2016-17 NBA Regular Season Rundown
A regular season filled with pages upon pages of history and highlights is officially in the books. While the final night of basketball may not have been as dramatic as last year when Kobe went out with a bang and the Warriors reached win number 73, the whole season itself was still spectacular. It was a record year for triple-doubles, scoring, three-pointers (per usual), pace, and so much more.
With all of this happening, I wanted to discuss some of the biggest storylines of the year. Here is the lineup for the 2016-17 NBA Regular Season Rundown: Triple-doubles, the Greek Freak, evaluating my Preseason Predictions, and Season Awards.
3 x 2 x 116
What does this mean? Well, 3 x 2 represents the once highly noble accomplishment of registering double-digit numbers in three major stats. The triple-double, that is. The 116? That’s the number of times players have done that this season.
Do you know who led the league in triple-doubles a short three years ago? Lance freakin’ Stephenson. And he only had six. Two years before that, in 2011-12, Rajon Rondo was the only player to have more than one triple-double, and there was only 17 total on the year.
Now, led by Russell Westbrook, 23 different players contributed to 116 total triple-doubles in the 2016-17 season. That easily trumped the former record of 78 from 1988-89 by a substantial margin, and is more than the total number of triple-doubles over the past two seasons combined:
For those counting, Russ had more triple-doubs in this season alone than the whole league did in any individual season from 2009-2013. Over the last 10 full seasons, the league averaged 40.8 triple-doubles. Russ surpassed that average by himself. It’s just crazy stuff.
How High Can the Greek Freak Fly?
I hope you don’t expect me to have an answer for you because let me tell you right now that there is no answer. The limit does not exist. So if you think you have an idea of what Giannis Antetokounmpo will look like in his prime, you’re wrong. This is what I wrote about Giannis during March of the 2015-16 season when Jason Kidd announced plans to make him the primary ball handler:
With a wingspan as long as his last name (7’3”) and his 6’11” height that towers over every other traditional point guard today, you could say that Antetokounmpo is a bit unconventional for the position….they are not just putting the ball in a small forward’s hands, but a near seven footer’s. That is like if you asked Andre Drummond or Marcin Gortat (both the same height as Giannis) to play point. It just doesn’t happen.
That is what is so galvanizing about this concept. Looking back at Magic, he was a matchup nightmare. If we thought that was bad, imagine a point guard who’s even taller, more lengthy, and more athletic. Based on what Giannis has done in March, he could absolutely succeed as an NBA ball handler. Having the athleticism of Westbrook, size of Drummond, and handles of any capable guard is a rare mix that just doesn’t seem possible but somehow is.
So like most people, I saw a lot of potential last year alone. Yet, what Giannis has accomplished this year is something no one saw coming — and that’s because it has never happened in league’s history. Giannis just became the first player to finish in the top-20 of every major stat. That includes points, rebounds, assists, blocks, and steals. LeBron has never done it, and Giannis just did. At age 22. Let that sink in…
Somehow the ridiculous numbers on paper don’t even do the Greek Freak justice. After all, catching the ball at halfcourt, taking one dribble, and dunking from just inside the free throw line only shows up as two points on a scorecard:
Giannis caught the ball approximately 50 feet from the basket, took one dribble, and dunked…
(h/t HouseOfHighlights/IG) pic.twitter.com/ax0iaCLLiH
— Tommy Beer (@TommyBeer) February 12, 2017
His go-go gadget arms and lanky stature, mixed with his athleticism and speed, allow him to do anything he wants when he’s gracing the hardwood. And again, he is 22 years young.
The only real current flaw to his game is the perimeter shooting. If he develops a consistent jumper, which his steadily improving free-throw percentage suggests he can, then (Ctrl C, Ctrl V) Antetokounmpo will simply be unstoppable. But in terms of the rest of his game, who knows how high he will be able to fly (both literally and figuratively). He’ll probably be dunking from the three-point arc at this rate.
I was definitely sleeping on a couple of teams coming into the season. Here is how my 2016-17 standings prediction compared to how teams actually finished (red shows teams I slept on, while blue represents teams that fell well short of my expectations):
Time to write some apology letters.
Dear Houston Rockets,
I sincerely apologize. I didn’t realize that defense wouldn’t be as important as it usually is in this offensive-minded season of fast-paced and high-scoring basketball. Also, I didn’t know that Eric Gordon found and used a time machine during the offseason, and for that, I feel foolish.
Dear Washington Wizards,
I’m so, so extremely sorry for predicting you to finish worse than the Orlando Magic AND New York Knicks. No words can express how bad I feel.
Dear Milwaukee Bucks,
I grossly underestimated the wizardry of the Greek Freak, and I’m sorry for that. I just couldn’t get over the lack of shooting in a three-happy era of basketball, but I guess you don’t even need it with Giannis on your side. That’s my B.
Preseason Award Predictions
Before getting to my new season awards, let’s reflect on what I predicted for each honor in the 2016-17 NBA Season Preview:
|Most Valuable Player:||LeBron James|
|Most Improved Player:||Devin Booker|
|Rookie of the Year:||Joel Embiid|
|Defensive Player of the Year:||Kawhi Leonard|
|Sixth Man of the Year:||Andre Iguodala|
|Coach of the Year:||Brad Stevens|
I thought LeBron would have one of his best seasons yet, and I wasn’t really wrong. King James has been phenomenal all year and has low-key put together one of his best seasons, although he will most likely come up well short in the MVP voting. Booker has definitely exploded this year, so I didn’t do bad with that MIP prediction. The Embiid pick was obviously nothing crazy. One good look at the dude and you could tell he would beast and feast in his debut season. Kawhi and Iggy were both pretty safe picks after proving that they are specialists for those respective awards. And while they can both potentially win, I’m not so sure anymore (as you will soon see). Finally, with Boston finishing as the No. 1 seed, Stevens has a legit chance for COY. But even the inner Celtics fan in me would probably award another coach.
Now, after watching the season unfold, here is where my votes would fall for the awards:
Most Valuable Player: Kawhi Leonard
I’m torn between Russ and Kawhi here and, even though he will not win it, if I could cast a vote for MVP it would go to Kawhi. No player has been as impactful on both ends for such a successful team this year as Kawhi has. No one. Russ and Harden put up humungous numbers on a nightly basis, and if you took those guys off of their respective squads, it would be detrimental. But you can’t use the same old “the Spurs are good because they’re the Spurs” logic. Tim Duncan is gone, and San Antonio hasn’t relied this heavily on a single player in over a decade. If you didn’t realize that, do yourself a favor and open that link to see what I mean. Given that, a large majority of the Spurs success is due to this guy alone.
Most Improved Player: Giannis Antetokounmpo
The human highlight reel not only broke out this year — he led his team in points, rebounds, assists, steals, and blocks. His domination propelled him from a good 21-year-old into an All-Star starter.
Defensive Player of the Year: Rudy Gobert
They don’t call him the NBA’s Ultimate Rimkeeper for nothing. Wait, am I the only one who calls him that? Alright, well you outta go ahead and click on that link.
Sixth Man of the Year: Eric Gordon
Gordon hit the fourth most threes in the league off the bench for Houston. That’s crazy. He has been a huge factor for the second-unit with not just his shooting, but his all-around play.
Coach of the Year: Mike D’Antoni
He resurrected Eric Gordon’s career, made James Harden’s passing look just as impressive his scoring, watched his Rockets net the most three-pointers in a season in NBA history, and locked down the third best record in the league. I didn’t expect that from him or the Rockets this season, so props to that.
Rookie of the Year: Joel Embiid
I’m still not convinced that he deserves this. I nearly changed my vote to his teammate Dario Saric, but Embiid’s impact this year cannot be overlooked. This is a guy who made the Sixers relevant again. He finished his short season +67 in the box score. Again, this guy is on the Sixers. Meanwhile, Saric was a -307 on the year. So while Saric has had the quantity and usage, that doesn’t mean he deserves the ROY award over the beast that is Embiid.
Executive of the Year: R.C. Bufford
He landed the top free-agent after previously beating him in the playoffs. He also managed to nab cheap veteran players. Bufford is the clear option here to me.
Cheers to another great season! I’m glad I could share it with you.
Photo via Flickr