NBA

NBA Awards: Russell Westbrook picks up MVP title as Draymond Green is named Defensive Player of the Year

Sport360 staff 27/06/2017

Oklahoma City's Russell Westbrook, who became only the second player in NBA history to average a triple double for an entire season, was named the NBA Most Valuable Player at the inaugural NBA Awards show.

Westbrook defeated fellow finalists James Harden of Houston and Kawhi Leonard of San Antonio to claim the season MVP award for the first time in ceremonies at New York.

The 28-year-old guard who helped the Americans win 2012 London Olympic gold averaged a league-high 31.6 points plus 10.7 rebounds and 10.4 assists a game, matching Oscar Robertson from 1962 with double digits in three statistical categories for a full season.

"To everybody in Oklahoma City who helped me go out every night and compete at a high level, I thank you for that," said Westbrook, who invited teammates on stage with him.

"It was an amazing season for me but without these guys none of it would have been possible. This award is not for me. It's for all of us."

Westbrook thanked "all my fans all across the world who appreciate me" and cried as he thanked his wife and parents.

"I couldn't do none of this without you guys," he said. "I can't say thank you enough."

Westbrook also won awards for best style and from fans for the game winner of the year.

Greek star Giannis Antetokounmpo of the Milwaukee Bucks won the Most Improved Player award, beating out Gobert and Serbian forward Nikola Jokic of the Denver Nuggets.

Another Bucks standout, Milwaukee guard Malcolm Brogdon, won Rookie of the Year honors and thanked his teammates.

"They believe in me," he said. "They have given me tremendous opportunity... This is a testament to guys who get overlooked. You can always achieve your dreams if you have faith and you sacrifice."

Cameroon center Joel Embiid and Croatia's Dario Saric, both with Philadelphia, were losing finalists for the top newcomer award.

Golden State forward Draymond Green was voted the Defensive Player of the Year, defeating co-finalists Leonard and French center Rudy Gobert of the Utah Jazz.

"This isn't an individual award," Green said. "There are five guys on the floor every time. I can't do this all by myself so I appreciate them."

Golden State's Bob Myers was named Executive of the Year. Houston Rockets guard Eric Gordon was named the NBA's top reserve player, taking the Sixth Man Award.

"We just had an unbelievable year," Gordon said. "I would like to thank my teammates and my coaches for making my job easy this year."

Houston's Mike D'Antoni was named Coach of the Year over San Antonio's Gregg Popovich and Miami's Erik Spoelstra.

"This is the ultimate team award," D'Antoni said. "You do not win this alone."

German star Dirk Nowitzki of Dallas was named Teammate of the Year in voting by players, the 39-year-old forward expected to be back with the Mavericks next season.

"My teammates are there to support me and push me and motivate me," said Nowitzki. "I still enjoy to compete. Hopefully, I'll be around a couple more years."

Other fan-voted awards went to Leonard for block of the year, Golden State's Klay Thompson for performance of the year in a 60-point effort, Golden State's Kevin Durant for best playoff moment for a 3-pointer in game three of the NBA Finals, Golden State's Stephen Curry and Green for assist of the year and Oklahoma City's Victor Oladipo for dunk of the year.

Provided by AFP Sport

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NBA

Bulls failed to get enough back for Butler

Jay Asser 23/06/2017
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Seeing red: Jimmy Butler. Picture: Getty Images.

The fact that Jimmy Butler will play somewhere other than Chicago this coming season isn’t much of a surprise. That his new home is Minnesota and he was sold for pennies on the dollar, however, is.

No one should blame the Chicago Bulls’ for deciding to “set a direction”, as vice president of basketball operations John Paxson described it. Aside from the (fool’s gold) optimism gained by taking a 2-0 series lead over the Boston Celtics in the first round of the playoffs before Rajon Rondo suffered a thumb injury, the Bulls had no reason to think they were in position to contend.

And look no further than what Indiana are going through right now for what being ‘patient’ gets you with a star on a middling team.

In practice, acquiring assets for Butler was the right move. The execution… that’s where Chicago made their mistake.

In no universe should a 27-year-old star entering his prime, with two years left on his team-friendly contract that pays less than $20 million per season, be traded for an underwhelming package of Zach LaVine, Kris Dunn and essentially a pick swap of No16 for No7.

Where to start? How about with the pick swap. For a team in need of as many assets as possible, the Bulls should have drawn a line when proposed with the idea of surrendering their own selection.

It just has the feeling of a clueless front office making a concession to get the deal done. Teams should be scrap and claw for every negotiating point in a trade and from the outside, it looks like Chicago failed to do that.

Depending on your assessment of Lauri Markkanen as a prospect, you could easily criticise the Bulls for how they used that No7 pick. But that’s besides the point because the trade was already a fleecing before the Arizona product donned a Chicago cap on stage with commissioner Adam Silver.

As far as LaVine and Dunn go, the former is still recovering from a season-ending ACL tear, while the latter showed little offensive promise in his rookie season. The Bulls better hope they hit on at least one, otherwise they’re looking at a potential sixth man who can score and not provide much else, along with a rotation player, respectively.

On the flip side, Chicago’s loss is Minnesota’s gain.

Butler gives the Timberwolves a three-headed core to build around, accompanying Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins.

He also reunites with former coach Tom Thibodeau, who was in need of a veteran presence to help shape the young guys and cultivate a defensive edge which was the signature quality of his Bulls teams.

As with any trade that involves picks and young players, the true verdict is out and won’t be known for years. Nevertheless, this is as one-sided as a deal for a star gets.

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NBA draft's winners and losers

Jay Asser 23/06/2017
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Purple and gold: Lonzo Ball. Picture: Getty Images.

Coming off one of the craziest offseason weeks in recent memory, the NBA draft lived up to expectations with surprises and twists, even if every rumour didn’t come to fruition.

Paul George and Kristaps Porzingis stayed put – for now – but we finally saw one star on the move as Jimmy Butler landed in Minnesota of all places.

Add in the actual draft selections and there multiple winners and losers on the night:

WINNERS

The Balls

As it turned out, Lonzo Ball and his controversial father LaVar got exactly what they wanted in the end.

After banking on being selected by the Los Angeles Lakers at second overall, Ball got his wish to stay home on the West Coast.

There were murmurs ahead of the draft that the Lakers weren’t as enamoured with Ball as everyone assumed, but when push came to shove, the Lakers gleefully scooped up a point guard prospect who has the potential to be a special player.

For all the criticism LaVar has received, with much of it deserved, you have to admit he was right. As for his proclamation that his son will lead the Lakers to the playoffs in his rookie season? Good luck with that.

Sacramento

Don’t look now but the Kings made some smart moves and seem like they know what they’re doing.

At No5, they scooped up Kentucky’s De’Aaron Fox, whose deadly speed and athleticism at point guard made him both the best player available and best fit for Sacramento.

The Kings then shipped No10 to Portland for No15 and No20, a move which in a vacuum is forward-thinking to capitalise on the draft’s variability. But with those picks, they went safe with wing Justin Jackson before taking a home run swing with injury-riddled big man Harry Giles. In the second round, they rounded out their draft with Frank Mason, a very productive guard from Kansas.

It’s as well as Sacramento could have possibly done and the haul gives them a foundation on which to construct a full rebuild.

New York

The only reason they’re on this list is because Porzingis wasn’t sent packing.

That doesn’t mean they’re not losers in general, but it’s gotten so bad for Knicks fans that not trading a 21-year-old phenom, aptly nicknamed the ‘Unicorn’, is something to solace in.

Of course, as long as Phil Jackson is at the helm of the franchise, no one in New York should feel safe.

LOSERS

Danny Ainge

Unfortunately for the Boston Celtics general manager, perception is often reality and after another draft night in which he stood pat, Ainge is getting heat.

He already had a reputation as being an asset-hoarder and gun-shy in unloading his treasure trove of picks for proven stars, but it was exacerbated on Thursday when Boston didn’t pick up Butler for what should have been a bargain.

Minnesota’s package of Zach LaVine, Kris Dunn and No7 for Butler and No16 surely could have been topped by Ainge. It would have finally given the Celtics a blue chip player at a fraction of the cost, but it’s apparent Ainge didn’t want Butler that badly.

Whether or not that’s related to a pursuit of Paul George, it (unfairly) doesn’t look great for Ainge.

Portland

It’s hard to imagine what the Blazers were thinking, considering they failed to accomplish what should have been their two clear goals: shedding salary and adding wings.

Portland couldn’t pull off either, but it’s difficult to be too harsh on them for not getting rid of bad contracts, something that’s easier said than done.

However, they didn’t help their cause by drafting two big men in Zach Collins and Caleb Swanigan, creating a logjam at the centre position, where they already had Jusuf Nurkic and Meyers Leonard.

Their roster, as it stands right now, has little flexibility and too much money owed for a team that is stuck in the middle between contending and bottoming out.

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