While passing the time during these long delays between games in the first round of the playoffs, we felt it was a good time to hand out a few awards for the regular season. Some of them mimic the NBA season awards, some are silly, some are fun ones we thought up. We’ll mix all of them in together. Feel free to leave comments if you agree/disagree or have your own awards!
Sixth Man of the Year
I’m not going to get cute and try to justify giving this to somebody other than the man who deserves it most. He’s the obvious choice for a reason and the award clearly belongs to #15, Derrick Favors. I’m not going to look it up but I’m sure he played the most minutes of anyone on the bench and he was a key part of an award I’m giving to Coach Corbin coming up next. As a fan, it’s been a pleasure to see him develop through the year and it’s becoming more and more apparent that Favors is going to be a special player in this league for years to come. He’s already likely the best defensive player on the team, and that’s not an insult to the others but a compliment to him. He’s only going to get better and Jazz fans get to enjoy it.
Coaching Move of the Year
Since I’m talking about Favors, might as well knock this one out now. I think Tyrone Corbin has done a terrific job this year and while I don’t think he’ll win the award, he deserves consideration for the NBA Coach of the Year award (it went to Gregg Popovich, which I can’t argue with). Of all the great moves he’s made this year, my award goes to the decision in Portland to play Paul Millsap at the 3, Derrick Favors at the 4, and Al Jefferson at the 5. Playing all 3 together with Devin Harris and Gordon Hayward has given the Jazz a different look and a chance to exploit mismatches by going big. The defense improves, largely because of Favors, when they’re playing together as well. The best thing about this lineup, in my mind, is that it means the 5 best players on the team are on the court at the same time.
Executive Move of the Year
While I think Coach Corbin deserves at least some consideration for COTY, I think it will be an absolute travesty if Kevin O’Connor does not win Executive of the Year. Even if you don’t include the move he made last year to trade D-Will to NJN for Derrick Favors, Devin Harris, the pick that became Enes Kanter, and the future GSW pick, he’s been brilliant in positioning the Jazz to pull off the difficult task of simultaneously being a competitive playoff team while developing youth to build for the future. He resigned Earl Watson, a fan favorite and clear leader for the team. He signed Jamaal Tinsley as a 3rd PG who is now the backup and has been terrific. Josh Howard was a minimum risk sign that paid off, even despite the injuries. He signed DeMarre Carroll when the team didn’t need him becasue KOC didn’t want to wait for another team to grab him and knew he liked them. Due to injuries, Carroll ended the season as a starter and played great. I want to give the Move of the Year to KOC for the D-Will trade since we’ve now seen how it’s playing out and we completely avoided the drama that Denver went through, Cleveland went through, and Orlando is now going through. But since that was last year, the award goes to KOC for what he didn’t do. The MOTY is awarded for NOT making any trades at the deadline this year, which likely would have required Utah to surrender one of their assets they are developing for the sake of winning now. Instead, the Jazz are doing both and we have KOC to thank.
I want to take a moment to hand out a few awards related to the fans now, sadly I’m starting off with a negative one.
Most Classless Fan Moment
I’m not sure I can find the words to adequately explain just how upset I got when I heard the chorus of boos rain down from ESA when Deron Williams returned as a member of the New Jersey Nets. I understand that one of the factors to fans’ displeasure with him was the idea that he contributed to Jerry Sloan’s resignation. My belief that Sloan’s departure was about 3 years overdue is a subject for an entire post in itself but what kind of message were fans sending to Tyrone Corbin if they were booing D-Will for forcing out Sloan? That they don’t want him here? I have no way to prove it but I sincerely believe that Sloan would not have gotten this team to the playoffs but that’s beside the point. Deron gave us several fantastic years and took us to the Western Conference Finals. He was the 2nd best point guard we’ve ever had and it was a joy to see him play. Booing him in the introductions was one thing but doing so every time he touched the ball was excessive and it honestly disgusted me. It might be because I’m an unabashed fan of his, I still have my #8 Williams jersey, but it angered me so much that I wrote an open letter to the fans who booed him on the blog I started prior to writing on this site. I think booing Derek Fisher when he returned was far more justified than this, same with Boozer. Jazz Nation, we’re better than this.
Classiest Fan Moment
Booing D-Will leads me to the opposite end of the spectrum in a moment that reaffirmed the faith and pride I have in Jazz Nation 95% of the time. I think we are some of the most passionate and most educated fans in the NBA and we prove it on several occassions. We know when we’re supposed to cheer, when the team needs a boost from us, and we stand up for the final minutes of close games. Jazz Nation’s crowning achievement this year was the entire penultimate game of the season vs the Phoenix Suns. The crowd was fantastic and the award for Classiest Moment goes to all the fans who gave Steve Nash a round of applause when he checked out of the game in the 4th quarter, knowing it was likely the last time we’d see him as a Sun and just an overall sign of respect and appreciation for an elite player.
Best Win for the Fans
With my half of the season tickets this year I was lucky enough to be inside ESA for possibly the three most exciting, and significant, victories of the season. We were all witnesses as LeBron James passed up the final shot, allowing Udonis Haslem to miss the game-winning shot for the Heat. I was at the playoff clinching game vs the Phoenix Suns. The Suns game will stick with me because of the atmoshere from the crowd but the game I will remember years from now is the 3OT victory over the Dallas Mavericks. Being present for a buzzer beating GW shot is one thing, seeing several big time shots from both teams to keep sending the game into further overtimes was something else entirely. Personally, this had some nice symmetry to it. February 1992, a school night, I was in the Salt Palace with my mom as the Utah Jazz beat the defending champion Chicago Bulls in 3OT. I was 12 years old and I still remember details about that game and how exciting it was. 20 years later, I was with my 9-year old nephew, on a school night, as the Jazz defeated the defending champions in their first home 3OT game since the Bulls game. I told him after the game to remember this one since he’ll always be able to say “I was there.”
Cheerleader of the Year
Sadly, the Utah Jazz Dancers are not eligible for this award since they are apparently dancers, not cheerleaders. The real reason is I didn’t know what else to call this award but I had to give some love to the guy who’s been consistent in this the whole year. It hasn’t mattered how much playing time he gets, there is one guy who is always the first to leap to his feet to cheer after a big shot and he’s the same guy who slaps every member of the team on the back after the national anthem every single night. If you’ve watched many games you likely already know who I’m talking about. Even though he didn’t play the first half of the year, Jamaal Tinsley has been the guy always firing up the team and cheering the loudest for his teammates. It’s been great to see as a fan and his enthusiasm is the exact same whether he’s playing or not.
Most Improved Player
My choice for this award might be a bit of a surprise. There are a few candidates who may come to mind and I’m going to start off saying why I didn’t choose them. Devin Harris had a terrific finish to the season but he didn’t improve as much as he returned to form. Harris was an All Star in New Jersey and he has returned to what he’s been capable of all along. Gordon Hayward is probably my runner up for this award but it’s tough to give MIP to somebody who’s in his second year. He’s supposed to improve, it’d be more notable if he didn’t. No, my award for MIP goes to the focal point of the offense: Big Al Jefferson. I watched every game this season and most of the games last season and in just one year he looks like a better defender and his push hook shot has become unguardable. The most signifcant improvement is that Big Al is no longer a ball stopper. He set a career high in assists with 2.2 per game and while that seems low if you’ve watched him play you’d know that this is huge. It’s not just the actual assists but last year when he got the ball in the post he’d force the shot, even while double teamed. This year, he’s far more willing to pass which has affected the offense considerably. He still is the reliable 20-10 guy he always was but now he can pass.
Most Valuable Player
Since he was the leading scorer for the team and took the MIP award, you might think Big Al is my choice here as well but that’s not the case. He is my runner up but my MVP is the man who I consider to represent the heart of the team. He’s the glue who holds the team together and if the Jazz had actually named a team captain this year I think the most deserving choice is my MVP and the man whose jersey I wear to every game: Paul Millsap. If you are a Jazz fan and watch the games, I don’t have to explain this choice. He probably gives the most consistent effort of anybody on the team, maybe one of the hardest workers in the entire league. I won’t deny that the fact that Millsap is my favorite player on the team likely has an impact with this selection but I don’t care. He should have been an All Star this year and dammit, he’s the Jazz MVP.
My MVP ballot: 1. Paul Millsap 2. Al Jefferson 3. Gordon Hayward.