The Annual #BallerAwards: The Best of the NBA in 2014

In lieu of a year-ender, I felt it would be better to go position-by-position and look at the best ballers of 2014. 

In this post, I will talk about the guys who did really well in the National Basketball Association in 2014. Perhaps they led their teams to the title. Perhaps they led the league in a certain statistical category. Perhaps they made history. Perhaps they did all of those things.

The best of the NBA in 2014.

Best NBA Center of 2014: Tim Duncan (San Antonio)
- I’m going to use the “hey, he plays multiple positions” card more than once in this list, so just bear with me, okay? Anyway, Duncan has the size and skill-set of a top-tier center anyway, though he will go down in history as, arguably, the best power forward to ever play the game. He led the Spurs to a league-best 62 wins last season while also pushing them to avenge the infamous collapse of the 2013 NBA Finals. In the process, Duncan, along with constant running mates Manu Ginobili and Tony parker, gave San Antonio its fifth NBA title. That Duncan-Ginóbili-Parker trio also broke the record for most wins in NBA Playoffs history. Another miletone was passing Kareem Abdul-Jabbar for most minutes played in the playoffs and Magic Johnson for most double-doubles after Game 4 of the 2014 Finals.  Duncan is one of only two guys in NBA history to win NBA titles in three different decades. The other guy? John Salley. Yes, go figure.

Best NBA Power Forward of 2014: LeBron James (Miami/Cleveland)
- Yes, LeBron is really a small forward, but wouldn’t most agree that the Heat were most effective with him at the 4 spot alongside Chris Bosh at the middle? He also scored a career-best 61 points earlier in 2014 while leading Miami to its fourth straight Finals appearance (one of only four NBA clubs to ever do so). Sure, he didn’t end up as league MVP, but his averages of 27.1 points, 6.9 rebounds, and 6.4 assists per game on 56.7 percent FG shooting are still nothing to scoff at. Perhaps the most masterful stroke of 2014 for the King, however, was doing a 180 and returning back to his home state of Ohio. This time around, LBJ’s decision didn’t involve any hubris-filled TV specials or presumptuous preseason celebrations. Instead, James revealed his return through a first-person essay that evoked a lot of genuine emotion. Not surprisingly, his heel-to-hometown-hero turn was much more well-received than the debacle of 2010. The King didn’t win any MVPs or titles in 2014, but he did win the hearts of most basketball fans. Big win? Check.

Best NBA Small Forward of 2014: Kevin Durant (Oklahoma City)
- Three reasons that make this an easy pick. First, Durant led the league in scoring for the fourth time in his young career. Second, he was named league Most Valuable Player for the first time. Lastly, do you remember how awesome his MVP acceptance speech was? This is a guy who is a heartless assassin on the hardwood, but, man, he transformed into a sincerely grateful son on the podium. In his moment in the limelight, the MVP put the spotlight not on his numerous achievements, but on the quiet resiliency of his mother. How heartwarmingly magnificent, right? Heck, if not for the Spurs and Russell Westbrook’s postseason injury, we might even be adding NBA Champion to Durant’s list of 2014 successes.

Best NBA Shooting Guard of 2014: James Harden (Houston)
- Teaming up with All-Star big man Dwight Howard helped James Harden push the Houston Rockets back into the conversation of title contenders, though they are far from the odds-on favorites. And, yes, he failed to lead Houston past the first round of the West Playoffs and he was the stuff of many a meme focusing on his perceived defensive lapses, but the fact of the matter is Harden was the best overall shooting guard of the 2013-2014 season. Nobody can argue that. I mean, he was named to the league’s First Team after all. A few months afterwards in #Spain2014, Harden was an indispensable part of the near-flawless Team USA machinery, and he is currently leading the Rockets, who are (as of this writing) just a game behind division-leading Memphis.

Best NBA Point Guard of 2014: Steph Curry (Golden State)
- In 2014, Curry made his first All-Star appearance and as a starter to boot! He finished the season averaging career-highs of 24.0 points and 8.5 assists per game, good enough to get a nod for the league’s Second Team. His Warriors entered the Playoffs as the West’s sixth seed while, currently, practically the same team is leading the entire Association with a 26-5 record. In fact, GSW is on pace to win around 68-69 wins this season. Wow. In addition, Curry also won his second FIBA gold, helping the Americans to a title romp in #Spain2014. I would also say he has supplanted Chris Paul as the best point guard on the planet. 

Best NBA Newcomer of 2014: Andrew Wiggins (Minnesota)
- After the ho-hum 2013 NBA Draft Class, the 2014 set entered with a lot of hype, and the two guys who hogged the headlines were Wiggins and erstwhile ROY favorite Jabari Parker. With Parker now gone for the season (he was playing below expectations anyway) and Wiggins the only other rookie scoring in double-digits, there’s practically no contest here. Wiggins may have been discarded by LeBron and the Cavs, but he’s sure making Minnesota fans salivate about a very promising future. 

Breakthrough NBA Player of 2014: Kyle Lowry (Toronto)
- The Raptors started the previous season losing twelve of their first eighteen games. After the Rudy Gay trade, the team turned things around, winning 10 of their next 13 matches behind the breakthrough performances of Lowry and backcourt mate DeMar DeRozan. Toronto eventually made the Playoffs as a charismatic Cinderella squad, with Lowry as the spearhead. For the season, the 28-year old Lowry averaged career-best stats in scoring, assists, rebounding, and three-point shooting. He did even better in only his second campaign in the Playoffs, putting up around 21 points, 5 boards, and 5 dimes while making 40% of his threes in seven games against the Nets. Let’s also not forget that he got paid in the offseason after signing a four-year, $48 million deal. He was snubbed in the 2014 All-Star Game, but, judging by how he is playing even better this season, he shouldn’t be left out in 2015.

Best NBA Coach of 2014: Gregg Popovich (San Antonio)
- Five titles and eighteen years after taking the helm of the Spurs, Pop is not only the world’s tersest interview, he is also the longest tenured coach in all major US pro sports. He holds the record for most consecutive winning NBA seasons (SEVENTEEN!!!), and he is just one of a handful of NBA coaches to win a ring for each finger. Oh, and I’m not entirely sure, but he’s the only coach I know of who has been able to steer a team to the NBA title despite its Big Three having a combined age of ONE HUNDRED SIX years old.

In our last post, we’ll look at the best FIBA Asia players from 2014.

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