The biggest “snubs” from the NBA Awards finalists

The biggest “snubs” from the NBA Awards finalists

Giannis got help from Bobby Portis Jr. this season.
Giannis got help from Bobby Portis Jr. this season.
Image: AP

Y’all are already mad over ‘Player X’ not appearing on at least one of these ballots, so we’re gathered here today to commemorate those unable to join their peers as NBA Award Finalists.

This does not mean the “snub” should outright win the award unless otherwise noted; it means this person is worthy of being on the ballot and was omitted.

The NBA pointed out on their website that “The three finalists for each annual award (are) based on voting results from a global panel of sportswriters and broadcasters.” And if we’ve learned anything over the years, NBA award voting could be, if nothing else, a discussion point. The word “snub” here could be a bit misleading if you’re instinctively a cynic, so keep that in mind if you choose to proceed.

Let’s go.

Advertisement

2 / 8

MVP Finalists: Nikola Jokić, Joel Embiid, Steph Curry

MVP Finalists: Nikola Jokić, Joel Embiid, Steph Curry

Snub: Chris Paul

Illustration for article titled The biggest “snubs” from the NBA Awards finalists
Image: Getty Images

Of course, Paul wasn’t going to unseat Embiid or Curry, and not saying he should, but the Phoenix Suns floor general has a top-three case when evaluating what constitutes Most Valuable. In terms of impact, it was eerily similar to what he did with the Oklahoma City Thunder of last season, which Paul surprisingly led to the five-seed and their best winning percentage in four seasons. (He finished only seventh in MVP voting).

While we expected improvements from the Suns, seeing them finish the season second in the Western Conference, with a late shot at No. 1, wasn’t widely in the cards. Paul is the primary on-court reason for that, and we all know it, which is why he’ll find himself on ballots once voting results are distributed despite not having gaudy numbers.

But don’t get this wrong, Paul was great again numerically, too. The recently turned 36-year-old averaged 16.4 points, 8.9 assists, and 1.4 steals per game while shooting 50 / 40 / 93 splits. It was his 10th straight regular-season averaging at least 17.6 points and 7.7 assists per 36 minutes. The Suns also improved from 34-39 to 51-21, upping their winning percentage from 47-to-71.

Advertisement

3 / 8

Sixth Man Of The Year Finalists: Jordan Clarkson, Joe Ingles, Derrick Rose

Sixth Man Of The Year Finalists: Jordan Clarkson, Joe Ingles, Derrick Rose

Snub: Bobby Portis (Jalen Brunson, too)

Illustration for article titled The biggest “snubs” from the NBA Awards finalists
Image: Getty Images

Really, I just want to give Portis an extended shoutout because we are very lazy with Sixth Man of the Year, and it looks like we’re going in that same direction in a matter of days. It’s surprising to see Brunson not make the Ffinals given the love he had been receiving from media members, and rightfully so given his steady play for the Dallas Mavericks. On some select nights, he’s even been their second-best player behind Luka Dončić.

But all season long, you look at odds, you observe conversations, you comb through talking points, and Portis wasn’t given a fair shot at even being mentioned for this award, which isn’t really his fault. It’s as if people are tired of the Milwaukee Bucks, who are victims of their own regular-season success and playoff failures, which is likely to show on this season’s awards ballots. Giannis Antetokounmpo, who had another outstanding regular season, won’t sniff repeating as an MVP or Defensive Player of the Year. And Portis, who should’ve been in Sixth Man of the year conversations all season long, is nowhere to be found. Not even a +10,000 on sportsbettingdime.

Portis averaged 11.4 points and 7.1 rebounds on 52 / 47 / 74 splits while logging just under 21 minutes per contest. His per 36 numbers were 19.8 points and 12.2 rebounds. His 121 offensive rating was tied for second on the Bucks (with Jrue Holiday, Brook Lopez, and Pat Connaughton) and one-point behind Giannis. And his defensive rating of 109 only trailed Giannis on the team (107) among qualified players.

Every Sixth Man of the Year winner from 2011-2019 was a shooting guard until Montrezl Harrell broke the streak last year. Often the same kind of two-guards as well (Lou Williams, Jamal Crawford). In fact, all but in two instances were 6MOTY winners shooting guards since 2004. Not even saying Portis should win, but damn, can the dude get a mention for being one of the most efficient off-the-bench scorers in the league? For a title contender at that?

(From February 17 to May 8, Jordan Clarkson netted his 17.2 points on just 39 / 31 / 86 shooting splits, by the way.)

Advertisement

4 / 8

Most Improved Player Of The Year Finalists: Julius Randle, Michael Porter Jr., Jerami Grant

Most Improved Player Of The Year Finalists: Julius Randle, Michael Porter Jr., Jerami Grant

Snub: Zach LaVine

Illustration for article titled The biggest “snubs” from the NBA Awards finalists
Image: Getty Images

While Porter Jr, and to a lesser degree, Grant, deserve mention, this is Randle’s award. Beyond that, Randle has a legitimate MVP ballot case and should find himself on an All-NBA team when all is said and done for the 2020-21 season. However, it also overlooks another candidate worthy of a shout, and that’s Zach LaVine.

LaVine absolutely needed to prove he was a winner this season, and until a late-season positive COVID test, he had overcome the “empty stats” label given to him despite tantalizingtantilizing production years prior. He was good enough to make his first All-Star team, and his play convinced the Chicago Bulls to make a win-now move in acquiring Nikola Vučević at the trade deadline.

LaVine only improved from 25.5 / 4.8 / 4.2 points, rebounds, and assists to 27.4 / 5.0 / 4.9, but his splits jumped from 45 / 38 / 80 to 51 / 42 / 85. The Bulls finished 31-41 and 11th in the Eastern Conference, juuust out of the Play-In, but were 5-9 without LaVine, including a 4-7 record in the games he missed due to COVID start from April 16 until his May 6 return. By just about every significant metric, it was a career year for LaVine, who will have even higher expectations as the east loads up for 2021-22. He, unlike Grant, just gettin’ buckets with the Detroit Pistons, at least played in meaningful games all season long, which should count for something here, too.

Advertisement

5 / 8

Coach Of The Year Finalists: Quin Snyder, Tom Thibodeau, Monty Williams

Coach Of The Year Finalists: Quin Snyder, Tom Thibodeau, Monty Williams

Snub: Nate McMillan

Illustration for article titled The biggest “snubs” from the NBA Awards finalists
Image: Getty Images

Mike Malone and Doc Rivers could be thrown in here as well and will likely be very high on the voting scale. Hell, Steve Nash should be credited for how the Brooklyn Nets managed to navigate this tumultuous season as well. But coach McMillan, who was only at the Atlanta Hawks helm for just over half the season, is needed in this conversation.

The Indiana Pacers ousted him for their lack of playoff success, and as we could see, not much has changed in year one of the post-McMillan ever. In fact, it’s gotten worse.

McMillan took over for Lloyd Pierce in early March, and the Hawks were 14-20, just hanging onto playoff contention. They nearly netted the four-seed after going 27-11 following McMillan’s takeover. He saved their season and completely flipped their 2020-21 after taking the job. Even in limited time, he deserves a ton of credit for producing in the manner he has. They have a tough playoff series ahead against the only other Eastern Conference head coach listed among the finalists, but the Hawks wouldn’t have gotten there without experimenting with change.

Advertisement

6 / 8

Rookie Of The Year Finalists: LaMelo Ball, Tyrese Haliburton, Anthony Edwards

Rookie Of The Year Finalists: LaMelo Ball, Tyrese Haliburton, Anthony Edwards

Snub: None

Illustration for article titled The biggest “snubs” from the NBA Awards finalists
Photo: Getty Images

Nothing to see here. This is the definitive top three this season. James Wiseman got injured, Cole Anthony made a late-season run, Immanuel Quickley was meaningful all season, Isaiah Stewart has a fantastic nickname (“Beef Stew”), but none crack this rock-solid top three. Next, and last, but not least.

Advertisement

7 / 8

Defensive Player Of The Year Finalists: Rudy Gobert, Draymond Green, Ben Simmons

Defensive Player Of The Year Finalists: Rudy Gobert, Draymond Green, Ben Simmons

Snub: Bam Adebayo

Illustration for article titled The biggest “snubs” from the NBA Awards finalists
Image: Getty Images

Bam Adebayo is the most overlooked defensive player in the NBA.

The advanced metrics don’t do a great job of highlighting what your eyes see when watching Adebayo put a chokehold on your favorite offensive players in the NBA. Advanced metrics aren’t all full-proof either, but that’s a deep dive for an entirely different forum.

But the case for Adebayo is simple: Just watch him. He covers for other players’ mistakes. He’s the reason Miami switches so often and could occasionally look like the best defense in the sport. (Along with Jimmy Butler, who deserves ballot consideration for this award as well.) And at legitimately guarding player 1-through-5, there’s nobody more adept at doing so than him, not even Ben Simmons and especially not Rudy Gobert. Both are excellent, as is Draymond Green, but they’re not overlooked the way Adebayo is; otherwise, he’d be here.

As noted in a piece on SportsNaut published right before Adebayo, and the Heat held Embiid and Simmons to 14 points on 6-of-15 shooting, in which Embiid even walked away with just two rebounds in 25 minutes, here were Bam’s numbers guarding some elite offensive talent this season.

  • Stephen Curry: 1-of-5 (20%)
  • LeBron James: 2-of-8 (25%)
  • Giannis Antetokounmpo: 5-of-13 (38.5%)
  • Kyrie Irving: 4-of-14 (28.6%)
  • Bradley Beal: 1-of-7 (14.3%)
  • Devin Booker: 3-of-11 (27.3%)
  • Julius Randle: 7-of-22 (31.8%)

The piece also highlights that Simmons’ numbers, while very good, does not outdo Adebayo’s comparatively. A fan on Twitter also notes that Adebayo has limited All-Stars to 36 percent shooting. And if you don’t believe it, you could search for it yourself. I’ll even type it out for you and link a video below.

Advertisement

8 / 8