With 82 games in the books and the playoffs getting started this weekend, Dime presents our ’08-09 NBA regular-season awards. These are the consensus picks from our editorial team; not necessarily who we think is going to win, but who we think should win.
Before I get into why my dude Danny Granger deserves this award, there’s something I need to clear up: Everyone understands the NBA doesn’t have a Comeback Player of the Year award anymore, right? I feel like every year around this time, when people are picking their award-winners, Comeback Player is always included. Just yesterday I read this in Bill Simmons’ column on ESPN.com:
If the Birdman doesn’t win “Comeback Player of the Year” for (a) bouncing back from a drug violation so seedy that they wouldn’t even tell us what happened, and (b) giving Denver superior bench play this season (6.5 ppg, 6.2 rpg, 2.4 bpg in 20.5 mpg), then let’s dump the award and not have it anymore.
I’m hoping Simmons was joking, because he and everybody else who gets paid to write about basketball should know that the NBA did dump the Comeback Player award. 23 years ago. They haven’t given it out since 1986, when Stern realized it usually going to guys whose comeback involved a coke addiction. (Which makes the push for Birdman winning this imaginary award even more ironic.)
Anyway, that matters now because the Comeback Player award was basically infused with the Most Improved award, which is way more beneficial to the NBA because instead of highlighting recovering addicts, it highlights up-and-coming stars. Most Improved is typically a young man’s award; since its inception in ’86, only two winners — Darrell Armstrong and Hedo Turkoglu — were older than 27 at the time they won.
It continues this year with Granger. In his fourth year in the League, “Senor Buckets” (who turns 26 next week) went from a promising talent to a legit star, finishing fifth in the NBA in scoring at 25.8 points per game while adding 5.1 rebounds, 2.7 assists, 1.0 steals and 1.5 blocks. He made his All-Star debut in February, and ranked fourth in three-pointers made with 182 (40.4%), despite missing 15 games with nagging knee and foot injuries. While the Pacers finished in the Lottery, they had more close games than any team in the League, with Granger carrying them to wins over contenders (L.A., Boston, Cleveland, Houston, Orlando) and having them on the verge in a lot of down-to-the-wire losses.
As a rookie Pacers fan, I got to watch most of Granger’s games this year, and I’ve already covered how good he is in this column a while back and in this feature from Dime #47. Good to see the rest of the world is catching on.
* DIME’S MOST IMPROVED TEAM *
G – Devin Harris, New Jersey
G – Brandon Roy, Portland
F – Kevin Durant, Oklahoma City
F – Danny Granger, Indiana
C – Nene, Denver
* DIME’S LEAST IMPROVED TEAM *
G – Allen Iverson, Detroit
G – Jerry Stackhouse, Dallas
F – Mike Miller, Minnesota
F – Luol Deng, Chicago
C – Rasheed Wallace, Detroit