When you watch NBA games, who do you think is the best scorer? Which player would you pick if you needed one steal, one rebound, the right pass or the right shot? Every year we see players perform at a high level and some excel at one thing in particular.
Sure, we could prognosticate all day about MVP and Rookie of the Year Awards. But why not think a little outside the box? So, we here at The 3 Point Conversion have developed our own superlatives. Think of it like a High School Yearbook, except with more step-back threes.
The awards are as follows:
The Black Mamba Award:
Given to the player who is the best overall scorer with an assassin like attitude. (R.I.P. Kobe Bryant)
Jason Kidd Award:
Given to the player who delivers the best passes with a bit of flash.
Manute Bol Award:
Given to the player who exhibits a real flair for shot blocking. (R.I.P. Manute Bol)
Allen Iverson Award:
Given to the player with the best handles and deceptive dribble moves.
Gary Payton Award:
Given to the player with quick hands and great perimeter defense.
Given to the coach with the most innovative game plan or scheme.
And of course, we had to share the wealth. Here’s each award winner, chosen by a different writer for each. Let’s spark some debate:
Black Mamba Award: Damian Lillard, Portland Trail Blazers
Damian Lillard was very efficient this year at 46.3 field goal percentage, considering he’s predominantly a perimeter player. His scoring average increased nearly five points to 30 points per game from last season. He also upped his shooting percentage by two points. And this was done while being the focal point of opposing defenses all season long.
If that wasn’t enough, he took his game to another stratosphere inside the Bubble. He led all scorers by averaging 37 points per game on 50 percent field goal shooting.
To add a little flair, Lillard peppered in two 60 point outbursts. Considering they needed to win nearly every game (6-2 in the Bubble) to make the playoffs, it added more pressure. None of which phased Lillard, who hit big shot after big shot. – Allen Fields
Jason Kidd Award: LeBron James, Los Angeles Lakers
The gift of the give: a pass that not only makes things easy for the scorer but gets the crowd on the edge of their seats. Jason Kidd made magic happen while moving at warp speed down the court. He was magical with the pinpoint passes he made over his career. Fittingly, the guy that that should win this award is none other than the NBA’s assist leader for this season, LeBron James.
Unofficially, James has been playing point guard his entire career. He has initiated the offense for pretty much every team he has played for. This year though, he was officially moved to point guard and tasked with running the team from that spot. In his first year running the point, he was able to average 10.2 assists while not really increasing his turnovers.
He sees plays before they happen, making saucy passes between defenders and into tight spaces and he does it all with ease. Even when he is coming with a head of steam at you, he always is aware of who is around him. James is the guy that gets more excited getting teammates involved than actually scoring himself and that makes him even more dangerous. Trae Young and Luka Doncic are exciting players and deserving of consideration but they averaged almost five turnovers a game. The reports of James’ demise were greatly exaggerated. – Mike Patton
Manute Bol Award: Rudy Gobert, Utah Jazz
No, Gobert didn’t lead the league in blocks this season. That would go to Portland’s Hassan Whiteside, with a ridiculous 2.9 blocks per game. Gobert came in at a respectable sixth, with two blocks per contest. So why Gobert over Whiteside? Because rim protection is more than just blocked shots, something the two time Defensive Player of The Year knows all too well.
Gobert doesn’t just block shots, he alters them by his mere presence. Being the dominant defensive force he’s been the past few years, he can force opposing rim attackers to second guess themselves, taking more difficult shots to try to avoid Gobert swatting them away.
It also helps that Gobert is viewed as a defense-only threat. Whereas teams may worry about Anthony Davis’ shot-making rather than shot-blocking, Gobert’s one sided nature makes him loom larger in opponents’ minds. It even helps Gobert offensively: not a traditional post threat, opposing centers don’t focus on him. That allows Donovan Mitchell, Mike Conley and Joe Ingles to draw them up in the paint, leading to plenty of lobs to the “Stifle Tower.” – Alex Bab
Allen Iverson Award: Ja Morant, Memphis Grizzlies
When you think of the player with the best handle in the NBA, the usual suspects of Kyrie Irving, Stephen Curry or James Harden comes to mind. But in a year where both Curry and Irving missed the majority of their teams’ seasons and Harden was still handing out step backs, one player stood out more than anyone else.
Memphis guard Ja Morant not only showed the league that he is going to be a future star but showed that he has the best handles of any player in the 2020 NBA Season.
His arrangement of behind the back dribbles, crossovers, ball fakes and step backs kept defenders off guard all season long. Possessing outstanding quickness and lateral movement, Morant used all of the skills to create shots for himself and for his teammates. His memorable step backs, like making Jerome Robinson fall on the ground, his behind the back finger roll on a fast break against Utah and his hesitation dribble and pass to a trailing Jaren Jackson Jr. for a slam dunk were some of this best moves of the season. Morant was able to bring the playground and the open run feel to the league this season. – Danny Thompson
Gary Payton Award: James Harden, Houston Rockets
This was a hard to pill to swallow for this superlative. Harden wasn’t so much a great on ball defender but he seemed to get his hands on everything. Whether it was a strip in the paint, or that weird slap thing he does as players go up for layups, he got his hands on the ball on defense.
It helps that he is the steals leader for 2019-20 with 125 steals on the season. He isn’t a quintessential defender by any means but he created turnovers for his team in tough situations. His ability to strip the ball is a component of his game that should blossom into better defense overall for him and the Rockets.
Not to mention his ability to rebound on the defensive end, which also creates possessions. It is a overlooked defensive stat but it benefits Harden in this case at over five defensive rebounds per game. Overall, he had the best defensive “hands” this season and in the words of his teammate Russell Westbrook, it’s not even close. – Courtlandt Griffin
Zen Master Award: Mike D’Antoni, Houston Rockets
In today’s NBA, the three point shot has been the staple of most offenses and coach Mike D’Antoni could be one of the reasons. His “seven seconds or less” offense that he deployed with the Phoenix Suns (2002-2008), helped pave the way for this new style. Well, D’Antoni is back with another innovation, running a predominantly small lineup to start and finish games.
Of course he had aspects of this type of lineup before but this year he committed to it fully. Running with the 6’5″ P. J. Tucker as his center for most of the season, the Rockets carved out the fourth best record in the West. They might lack size on defense but still make plays, finishing top five in steals and top ten in blocked shots.
D’Antoni might get backlash for giving up a ton of points but nobody can question the offensive attacks he puts together. He is truly an innovator of the game. – Ab Stanley