This kind of snuck up on me but if you can believe it, we're half way through the season. The team is 22-19 through 41 games which puts us on pace for 44 wins. Seems like a fun time to hand out some half-season awards.
Most Valuable Player - Jae Crowder
Surprised? Were you thinking of a left-handed, diminutive scorer who is no doubt more likely to be our only representative in the All Star game? Yeah, we'll get to Isaiah Thomas in a second, but for the moment, let's appreciate our best all-around player and heart and soul of this Boston Celtics team.
I don't think stats due him justice, but they do make a pretty compelling case.
Crowder ranks 23rd in the NBA in ESPN's real plus/minus metric. He elevates to 19th in RPM wins, an estimate of the number of wins a player has contributed to his team's total this season. At 5.45 wins, Crowder is six spots ahead of Thomas (4.71), while Jared Sullinger (47th, 3.55), Amir Johnson (52nd, 3.28), and Kelly Olynyk (64th, 2.75) are the only other players for Boston ranked among the top 150 in the league. Among small forwards, a super competitive category topped by some of the NBA's biggest names, Crowder ranks sixth in both RPM and RPM wins behind only Kawhi Leonard, LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Paul George and Carmelo Anthony. Crowder is third among small forwards in defensive RPM trailing only Leonard and James.
He refuses to back down to any situation, he's a vocal leader, and he does whatever it takes to secure the win. Basically he's everything a Boston fan values in their players, so right now I'm handing him the Most Valuable Player award for the first half of the year.
Here I'll note that Jae Crowder probably deserves defensive player of the year as well, though you could make a good argument for Avery Bradley as well. Also, Most Improved probably goes to Jae as well.
Most Outstanding Offensive Player - Isaiah Thomas
With all that great stuff said about Crowder, we might not see (or care) about any of it if we didn't have Isaiah Thomas scoring in bunches and keeping the offense from stalling completely out for whole games at a time. Thomas is the Little Train That Could but when he keeps climbing that mountain, instead of saying "I think I can" he keeps muttering "I know I can, I got this." Doesn't matter if he's splitting a screen, bouncing between the trees in the paint, or launching a pull up transition three pointer. He practically glows with radioactive confidence and that's what makes him special.
Rookie of the Year - DNP CD
I suppose you could give this one to RJ Hunter by default, but since he's only played 242 minutes (most of any of the rookies) I'm hard pressed to hand him any hardware. The roster is too packed with players to give the rookies too much of a run, so we'll just have to give them all a pass and hope that they are developing more along the lines of an Avery Bradley than a J.R. Giddens.
Mythical Rookie of the Year - Jordan Mickey
Every year there's a rookie that isn't playing yet, but somehow still captures our imagination and gives us dreams of better things to come. Sometimes it works out (Bradley, Al Jefferson, Kendrick Perkins) and sometimes not-so-much (Fab Melo, JaJuan Johnson). Only time will tell where Jordan Mickey falls on that spectrum, but it is fun to imagine him swatting shots in the paint on one end while knocking down 3's on the other.
Least Likely to be a Celtics in March - David Lee
I don't have anything against David Lee and he's probably getting a bit of a bad rap by those looking for a scapegoat when things don't go well (guilty as self-charged). However, I think most would agree that the half season experiment of putting David Lee's round peg into the square hole that is the Celtics' rotation hasn't been working out. His famous lack of defense doesn't mesh well with our team identity and his passing and scoring ability haven't opened up the offense like the team was hoping it would. It is probably time for both parties to move on. If he can't be traded, I would imagine he'd be a buy-out candidate shortly after the deadline.
Most Likely to be a Throw-In Trade Piece - James Young
Go ahead, call me a hater. Accuse me of "giving up" on a guy that is still so young. I fully admit that he could be a nice player someday. I'm just not all that convinced it will be any time soon or that his ceiling is all that high. He reminds me of Gerald Green, but without the unearthly hops. Maybe that's not fair and perhaps I'm judging him too harshly but I just haven't seen what I'm looking for in him thus far. If I was negotiating trade terms with another team's GM and they asked for another asset, I'd rather throw in James Young than the Mavs 1st rounder (despite the fact that it is projected to be around #20 this year).
The Jeff Green Award (Most Maddeningly Inconsistent) - Kelly Olynyk
In the past week alone, Kelly was benched for the entire second half of the Knicks game and dropped 21 points and 9 rebounds against the Suns. I really like Kelly's game and I buy into the fact that his style of play is valuable in this age of basketball. I'm just frustrated at his inconsistency. I think I'd be more willing to take the ups and downs if the team had more reliable 2nd and 3rd options on offense and he could be a nice complimentary player that can swing a game (in a good way) from time to time. But this team needs Kelly to score and right now he can't do that consistently. I do have high hopes that he'll gain more confidence and level out to a really nice player in the years to come. He's just not there yet.
Least Likely to Make His Next 3 Pointer - Evan Turner
Turner has resurrected his career in Boston and he's been a nice story. He's one of the few guys that can generate offense and create shots for himself or his teammates. He's very versatile and does a lot of positive things on the court. But man, that guy just can't shoot 3's this season. He's a career 30% shooter (which isn't great to start with) and he's at half that this season at just 15%. This guy needs hypnotherapy in a bad way. Either to give him his confidence back shooting 3's or to convince him that murderous squirrels are going to chew off his ankles if he shoots from beyond the arc.
Most Respected Human Being - Brad Stevens
Put aside the fact that Stevens is one of the best coaches in the game. The guy just gets it. Respect.
Quick Look Ahead
That's all I've got for the first half of the year. The trade deadline could shake things up considerably. The race to the playoffs could make things very interesting - especially in a very crowded East.
We're half way through and I think the team is doing ok. There have been some pleasant surprises and some not-so-fun disappointments. We've still got a great future and Danny has some assets to make some more moves. Should be a lot of fun to see what happens in the next few months.