The 2013-14 NBA season has officially ended, so now it’s time for regular season awards before the real season starts on Saturday. There’s a lot of wiggle room before we’re able to name some of the winners, which is why for Dime‘s 2014 NBA Awards we had our writers and contributors provide their top-three choices in an abridged version of what the NBA does with certain media members. Next up, a battle between a first-year former player and this season’s Coach of the Year, who might as well receive a lifetime achievement award at this point.
Players were awarded three points for first place, two points for second place and one point for third place. Their point totals determined their placement.
This was, by far, our closest race. In the end it came down to a tiebreaker.
3. Tom Thibodeau
Thibs’ hoarse voice awakens us sometimes in the middle of the night and we scream about cutters like we’re in the midst of his vaunted and almost universally copied strong-side defense, while our lady trembles with the dog and tries to calm us down. We’re joking, but only a little. Tom Thibodeau doesn’t kid. He’s the only coach we can think of that has a drill sergeant’s mentality, but — so far, at least — has yet to fall into the Doug Collins cesspool where players ignore his pleads for defense on a string. Not so with Thibodeau’s gloriously blue-collar group in Chicago, where they’ve withstood the loss of Derrick Rose to yet another knee injury and a trade of Luol Deng that must have led to a rather tense meeting between Thibs and Gar Foreman. The Bulls have home-court in the playoffs, and if you think we aren’t secretly hoping for a Bulls-Heat rematch after last season’s closer-than-it-looked humdinger second round series, then you don’t know us very well.
2. Jeff Hornacek
Where do you even begin with the former Jazz shooting guard that made wiping your face on the free throw line an homage to NBA kids everywhere? Hornacek inherited a team many — us included — thought would compete for one of the worst records in league history. Instead, the two-pronged approach with Eric Bledsoe and Goran Dragic worked out nicely — so well, in fact, we’re guessing Phoenix is a little pissed they didn’t lock Bledsoe up with an extension before the Oct. 31 deadline. Despite the uncertainty of Bledsoe’s future, the fact Hornacek got this Phoenix team — with helter-skelter four-fingered Nick Young impersonator Gerald Green, a backcourt with two point guards, Miles “Don’t call me Mason” Plumlee and the Morris twins (in all their mid-range brilliance) — to compete for a playoff spot out West would have meant Hornacek was a lock for COY in any other season. It’s just that the old man in the Alamo was brilliant yet again.
1. Gregg Popovich
We can all chuckle any time a sideline reporter has the audacity to ask Pop a standard, largely rhetorical question during the league-mandated mid-period interviews (big ups to Craig, who is gonna smash leukemia in the face). We’ll always have a sneaking suspicion Popovich is a spy on some harebrained scheme to create the world’s perfect basketball franchise.
Regardless of whether or not you love the grizzly bear of a coach like we do, you can’t argue with the results from his time on the sidelines. The Spurs again have the league’s best record; they were the only team to achieve more than 60 wins this season and will have the top seed in the gauntlet that is the Western Conference playoffs. Pop has somehow kept Timmey, Manu and Tony Parker from wearing down while using an assortment of foreign-born role players to augment his stars. He’s turned Kawhi Leonard into his own personal disciple, a player who has no time for showboating, but plenty of time for hounding an opponent’s best player (we’re guessing LeBron James wakes up in a cold sweat to this day after Kawhi’s defense in last season’s NBA Finals). Pop is just Pop, and he might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but he’s the closest thing the NBA has to a coaching Svengali these days (New York’s miasma of drama has already seemed to engulf Phil Jackson almost as soon as he took over the reins of their basketball operations). We could all use a little more nasty, it just took Pop to show us.
Despite Pop and Hornacek tying in our poll, with Thibs just a point behind them, Popovich got the most number of first place votes, so he’s the winner. But we should congratulate Toronto’s Dwane Casey and genius GM Masai Ujiri as well as Steve Clifford finally bringing a smile to MJ’s face.
1) Greg Popvich 1st place (4), 2nd place (1), 3rd place (1) = 15
1) Jeff Hornacek 1st place (2), 2nd place (4), 3rd place (1) = 15
3) Tom Thibodeau 1st place (2), 2nd place (2), 3rd place (4) = 14
4) Dwane Casey 1st place (0), 2nd place (1), 3rd place (0) = 2
4) Steve Clifford 1st place (0), 2nd place (0), 3rd place (2) = 2
(H/T Dime contributor Matthew Hochberg for counting votes and doing research)
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