Every industry likes to give out awards in recognition of its stars. Hollywood has The Oscars, the music world has The Grammies, and Broadway has the Tony Awards (don’t worry, I don’t actually watch the Tonys). The world of sports is no different. Every league hands out awards to its best and brightest at the conclusion of each season, and it’s undoubtedly a good thing to recognize those who thrill the fans and put butts on seats.
It would also be nice, however, to call out those who, for want of a more eloquent way of phrasing this, suck at their jobs. Actors are kept on their toes for fear of winning a Razzie—the awards given out to the worst that Hollywood has to offer in a given year—and athletes should be kept motivated by the fear of public humiliation as well.
So here at BALLnROLL, we thought it might be a good idea to compile a list of the worst performers from the NBA season just gone, using the 5 NBA player awards as our framework, and flipping that concept on its head. You certainly won’t see LeBron James or Kevin Durant’s name affixed to any of these awards.
Last season’s Rookie of the Year, Damian Lillard, came from a school that no one had heard of (Weber State) and took the NBA by storm. In stark contrast, Austin Rivers, a guy most people had heard of coming out of college (mostly because of his dad), and who played for a huge school (Duke), had a historically bad rookie year. So bad, that he takes the Worst Rookie of the Year award.
Of course, it would be easy to give this award to a player who was picked way down in the draft and played only a couple games—a Robert Sacre or Kris Joseph—but that misses the point. Austin Rivers was the 10th pick in the draft, played 61 games and had a significant amount of playing time (23 mpg).
And he was really bad, averaging 6 ppg on 37% shooting from the field. Draymond Green was selected 25 spots below Rivers. What were you thinking, Pelicans?!
The Most Improved Player award is pretty stupid to begin with. It often goes to a guy that is either putting up bigger numbers because he’s getting more minutes or a second-year player who’s inevitably going to get better. To be fair, however, Paul George deserved to win some kind of award last season, even if it was an empty one.
As we’re working within the framework of the NBA awards, we have to give out a Least Improved award to the guy who everyone assumed would make the jump last season, and not only didn’t, but actually got worse.
Sorry, Brandon Jennings, but I’m talking about you.
Last season was an important year for Jennings, his last chance to prove the doubters wrong before he became a restricted free agent. Although he looked like a better distributor at times—resembling an actual point-guard—Jennings’ shooting actually seemed to regress. He was 39% from the field last season. What’s more, after his bold / foolish proclamation before the Bucks’ first-round series with the Heat, Jennings proceeded to stink it up big time—14 points per game on 29% shooting. There’s a reason why he’s yet to receive any big offers this summer.
It’s somewhat ironic that the guy who actually won the Sixth Man of the Year award, J.R. Smith, might have been a candidate for our version of the award if his regular season play resembled his post-season performances. Actually, now that the Knicks have signed him to a 4-year contract, post-season J.R. might be the J.R. that we see more of.
This award, however, is going to a guy that was signed to provide instant offense off the bench, and was expected to be a big part of his team’s championship push: Jason Terry. Instead of seeing the Mavericks’ version of JET—a guy who was a huge part of Dallas’ championship season—Celtics fans got to see a guy who looked timid and completely off his game.
Terry somehow managed to shave 5 points off his previous season’s points per game average, and will be best remembered for being dunked on by LeBron and elbowed in the head by J.R.
Maybe things will improve in Brooklyn.
Last season’s Defensive Player of the Year Award was very controversial. If you were a stats nerd you probably went for the eventual winner, Marc Gasol, but many felt like Serge Ibaka, LeBron, and even Joakim Noah had better years. Our Worst Defensive Player award winner aims for more unanimity. Sure, there are a lot of bad defenders to choose from, but our winner is so bad that most people should just nod their heads and say something banal like, “Yeah, he’s really bad at defending”.
Jamaal Crawford and Andrea Bargnani were on the shortlist, but our winner is David Lee of the Golden State Warriors. Lee, who had a great offensive year, simply sucks at defending his position. He gets lost defending the pick-n-roll, always seems to be in the wrong place, and is terrible at anticipating his opponents’ next move. Bargnani and Crawford may be bad, but only Lee had a presentation at the Sloan Conference (by Grantland’s Kirk Goldsberry) dedicated to how bad a defender he is. It’s no coincidence that the Warriors’ defense improved tenfold when Lee went down with injury during the playoffs, and Mark Jackson put Harrison Barnes in at the 4.
The Least Valuable Player, or LVP for short, has to go to a guy who’s taking up a potentially valuable spot on a team’s roster, using up a significant amount of that team’s cap space, and doing absolutely nothing useful when he’s given minutes on the floor. It would be disingenuous to give this award to a non-playing 12th man, like Golden State’s Kent Bazemore. Bazemore’s on a really small rookie contract and actually provided the Dubs with some valuable, moral boosting cheerleading off the bench last season. Some may feel that the LVP should go to an air-balling dinosaur like Jerry Stackhouse, but it’s likely that Jerry provided some veteran leadership in the Nets’ locker-room last season, and plus, I’m not brave enough to proclaim him LVP in print. I’ve heard stories. He’s a very scary man.
No, forget Bazemore, Stackhouse, and even T-Mac; there were only two legitimate candidates for the LVP last season: Andris Biedrins of Golden State and Toronto’s Linas Kleiza. Kleiza’s infuriating indifference and ridiculous contract make him a solid candidate, but he just didn’t play enough games—only 20. Biedrins’ case for LVP, however, is a VERY good one. He didn’t play many minutes, but enough to be relevant, was stupidly expensive at around $9 million per year (the Dubs just offloaded the last year of his contract to the Utah Jazz) and he offered little when he was on the floor. He wasn’t even good at Bazemore-style cheerleading.
A few years ago Biedrins averaged a double-double, but last season he averaged 0.5 points per game, and 2 rebounds. To compound things he went 30% from the charity stripe last season—even if Jackson wanted to keep him on the floor, hack-a-Biedrins made it next to impossible. Congratulation Andris, you were last season’s LVP. Enjoy, Jazz fans.