James Harden

Harden Tops James, Davis For MVP Award

Rockets guard James Harden was named the league’s Most Valuable Player during the NBA’s second annual awards show.

Harden topped the Cavaliers’ LeBron James and the Pelicans’ Anthony Davis for the league’s most coveted individual award. Harden finished second in the voting last season to the Thunder’s Russell Westbrook.

Harden led the league in scoring at 30.4 PPG. He was fourth in assists (8.8) and second in 3-pointers made per game (3.7) while also finishing in the top 10 in steals (1.8). Houston’s regular-season success, with its league-best 65-17 record, played a role in Harden’s victory.

The Cavaliers needed James’ Herculean efforts just to finish fourth in the East. He averaged 27.5 PPG, 8.6 RPG and 9.1 APG while appearing in all 82 contests.

Davis led the Pelicans to the playoffs, and a first-round knockout of the Trail Blazers, despite DeMarcus Cousins‘ season-ending Achilles injury. He posted averages of 28.1 PPG, 11.1 RPG and 2.6 BPG.

Here are the other awards announced on Monday night:

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Chris Paul Won’t Play In Game 7

7:13pm: Paul has a Grade 2 strain, Ramona Shelburne of ESPN tweets. The same injury cost Harden nearly three weeks of action earlier this season.

6:24pm: Chris Paul will not play in Game 7 of the Western Conference Finals tonight, Ben Golliver of Sports Illustrated tweets. Coach Mike D’Antoni told reporters the bad news during his pregame press conference.

It’s obviously a serious setback for the Rockets but not unexpected. Despite frantic efforts to get him ready to play, Paul simply did not have enough time to recover from his hamstring strain.

“There’s just no way. He couldn’t explode. He couldn’t push off on it,” D’Antoni said, according a tweet from Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle.

Paul suffered the injury late in the Rockets’ Game 5 victory on Thursday. Without him, the Rockers will rely heavily on Eric Gordon along with James Harden to run the attack in a seven-man rotation.

Houston obviously missed its star point guard during a second-half collapse Saturday that resulted in a 29-point loss in Game 6. The Rockets were outscored 64-25 after halftime.

The Warriors will also be without one of their key players, as swingman Andre Iguodala was declared out for the fourth straight game earlier in the day due to a left knee injury.

Paul has posted a 21.1/5.9/5.8 stat line through 17 postseason games with Houston. He is in the final year of the contract he signed with the Clippers, and reaching a new deal will be among the Rockets’ priorities this offseason.

NBA Announces 2017/18 All-NBA Teams

The NBA has formally announced the All-NBA First, Second, and Third Teams for the 2017/18 season, with James Harden and LeBron James leading the way as the two unanimous selections for the First Team.

The voting results will have major financial implications for the three All-NBA centers, Anthony Davis, Joel Embiid, and Karl-Anthony Towns. As Bobby Marks of ESPN notes (via Twitter), Davis is now eligible for a supermax extension from the Pelicans next summer. Davis will be eligible to sign that deal, which projects to be worth $230MM, as of July 1, 2019.

As for Embiid, missing out on a First Team nod means his maximum-salary contract will remain at 25% of the cap rather than being bumped up to 30%. That means he’ll miss out on approximately $29MM over the next five years, as Dan Feldman of NBC Sports details.

Towns, meanwhile, will be eligible for an extension worth 30% of the cap this summer, Marks tweets. An extension of that sort, which would make the cap outlook in Minnesota very interesting, would go into effect for the 2019/20 season.

The full All-NBA teams are listed below, with their vote totals in parentheses. Players received five points for a First Team vote, three points for a Second Team vote, and one point for a Third Team vote, so Harden and James scored a perfect 500 — First Team nods from all 100 voters.

First Team

  • Guard: James Harden, Rockets (500)
  • Guard: Damian Lillard, Trail Blazers (432)
  • Forward: LeBron James, Cavaliers (500)
  • Forward: Kevin Durant, Warriors (426)
  • Center: Anthony Davis, Pelicans (492)

Second Team

Third Team

Among those results, the tightest race saw DeRozan edge Curry by a single point for a spot on the All-NBA Second Team. Both players received two First Team votes and 39 Second Team votes, with DeRozan grabbing one extra Third Team vote (38 to 37) to bump him up to the Second Team ahead of Curry.

As for the players who didn’t quite make the cut, Rockets point guard Chris Paul (54 points), Jazz center Rudy Gobert (51), Celtics guard Kyrie Irving (42), and Sixers guard/forward Ben Simmons (36) received the most support.

Al Horford (Celtics), Nikola Jokic (Nuggets), Andre Drummond (Pistons), Clint Capela (Rockets), Draymond Green (Warriors), Kyle Lowry (Raptors), Steven Adams (Thunder), Donovan Mitchell (Jazz), Klay Thompson (Warriors), Trevor Ariza (Rockets), DeMarcus Cousins (Pelicans), Dwight Howard (Hornets), Kevin Love (Cavaliers), and Kristaps Porzingis (Knicks) also each received at least one All-NBA vote.

Southwest Notes: Rockets, Kawhi, Grizzlies, Pelicans

While Rockets general manager Daryl Morey has deservedly received much of the praise for shaping Houston’s roster into a title contender, Morey credit his star guard James Harden for his ability as a recruiter and a pitchman, writes Tim MacMahon of ESPN.com.

“James was everything,” Morey said in discussing the Rockets’ roster building and the addition of Chris Paul. “Not only is he a great player on the floor, but he’s someone who’s just focused on winning and is willing to do anything to make it happen, whether it be meet with people, call them, text them, whatever is required. He makes my job easy.”

As MacMahon details, Harden and Paul were both instrumental in convincing P.J. Tucker to sign with the Rockets last summer. The veteran forward turned down a larger offer from the Raptors in order to join Harden and Paul in Houston, and he showed on Wednesday night how valuable he can be for the Rockets. Tucker, who scored 20 points in his first game with the team last October, hadn’t reached that mark again until he poured in 22 against Golden State in Game 2.

Here’s more from around the Southwest:

Finalists For NBA Awards Announced

The top three finalists for each of this year’s NBA awards are being released on tonight’s TNT pre-game show. The trophies will be presented June 25 at the league’s official awards show.

Here’s an ongoing list that we will update as the candidates are announced, along with links to our staff’s picks for each honor:

Rookie of the Year

Hoops Rumors Analysis: ROY

Most Improved Player

Hoops Rumors Analysis: MIP

Sixth Man of the Year

Hoops Rumors Analysis: Sixth Man

Coach of the Year

  • Dwane Casey (Raptors)
  • Quin Snyder (Jazz)
  • Brad Stevens (Celtics)

Hoops Rumors Analysis: COY

Defensive Player of the Year

Hoops Rumors Analysis: DPOY

Most Valuable Player

Hoops Rumors Analysis: MVP

Western Rumors: Patterson, Burks, Kokoskov, Paul

Forward Patrick Patterson admits he’s disappointed with the way his first season with the Thunder played out, Erik Horne of The Oklahoman reports. Patterson appeared in every regular season game but averaged career lows in points, rebounds, minutes and field goal percentage after signing a three-year, $16.5MM contract last summer. “At the end of the day, it wasn’t what I expected,” Patterson said. “It wasn’t what my teammates and coaching staff expected, or even the fans.” Patterson saw very little playing time with the first unit at power forward due to Carmelo Anthony‘s presence, Horne notes.

In other Western Conference news:

  • Jazz guard Alec Burks, who has endured an injury-plagued career, headed into the offseason healthy but his future with the club is uncertain, according to Mike Sorensen of the Deseret News. Burks fell out of the rotation behind rookie sensation Donovan Mitchell and another rookie, Royce O’Neale. Burks has one year and $11.5MM remaining on his contract and his expiring deal could be traded in the offseason, Sorensen adds. “I’ve been here a long time, since I was 19, and hopefully it keeps going,” Burks told Sorensen. “I’ve seen a lot in seven years. There’s been high times, low times and even-keel times. Hopefully there’ll be more good times in the future.”
  • The Suns may have one of the youngest rosters in the league but new coach Igor Kokoskov insists that shouldn’t lower expectations, Scott Bordow of the Arizona Republic relays. Kokoskov, the NBA’s first European-born coach, made the comment during his introductory press conference. “This is not a development league. This is the NBA,” Kokoskov said. “We won’t ever hide it or use it as an excuse.”
  • Chris Paul knew what he was doing when he orchestrated a trade from the Clippers to the Rockets, Dan Woike of the Los Angeles Times writes. Pairing up with James Harden gave the perennial All-Star point guard his best chance to win an NBA championship, Woike continues. He has quieted the doubters by getting to the Western Conference Finals, Woike adds. “All the people who talk about it don’t know this game better than I do,” Paul said.

Jazz Notes: Exum, Favors, Harden, Offseason

Dante Exum was drafted in 2014 as the fifth overall pick and is still a work in progress. Given that Exum missed his entire sophomore campaign with a torn ACL, he essentially lost a year-and-a-half of development. Coming off his best season as he enters restricted free agency, it would be a “major upset” if Exum does not return to Utah, Tony Jones of The Salt Lake Tribune opines.

Exum, 22, averaged a career-best 8.1 PPG and 3.1 APG for the Jazz during the season. However, he still has not developed a consistent jumper, his midrange game is virtually nonexistent, and he was dominated at times during the postseason, Jones writes. While there is more development needed, Exum and Jazz seem to have a mutual interest in him returning next season.

“In fact, it will be a major upset if Exum isn’t wearing a Jazz uniform next season,” Jones writes. “Utah covets his size and athleticism. The front office, led by general manager Dennis Lindsey, maintained through the postseason they would be patient with Exum and his development.”

Check out more Jazz notes below:

  • Eight-year NBA veteran Derrick Favors will hit unrestricted free agency this summer coming off a season in which he posted solid totals of 12.3 PPG and 7.2 RPG in 77 games, Frank Urbina of HoopsHype looks at four possible destinations for Favors, including the Wizards, Bucks, Warriors, and a return to Utah.
  • After the Rockets completed their postseason series win over the Jazz, James Harden spoke highly of the team and believes there are even brighter days ahead, Eric Woodyard of The Deseret News writes. “Unbelievable,” Harden said. “Especially when nobody expected them to be in the situation they’re in right now. The sky is the limit for them.” 
  • In a separate story, Brad Rock of The Deseret News writes about the end of Utah’s season, with Jae Crowder — who was acquired at the deadline from the Cavaliers — suggesting that this year was just the start of good things to come. “I think it’s the beginning of an era,” Crowder said.
  • Brad Rock of the Deseret News writes in a separate story that the Jazz cannot stand pat this summer, arguing that the team’s ability to keep improving will be limited without a few roster changes.

Southwest Notes: Leonard, Capela, Conley, Barnes

The Lakers might be the logical landing spot if the Spurs decide not to offer Kawhi Leonard a supermax deal or if he tells them he’ll walk after next season, Gary Washburn of the Boston Globe speculates. Leonard can opt out of his deal next summer and the Spurs would want to acquire assets rather than wind up with nothing, as the Thunder experienced when Kevin Durant bolted, Washburn continues.  The Lakers have enough assets to make such a deal happen, but the Celtics would likely decline the Spurs’ advances if they were asked to give up Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum and a first-rounder for him, Washburn adds.

In other news around the Southwest Division:

  • Clint Capela‘s value to the Rockets hasn’t gone unnoticed and should lead to a lucrative offseason for the impending restricted free agent, as Stefano Fusaro of The Undefeated notes. Houston went 42-3 this season when Capela, Chris Paul and James Harden were all in the lineup, and Paul told Fusaro it’s no coincidence. “Y’all know the record when we all play together, and I’ll tell you it’s not because of me and James,” Paul said. “Clint is really the X factor. He opens up so much for us.”
  • Grizzlies point guard Mike Conley anticipates playing a full season after his injury-marred 2017/18 campaign, the team’s PR department tweets. Conley opted for season-ending heel surgery in late January after appearing in just 12 games. “Thankfully I had the surgery early enough to where I have a full summer of work and getting my body ready for an 82-game season,” Conley told reporters.
  • Mavericks forward Harrison Barnes wants to play for the U.S. national team again, Eddie Sefko of the Dallas Morning News reports. Barnes, who had a limited role in the 2016 Olympics, is one of 35 players USA Basketball has named as candidates to play in the 2019 World Championships and 2020 Olympics. “Everybody would love to play in a World Cup and the Olympics,” Barnes told Sefko. “Those are bucket-list experiences. If I could be included in that group, it would be really special.”

Central Notes: Booker, Green, Kilpatrick, Hoiberg, LeBron

Despite playing a limited role – only 16.0 minutes per game – the Pacers believe that recently-acquired forward Trevor Booker is an important piece of Indiana’s chances come playoff time, reports Mark Montieth of Pacers.com, especially with big man Domantas Sabonis missing six of the team’s last seven games with an ankle injury.

Booker was brought in to back-up Thaddeus Young at power forward, but has filled in admirably for the Pacers while Sabonis has been out.

“He brings a physicality to the floor,” Pacers head coach Nate McMillan said. “With these injuries and teams playing smaller fives, we’ve had to play him there some, and he’s done a good job for us. It allows us to make adjustments. He’s a power forward, but he plays bigger than that.”

“He’s a hard-nosed guy who’s going to go out and rebound the basketball,” says Young, the Pacers’ starting power forward who Booker backs up. “He has the ability to score on the block. To make a few jumpers here and there — not consistently, but he gives us the energy and the poise and the passion that we need. When he’s stepping out there with that second unit he does a really good job of carving out space and putting guys in the right place.”

There’s more from the Central Division:

  • Jeff Green has been starting for the Cavaliers lately while the team has been dealing with injuries to Kevin LoveLarry Nance Jr., and Tristan Thompson, but Joe Vardon of The Plain Dealer wonders whether he has a place in the lineup once playoff time comes and the bench shortens.
  • Despite recently receiving a three-year, $6.2MM contract from the Bulls, guard Sean Kilpatrick still views every game in the NBA as an audition, writes Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times. “That’s how I looked at things, and that’s how I viewed things since I got into this league, and that’s why I think I’ve had some type of success in that area.” Kilpatrick said.
  • It appears as though the Bulls plan on keeping head coach Fred Hoiberg around for a fourth season, Cowley opines in another pieceI’ve gotten unbelievable support from everybody throughout the year, going back to what I thought was a great offseason and training camp,” Hoiberg said.
  • The Rockets’ James Harden is far and away the favorite to win MVP this season, but he wouldn’t get a vote from Cavaliers‘ superstar LeBron James, reports Tim Reynolds of The Associated Press. Asked who he’d vote for, James unabashedly said himself. “I would vote for me. The body of work, how I’m doing it, what’s been happening with our team all year long, how we’ve got so many injuries and things of that nature, guys in and out, to be able to still keep this thing afloat, I definitely would vote me.”

Rockets Notes: Harden, D’Antoni, Anderson, James

In the midst of another MVP-worthy season, James Harden continues to impress people around the league, including his head coach, Mike D’Antoni. As Sam Amick of USA TODAY Sports writes, after the Rockets defeated the Trail Blazers on Tuesday, D’Antoni labeled Harden as “the best offensive player I’ve ever seen.”

Harden posted 42 points, seven rebounds, and six assists in the win, just the latest standout performance in a season filled with them. For D’Antoni, who has coached the likes of Steve Nash, Kobe Bryant, and Carmelo Anthony, Harden offers an all-around skill set that is unmatched.

“He’s a hell of a player, first off,” D’Antoni said. “It’s a combination of everything. There are other players who might be better at this, or a little bit better at that. But when you put everything together, and the way he passes, the way he sees teammates, the way he can lob, the way he can fight through a foul. I mean even on an off night, he’s probably getting 30, 40 points, and I mean efficiently. And he doesn’t even have anything going. But he’s so efficient, and he gets other guys involved. … He’s got one flaw. He does get tired some. He’s mortal. And that’s it. Other than that …”

Harden is averaging 31.2 PPG, 8.7 APG, and 5.2 RPG for the Rockets. After finishing as the runner-up to Russell Westbrook in MVP voting one season ago, Harden looks like the clear-cut favorite this year’s award.

Check out more news and notes out of the Rockets organization:

  • Tyronn Lue took a leave from his coaching post with the Cavaliers due to health concerns, and D’Antoni understands how the rigors of the job can require someone to take a needed step back, Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle writes. “Especially if you lose, you wonder what you could do differently. My first 20 years in coaching, even more, I couldn’t read books, for sure,” D’Antoni said. “I could read short articles, but I had a hard time escaping. I think I’ve gotten to a point I can read books and escape more than I used to. I try not to drive myself crazy.”
  • Ryan Anderson has seen a lot of time at center since he returned from injury and the Rockets anticipate him continuing to play the position going forward, Feigen writes in a separate story. “We’ll look at all possibilities, but he’ll play some five for sure,” D’Antoni said. “Then, we’ll see. Matchups, maybe in the playoffs, will be different here and there, but right now we’re going to look at this.”
  • LeBron James will be a free agent this offseason and his decision figures to be the NBA’s story of the summer. The Rockets are one of several teams that have been linked to James, prompting Eric Pincus of Bleacher Report to examine how the Rockets can add the four-time MVP without sacrificing Chris Paul and other assets.