Over at Grantland, Bill Simmons and Jalen Rose joined forces to recap what they term as the first ‘Birdmester' of the NBA regular season. A ‘Birdmester,' fittingly consists of 33 days of the regular season, and gets its namesake, of course, from none other than Hall of Famer and former Coach of the Year and Executive of the Year, Larry Legend.
Throughout the course of Bill and Jalen's recap, they, rather subjectively, hand out various end of the first ‘Birdmester' awards. While some of the honors bestowed by the pair easily could be described as gimmicky, yet quite humorous such as "Tanks for Nuttin," "Least Valuable Player," "Juciest Media Created Controversy," "Best Keep Gettin' Dem Checks Guy," and "Best Fake Trade that Won't Happen But Should," other talking points could be viewed as actual precursors for the NBA awards season and postseason.
The first award handed out by Bill and Jalen was "Best in Show." Nominated in this category, essentially naming the best team of the season thus far, were the Indiana Pacers, Miami Heat, San Antonio Spurs, and Oklahoma City Thunder. Up against several top contenders, the Pacers, also currently the team with the league's best record, came out victorious. As a part of their commentary on this award, Bill and Jalen essentially declared that the Indiana Pacers will get the top seed in the Eastern Conference.
However, somewhat meaningfully, the pair also predicted that the difference between the #2 and the #3 seed in the East will likely be dramatic. If this is accurate, it will mean that the reigning champs will not have to press themselves very hard to coast into second place. Will the Heat be able to ensure their stars get ample rest throughout the season, and still be able to shut things down in early March heading into the playoffs? How hard will the Pacers have to push to lock-up the top seed?
It should also be noted that when the nominations for "Best in Show" were revealed a picture was utilized to represent the Pacers that featured Danny Granger. In response, Jalen, rather jovially, asked Bill why Danny Granger was included. Both then joked that it may be the last time we see Granger with the Pacers. Later in the show, both pointed out that they still think the Pacers need to move Danny's contract. Jalen even went so far as to say "that's the key" when discussing making a trade involving Granger.
All in all, both NBA analysts had nothing but high praise for the Naptown team when they awarded them with "Best in Show." Rose noted that a lot of commentators are, rightfully so, heaping a lot of praise on PG, but, in his opinion, the NBA community should be giving more props to Roy Hibbert. In fact, Jalen called the Big Dawg the best center in the NBA, while lauding his ability to turn over both shoulders, post-up, shoot from 12-15 feet, defend, and play within himself. Bill added that, so far, Roy is by far the Defensive Player of the Year. Jalen also wanted to make sure he acknowledged the solid, steadfast play of David West. Here, Rose commented that West out-dueled Blake Griffin and called the Pacers' veteran a throwback power forward from the 1990s. He applauded West's high productivity from his position - especially when so many power forwards, in today's NBA, are drifting further and further away from the basket.
In Simmons' opinion, what makes the Pacers so special and worthy of "Best in Show" honors is that their five man line-up, though great last year, is even better this year. From his observations, no team in the league is more comfortable with their starting five than the Indiana Pacers. At the very least, Bill said he expects the Pacers to win the East's top seed. Nevertheless, even while complimenting the Indy five, Simmons questioned if the way they play will translate into a championship when LeBron and the Heat are still looming in Miami.
Another award handed out involving a member of the Pacers' roster was "Best Performance by a Bill & Jalen All-Star." In this extremely subjective category, the pair nominated four of their self-proclaimed All-Stars, DeMarcus Cousins, Andre Drummond, Robert Sacre, and Lance Stephenson. Rising above the rest was none other than Born Ready - the only player in the league with more than one triple double. Here, Bill highlighted the fact that the Pacers have increasingly given Lance more responsibility this season. Simmons also joked that even when Born Ready "goes off the reservation" with "Lance things" it still works. Both then noted something that has been analyzed here on Indy Cornrows, the fact that arguably the best part of Born Ready's game (the leading scorer in New York high school history) is his ability to pass. The duo has also observed that he relishes giving up the ball to his teammates and makes good things happen on 3-on-1 and 2-on-1 fast breaks.
Also included in their commentary of this award, Jalen pointed out that Lance is part of team "Birdmeister." This essentially means that Stephenson is one of Larry Bird's guys - a small, exclusive fraternity of players. Jalen went on to say that Larry Legend was willing to take a chance on Lance. Both analysts then questioned whether or not Lance would be in the league at all if the Pacers had not drafted him.
Although he was bested by Anthony Davis, Lance Stephenson was also nominated for "Best Leap by a Young'un." Because of his marked improvement this season, both commentators conceded that Lance is likely to get paid substantial money by some team this summer. Bill postulated that he could garner a highly lucrative contract somewhere in the realm of 4 years, $45M. He then questioned if him making a lot of money on another team would be the best thing for his overall career trajectory. Jalen then interjected emphatically that Lance is not leaving, once again, proclaiming that Born Ready is one of Larry's guys.
The last award handed out that involved a member of the Pacers was the Most Valuable Player. Up for MVP, not surprisingly, were LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Paul George, and Chris Paul. In this segment of the show, the pair debated if PG's game is stylistically more similar to Scottie Pippen or Tracy McGrady. They also complimented George's fluidity and quick feet, even going so far as to crown him a ‘game-changer' and the best two-way player in the league - other than LeBron.
Nonetheless, for now, LBJ was still declared as the best player in the NBA. However, Simmons did comment that voter fatigue can play a role in swinging MVP votes, which means that if the Thunder or Pacers finish with the best record in the league, then PG or KD could have a legit shot at the league's most prestigious award.
Also noteworthy in this portion of the show was a debate over whether George should be considered the second best player in the league. Interestingly, although both agreed he is the second best two-way player, they were not ready to demote Kevin Durant from his perennial spot at second place overall in favor of George. Here, they actually both agreed that if George and Durant were to somehow swap places, the Pacers (with Durant) would win the NBA title.
The recap of the first ‘Birdmester' was complete with the handing out of the MVP award. For more on some of Bill and Jalen's other awards and debates (not including the Pacers) such as which team has been most successful at tanking, or whether or not conferences and divisions be abolished, be sure to check out the videos over at Grantland.
What do you think Pacers' fans? Is trading Danny Granger key for the Pacers' success? Will Lance leave money on the table to stay in Larry Bird's elite fraternity? Would Born Ready have made it in the NBA if he had not been drafted by the Pacers? Would having Kevin Durant instead of Paul George make the Pacers better or worse? Will the Heat be able to coast to the #2 seed in the Eastern Conference?