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Latest News, NBA / May 28, 2010 / 10:00 am

The NBA’s Next Great Idea: Offensive Player of the Year

Kobe Bryant (photo. Nike)

If there was one standout shot from Kobe Bryant‘s 30-point near triple-double last night, it was the double-clutch jumper he hit off the glass over Goran Dragic after hanging in the air like Dwight Phillips. As TNT’s Doug Collins put it: “A great offensive play by the best offensive player in the NBA.”

Kobe has long been considered the best pure scorer and best clutch performer in the League, but is he the best all-around offensive weapon? It’s tough to argue against Kobe based on this Western Conference Finals series. Through five games, he’s averaging 33.0 points and 9.6 assists, hitting 53 percent from the field, 44 percent from three-point range, and 87 percent from the line.

As the NBA regular season was winding down and LeBron James had the MVP locked up, I began drafting a column (never finished) about how the NBA should create an Offensive Player of the Year award, which would have been a much tougher debate than this year’s MVP.

The NFL gives out Offensive Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year, both of them separate from the league’s MVP award. Why shouldn’t the NBA follow suit?

As it stands, basketball’s elite defenders have their own award (DPOY), whereas the game’s top offensive players are lumped into the MVP discussion — where their team’s win-loss record holds just as much (if not more) weight than their individual stats. That’s not the case in the NFL. Tennessee Titans running back Chris Johnson and his 2,000-yard rushing season can rightfully win Offensive POY on a team that missed the playoffs, while Peyton Manning can rightfully win MVP on a Super Bowl contending squad that almost went undefeated. The NBA would benefit from a similar model. Remember the great Kobe-vs.-Steve Nash MVP debate of ’06? If Kobe (35.4 ppg, 7th seed in the West) had walked away with OPOY and Nash (18.9 ppg, 10.5 apg, 2nd seed) took home MVP, everybody would’ve been happy.

If the NBA had given out Offensive Player of the Year in 2010, who would have gotten your vote? The top candidates:

* Kevin Durant — 30.2 points per game (led NBA), 47% field goals, 128 three-pointers, 90% free throws, eight games of 40-plus points.

* LeBron James — 29.7 ppg, 8.6 apg, 50% FG, 129 threes, four triple-doubles, nine games of 40-plus points, led NBA with 66.1 “clutch points” per 48 minutes.

* Carmelo Anthony — 28.2 ppg, 45% FG, 83% FT, seven games of 40-plus points, one 50-point game, fourth in NBA with 47.0 clutch points per 48 minutes.

* Kobe Bryant — 27.0 ppg, 5.0 apg, 45% FG, 81% FT, eight games of 40-plus points, second in NBA with 51.2 clutch points per 48 minutes.

* Dwyane Wade — 26.6 ppg, 6.5 apg, 47% FG, four games of 40-plus points, third in NBA with 10.0 “clutch assists” per 48 minutes.

* Monta Ellis — 25.5 ppg, 5.3 apg, 45% FG, three games of 40-plus points.

* Dirk Nowitzki — 25.0 ppg, 48% FG, 42% 3PA, 91% FT, third in NBA with 47.2 “clutch points” per 48 minutes.

* Steve Nash — 16.5 ppg, 11.0 apg (led NBA), 50% FG, 43% 3PA, 93% FT (led NBA), fifth in NBA with 43.6 clutch points per 48 minutes, led NBA with 13.6 clutch assists per 48 minutes.

When I originally started that OPOY column, I was all set to make my case for Durant. But looking at the numbers more closely, I think Nash, LeBron and Dirk would make up the top three, in some order. Taking team success (mostly) out of the equation, they did the most as far as putting points on the board, getting the job done in crunch time, and simply dominating on the offensive end of the court.

Would the NBA adopt the new award? The MVP, as confusing as its non-specific criteria can be, does make for great arguments and gives TV analysts, bloggers, and basketball writers like myself plenty of easy material to work with. And some people might think creating an OPOY somehow takes away from the tradition of the MVP, although I’d disagree. If anything, I think it provides balance next to the DPOY, and allows MVP an even higher pedestal.

Not to mention a new award creates new arguments, allows the NBA to make a shiny new trophy, gives players something else to shoot for — and perhaps most important to the League right now — represents another sponsorship opportunity.

As far as I’m concerned, the only hard part is figuring out whom to name the trophy after: Jordan, Oscar or Kareem?

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  • yoda

    austin, i think you should add offensive rebounds too, if its opoy award. it produces points (usually) for player that got rebound or just resets offense. don’t know how you plan to calculate it, but thats your job (or nba’s, if they adopt your idea).
    but i must say, it would be good to get that award. and i’d name it after big O, because his rebound abilities.

  • D.I. Dollar

    The OPOY award has to be named after Mike. No question.

    Nash would get my vote stat wise, but LeBum would probably have made it a clean sweep this year.

  • KWAME

    i like this idea…something to spice up the award scene…and its only fair…but to be honest i don’t think Mike would like to have his name on an offensive trophy…he always loathed how he was seen by many as an offensive player

  • control

    I’d go for Nash. The guy completely dominates the offensive end, on a team that is considered to be 100% offensive. It’s about more than scoring points, it’s about getting points for the team. No one does that more than Nash.

    Of the names listed, one of them just doesn’t look like it belongs…Monta?

  • kobeeeeee

    no doubt. the offensive repertoire kobe has in his arsenal is unbelievable. I doubt there will be another all around (offensive) player like him. even jordan did not have this repertoire but since jordan is the original no doubts on him either. we should enjoy kobe while he is stil active. neither lebron, melo or wade will amaze us at this level and on this constant basis.

  • Dave

    Very nice idea.. I think I would have given it to Durant this year, although looking at the numbers it’s hard not to give it to Lebron.

    Besides Larry O’Brien trophy, who are the other awards named after? I agree not to name it after Mike..

  • http://bt.davka.info/ Sparkyjay23

    Nice idea but who was the last MVP who honestly made a real impact on D. TD and KG but other than that no one.

    And if you don’t name the trophy after Wilt ‘100 points’ Chamberlain you are a fuckin retard. Top 5 Seasons for points scored wilt holds 4 of em.

    It would be nice if occasionally you acknowledged the time before Mike

  • http://diaryofatiredblackman.wordpress.com/ Cal

    Hmmm…i like this idea a lot and it should have been implemented already. My vote goes to Carmelo, who is an offensive monster but not the mvp type.

  • http://diaryofatiredblackman.wordpress.com/ Cal

    Hmmm…i like this idea a lot and it should have been implemented already. My vote goes to Carmelo, who is an offensive monster but not the mvp type.
    http://diaryofamiseducatedblackman.com/

  • JAY

    I thought about this like 15 years ago. But instead of Offensive Player of the Year, my idea was Most Outstanding Player.
    That way you could take into account all-round individual stats, not just offense, and make the distinction between Most Valuable to their respective team and Outstanding Individual Player.

  • hahns

    i like it – the fact that theres dpoy and opoy would imply that mvp was a mix of the two too. i like it.

  • s.bucketz

    name it after chris dudley!!!

  • sh!tfaced

    OPOY is a great idea. But what happens to the Scoring Title?

    About time they should give out such an award. Scoring Champion is just too one-dimensional – and quite unfair especially for PGs and all around players.

    Scoring champ just doesn’t give enough credit to other parts of the offense. OPOY will at least focus on a more well-rounded repertoire and not just the scoring.

    Name it after Kareem or MJ. Or since OFFENSIVE is the key word, aligning it with Kevin M*^F@#&$in’ Garnett wouldn’t sound bad either… lol

  • liukz

    Kobe made 6 game winners,,anyone close? enough said

  • isotope

    After watching Kobe and Nash this series, what about the Cerebral Player of the Year. The highest basketball IQ. They know the game and what to do to get an advantage and ultimately, a win. They can read defenses (or offenses) and know how to break them down. Apart from Kobe and Nash, who do you guys think are the smartest?

  • http://facebook.com/togstadlives Jeremiah Togstad

    That’s a great idea, Austin! I see nothing both positives if the NBA added this award.

    If the NBA did have the OPOY award, it would likely go to Kevin Durant, although Dirk or Nash probably deserve it.

    You should write a letter to David Stern outlining this idea, but he probably thought about it before.

  • len-e

    who comes up with all these shitty ideas. Isn’t the difference in game structure between football and basketball OBVIOUS?

  • karizmatic

    I like the concept but my criteria would be a little different. I think it should be the most offensively sound and versatile offensive threats, the guys who can best beat you in a variety of ways and put up the most numbers as well. For that reason I’d have obviously…

    Kobe
    Melo
    Durant
    Tim Duncan
    Pau Gasol
    and then I’d have

    LBJ
    Wade
    Nash
    and you can put whoever else you want up there Nowitzki, Monta etc.

    I don’t think there is any doubt that Kobe is the best offensive player in the league when you consider how fundamentally sound his game is, and I think that is an important factor to add in there.

    Most fundamentally sound guys to me are the ones that I put at the top.

  • jay

    yup…name it the jordan award..and go with the black mamba….nike…can you please get some kobe commercials for the finals?? we better get some dope finals cw for the kobeV!!! cant wait!! come nike or vitamin water…show some love!!!

  • http://deleted dagwaller

    I like the idea. Most of all because it removes the “OPotY as MVP” concept. I think it’d actually improve the concept of a complete player making the MVP and best player in the league, because you would automatically remove the top few offensive players from any unwarranted discussion.

  • fLaVa

    I dont know if everyone would of been happy if nash took MVP and kobe took OPOY… kobe has the drive to be the best and i think he would still be disappointed with anything other than the MVP.

  • Carl

    I don’t like it. It would put too much emphasis on individual play. People growing up now and watching the NBA always talk about dunks and great offensive plays. The team aspect is missing more and more.

    Don’t give out an award which awards those who play selfish.

  • http://www.nba.com smoove chips

    name it after Sasha ‘ the machine’ vujacic.
    he’s on my squad but he is truly offensive lol

    seriously wilt takes the name
    award it to either

    lebum,kobe,dwad,duant or melo.

    it has to be unconstitutional to add monta to this list.how do you in good conscience add monta before mentionin the truth.im just saying..

  • http://www.nba.com smoove chips

    damn typos !!
    I reiterate whether p dubs mumbers are or aren’t up there I refuse to believe monta is more offensive player than pierce.imma trust my lying eyes on this one lol

  • ScoGo

    Name it after Pistol Pete (great OPOY nickname if I ever heard one) and award it to him for 1977, the year he dropped 68 on the Nickerbockers. Then name a couple each week starting the week the playoffs end. 1978, 1979 and so on until you make it to 2010. What a great way to honor some legends and kill some off-season time.

    And we can blog about it at dimemag.com!

  • ScoGo

    And make it a chalice the size and shape of a basket with the net on. I love it when the Stanley Cup travels from favorite watering hole to favorite watering hole with the players from the NHL Championship team.

  • mrparker

    Man this Kobe//Mike argument is really pissing me off these days. 1 of these guys is the only guy to lead the league in scoring for 10 straight years while winning championships in 6 of those seasons. That can’t really be topped only matched.

    The other one of these guys has won a bunch of championships and kind of looks/talks like the amazing guy aforementioned.

    Can we stop with the comparisons at every chance. There really isn’t one. It takes away from what Kobe is accomplishing to have to constantly compare it. He’s not playing against MJ.

  • hooper5013

    Carmelo and Deron Williams are my picks…everyone is on Steve Nash’s dick right now, but he wants no parts of Deron Williams offensively or any other way on the basketball court. D Will, makes sound passes, is a beast from mid range, and he gets to the tin just as well as any guard we have in the League. Kids footwork is phenomenal too, he can pull up off of anyone of his ridiculous hard bounce penetration moves.

    Melo is a bully in the post, he is got a blazing quick first step and he is mid range jumper is ridiculously smooth. His long ball is catching right on too. He’s one of the best offensive rebounders I have seen, reminds a lot of B. King the way he follows his shot with tenacity.

    Of course Kobe Durant Bron, Dirk, Nash, and Duncan could also win this award on any given season but the aforementioned hoopers are the most worthy of the award in my humble opinion

  • bdk23

    HELLOO OFFENSIVE ‘PLAYER’ OF THE YEAR NOT OFFENSIVE TEAM OF THE YEAR…HANDS DOWN DURRANTULLAH

  • jon

    it should be called

    THE PISTOL PETE MEMORIAL – OPOY

  • http://getyourishbusted.net Chicagorilla

    How was Deron Williams not before Monte’? Anyway, my vote still goes to Durant or Dirk.

  • Dayo

    I like the idea of an Offensive Player of the Year. But I think to make it truly competitive and meaningful, it might require a few tweaks. Basically, make it a weighted average that covers points per game, field goal percentage, free throw percentage, assists per game and turnovers per game (the turnovers will obviously be a negative!). I think this will help mitigate against players that might want to start jacking up like 35 shots per night in a bid to enter into the OPOY discussion.
    I’m quite sure that if weighted, we might be surprised at whose name might be popping up!
    Also I think the best part about handling it this way is that it ensures that there is no amibuity in the selection process. Simply put, your numbers speak for you. That way all the talk of one person or the other being snubbed will be totally avoided.
    Nice idea though DIME mag!

  • Dre

    I would love this award being in the NBA. I think Lebron would get that as well being that he was second in scoring, he averages 8.6 assists on a team with not really any other dominant scorers (if anyone knows an ounce about basketball that speaks volumes), he had nine 40+ games and he shoot 50% from the field. That is sick for someone who scores that much. It would be Lebron hands down.

  • Dre

    Carl how is the award a selfish award? There are more aspects to offense then an individual player scoring, assists would be taken into account as well… that is apart of offense. It has absolutely nothing to do with individuals being selfish. The onbjective is to put the ball in the basket and some players do it better than others.

  • Dre

    I agree please stop mentioning Kobe with MJ. Kobe won his first Chip last year as the leader of the team and not the freaking sidekick. MJ was the undisputed leader of the Bulls, he was never a Robin to anyone’s Batman like Kobe was.

  • http://bouncemag.com LowerEastScribe

    Great joint Austin! I think an OPOY award would be dope and you made excellent points. I’d name it after the Big O and my top-five (yea, I know-top 5? I couldn’t pick three, let alone one.) would be:

    Durant, LeBron, KB24, Dirk and Nash.

  • CITY

    ********************ATTENTION************************

    THIS IS A HORRIBLE IDEA !!

    this will just encourage selfish play
    the scoring champ does enuff justice !

    it is jus a bad idea.