The league switched to six divisions a few years back, and I think we can all be forgiven if the affinity for those divisions hasn’t grown as quickly as, say, the affinity for Eva Mendes.
I can feel the old Pacific Division as an entity; Suns, Lakers, Blazers, Sonics ... but the Northwest Division? Doesn’t have a feel to it, not yet anyway.
Well, here’s one way to rectify it. Let’s recap the glorious 2006-07 season with a Year in Review for the Northwest Division, where two teams made the playoffs (Utah, Denver), and three others raced as fast as they could towards a lottery pick. It’s a strange group of teams, but there’s a lot of talent here. Just quickly, the NW has the NBA’s best shooter (Ray Allen), best fantasy player (Garnett), most dynamic scorer (Iverson), best one-name player (Nene), best midget (Boykins, okay, he’s in Milwaukee, but I’m counting him anyway), best shot-blocker (Camby), most inappropriate name (Boozer, Utah), and the worst guy averaging 24 points a game (Zach Randolph). It’s the Northwest Division, folks, what more can you say.
COACH OF THE YEAR
Um, gee, you think Jerry Sloan deserves the honor? His competition includes a guy who seemingly was fired last August (Bob Hill), the Billy Martin of the NBA (George Karl), a guy who’s record after two years with his current team is 53-111 (Mac-10), and a guy so white and gritty, Kevin McHale can be forgiven for mistaking him for a former teammate (Randy Wittman, who, by the way, is now 74-132 in his illustrious coaching career). Actually, Sloan’s only competition was Dwayne Casey, who compiled a 20-20 mark for the T-Wolves before being canned for making people think that McHale isn’t the smartest basketball mind in all of Minnesota.
SIXTH MAN OF THE YEAR
Here are the nominees from each team: Earl Watson, Seattle; Matt Harpring, Utah; Randy Foye, Minnesota; Travis Outlaw, LaMarcus Aldridge, Portland; JR Smith, Denver. Not a bad group, but I think Matt Harpring is the smart choice. He might not get the boards that Aldridge does, or the steals like Outlaw, but Harpring puts the ball in the hole often enough to deserve it, and, unlike Smith, he actually gives passing interest to the non-shooting part of his game. Plus, he got to the line as often as Rashard Lewis, despite playing 400 fewer minutes. That has to count for something.
MOST DISAPPOINTING POINT GUARD
Now we’re getting to the meat of this division. Really it boils down to two teams and five guys: Watson and Ridnour from Seattle (hereinafter known as WAD), and Hudson/James/Jaric in Minnesota (TroJam). WAD gives you horrible 3-point shooting combined with infighting, all at the price of $7.8 mil this year and $38 mil in the next three years. TroJam gives you three guys earning a combined $16 million this season, plus $64 million in the next four years, none of whom shot better than 42% this year or averaged more than 3.6 assists per game. Worst of all, Seattle’s third-stringer, Mike Wilks, might be better than all five of them. In the end, the award has to go to Marko Jaric, who was signed to a huge, six-year deal before last season and instantly became the worst guy under a six-year deal in the entire league, non-center division.
You’ve got the Brazilian and Camby over there in Denver. You’ve got Collison (a surprising 8.2 boards per game) in Seattle. You’ve got Boozer in Utah (11.8), Randolph in Portland (10.1), and the Big Ticket in Minnesota (12.8). But do you know who got the most boards per 48 minutes this year? None other than the Ball-Grabber, Reggie Evans, who clocked 19.2 boards per 48. He doesn’t do anything else, folks, but the man knows how to rebound. (Side note: Earl Boykins averaged more offensive rebounds per 48 than Ray Allen, JR Smith, Ricky Davis, Randy Foye, or Martell Webster. You read that right.)
WORST FREE THROW SHOOTER
Normally, you’d want to include some sort of minimum attempt requirement, but Joel Przybilla’s “efforts” at the line this year were so shockingly bad they deserve mention. When he wasn’t busy cashing checks or attempting to buy a vowel, Joel managed to nail 10 out of 27 shots. Even Chris Dudley would shudder at that mark. You know you’re bad when a teenaged kid from Senegal (Saer Sene), whose basketball experience rivals Slater’s from “Saved By the Bell” drains a higher percentage than you (56% to 37%). Makes you wonder what the hell Joel learned at Minnesota, and whether he would have been better off joining the Peace Corps and building wells in Senegal.
More to come on Wednesday ...