Best and worst of the season
Surprises, duds, shrewd moves, bargains and more
Posted: Friday April 13, 2007 11:28AM; Updated: Friday April 13, 2007 6:22PM
Thursday we submitted our official NBA awards ballots, but those results only begin to explain what's gone on this season. Let's try to make further sense of the last six months, shall we?
Executive of the Year: Bryan Colangelo, Raptors
Best trade for both teams: Philadelphia in December sent Allen Iverson and Ivan McFarlin to Denver for Andre Miller, Joe Smith and two first-round picks. Iverson provided Carmelo Anthony with a fellow star, and at last the Nuggets have united on a seven-game win streak to surge toward the playoffs. Meanwhile, through Thursday the surprising 76ers had gone 24-19 since the blockbuster trade and the subsequent release of Chris Webber, creating hope for a quick turnaround in the post-Iverson era.
Eye of the beholder award: Philadelphia spent $43 million to buy out Webber's contract, and the 76ers played better without him. The Pistons then paid a meager $650,000 to make Webber their starting center, and they're hoping to win the East because of him.
Most lopsided trade: In their zeal to unload the three years and $37 million remaining on Raef LaFrentz's contract, the Celtics packaged him with the No. 7 pick to Portland for Sebastian Telfair and ever-injured center Theo Ratliff, who had two years and $23 million left. The Trail Blazers turned that pick into prohibitive Rookie of the Year Brandon Roy, while the Celtics have been stuck with Telfair, the No. 3 point guard on the league's second-worst team. (Boston may yet turn Ratliff's expiring contract into a future star, though that's becoming a harder sell in today's market.)
Best second-round pick: No rookie is producing more per minute than 6-8 forward Paul Millsap (No. 47 from Louisiana Tech), who is averaging 6.6 points, five rebounds and nearly one block in 17.9 minutes for the Jazz. Indeed, the three top-rated rookies -- according to the NBA's efficiency rating per minute -- are non-lottery picks: Millsap, fellow second-rounder Craig Smith of the Timberwolves and Renaldo Balkman, the No. 20 choice of the Knicks.
Best imitation of a Jim Carrey character: Six-foot-10 Vladimir Radmanovic defied common sense by snowboarding in Park City, Utah, during the All-Star break, wiped out like a Tasmanian devil, then tried to tell the Lakers that he slipped on a patch of ice. They fined him $500,000.
Most surprising performance by an unheard-of star: Kevin Martin, Kings.
Top under-the-radar story: The improvement of pensions for NBA old-timers, while tragically overdue, was a conscientious act by the league and players' union.
Most overplayed story: Doesn't it seem like three years ago that Ben Wallace was being benched for wearing a headband?
Most expensive team: The Knicks' $117 million payroll is on pace to earn 34 wins, which will mean they've spent $3.4 million per victory (not including the luxury tax).
Most efficient team: The Suns, with their $64 million roster, will wind up spending slightly more than $1 million per victory.
Three surprise teams not from Canada
1. Utah Jazz: Runaway division winners without a big offseason acquisition.
Three disappointing teams not from Tennessee
1. New Jersey Nets: Something beyond injuries is amiss with this group.
Three bad stories
1. Ron Artest's domestic violence arrest: Trouble follows him relentlessly.
All-Shaun Livingston Teams
The Clippers' young point guard served as the tortured face for this painful season when his knee blew out during a simple layup. Can you remember a year when so much talent was unavailable? To qualify for one of these teams, a player had to miss at least 25 percent of the games.
Honorable Mention: David Lee, David West, Trevor Ariza, Kwame Brown, Quentin Richardson, Brevin Knight, Tony Allen, Speedy Claxton, Luke Walton, Kyle Lowry, Joel Przybilla.
Imagine assembling these energetic game-changers into a starting unit:
C Anderson Varejao, Cavaliers
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