Welcome, welcome, to the second annual Buzz City Postseason Awards show (article)! After last season ended, At The Hive decided to toss together a Hornets-specific NBA-style awards ballot so that the Bugs may receive proper recognition. In case this does not ring a bell, here’s a link to last year’s Buzz City awards to jog the memory.
The awards handed out today will be Most Valuable Player, Defensive Player of the Year, Rookie of the Year, Sixth Man of the Year and Most Improved Player, much like the awards the NBA has given out — except these are better and cooler, because only players who are lucky enough to live in the Queen City are eligible. Without further ado, let’s get this show on the road.
Most Valuable Player
Chase Whitney: Terry Rozier
“The best ability is availability - Doc Rivers” - me. After skating by for most of the season, the Hornets were ravaged with injuries down the stretch — but who was the player that was always there? Terry Rozier. He led the Hornets in minutes played and points per game and was fifth in the NBA in total 3-pointers made. Now, that’s valuable.
Jack Simone: Terry Rozier
If Gordon Hayward or LaMelo Ball managed to stay healthy, they may have had a shot to steal this award from Rozier. However, similarly to LeBron James and Joel Embiid losing out on the MVP this year, the best ability is availability.
James Plowright: Terry Rozier
Rozier had a standout year setting career highs in points per game, steals per game and assists per game. He did so efficiently while shooting a career best 45% from the field and 39% from three, for the first half of the year he was the most clutch player in the NBA shooting 53% from the field and 54% from three in the clutch, while outscoring opponents by 42 points while being on the floor in the clutch. Terry lead the team in minutes, was a veteran leader and an absolute ironman playing in 69 of 72 games, he is your Charlotte Hornets MVP.
Jonathan DeLong: Terry Rozier
Rozier, pretty much by default. I don’t think Rozier was the Hornets best player, but he was the only key player that was able to play pretty much the whole season.
Zachary Brown: Terry Rozier
Rozier started the year in a crowded guard rotation with Devonte’ Graham, Malik Monk, and LaMelo Ball. The latter garnered all the media attention, but if LaMelo is the future of the Charlotte Hornets, Terry Rozier is the present. 40-pt games, a series of 30 pointers, when the Hornets needed a bucket, they looked to Terry Rozier. What stat to reference, the clutch stats? Offensive win shares? Suffice it to say Rozier strapped the team on his back multiple times on their way to a win.
Defensive Player of the Year
Chase Whitney: PJ Washington
Even at 6-foot-7, PJ Washington was the only player resembling a rim protector on the Hornets roster. Per Cleaning The Glass, Charlotte’s defense was 5.5 points better per 100 possessions with Washington on the court, second on the team to Devonte’ Graham, which is a funny coincidence; both were inconsistent offensively but were probably the team’s two best defensive players on the season.
Jack Simone: Miles Bridges
While the choice may seem unconventional, I’m a huge stats guy. I wrote a whole article talking about Bridges’ potential as a breakout player, and his defensive numbers are off the charts. Combine that with his constant energy and hustle on that side of the floor and he won my vote for this award.
James Plowright: PJ Washington
Washington’s growth on defense this year, especially off ball, was one of the biggest areas of player development. His improvement allowed him to play center which led to some of the most successful lineups of the season. PJ still need to improve his consistency on the defensive end, the Indiana play in game was brutal, but no one player contributed more defensively that PJ this year. The next focus needs to be defensive rebounding, he improved slightly this year but is still well below average for his position.
Jonathan DeLong: Devonte’ Graham
See Chase’s stat above about who had the best defensive on/off differential on the Hornets. Graham also ranked 7th among point guards leaguewide in defensive Real Plus-Minus. Graham’s awareness and activity on the defensive end was the difference between the Hornets being a bottom dwelling defense and a passable one. He isn’t a big playmaker on that end, but he’s about as good of a team defender as you’ll find.
Zachary Brown: No one
The Idea that Devonte’ Graham is the consensus stathead choice here says all that needs be said. Graham can be an electric player on the offensive end, but a defensive stopper he is not. PJ looked lost on defense a lot and maybe doesn’t understand the concept of a backdoor cut? And maybe I should pick Miles Bridges just cause he had a lot of assignments but he wasn’t good either. I hate to do this but the defense was NOT GOOD this season. Nah, just nah.
Rookie of the Year
Chase Whitney: LaMelo Ball (Grant Riller for honorable mention)
Yeah, not a whole lot of debate on this one. Grant Riller should’ve gotten a chance to play!!!
Jack Simone: LaMelo Ball
I mean, let’s be real here. C’mon.
James Plowright: LaMelo Ball
Not just Charlotte’s rookie of the year, but no doubt the NBA’s ROTY too. LaMelo had a historic rookie season coming off not playing a professional game since November 2019, no summer league, an expedited training camp and limited gym access. How is that even possible?
Jonathan DeLong: LaMelo Ball.
Zachary Brown: LaMelo Ball. LaMelo has the distinction of being the only player on this list who has a chance of winning the actual award. Though, I think the oddsmakers have Anthony Edwards. LaMelo did everything you want a rookie to do, led all rookies in points, rebounds, and assists for a large portion of the season. But I think most importantly he bought into the team as a whole. Can’t wait to see what year 2 brings
Sixth Man of the Year
Chase Whitney: Malik Monk
Miles Bridges actually received a third-place vote for NBA Sixth Man of the Year, but he did start 19 of his 66 games played (28.7 percent), so it didn’t feel right to give it to Bridges especially after his meteoric rise in April and May. Monk quietly shot 42 percent from deep on 5.0 attempts per game on a 56.9 true shooting percentage, all of which are career-highs. Keeping both him and Graham around long-term might be a good idea.
Jack Simone: Malik Monk
Earning rotational minutes is hard enough in the NBA. But to go from getting DNP - Coach’s Decision’s to leading the team off the bench in important games is an incredible feat. Huge props to Monk for finally putting it together this season, get well soon.
James Plowright: Malik Monk
Both Bridges and Graham would have been in the running for this award had injuries not forced them both into the starting lineup. Monk is a winner by default, but that shouldn’t mean we overlook his improvement and contribution to the team. In a 24 game span from February to March before his ankle injury Monk put up 15.2ppg, 3.2rpg and 1.9apg all on 46% from the field and 41% from three in just 24 minutes per game. Charlotte’s record in that time was a tantalizing 14-10. Monk wasn’t as effective when returning towards the end of the year, it was obvious he wasn’t fully back to 100% health but still provided a spark and creation off a Charlotte bench that was in need of his playmaking and scoring down the stretch.
Jonathan DeLong: Miles Bridges
Bridges only started 19 games this season, so he’s eligible here. He embraced his role as an energy guy off the bench, and blossomed into more than that, as you’ll see later.
Zachary Brown: Miles Bridges
Miles just barely qualifies for this award and if he had started more, there may be a few more W’s in the win column for the good guys. Miles Bridges is a bad, bad man who can inspire fear. He had to do that from the bench too many times this season.
Most Improved Player
Chase Whitney: Miles Bridges
Hornets fans don’t have as much of a gripe with the NBA version of the MIP award this season as last, but one could argue that Bridges could’ve been considered. His rebounding and passing numbers improved. He hit 40.0 percent of his triples and 59.3 percent from inside the arc. He played more consistent defensively and shot 72 percent at the rim, the best mark on the team. Safe to say he got a lot better!
Jack Simone: Jalen McDaniels
After praising Bridges earlier he would have been a clear choice for this award. However, I will let it be known that I have a soft spot for McDaniels and was begging James Borrego to give him more minutes all season. To see him flourish with the opportunity he earned near the end of the year was amazing. So amazing that I had to give him my vote. Looking forward to seeing what he can do in the future. Big things ahead, you heard it here first.
James Plowright: Miles Bridges
We saw two versions of Miles Bridges in 20-21. The first two-three months of the season we saw Miles as the bench energy guy, he was rebounding the ball at a career rate and active defensively, on offense he mostly took open threes and lob/put banks. However, after Hayward was injured in early April Bridges flourished into a legitimate two way starter flashing significant upside, in the final 17 games he averaged 19.9ppg 7.1rpg, 2.9apg 0.8spg 0.8bpg 1.9topg while shooting 23% from the field and 46% from three at 6.6 attempts per game.
Jonathan DeLong: Miles Bridges
When the Hornets were down bad, Miles took it upon himself to become the team’s alpha dog. Over his final 17 games of the season, Bridges averaged 21.0 points, 6.9 rebounds, and 3.7 assists while shooting 50.8% from the field and 42.0% from three. He shot an even 40% from three for the season, and that’s going to open up his offensive game tremendously. He also became a much more consistent and energetic defender. The sky is the limit for sky Miles.
Zachary Brown: Miles Bridges
Miles did more than improve statistically, though he did that. Don’t sleep on the 60% eFG percentage. He found a gear that we didn’t know he had, which is being the go-to person for playmaking when the situation called for it. Miles Bridges reacted to the signing of Hayward by becoming more essential to this Hornets team.
And with that, we wrap up the 2020-2021 edition of the Buzz City Postseason Awards, putting a shiny purple and teal (and mint and gold) bow on this season. It was fun, but also not at times, so moving on to the next one is more than okay with me. Next up; draft season.