It was just a matter of announcing it, but James Harden was not named MVP for the 2016-17 season. The NBA gave that award to Russell Westbrook Monday night.
The award votes were made by a panel of sportswriters and broadcasters.
We made our case for Harden over Westbrook at the end of the regular season, but the media narrative was too difficult to overcome with this one as the high-usage Westbrook averaged a triple-double. Despite the fact that you could easily make the case that Harden created more team success than Westbrook, you could also argue that Harden had a better individual season than Westbrook, even considering the triple-double line.
Frankly, it’s hard to pump up either player at the awards show considering it’s well after the playoffs. Harden and the Rockets easily dismissed Westbrook and the Thunder in the first round and then Harden completely disappeared when it mattered in the second round.
However, based on the regular season alone, we witnessed two of the greatest overall offensive outputs ever.
Mike D’Antoni has won the Coach of the Year Award for the 2016-17 season, the NBA announced on Monday night.
This is the second time D’Antoni has been named Coach of the Year, winning it with the 2004-05 Phoenix Suns as well.
D’Antoni finished far ahead of Miami Heat coach Erik Spoelstra. D’Antoni tallied 400 points, including 68 first-place votes while Spoelstra finished second with 153 points, including nine first-place votes.
It’s an especially impressive win for D’Antoni considering this is his first season with the Rockets and the hire was scrutinized heavily by fans and the media. The Rockets made a 14-win improvement, winning 55 games to finish with the third-best record in the league.
Eric Gordon has been named the Sixth Man of the Year for the 2016-17 season, the NBA announced on Monday night.
Gordon becomes the first Rocket ever to win the award. He finished with 358 points in the voting, edging out Golden State’s Andre Iguodala (326 points). Gordon received 46 first-place votes to Iguodala’s 43.
In his first season with the Rockets, Gordon averaged 16.2 points a night, hitting 37.2% of his three-pointers. The sharpshooting guard came off the bench in 60 of his 75 games — the most games he’s played in a season since his rookie season of 2008-09.
“We just had an unbelievable year here with the Rockets,” said Gordon after receiving the award. “I’d also like to thank my coaches and my teammates for making my job easier this year.”
Gordon won the NBA’s three-point shooting contest in February. He also made 246 three-pointers on the year, ranking fourth overall in the league. He set the NBA single season record for the most three-pointers by a reserve, breaking the old mark of 179 (Mirza Teletovic) set last season.
Patrick Beverley has been an outstanding defensive player for years, but he was finally honored for that skill on Monday.
Beverley was named to the NBA All-Defensive First Team, joining Draymond Green, Rudy Gobert, Kawhi Leonard and Chris Paul as First Team honorees.
The Rockets guard made the Second Team in 2013-14 but has never made the first team until now. He becomes the fourth player in Rockets history to earn the honor — the first since Scottie Pippen in 1998-99.
The funny part about it is what Russell Westbrook said about Beverley during their first round series this season.
“Oh yeah, he was talking about how he was first-team all-defense, but I didn’t know what he was talking about because I had 42 at the time in the series,” said Westbrook. “I don’t know what he was talking about. Maybe he was dreaming or some (expletive). I don’t know. Sorry, excuse my cuss word. I don’t know what he was talking about, but I guess he wanted to be first-team all-defense or something. Maybe he was dreaming about it. I don’t know.”
Beverley averaged 5.9 rebounds (career high) and 1.48 steals. He became the seventh different player in NBA history listed 6-foot-1 or shorter to average at least 5.5 rpg in a single season.
Beverley has been the subject of trade rumors this offseason as we head towards free agency starting on July 1. Ironically, the guy rumored to replace him is Chris Paul, who also made the All-Defensive First Team.
My hopes were high for Jordan Bell or Jonah Bolden, but both were off the board by the time the Rockets picked in the middle of the second round.
It didn’t matter. The Rockets had different plans.
In a somewhat predictable move with their second round picks, the Rockets made a draft-and-stash pick and then dumped off their second selection.
With the 43rd pick, the Rockets selected German center Isaiah Hartenstein, then dumped the 45th pick (Oregon forward Dillon Brooks) to Memphis for a future second round pick.
Hartenstein is a 19-year old seven footer who has very good upside. He’s a lefty who played with Zalgiris Kaunas of the Lithuanian Basketball League, averaging over 20 points a game. He also played in the 2017 Nike Hoop Summit, representing Germany in three FIBA events at the U16 and U18 levels, averaging 12.2 points and 9.1 boards.
“He’s a mobile seven-footer, really skilled (with) potential two-way ability,” said Rockets general manager Daryl Morey. “We really like his potential.”
Hartenstein said he considers himself to be a very mobile and versatile player with strong passing skills, comparing himself to the likes of Draymond Green and Kevin Love in the passing department.
Ironically, he draws comparisons to former Rocket Donatas Motiejunas, and in an interesting (and potentially confrontational) twist, Hartenstein is represented by B.J. Armstrong, the same agent who advised and steered Motiejunas wrong in last year’s negotiations.
“I love winning,” said Hartenstein. “I can do a lot of things on the court, whatever the team needs me to do. Me being very versatile helps a lot.”
The moves are a classic Rockets strategy — prepare for free agency and maximum cap room. They didn’t want to add anyone late in the draft to the current squad as they’re trying to make moves to clear space. They hope to land a star then fill out the roster with higher quality players that are looking to contend.
Hartenstein has had back issues, but he said in a conference call after the selection that his back is fine. But interestingly, like Clint Capela in 2014, Hartenstein says he hopes to play with the Rockets this season, which almost assuredly goes against the Rockets’ current plans. Morey said he won’t be on the 2017-18 roster.
“It looks like he’s going to play with us this summer and then develop overseas next year,” said Morey.
My opinion here, but I love this move for the Rockets. Morey has been a terrific GM who consistently looks for and finds ways to create new advantages for the team. He’s been an innovator since he came to the team in 2006 and has a great reputation with the fans here in Houston.
While recognizing his weaknesses, I’ve been a fan of Howard’s on and off the court so I don’t write this to mock him. But I found it interesting for two reasons.
First, it shines some light on the 2016 trade deadline when the Rockets reportedly shopped Howard heavily but didn’t pull the trigger. If the offers were Miles Plumlee, Marco Belinelli and a move down in the draft, then we understand now why Daryl Morey didn’t make a deal. They were looking for picks but likely never got anything of significance.
Second, the league has changed and Dwight Howard is not fitting in. Theoretically, he should. In fact, he should be the ideal center in the modern NBA and the Rockets certainly thought he would be when they signed him in 2013. But injuries, his own reluctance to play a different role and some other factor about him that you just can’t put a finger on has made him a square peg in a round hole. An inefficient post-up center who can’t hit free throws and believes the offense needs to run through him is, plain and simple, a dinosaur in today’s up-tempo sets that thrive on quickness, efficiency, versatility and the three ball.
Don’t be sorry for Dwight. He’s got millions upon millions and has lived it up in the NBA. Charlotte, with their defensive coach and mindset, might be the jumpstart he needs, but I think it’s safe to say this is the last opportunity (if it hasn’t passed already) that Dwight is going to get to be an impact player in this changing league.