2016 NBA Playoffs Awards: Best game, biggest play and LeBron James
The NBA playoffs are finally over.
The NBA’s second season ended Sunday, as the Cavaliers knocked off the Warriors in seven games to win the NBA Finals. Since the end of April, we’ve seen lots of crazy things, like blown 3–1 leads, the overtime record for points scored and a dunk so ferocious it deflated a basketball.
There’s only one proper way to really appreciate everything that happened during the postseason, and that’s by handing out awards. Without further ado, here are SI’s awards for the 2016 NBA playoffs. Fair warning: these are extremely subjective.
Turn Back The Clock Performance: Dwyane Wade
With the Heat facing elimination in Charlotte after losing three straight games, Wade was at his playoff best, burying the Hornets with 23 points to force a Game 7. Wade scored 10 points in the fourth quarter, including his first two three-pointers of the calendar year to seal the game late. It was Wade playing like he did before teaming up with LeBron James, isolating on the left wing, finding his jumper and crashing into the lane. Perhaps most importantly, with his Game 6 performance, Wade made Hornets fans question if they’ll ever wear a purple shirt to a home game ever again.
Turn Forward The Clock Performance: C.J. McCollum
Is turn forward the opposite of turn back? Either way, this award goes to C.J. McCollum, who had a nice showing in the second round against the Warriors. McCollum’s backcourt teammate Damian Lillard has already had his breakout playoff moment, and while McCollum didn’t hit any dramatic buzzer beaters, he didn’t back down when facing the No. 1 seed in the West. McCollum averaged 21.4 points per game in Round 2, playing at least 40 minutes in each game. What does this award mean? Don’t be surprised to see McCollum become a clutch playoff performer in his own right in the future.
I'm Getting Paid: Bismack Biyombo
The Raptors were knocked out in the East finals, a success considering their first round struggles for many years. And Biyombo was a key part of the Raptors’ run, stepping up his play after an injury to Jonas Valanciunas. Biyombo annihilated the Heat on the rebounds in the second round, then gave the Cavaliers similar fits for stretches of the conference finals. Biyombo earned less than $3 million last season, and has already declined his player option for next year. With the salary cap spiking, Biyombo is going to cash in big time.
I’m Getting Nervous: Harrison Barnes
There is certainly some recency bias here, because Barnes had a solid if not spectacular postseason for the Warriors. But if Barnes had played particularly great during the Finals, there was at least a chance someone offered him a max contract this summer. Instead, Barnes was awful for large stretches of the Finals, groan-inducing-ly missing wide-open three after wide-open three. Barnes was so off, he was often replaced by Leandro Barbosa in Golden State’s Death Lineup. It’s possible Barnes still gets huge money this summer, only because NBA teams are liable to do all kinds of dumb stuff. But it won’t be surprising if Barnes isn’t exactly getting tons of offers after his Finals meltdown.
Best Fourth Quarter: Klay Thompson
With all due respect to what Kyrie Irving did during Game 5 of the Finals, we need to celebrate what Thompson did with the Warriors down 3–2 in Oklahoma City. Thompson saved Golden State’s season by scoring 41 points that night. The Splash Bro hit 11 threes, including six in the fourth, outplaying league MVP Stephen Curry, four-time scoring champ Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook (whose athleticism is roughly the level of the T-1000 from Terminator 2) in the process. Thompson may be exiting the playoffs without a championship trophy, but at least he’ll always have this prestigious award.
Worst Game: The Entire Heat-Raptors Series
Let’s not re-live that one.
Best Game: NBA Finals Game 7
Through the first six games, 47 minutes and 6.9 seconds of the NBA Finals, the Warriors and Cavaliers had scored the exact same number of points. The tie was broken with a Kyrie three pointer over Curry. The entire NBA season coming down to a final minute? It doesn’t get any better than that.
Best Individual Performance: LeBron James
James’s 41-point Game 6 performance against the Warriors was the best individual performance of the Finals. The combination of the game’s stakes, the NBA’s Game 6 mythology, and James's paradigm-shifting block on Curry sealed this award for the King.
Best Play: Spurs-Thunder Inbounds
From Dion Waiters’s blatant offensive foul to a fan grabbing Steven Adams to Chris Webber’s incredulous reaction, the inbounds sequence from the end of Spurs-Thunder Game 2 remains one of the most unique plays in NBA history. I’m not sure if we’ll see a play like this one again in our lifetime.
Biggest Villain: Draymond Green
Green may have cost his team a championship by taking a swing at LeBron’s groin. Did Green even mean to do it on purpose that time? It didn’t matter, because his suspension was earned for a playoffs’ worth of questionable decisions. Green became (even more) hateable during the playoffs, and played a large part in America finally turning on the Warriors.
Biggest Hero: LeBron James
Heroes keep their promises.