Heat 0-4 in preseason, working through ‘process’ (Yahoo Sports)

MIAMI (AP) — Erik Spoelstra wanted Wednesday to be a full-contact practice day for the Miami Heat.

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NBA Draft 2014: Full First-Round Order and Preview of Selection Process

In the days remaining before Thursday night’s 2014 NBA draft, anyone attempting to forecast the proceedings is only preparing for inevitable disappointment.

If the results were uncertain, news of Joel Embiid‘s injured foot only adds to the unknown. Judging players based on their footwork, length, quickness, agility, shooting, teamwork and basketball IQ, among countless other skills, is hard enough; now teams picking near the top need to weigh a health risk as well.

This news springs the No. 1 pick back in the air, a selection that holds a ripple effect over the entire first round, the order of which is shown below. 

 

When: Thursday, June 26

Where: Barclays Center, Brooklyn, New York)

TV/Live Stream: ESPN, WatchESPN

 

Draft Preview

Anyone who thinks they figured out the draft better think again.

Just when the early picks began to form in line, injury news surrounding top center Embiid has thrown everything firmly into chaos. Yahoo! Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski broke news of the Kansas standout needing surgery to repair his fractured right foot.

His timetable to return is set for four to six months, which means he could be ready for the beginning of the 2014-15 season with a speedy recovery. Yet the Cleveland Cavaliers have to feel queasy about investing the future of their franchise in somebody who might be able to play next season, especially with Andrew Wiggins and Jabari Parker available.

Worries about a back injury that forced him to sit out the NCAA tournament already raised some questions, but this added blow could vanquish him from top-pick consideration. In his latest mock draft, Bleacher Report’s Jonathan Wasserman now has Embiid going No. 6 to the Boston Celtics. At that point, he’s a risk worth taking for a team looking to hit a home run to expedite the rebuilding process.

Director of player personnel Austin Ainge gave a vague answer when posed with that scenario by The Boston Globe‘s Baxter Holmes. 

Draft night typically spawns a few trades, and this year is likely to be no different. There’s, of course, the Kevin Love factor, which could motivate a team such as Boston to part with precious picks for the star forward, who will become a free agent next offseason. 

Last year, the Philadelphia 76ers were highly active on draft night, trading Jru Holliday to the New Orleans Pelicans for Nerlens Noel’s draft rights. Wojnarowski noted that they are looking at point guards Dante Exum and Marcus Smart, which has people wondering what happens with Rookie of the Year Michael Carter-Williams.

There’s talk of the Los Angeles Lakers hotly pursuing the young point guard. ESPN’s Ryen Russillo plotted out a scenario that makes no sense for Philadelphia.

Why trade a 22-year-old who averaged 16.7 points, 6.3 assists and 6.2 rebounds per game last season? Especially when the 76ers already pick twice in the top 10? Basketball Insiders’ Eric Pincus denied the latest string of chatter.

Philadelphia’s energy would be better spent calling Cleveland to move up to the No. 1 pick, where it can then select the team’s top target, Andrew Wiggins. Now that Embiid is hurt, the Cavaliers may be more willing to part with the top selection. If they still want the 7-footer, picking him at No. 3 would draw less pressure than taking him first, and they can also milk the No. 10 selection out of the deal.

Whatever happens, it’s sure to be an entertaining night at Barclays Center. Even though the event will take place in their home arena for the first time, Brooklyn Nets fans may want to stay home since their team doesn’t have any draft picks.

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Bob Knight Makes Controversial Remark on NBA and College Basketball Process

The one-and-done era in college basketball has generated plenty of criticism from those within the sport, and legendary former Indiana University head coach Bob Knight is the latest to speak out against it. 

According to Chris Littman of Sporting News, Knight lamented the fact that college basketball players are allowed to enter the NBA after their freshman seasons in an interview segment on ESPN’s “Mike and Mike.”

Knight has never been known as the most tactful speaker, and that continued on Tuesday when he used the word “raped” to describe the relationship between the NBA and college basketball.

If I were involved with the NBA I wouldn’t want a 19-year-old or a 20-year-old kid, to bring into all the travel and all the problems that exist in the NBA. I would want a much more mature kid. I would want a kid that maybe I’ve been watching on another team and now he’s 21, 22 years old instead of 18 or 19, and I might trade for that kid. On top of it all, the NBA does a tremendous, gigantic disservice to college basketball. It’s as though they’ve raped college basketball in my opinion.

Not surprisingly, Knight received plenty of criticism for comparing the dynamic between college basketball and the NBA to such a heinous act. Zach Osterman of The Indianapolis Star was among those who chastised the Basketball Hall of Famer:

The bulk of college basketball’s top freshman opt to enter the NBA draft as soon as possible, and it seems likely that Kansas’ Andrew Wiggins, Duke’s Jabari Parker and Kentucky’s Julius Randle will enter the fray once this season concludes as well.

Changes in draft eligibility have essentially forced top prospects to play a year of college basketball rather than entering the draft right out of high school, so college basketball fans now have an opportunity to enjoy elite young players, even if it’s only for a year.

Had this system been in place previously, players like LeBron James and Dwight Howard almost certainly would have played major college basketball for one season.

Despite the NBA seemingly trying to aid college basketball on the surface, Knight doesn’t feel as though enough is being done. His preference is for the NBA to adopt the Major League Baseball model.

Major League Baseball has the best idea of all. Three years before they’ll take a kid out of college, then they have a minor league system that they put the kids in. I’m sure that if the NBA followed the same thing, there would be a lot of kids in a minor league system that still were not good enough to play in the major NBA.

Knight’s idea may seem like a great one to college basketball purists, but it’s a tough sell to top draft prospects when they routinely watch players enter the NBA after their freshman years and assimilate seamlessly.

Some players ultimately flounder after entering the draft too early, but it should be their decision to make.

Knight is entitled to his opinion, and there are many who seem to share it. As is often the case in sports, though, the old-school contingent is unwilling to accept inevitable change. Additionally, Knight didn’t do his cause any favors by using such cavalier language.

The relationship between college basketball and the NBA will continue to be a hot-button issue moving forward, and it is a fluid situation that could very well change in the coming years. With that in mind, this is probably far from the last that we’ve heard from Knight on the subject, but hopefully he’s more aware of what he says in the future.

 

Follow @MikeChiari on Twitter

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Pistons blow another one and lose the franchise center in the process

The Detroit Pistons and the Indiana Pacers hooked up for a third time this season on Saturday night at The Palace. The teams split the previous two match ups with the road team winning each time. The Pistons, with their playoff hopes on life support, would come out blazing.
Josh Smith threw an alley-oop to Andre Drummond for a dunk and Greg Monroe found Drummond for a layup to bring the Pistons within 10-9. Then Drummond conked heads with Pacers center Roy Hibbert and Drummond was woozy. He was on the ground for awhile and the stretcher came out, before he got up and walked off on his own power with the help of trainers Arnie Kander and Mike Abdenour.
Rodney Stuckey came off the bench to replace Drummond and helped the Pistons to an 8-2 run and a 17-12 lead. Smith had 11 points in the first quarter and Detroit led 29-20 after one.
In the second, the Pistons started knocking down the 3-ball. Brandon Jennings knocked down a pull-up 3, Kyle Singler hit a 3 out of the corner, Stuckey …

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Tom Thibodeau Is the Chicago Bulls’ Best Asset During Rebuilding Process

Even with Derrick Rose on the roster throughout the foreseeable future, it’s Tom Thibodeau who remains the Chicago Bulls‘ best asset during their inevitable rebuilding process.

And yes, rebuilding will be done to some extent, even if the 2013-14 squad is hanging tough in the competition for an Eastern Conference playoff spot. 

Rose, while still a fantastic point guard, has quite a few question marks surrounding him. 

Not only was he rather ineffective during his long-awaited return from a torn ACL, but he went down with yet another major knee injury. For a player whose game is predicated on athleticism and explosiveness, that’s problematic. Even if he recovers physically, the mental aspects are a different ball game. 

Thibodeau still has a few question marks—minute management being the primary one—but he’s emerged as a bigger asset to the team. So long as he’s on the sidelines, Chicago is going to remain competitive. 

It’s time NBA fans as a whole started to recognize this. 

 

Creator of an Incredible Defense

When the Bulls are looming on the schedule, you know a team is going to be in for a hard-fought defensive struggle. Points come at a premium, and each and every possession forces the opponent to maintain a grind-it-out mentality that wears everyone down. 

Chicago might not have an abundance of talent on the roster, but it has a clear identity. 

For a rebuilding team, that’s the first step. It’s harder to successfully restock and regain competitiveness when there’s an amorphous product on the court, one that isn’t sure what type of basketball it wants to play and what type of players it wants to recruit to the roster. 

And that’s not a problem for Chicago, so long as Thibodeau is pacing the sideline. 

Even during a year without Derrick Rose in the lineup. Even after trading away Luol Deng for absolutely nothing except cap space. Even after withstanding plenty of injuries throughout the early portion of the season. 

The Bulls have every excuse in the book available to them, but Thibodeau refuses to use any of them. He has this defense ramping up the intensity each and every night, and the result has been one of the most impressive units in the league. 

Going into their 50th game of the season, the Bulls have allowed only 101 points per 100 possessions, a mark that leaves them sitting pretty at No. 2 on the defensive rating leaderboard, according to Basketball-Reference. Only the Indiana Pacers, owners of a wealth of defensive talent and a historically excellent set of stats, beat them out. 

Despite the opportunity for excuses, Chicago is actually allowing 2.2 fewer points per 100 possessions than it did last year. Granted, the Eastern Conference is weaker, but it’s an impressive mark nonetheless.

Just as always seems to be the case, the Bulls’ defense is elite because it refuses to allow points in the paint. That’s the identity that goes beyond just trying on the defensive end, and it’s where Thibodeau comes into the equation in a big way.

According to TeamRankings.com, the Bulls are allowing only 37.1 points per game in the paint. It’s a mark that, just as was the case with defensive rating, leaves them trailing the Indiana Pacers and beating every other team in the Association.  

Why? 

Because of the Thibs system, one that advocates packing the paint as much as possible and almost daring referees to whistle three-second violations. If more men are in the paint, it cuts off driving lanes and makes the interior of the defense more crowded, thus forcing opponents into less-efficient shots. 

Last January, ESPN’s Beckley Mason broke down the outline of the scheme thusly

He is often credited with being the first coach to fully leverage the abolition of illegal defense by loading up the strong side box while having the weakside defenders zone the back side of the defense. In effect, Thibodeau‘s defenses force ball handlers — whether in isolation or in side pick-and-rolls — to the baseline and then send a second defender from the weakside over to the strong side block to cut off dribble penetration. 

That strategy, combined with having big men fall back against screens to keep more big bodies in the paint (as you can see below), allows Chicago both to depress opponents’ field-goal percentages and prevent second-chance points. The Bulls are always a premier rebounding team and not just because they have talented rebounders

Thibodeau‘s defensive genius—more so with Xs and Os than in-game adjustments—has spawned imitators, but no one has been able to mimic the nuances that he brings to the Windy City. No one is better at overcoming the many obstacles and remaining right near the top of the league’s best defensive teams. 

Grantland’s Zach Lowe is another to give Thibodeau credit for his innovation, even if the Chicago coach won’t do so himself: 

Thibodeau didn’t invent this system, and he’s loath to take any public credit for it, but coaches, scouts, and executives all over the league agree he was the first coach to stretch the limits of the NBA’s newish defensive three-second rule and flood the strong side with hybrid man/zone defenses. Other coaches have copied that style, and smart offenses over the last two seasons — and especially this season — have had to adapt. 

The NBA is a copycat league. 

As Thibdeau’s defense proved its merits, others copied him. Then offenses—like the Miami Heat‘s pick-and-roll heavy system that moves the ball with ridiculous frequency—adjusted. It’s a cyclical process, but there’s a distinct advantage to the position in which Thibs sits. 

He’s ahead of the curve. Defenses will eventually adjust to the new-wave offenses, and the gravelly voiced head coach gets to be one of those doing the reacting. 

 

Refuse to Lose

Tanking? TANKING!?!?!

So long as Thibodeau is pacing the sidelines of the United Center, that word will never be allowed to enter into the Chicago game plan. 

The Bulls probably should’ve tried to do everything possible to earn a better pick in the draft once Derrick Rose went down with his second major knee injury. Without the former MVP in the lineup, there was no hope for this team’s ability to compete with the Heat and Pacers in the race to advance out of the East. 

This was a team that was banking on Rose.

The rest of the roster was worse than the 2012-13 squad—one that experienced an early playoff exit—namely because Nate Robinson was gone. The diminutive point guard was one of the few players capable of creating his own shots, but he left for the Denver Nuggets during the offseason.

So when Rose went down, all hope was essentially lost. Just not in the mind of Thibodeau.

My job is to coach the team,” he told ESPN Chicago’s Nick Friedell shortly after D-Rose suffered yet another knee injury. “Whoever I have on the roster, that’s who I’m coaching. Whether Derrick’s here or not, that’s what they have to do. [The front office has] to always look at the players that are available. They have to study, which they do. And you go from there.”  

And so he coached the team. 

Two weeks later, he expanded on his anti-tanking views to Friedell

There’s all kinds of talk about that (tanking). And, to me, as a coach, you put everything you have into each and every day. And that’s what I love about our team. There’s no quit in our team. We’re going to play to win. I think once you start doing those other things, you’re headed down a slippery slope. 

I think you put forth your best effort each and every day. I think every game is winnable, and then you’re trying to build the right habits along the way. As we get guys back, I think we’re going to be fine. I have great belief in our team, and that’s the way you approach it. Some teams may not believe in it, but I also think [tanking] is risky. Everyone talks about the great player, but what happens to all the franchises that don’t get the great player? If you look at history, it’s not good.

Eventually, he was just doing too good a job, and the front office stepped in. General manager Gar Forman shipped off Luol Deng to the Cleveland Cavaliers, and Thibs‘ job became even tougher.

This time it was Joakim Noah who voiced his opinion on the dishonor of tanking. But hmm…I wonder where he got that mentality from? The Florida product has always been a supremely passionate player, but it’s hard to imagine Thibodeau didn‘t have some influence there.

You can view this stubborn attachment to winning basketball in one of two ways. 

Some might see it as an unwillingness to maximize the prospects of the future. Tanking is supposed to be a beneficial endeavor, as it helps bring more talent to the team once the losing stops. 

However, I prefer to view it as an attractive quality when recruiting free agents, which also happens to help with the whole rebuilding process. 

Would you rather play for a coach that doesn’t stick to his principles or one who steadfastly refuses to give up, even when he’s faced with overwhelming odds and a significant talent deficit?

That’s what I thought. 

Between the offseason firing of assistant Ron Adams against Thibodeau’s wishes to the recent trade of Thibs’ favorite player, Luol Deng, you have to wonder when the head coach is going to say he has had enough,” writes Rick Morrissey for the Chicago Sun-Times

There have also been rumblings about the end of Thibodeau‘s tenure in the Windy City, with reasons ranging from his horrid management of players’ minutes—Jimmy Butler literally spent an hour on the court during a single game—to his insistence on winning games rather than tanking. 

But the problems must be patched up.

This system that Thibodeau has created and nearly perfected is too important. So too is his reputation among players and ability to inspire greatness from everyone he coaches. 

Rose might be the one with the most jerseys sold and the MVP to his name, but it’s the head coach who is Chicago’s No. 1 asset during the rebuilding process. 

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Sixers’ good start doesn’t mask rebuilding process

Sixers might be rebuilding, but they’ve gotten off to a good start to the NBA season

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Terrell Owens Thinks He Could Play in the NBA, Disses Luke Walton in the Process

Terrell Owens is at it again.

No, not doing sit-ups in his driveway, dancing like I imagine David Stern would at a nightclub or apologizing for Windows Vista. This time he’s making absurd statements at the expense of Luke Walton.

Per the official Twitter account for SportsNation, Owens believes that he can play in the NBA and that he is better than Walton.

I’d now like to take this time to apologize for Owens. I’m sorry he doesn’t realize that he’s 39, the NBA isn’t the NFL and helmets aren’t allowed. And I’m sorry he doesn’t recognize the greatness of the unemployed Walton.

That’s right—unemployed. Owens compared himself to a jobless NBA player, who has spent his entire career somewhere between serviceable and “who the hell is that guy?”

Jokes are cracked at Walton daily, yet when Owens joins in, it seems mean. Like a bully stealing lunch money. Or someone forcing you to sit through a movie starring Dane Cook. 

He speaks of his inter-sport ability like he’s LeBron James. People have long thought LeBron would be a good tight end, which makes sense. The King is quick and explosive, presumably has great hands and, unlike Owens, isn’t on the brink of collecting Social Security.

Where the 28-year-old LeBron could probably make it in the NFL, Owens seems better suited as a dance-team choreographer at the Association level.

Still, I can’t say I’m surprised at what he said. Not merely because he’s always been cocky, but this isn’t his first NBA rodeo.

In the summer of 2012, he apparently begged the Los Angeles Clippers to sign him. They didn’t obviously, because not even Donald Sterling is that stupid.

I would love to see footage of him begging. Something tells me he would do it wrong. Offering to sign autographs or sculpt Sterling’s six pack wouldn’t be considered begging.

Which isn’t to say one or more NBA teams shouldn’t be interested in acquiring his services. Those looking to tank for Andrew Wiggins make for ideal destinations. Think Philadelphia 76ers or Utah Jazz.

Then again, if I’m a general manager who’s trying to buy losses, I’m spending my money on Walton. He’s less of a head case, has way better hair and most likely doesn’t stand in front of a mirror kissing his biceps as much.

 

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5 Boston Celtics Players Who Shouldn’t Be Part of Rebuilding Process

The Boston Celtics roster may feel incomplete now that Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett are Brooklyn Nets, but the reality is that Boston already has a full 15 players slated to play in the 2013-14 season, and that number rises to 16 if the team picks up Shavlik Randolph’s player option.

However, this rebuilding Celts squad needs more than just bodies if it wants to establish a healthy culture and make moves to regain its status as one of the Eastern Conference’s elite squads. Though Boston boasts a number of young players like Rajon Rondo, Avery Bradley and Jeff Green who could be potential building blocks going forward, they also have a number of players who do not fit with the team’s new direction.

The Celtics’ decision to hire Brad Stevens indicated that they were not thinking about immediately vaulting back into title contention, meaning that keeping many of the expensive veterans they currently have under contract does not make much sense.

The 2013-14 campaign figures to be one of major change for Boston, and with that in mind, let’s take a look at five players who should not be a part of the C’s’ current rebuilding process.

Advanced statistics courtesy of Synergy Sports unless otherwise noted.

Begin Slideshow

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Super Agent Leigh Steinberg Navigates the Process of Dwight Howard

Dwight Howard’s pending decision as to what NBA franchise he chooses to sign a maximum NBA contract with has dominated the early portion of free agency.

The league’s elite center has the basketball world in waiting as he decides whether he will re-sign with the Los Angeles Lakers or opt for less guaranteed money by going to the Houston Rockets, Dallas Mavericks, Atlanta Hawks or Golden State Warriors.

As he mulls over the decision, Bleacher Report turned to Leigh Steinberg to provide an insider perspective on how the decision-making process is handled by elite athletes during free agency.

Steinberg is one of the biggest names in the world of sports agents, and he has sat through countless decision-making processes with free agents.

Steinberg has represented athletes in the NBA, NFL and MLB, and his list of former clients includes Steve Young, Oscar De La Hoya, John Starks, Troy Aikman, Ben Roethlisberger and many other big names through 30 years. He remains a certified NBA agent and his re-launch of Steinberg Sports and Entertainment is expected in just months.

Through the words of Steinberg, the decision-making process of Howard is broken down step by step.

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How to Fix NBA Awards Voting Process

For the most part, the right players went home with the hardware during the recently completed award season for the 2012-13 NBA campaign. But the strange, often nonsensical processes that produced the winners could still use a little work.

Most recently, the league announced the players named to the All-NBA First, Second and Third Teams. The voters that selected LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Tim Duncan, Kobe Bryant and Chris Paul to the First team did a swell job; it’s hard to quibble with any of their decisions.

But stop and think for a second. Do you even know who votes, or what the actual process is? And if, for some reason, there was a crazy, inexplicable result, wouldn’t you want to be able to nail the responsible party?

The sheer variety in voting processes is a little shocking. The All-NBA teams are chosen by a panel of 119 members of the media. The All-Defense selections are made by the 30 NBA head coaches. Of course, the Defensive Player of the Year is voted on by 121 different sportswriters and broadcasters.

In what world does it make sense to have the defensive player of the year decided by a different voting body than the one that decides who’s on the All-Defense team? Crazy, right?

The rest of the voting processes are similarly haphazard. Generally, the media is in charge, but in some cases, there are different numbers of voters and the votes count for different “point totals.” Yep, it’s time to streamline this sucker.

Here are some key overhauls that could not only help avoid the few head-scratching choices we saw this year, but also make sure that when mistakes are made, the proper parties receive the requisite amount of public ridicule.

 

Transparency

When Gary Washburn of the Boston Globe ruined LeBron James’ unanimous MVP award by giving his first-place vote to Carmelo Anthony, there was something of a public outcry. After seeing James dominate the league, post the highest PER mark of any player by a healthy margin and captain his team to 27 straight wins, there was really no logical vote for anyone besides LBJ as the league’s Most Valuable Player.

But Washburn ticked the box next to ‘Melo’s name on his ballot.

To his credit, Washburn wrote a column explaining the logic behind his decision. His argument was flawed, reeking of the type of old-school shortsightedness that still somehow persists in the increasingly analytical NBA world. It took Grantland’s Zach Lowe very little time to swoop in and highlight just how ridiculous and baseless most of Washburn‘s defense truly was.

So Washburn‘s reasoning was absurd, but he at least had the guts to defend his highly unpopular opinion.

The problem is that he didn’t have to do that.

The NBA doesn’t post a list of the media members who vote on these awards, and nobody requires said voters to publicize their picks. That’s a system that invites irresponsibility, homerism and downright foolish selections. Without accountability, there’s not as much of an incentive for objectivity as there otherwise could be.

So the first fix for the awards voting process is to make the entire thing totally transparent.

Whenever a voter makes a selection, we need to know who made it. We might not always agree with the reasoning behind the picks, but at least the voters will be forced to explain themselves if they go too far afield with their ballots.

And if you’re a media member who doesn’t want to have to justify a dubious pick, well…you either need to bone up on your NBA knowledge or give up your voting privileges altogether.

 

A Penalty System

This one’s kind of fun. We need to build in disincentives for ridiculous votes.

Combined with the transparency tweak outlined above, this would really serve to deter thoughtless or biased selections.

I’m proposing that any vote deemed “questionable” by the committee would subject the voter (whose name we’d know because of the whole transparency thing) to either probation or a full repeal of voting privileges—depending on the egregiousness of the vote in question.

Who’d be on that committee? Well, it would be a panel of three people: Gregg Popovich would obviously be one of the adjudicators because he’s basically allergic to nonsense and wouldn’t stand for any stupid selections.

Shane Battier would be the second member of the tribunal, mostly because he reads more NBA scouting reports than any human being on earth and would be a great authority on individual awards.

The third member would be me. Because these are my rules and I can do what I want.

Anyway, an offending voter would be subject to discipline, which we’d call “being Washburned.” More than two consecutive violations would lead to a lifetime ban. There are plenty of voters out there who’d love to participate, so there’s no reason to keep folks around who aren’t appreciating the privilege.

 

All-Inclusive Voting

As I mentioned earlier, the seven major awards (MVP, All-Defense, Defensive Player of the Year, Most Improved Player, Rookie of the Year, Sixth Man of the Year and the All-NBA teams) each have slightly different rules.

So why not just combine all of the voting pools into one big one and do away with the points systems in each award?

This way, you’d have all of the media members with votes, the 30 head coaches and the fans (who get one measly vote in the case of the MVP) deciding the races one vote at a time. There’d be no more breaking things down into first-place votes and second-place votes; each person would just cast his individual ballot, and whichever player ended up with the most would be the winner.

It’s ridiculously simple, but there’s nothing wrong with that. And it’d probably help avoid what happened this year with the votes for Defensive Player of the Year and the All-Defense team. Because the two voting bodies were totally different for those awards, Marc Gasol ran away with the individual honor but wasn’t even named to one of two center spots on the First Team.

Where’s the sense in that?

 

Could Be Worse

On the bright side, the voting process for the NBA’s major awards is a lot better than many others in professional sports (Major League Baseball’s arcane Hall of Fame voting comes readily to mind), but a few simple changes could make it a heck of a lot better.

Does anybody know Adam Silver’s direct phone number? I’d like to present this to him before he takes over as NBA commissioner next year.

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