Winning zero individual awards may be a good thing for the Warriors

Winning zero individual awards may be a good thing for the Warriors

It is not unusual for an NBA champion to have no awards except for the big one, so the level of today’s argument starts from a fairly trivial base, namely this:

It is perfectly fine if the Golden State Warriors get no individual awards, as long as they get the one that gets awarded in mid-June. In fact, it might serve as validation for the one thing the team has stood for throughout its brief but eye-watering run of success.

That their strength is actually in their whole-is-greater-than-the-sum-of-their-parts-hood, and a team that gets no individual awards but still gets rings and parades speaks louder than one with a lot of individual bric-a-brac and the late spring off.

Of course, this seems safe to say because (a) more than half (34) of the champions went award-less since awards started being invented in 1954, (b) because the Warriors have no clear no-brainer standout in any category, as Stephen Curry was a year ago, and (c) this could be a big individual awards year for the Houston Rockets.

You see, for every argument you might choose to make for any Warrior and any award, there is an equally compelling if not greater argument for someone else on another team. And no, this is not a contrarian position for the joy of being contrarian – if that’s how you define joy.

Example: The Most Valuable Player award. Had Kevin Durant stayed healthy and maintained his dynamism through his 19-game absence (20, if you count the game in which he was injured), he would have been a compelling non-Westbrookian, non-Hardenian candidate. But he didn’t, and neither Stephen Curry nor Draymond Green had an MVP season on their own.

Example 2: Defensive Player Of The Year. Green has done everything a DPOY can do in his career and has won zero times, which is often used an argument for him winning this one. It’s not a compelling argument, though. What is, is that however you choose your metric, he, San Antonio’s Kawhi Leonard and Utah’s Rudy Gobert are joined at the block-out hip. They play different positions so direct comparisons are at the apples-v.-oranges level, but a vote or either is sufficiently defensible. Likely Result: No Warrior, but at least in a very close vote, because while Green can guard all five positions and Leonard is about to become the category’s designated annual winner, Gobert has been the dominant figure (ADR to Gordon Hayward) on a non-playoff team that will have won 50 games, whose presence makes Utah the clear best defense in the league and whose absence make it 21st.

Example 3: Rookie Of The Year. Not even discussable, Warrioristically speaking. There are two rational possibilities, Philadelphia’s Dario Saric and Milwaukee’s Malcolm Brogdon. Saric will probably win, but not because it’s a very crowded field.

Example 4: Most Improved Player. Two names leap out, neither one Warriors – Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo and Denver’s Nikola Jokic.

Example 5: Sixth Man Of The Year. Now here is a very crowded field, and Andre Iguodala is as good a candidate as any. But he isn’t necessarily BETTER than, say, Houston’s Lou Williams or Eric Gordon, Oklahoma City’s Enes Kanter, or the surprise name in this group, Memphis’ Zach Randolph. Iguodala’s body of work in the role is vital in understanding why the Warriors are, but again, body of work arguments don’t tend to play. Call it Gordon, though I am well prepped to be wrong.

Example 6: Coach Of The Year. Given Utah’s raft of injuries, the clear and ever-present choice is Quin Snyder, who clearly learned from his hot disaster at Missouri and became not only more flexible tactically but more inventive strategically. The award was made for him as opposed to, say, Steve Kerr, who if he guides the Warriors to the title will have led the team with the best players, thus eliminating him as it did two years when Atlanta’s Mike Budenholzer won. Mike D’Antoni in Houston is another appealing choice, having cleared the Toyota Center swamp by inspiring Harden to be all that he could be offensively while tidying up his defense to merely spotty levels. Also Erik Spoelstra in Miami and Mike Malone in Denver, if your taste runs to teams that just missed the playoffs.

Example 7: Executive Of The Year. The two other times the Warriors won the title since moving west, they got this award (Dick Vertleib in 1975, Bob Myers in 2015), which is unusual since the award has only gone to the eventual winner two other times (Jerry Krause in 1996 and Danny Ainge in 2008). Ainge is a candidate again, as is Houston’s Daryl Morey, Utah’s Dennis Lindsey and Milwaukee’s John Hammond.

In sum, the Warriors could come away emptyhanded on an individual level, achieve everything they need to, and walk away happy and fulfilled because they did what needed to be done in unison.

That is, if they’re planning on walking all that talking.

Golden State GM Myers addresses Warriors free agents

Golden State GM Myers addresses Warriors free agents

They are favored to win it all, and maybe they will. Perhaps, as some speculate, they will flame out in the postseason.

Either way, watching the rebooted Warriors often leads to a nagging question:

Is this a one-and-done roster?

Not if general manager Bob Myers is able to work some summer magic.

“We’ve got 10 free agents; there are a lot of balls to juggle in the offseason,” Myers said Friday on the Warriors Insider Podcast. “That’s good, though, because I think we’ve developed a culture where players want to stay.”

Kevin Durant arrived last summer and can opt out this summer, though indications are he wants to stay. Though other free agents include Ian Clark, JaVale McGee, Zaza Pachulia and David West, Myers specifically addressed three core veterans: Stephen Curry, Andre Iguodala and Shaun Livingston.

After initially joking that he was “not sure” about the desire to re-sign Curry, Myers delivered the predictable answer: “For the record: We would love to have Steph Curry, going forward. Hopefully, he feels the same way. I think he does.”

Curry has consistently stated his desire to remain with the Warriors. Barring a shocking and catastrophic turn of events, that’s going to get done.

Iguodala and Livingston, however, are a bit trickier. Though both are key members of the team, neither is a starter. And both will be entering their 14th season.

“We’d love to keep them, and I’ve told them that,” Myers said. “We’d like to try to make it work. We have to approach it with what’s in our control, and that’s trying to find a way to keep them on the team. They’re not just really good players; they’re unbelievable people. So we’ll do everything we can.”

Myers conceded, too, that the unique skills possessed by Iguodala and Livingston make them difficult to replace. Even though the salary cap will rise slightly, along with the luxury-tax line, there are no guarantees.

“But you’re going to try,” Myers said. “But, conversely, there are times -- not with those guys -- but other times you’re looking at your roster, in any sport, and you go, ‘Yeah, we’ll probably let that guy go.’ That’s not the case at all.”

Perhaps foreseeing the summer -- or recalling the pursuit of Durant last summer -- Myers shifted into something that sounded like a recruiting pitch that could apply to players currently on the roster or those who might be on the market.

“They love playing for Steve,” he said. “We try to treat them fairly. We try to treat them as well as we can and provide them with all the resources to win and stay healthy and the environment of being in the Bay Area, and all the things outside of basketball that, shockingly, people may not realize players care about that are outside of the walls of the gym.

“This community, the diversity, the opportunity, the entrepreneurship, it’s a great place to sell to a player. But they really want to win. And I think we’ve shown we can win. So, hopefully, that gives us at least a good shot at keeping guys and then acquiring guys.”

Bob Myers explains why he's encouraged by Durant's rehab process

Bob Myers explains why he's encouraged by Durant's rehab process

It's been just over two weeks since Kevin Durant sustained a Grade 2 MCL sprain and tibial bone bruise in his left knee.

On Tuesday, he was on the practice floor putting up set shots.

"He's getting there," Warriors GM Bob Myers said on 95.7 The Game on Wednesday. "You watch what he could do two weeks ago, a week ago, and what he can do now. Did a little spot shooting ... but you don't really know until you push hard off it, you cut, you sprint, you jump. The best thing about it is this -- when it's been decided by doctors that surgery is not required, your body heals.

"When you have a surgery, that's where you get into the gray area of how long it's gonna take to come back. It's all guesswork. But when you don't need surgery, for the most part our bodies are wonderful with just healing. That's what I'm encouraged by."

Durant is averaging 25.3 points, 8.2 rebounds, 4.8 assists and 1.6 blocks per game, while shooting just under 54 percent from the field and 38 percent from deep.

The Warriors are 3-5 since Durant's injury, and would be 2-6 if they didn't come back from a 16-point deficit to Philly on Tuesday.

It's possible that Durant returns to game action before the end of the regular season.

"He's going to heal, he's gonna be back as good as he was before," Myers declared. "When? I wish I could tell you, man ... as far as the timeline, I don't know when he's coming back."