Wednesday, January 07, 2015

2014/15 NBLC Midseason Awards

The National Basketball League Canada season is over half way finished for most of the teams in the league, and my what an exciting half season it has been. The parity in the league has been incredible, and this season has been very difficult to predict. With that being said, Chris Croucher, Marty Thompson and Jake Beckett of NBLCNET have decided to offer up their picks for the NBL Canada award winners at the mid way point of the 2015 season.

Some Notes:
- Picks were made individually without knowledge of other writers picks
- Rookie of the Year was handed to players without any prior pro experience recognized by FIBA
- 6th man was decided by the player to play less than 30% of his games as a starter

Now, On to the awards!

Most Valuable Player

Chris: SF Quinnel Brown, Windsor

As amazing as Anthony Anderson has been for the Mill Rats, his team sits at 7-11, and I’m of the belief that the MVP should go to a player on a winning team. That narrows it down to (for me anyways) Brandon Robinson and Quinnel Brown. I gave the decision to Brown just because of what his points have meant for Windsor. The Express were struggling to score early in the season, and many times Brown was the guy getting the job done. The cast around him has picked up their scoring now, but it is still Brown sitting 4th in league scoring with 19 points per game, while playing solid defensively. Consideration also went to Brandon Robinson, who I almost split the award for, and Marvin Phillips, for averaging a double-double with 20 points and 11 rebounds per game for the 2nd place Lightning.

Marty: PG Anthony Anderson, Saint John
Really a no brainer here. Leading the league in points for most of the season (21 ppg), field goals taken per game (17.05), second in assists per game (5.78 apg) and single-handedly keeping Saint John in the mix. Most importantly, AA is first in the league in minutes played per game at 41mpg. That’s where the ‘most valuable to your team’ narrative comes into play. I know my colleague is unwilling to give the MVP to a player on a losing team, but Anderson has been even more valuable to a team that has seen such turbulence this season.

Jake: C/PF Marvin Phillips, London
I would have easily gone with Quinnel Brown for MVP but no team needs a player like London needs Marvin Phillips.  Besides the fact he's top 5 in scoring, he's also #1 in rebounding by a LARGE margin.  Without Phillips, London has no bigs that can contribute the way they need.  When Phillips doesn't play or isn't contributing, London isn't at their best.  Windsor can live if Brown doesn't play well, the Storm can live if Robinson doesn't play well.  Marvin has his Lightning as the second best team in the Central and 3rd best record overall.

Honourable Mentions: Brandon Robinson (ISL), Omar Strong (MIS)

Canadian Player of the Year

Chris: PF Richard Amardi, Brampton

Pretty simple pick for me, with Amardi currently leading all Canadian players in scoring with almost 16 points per game. Often times during the start of the season when Brampton really struggled, it was Amardi that looked like the most dangerous player on the team, and in a lot of games that was the case, especially after his 34 point, 8 rebound game against the Lightning in November. His size combined with his deadly 3-point shot have made him a perfect match for coach David Magley’s system, leading to a strong season that is also garnering him attention in the rookie of the year race. Shout out to Tyrone Watson for his excellent season as well, as he and Amardi could make one of the more interesting “Awards Watch” battles this season.

Marty: Amardi, Brampton
Surprisingly, Amardi has been one of the best performers in the NBLC when it comes to advanced stats. Ranked first in efficiency (29.7 PER), the Scarborough-native has been taking advantage of his limited minutes. The 6’9” forward uses his size to toss up 34.8 points per 48 minutes, which is good for first in the league and first for listed forwards. While not many Canadians rank high in the more traditional stats, you don’t have to look far to find that Amardi is one of the most effective players in the league.

Jake: F Tyrone Watson, Halifax
Also a candidate for newcomer of the year.   He is second on his Halifax team in scoring and leads them in rebounding.  Dynamic inside-out wing with size and skill.  Halifax has been up and down all season and would be in a lot worse shape if they didn't have Watson on their squad.

Honourable Mentions: Gary Gibson (WIN), Joey Haywood (HAL)

Defensive Player of the Year

Chris: PG Gary Gibson, Windsor

Defensive player of the year is always hardest to pick, as it’s an award that can only really be given out based on what you’ve watched, as opposed to being able to look up stats. And the guy who has impressed me the most on defence is Windsor PG Gary Gibson. Gibson has combined with the equally worthy Tony Bennett to provide some of the best defence we’ve seen in the league, with Windsor shutting down nearly every opponent. Usually matched up against the opponents point guard, Gibson has, for the most part, been the better player in his match ups, using his length and athleticism to frustrate opposing guards. And as great as Cavell Johnson has been, leading the league in blocks, I felt Gibson’s unsung contributions deserved attention.

Marty: PF Cavell Johnson, Brampton
Although Gibson was considered on my end, Johnson has been leading almost every field in this category. First in blocks (2.55bpg), the 6’8” forward is leading the category by a whole point. Being selected for the NBL Canada Second Team All-Defense in 2013, the Maryland-native has always been known for his defensive play. Last season he averaged just over six rebounds per game, but so far this season he’s bumped that up to 8.5, proving to be a tough customer on the boards as well.

Jake: Johnson, Brampton
Cavell leads the league in blocks by a rather large margin.  Johnson anchors the Brampton defence, which has the 3rd lowest opponent field goal shooting % in the league.  And with the exception of Marvin Phillips, opposing teams bigs usually have nights with numbers way below their averages offensively. 

Honourable Mentions: Tony Bennett (WIN), Al Stewart (LON)

Sixth Man of the Year

Chris: SF Emmanuel Jones, Halifax

This one wasn’t especially close in my mind, and researching other players only confirmed the pick for me. Jones has been the go to guy off the bench for Halifax, and with averages of 15 points and 6 rebounds a game, it’s easy to see why. With games of 26 and 33 points on his resume, Jones figures to play an even bigger role for the Rainmen, with Justin Tubbs leaving for Greece. I may be cheating a bit by putting Jones here, as he gets starters minutes, and looks to start more in the second half, but for this article’s purposes, Jones is eligible, and is my pick for the best 6th man in the NBL. And quite frankly Jones was up for so many other awards, he just had to win one.

Marty: Mike Martin, Island Storm
While spending time with both the Storm and Halifax this season, Martin has yet to start a game. The 6’8” forward/centre has been averaging 13 points and 7 rebounds in only 24mpg this year, coming off in relief of Mike Williams and Nick Evans in the centre position for the Storm. There has been a lot of talk about Martin so far this year, so expect him to take more
minutes in the second half of the season.

Jake: Martin, Storm
Hasn't started a game all year.  Was cut by Halifax after a solid start to his season, then picked up by The Storm and his killing it off the bench.  Martin is one of the top bench players in scoring and rebounding with 13.0ppg and 6.6rpg.  At 6’8, the man can flat out score in a multitude of ways: from long range, in the post, slashing.He’s instant offence off the bench for coach Joe Salerno and the Storm, and he's been relatively consistent with his scoring and rebounding.

Honourable Mentions: Richard Amardi (BRA), Jonathan Mills (LON)

Rookie of the Year

Chris: SG Rashad Whack, Island

Talk about a breakout. Through his first 7 games, Whack looked like a nice bench player, averaging 8 points per game, but not really seeming like a player of consequence. In his next 6 games, Whack would average 20 points per game, becoming the much needed complement to Brandon Robinson. It’s no coincidence that Whack’s emergence coincides with the Strom’s turnaround. Now the full time starter, look for Whack to not only keep up his scoring ways, but emerge as an elite scorer in the NBL. Consideration also went to Richard Amardi for his stellar year.

Marty: Whack, Island
While he’s not leading the team in scoring (Brandon Robinson has 19ppg), Rashad Whack has taken his team by Storm so far this season. Already named an NBL Player of the Week, Whack has been improving immensely over his rookie year. The 23-year-old started the six games before the Christmas break, averaging 20ppg. Considering the Mount St. Mary’s grad was averaging under 10ppg in the first seven games coming off the bench, it appears Head Coach Joe Salerno sees something in Whack.

Jake: Whack, Island
What can I say that Marty and Chris haven’t yet? Whack has been absolutely dynamite since being inserted into the Island Storm’s starting lineup and is one of the modt dynamic scorers in the NBLC. With half a season to go still, Whack could easily be the runaway winner of this award.

Honourable Mentions: Jabs Newby (SJ/MISS), Seiya Ando (HAL), Richard Amardi (BRA)

Newcomer of the Year

Chris: SF Emmanuel Little, London

This came down to either Emmanuel Little, or Mississauga’s Omar Strong. I chose Little because of his all around game. Little has quietly been the 7th best scorer in the NBL, with his slashing, attacking game being the perfect complement to Phillips’ stretch game and the Lightning’s guards. Seriously, I haven’t seen a single player in the NBL’s short history attack the rim the way this guy does, often blasting through traffic for a lay up or flying in out of nowhere for an unlikely rebound and put back. Little has also been a consistent defender, and his length has made him versatile as well, defending both power forwards and shooting guards effectively. Also of note is Travis Releford, who has combined with Strong to lift Mississauga to a much improved record.

Marty: SG Omar Strong, Mississauga
This guy is insane. On a three-point-heavy Mississauga Power team,  Strong has emerged as one of the most lethal shooters in the NBLC. We’ve seen some shooters come into this league and struggle at the start, but the pacey 5’9” guard has had no problem adapting. Shooting 50% from beyond the arc, the Texas Southern grad is near the top of the scoring race at 20 ppg. Expect that to increase as this young Power team gets better and better.

Jake: F/G Travis Releford, Mississauga
He's leading the league in scoring so far.  Man can flat out play ball.  Another Mississauga player, Omar Strong, could have been Newcomer of the year but Releford has a better stat line all across the board.  He's a big guard who can score and rebound and he’s one of the few players that Mississauga will not part with should they shake up the roster.

Honourable Mentions: Emmanuel Jones (HAL), John Hart (LON)

Bonus: Most Improved Player

Chris: C DeAndre Thomas, Windsor

It wasn’t long ago that Thomas was one of the most frustrating players in the NBL. Just as likely to score 20 points or foul out, Thomas’ progress as a player has been staggering. While he’s cooled off lately, Thomas is averaging nearly 17 points per game after averaging only 11 last season. One of the bigger improvements to his game has been his free throw shooting, not only by raising his FT shooting percentage by nearly 10 percent, but also getting to the line far more often. Last season, Thomas shot 146 free throws over a 40 game season, which equals 117 in a 32 game season (which is the new scheduled amount this season). So far this year, Thomas is on pace to get to the line 144 times. So not only is he using his considerable size more effectively, he’s making himself harder to defend by making his shots from the line. Consideration went to Zane Johnson, who was lights out before a bruised heel caused a decline in his play, Nick Evans for his emergence as a key part of the Storm rotation, and Quinnel Brown for the leap his game took this year.

Marty: SF Quinnel Brown, Windsor
While the Chicago-native might not necessarily be the most improved from last season, Brown has made that jump from the bench to all-star this season. This four-year veteran of the NBLC (who played for the Laval Kebs in 2011-12) was averaging around 15ppg in 35mpg of work the past two seasons with Halifax and Windsor. This season the 31-year-old pushed that to 19 ppg, becoming one of the go-to shooters on the league’s best team.

Jake: G Raheem Singleton, Saint John
Left off rosters to start the season, Singleton has gone on a tear since joining the Mill Rats.  He's upped his player efficiency from 8.5 last season to a player efficiency rating of 20.7.  He's leading the league in assists per game already.  He's doubled his scoring from 8.6 to 16.5 a game.  All his numbers are up and he's helping turn around the same Saint John Mill Rats team that didn’t bring him back after last season.

Honourable Mentions: Zane Johnson (LON), Nick Evans (ISL)