down, groped her breasts and groin, and rubbed his erection on her leg.
Tennant claims she was “in shock and fear. She was afraid she was about to be raped,” the suit states.
Additionally, Tennant claims that when Walton finally stopped and released her he escorted her out of the hotel room as if nothing ever happened and she claims that “He smiled, laughed again and made the disturbing statement, ‘Good to see you,'”
The disturbing behavior allegedly continued while Walton was the head coach of the Los Angeles Lakers back in May 2017, and Tennant claims that Walton once greeted her by uttering “vulgar, guttural sounds at her” and said, “mmmm … you’re killing me in that dress.”
The Golden State Warriors, Los Angeles Lakers, and the Sacramento Kings all stated that they had no knowledge of the alleged incident during Walton’s tenure.
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