NBA Anti-Awards: The Least Improved Award Goes to…

Kawhi Leonard
Kawhi Leonard is a two-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year. Photo by Stephen Lew/Icon Sportswire
  • We’re turning the spotlight on the league’s biggest disappointments with our first annual NBA Anti-Awards.
  • Have the Sixers sabotaged Markelle Fultz’s career by tinkering with his shot?
  • Will Joakim Noah ever log another minute in the NBA?

We’re officially into the home stretch of the 2017-18 NBA season, and by now just about every major award has already been sewn up. The MVP has James Harden’s name written all over it, Ben Simmons is everyone’s choice for Rookie of the Year, and the Larry O’Brien trophy will almost certainly go to the Warriors again.

Everyone and their mother knows the winners. That’s why we’ve decided to flip the script and single out the biggest losers instead with our first annual NBA Anti-Awards. We’ve pored over hundreds of hours of lowlights and have found the most epic fails, the biggest WTF moments, and the most gruesome injuries that will haunt your dreams for years to come. On to the awards!

Most Disappointing Player: Kawhi Leonard (Spurs)

No player has fallen further or faster than Kawhi Leonard, who began the season as a clear-cut MVP candidate before experiencing a series of frustrating setbacks with his right quadriceps. The injury has limited him to just nine games in 2017-18 and has caused a Grand Canyon-sized rift in the organization as Leonard has isolated himself from the team and ignored franchise protocol by consulting his own medical specialists. The Claw insists he’ll return eventually, but it might be too late to salvage the Spurs’ season and his own fragile relationship with the team’s management.

Most Broken Shot: Markelle Fultz (76ers)

We want to trust the process, but every time we see footage of Markelle Fultz’s herky-jerky jump shot it makes us wonder if the Sixers actually know what they’re doing. Within a matter of months, the organization has transformed one of the top scorers in the nation into a walking basket case who second guesses any shot outside of the restricted area. They claim he’s making progress, but his shooing motion still has more mechanical flaws than a 1988 Chevette.

The Sixers claim Fultz is making progress, but his shooing motion still has more mechanical flaws than a 1988 Chevette.

Fultz may still come out of this okay, but at the moment it feels like the Sixers have ruined his career before it even had a chance to begin.

Worst Contract: Luol Deng (Lakers)

Sometimes it takes years to realize you’ve overpaid a player. In the case of the Lakers, it only took a few weeks. L.A. experienced buyer’s remorse almost immediately after handing Luol Deng a four-year, $72 million contract in 2016, and has desperately been trying to unload him ever since. The two-time All-Star has played only 13 minutes this season, and at this point can probably be had for a VHS copy of Kazaam and a bag of unwashed jockstraps.

Worst Use of Social Media: Kevin Durant (Warriors)  

Kevin Durant became a league-wide laughingstock in September when he mistakenly used his own Twitter account — rather than an anonymous burner account — to publicly rail against former coach Billy Donovan and the Thunder. His third-person replies were soon deleted, but not before they were seen by fellow players like Joel Embiid and Draymond Green, both of whom began ragging on him for his lack of social media savvy. Yes, the same Draymond Green who flashed his junk on Snapchat two months earlier. Way to keep it classy, Golden State.

JR Smith at championship parade
Put your hand in the air if you’re a head case. Photo by First Energy Corp. (Flickr) [CC License]

Biggest Head Case: J.R. Smith (Cavs)

Was there really any doubt? Smith wrapped up this award on March 1st when he turned his lunchable into a launchable and hurled a bowl of soup at Cavaliers’ assistant coach Damon Jones. On the positive side, it was the first thing he had hit in weeks.

Most Careless Dribbler: DeMarcus Cousins (Pelicans)

DeMarcus Cousins can thank his weak Achilles for keeping him out of the record books. The Pelicans pivot was leading the league with five turnovers per game and was well on his way to setting a modern-day record for NBA centers before being sidelined. Boogie will likely miss the beginning of the 2018-19 season, so here’s one more tasty turnover to enjoy while he rehabs.

Most Gruesome Injury: Gordon Hayward (Celtics)

There are still 20 games left in the 2017-18 season, but it’s unlikely anyone is going to top the gruesome ankle injury Gordon Hayward suffered on Opening Night. The stomach-churning mishap brought his season to a premature end and provided viewers at home with nightmare fuel for the rest of the year.

Scroll quickly if you have a weak stomach.

Biggest Waste of Space: Joakim Noah (Knicks)

Imagine getting paid $17 million a year to sit at home and eat Cheetos. No, it’s not the premise of a Japanese game show; it’s the day-to-day reality of Joakim Noah. The former Defensive Player of the Year has been on permanent leave since early February, when the Knicks dismissed the unwanted big man from all team activities. Noah is still on the books for $37.75 million beyond 2017-18, but at this point it’s becoming increasingly unlikely that he’ll ever suit up for the Knicks again.

Joakim Noah, Derrick Rose and Barack Obama
Joakim Noah, Derrick Rose, and Barack Obama all have a little extra time on their hands these days. Photo by P080810PS-0483 (Flickr) [CC License]

Worst Full Court Heave: Jarret Jack (Knicks)

Players like Steph Curry and James Harden spoil us by making us forget how hard it is to hit a shot from 94 feet away. Fortunately, Jarrett Jack is here to remind us all. The Knicks point guard gave viewers a big dose of reality back in October when he took the worst full court heave in the history of organized basketball. The ball travelled more than 20-feet above the basket, and for all we know, may still be rolling around somewhere at MSG.

Least Improved Player: Jahlil Okafor (Nets)

Jahlil Okafor looked like he may get a new lease on life in December when he was shipped to the Nets for Trevor Booker. It was, in theory, a perfect fit, as Brooklyn badly needed an interior scorer and Ja Ja badly wanted to take 30 shots a night. Unfortunately, the six-foot-eleven plodder needed several weeks just to get in shape and has yet to deliver a breakthrough performance. Okafor is averaging 6.2 points in 13 minutes a game and could find himself playing overseas by the time he turns 25.

Worst Use of a Highlighter: Minnesota Timberwolves

The Timberwolves claim their new alternate jerseys were inspired by the Northern Lights, but they look to us like they were inspired by a $2 highlighter from Staples. It’s time to ditch these retina-searing threads and go back to a color scheme that doesn’t remind everyone of office stationary.

Author Image
Ryan Murphy began his love affair with sports journalism at the age of nine when he wrote his first article about his little league baseball team. He has since authored his own column for Fox Sports and has created campaigns for the WWE, the NHL, and the NFL. Ryan's critically acclaimed stories have also been published in 20 books and have been featured on more than 170 radio stations and 40 newspapers across North America.