Weekly Countdown (cont.)
4 other awards
4. All-Defensive First Team.
Rondo was the surprise here. "Off the ball, he takes chances and he's not solid,'' a panelist said. "But I love his ability to get everybody on the team to defend. Garnett has the fanfare, and he deserves it, but when Garnett has been out, you notice that this guy [Rondo] is the guy who goes out to meet the ball. I love the way he gets over the screens, plays the 1 and 2 and at times he has even played Kobe Bryant on defense. When they have to have a major stop, it's Rondo. He sets the tone out front and gets them to be good defensive team.''
3. Sixth Man Award.
Terry embraced his new role off the bench for the good of the team.
2. Most Improved Player.
Harris and Granger have been the favorites all year, for obvious reasons. The surprise selection, again, is Rondo. "They've leaned on him more this year for his decision-making with the ball and he's taken another step up,'' a voter said.
Other votes went to New York's David Lee ("He was the first name I thought of for this award") and Denver's Chris Andersen ("He is the best value in the league''). The Nuggets' shot-blocker is making $800,000 this season.
1. Executive of the Year.
Amazingly, all three of these guys are part of the San Antonio mafia. All have worked under the new Don, Gregg Popovich, the Vito Corleone of basketball (i.e., I am but a humble man, but I have many important friends ...). On the day when R.C. Buford leaves San Antonio to run his own team, Popovich will earn his full due as lord of the NBA's Five Families.
Ferry has long been the front-runner for this award, based on the offseason trade for Mo Williams that filled Cleveland's need for scoring and leadership at point guard. Like his fellow former Spurs, he has developed flexibility within his payroll (which he could wield by trading expiring contracts or by going under the cap in 2010, whether or not LeBron re-signs with Cleveland).
"The Mo Williams deal was huge,'' a voter said. "He traded away Joe Smith [in the Williams deal] and then gets him back [in a midseason buyout]. Under a lot of pressure, he's done what he can to make LeBron question whether he's going to leave or not. It's no longer a foregone conclusion like everybody thought at the beginning of the year.''
Pritchard received votes from three panelists who noted how well he has drafted to build the Blazers. "I'm voting for him more for what he didn't do than what he did," a voter said. "He held onto guys this year and let them develop together instead of trading away some young talent.''
The surprise here is Presti, who presides over the fourth-worst team in the league. But he received two first-place votes for amassing draft picks and cap space that can be applied over the next two summers in pursuit of talent to join with Durant, Westbrook and Jeff Green. In these recessionary times, the Thunder are the envy of many small-market teams.
"Getting [midseason free-agent Nenad] Krstic was big. They've got some talent there, and he has it set up for them to go in the same direction as Portland.''
Orlando GM Otis Smith finished fourth with the panel. "If he had not done that deal to go get Rafer Alston [at the trading deadline in February], they would be dead in the water right now. That deal kept them as a contender.''
3 questions rescued from the spam
3. Now that Blake Griffin has declared for the draft, it looks like the race to get him on draft night is on. Is he the kind of franchise-changing player No. 1 picks usually are? Any chance Ricky Rubio would go first?
He isn't viewed as an elite talent like former No. 1 picks LeBron or Duncan. Many see this as a poor draft at the top, with Griffin as the one player who could become a star as he develops his raw offensive game. If Rubio comes out, he is unlikely to overtake Griffin as the top pick. There is a wide range of opinion on both Rubio, the Spanish point guard, and UConn shot-blocker Hasheem Thabeet, with some execs believing they're overrated and others seeing star potential in one or both.
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