Some Insight into the Potential 2022 Award Winners
By John Krolik, @krolikjohn August 3, 2022
Well, there’s a week left in the 2022 BIG3 regular season, and that means the regular-season awards are coming up.
Here are the nominees, in order of whom I would vote for, with a case for why each of the nominees has a case to win their respective award for the most important awards. To be clear: I do not decide who wins these awards, and my vote counts exactly the same as the vote of anyone reading this. This is just my opinion of who I think should win these awards at this time.
Also, remember that with an 8-week regular season, things can change very quickly. There’s still 12.5% of the regular season to go!
COACH OF THE YEAR:
1 – Rick Mahorn, Aliens
I personally think Mahorn is the clear choice here. The Aliens brought a brand-new, Euro-inspired style of offense to the BIG3 this season, and it was beautiful to watch. When teams managed to contain their cutting, screening, and passing, they seamlessly flowed into a two-man game with a guard and Deshawn Stephens, the latter of whom he beautifully integrated into the team.
The Aliens’ game plan has worked, it’s a huge step forward for FIREBALL3, and Mahorn deserves a ton of credit for facilitating the Aliens’ beautiful brand of what he calls “organized chaos.”
2 – Nancy Lieberman, Power
All that being said, Nancy Lieberman’s Power squad did put on a clinic against the Aliens in Week 6. The team plays with purpose, moves the ball, doesn’t give away possessions, and have some slick actions they use to get easy buckets against unsuspecting defenses. Everyone on Power is on the same page, and can shift into different roles at the drop of a hat.
Furthermore, Power always has a plan for the team they’re facing. In Week 6, they stifled the Aliens’ ball movement, and in Week 7, they were able to keep Tri State from beating them with shots from three-point range. I am confident that there will be a female NBA Head Coach in my lifetime, and I believe people like Coach Lieberman will be a major reason it will happen – she clearly knows the game as well as any other human being, and the BIG3 has given her a great opportunity to show it.
3 – Reggie Theus, 3 Headed Monsters
The issue with trying to determine the impact Coach Theus has had on the Three-Headed Monsters is that they were regular-season dynamos before this season, when they were coached by Gary Payton.
If the 3 Headed Monsters win their Week 8 game, they will have the best record in the league. Guess who had the best record in the league the year before that? The 3 Headed Monsters. 3HM also went 7-1 in 2018.
It’s like looking at a picture of Isaiah Austin next to Chris Johnson – Isaiah is slightly taller, but he wouldn’t look like a giant. If you took a picture of Isaiah Austin next to all 5’8 of me, it would be much easier to determine that Isaiah Austin is a gigantic human being.
Theus has definitely done all the right things this season. It’s just too difficult to see if his X’s and O’s were the reason for 3HM’s success instead of the Jimmies and Joes that were already on the roster.
4 – Charles Oakley, Killer 3’s
You may find this hard to believe, but legendary NBA enforcer Charles Oakley’s team has found success by out-hustling and overpowering their opponents. Franklin “Frank Nitty” Session can be seen constantly driving the ball into the teeth of the defense before kicking it out. When there’s a 50-50 ball, you can bet the Killer 3’s will be the first ones there.
A large part of the success the Killer 3’s have had can be attributed to their pair of sharpshooting wings, Donte Greene and Dominique Johnson, but the Killer 3’s wouldn’t be the Killer 3’s without that signature Oakley edge.
5 –Stephen Jackson, Trilogy
A bit harsh to put the coach of the reigning champs down at #5, I know. And it’s not like Jackson has done a bad job. But someone had to be down here, and unfortunately it’s Jackson. Trilogy’s simple-but-effective strategy is to cram the ball directly down your throat. They live in the paint, they rarely settle for jumpers, and you will wake up sore the morning after you play them. There’s a lot to be said for knowing your personnel and using Occam’s Razor against your opponents, and Coach Jackson has certainly done that this year.
BEST TRASH TALKER:
One thing I will say about Stephen Jackson – he has to be the most relentless trash talker in the league. I’m fairly sure he expends more energy as a coach than he did as a player, and he expended plenty of energy as a player.
During a game, Jackson almost never sits down, and he’s nearly always giving somebody a piece of his mind. Jackson has the lungs of an opera singer or a long-distance swimmer, and he puts them to use – during games, he’s constantly having high-volume conversations with the referees, his own players, and opposing players. Trilogy is a very entertaining team to begin with, but when Coach Jackson gets going, they instantly turn into Must-see TV.
TOO HARD TO GUARD:
GERALD GREEN, BIVOUAC
It’s gotta be Gerald Green. He glides up above where anyone could possibly think to contest his shot, has that beautiful stroke, and the ball just kisses the nylon on its way to the floor. Oh, and if you try to crowd him, he’ll just go by you and float up above the rim for a dunk.
One thing I’ve noticed is that Green’s ability to hang in the air allows him to make one of the toughest shots in basketball, the mid-range shot going to your dominant hand. You have to get your dominant foot all the way in front of your off-foot in mid-air, which means you need to swing the entire right side of your body around to get square to the basket. Kobe was perhaps the undisputed master of this shot, although CP3 and Paul Pierce had it on lock as well. If you’d like a detailed breakdown of how the “leg drift” adds the necessary power to a dominant-hand pullup, here’s a very good video from Colin Castellaw of ShotMechanics.
Anyways, to make a long story short, you can’t stop Gerald Green from getting a shot off, and you can barely bother it – you just have to hope the ball hasn’t gone in when his feet finally return to the earth.
Mike Beasley: Had some trouble with his outside shot in the middle of the season, but if he’s in his groove, you’re doomed. He can take it to the rack, pull up, punish a double-team with a perfect pass to a teammate, and when he’s feeling it from outside you’re really in trouble. He can flick threes home in bunches, and his four four-pointers actually lead the league.
Isaiah Briscoe: Just keep him out of the paint and you’re relatively fine. (N.B. – given Briscoe’s ball handling ability and strength, this is MUCH easier said than done.)
Jason Richardson: Dead-eye shooter, always moving, and can get up above the rim when there’s a lane for him. However, he can’t create his own shot the way the rest of the players on this list can.
Kevin Murphy: We’re about to discuss Kevin Murphy.
MOST VALUABLE PLAYER:
1 – Kevin Murphy, 3 Headed Monsters
Murphy has just imposed his will on the BIG3 this season. The 3 Headed Monsters have the best record (6-1) in the league heading into Week 8. Even though he didn’t play in Week 7 (3HM was given a bye week), he still leads the league in scoring. He can score from anywhere, and has – he’s an offense in a can. He’s one of the better rebounding wings in the league. Sometimes he knocks down game-winning 4-pointers. He is that dude.
2 – Isaiah Briscoe, Trilogy
Briscoe isn’t the best outside shooter for a guard, but it doesn’t really matter. He has perhaps the best handles of anyone in the BIG3, and is pound-for-pound probably the strongest player in the league.
He shoves you under the basket, he gets the layup to fall, and his teammates feed off his energy – as mentioned above, no team comes right at your throat the way Trilogy does. And when he is making his shots from the perimeter, you may as well give up.
3 – Franklin “Frank Nitty” Session, Killer 3’s
If I had to flip a coin to choose between Briscoe and Frank Nitty, I’d try to put it in my pocket and find a way to have them both. This really is a situation where I’d take six of one player and a half-dozen of the other.
Like Briscoe, Frank Nitty’s outside shot is a bit more fickle than you’d like to see from a guard. Like Briscoe, Frank Nitty makes up for it with what he does inside the arc. He relentlessly attacks the paint and looks for kick-outs, and currently leads the league in assists. He has a nose for the ball like you wouldn’t believe, and is somehow third in the BIG3 in rebounds. And if the defense doesn’t collapse on him, he’ll happily take it all the way to the rack.
I can’t imagine a point guard who would be a better fit for Charles Oakley, and a large portion of the success the Killer 3’s have had can be attributed to the way they feed off Frank Nitty’s energy.
4 – Gerald Green, Bivouac
See above – all the things that make Green the hardest player in the league to guard make him one of the most valuable players in the league. Bivouac didn’t make it to Week 7, but their four losses came by a combined 11 points, and they didn’t lose a single game by more than three points.
Also, Green’s ability to casually soar into the air allows him to be an excellent rebounder, especially for a wing. Bivouac’s big man, the 6’10 Jeff Ayres, only pulled down three more rebounds than Green this season.
If Bivouac continue to build around Green and have a bit better luck in one-possession games, they’ll be a force to be reckoned with next season.
5 – Earl Clark, Trilogy
Clark has some nice stats, and his smooth mid-range jumper has provided some crucial spacing for Trilogy this season. However, I still think Briscoe has been the tip of the spear for Trilogy this season, and Amir Johnson and his ludicrous 68.3% shooting percentage have been just as important to Trilogy’s success than Clark’s all-around ability.
DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR:
DESHAWN STEPHENS, ALIENS
As I said earlier, Earl Clark has some nice stats. He’s tied for second in the league in blocks, leads the league in steals, and leads the league in rebounds.
However, based on everything I’ve seen this year, the way Deshawn Stephens controls the paint on the defensive end for the Aliens has made him my defensive player of the year. He has the height of a wing at 6’8, and plays with the agility of one. He also has the wingspan of a giant (7’3), and uses it to shut down opposing forays to the rim as well as any big man in the league.
If the Aliens had played in Week 7, he’d almost certainly be the league leader in rebounds, as Earl Clark has only three more rebounds than him. The Aliens’ trio of European players has made them stand out from the rest of the teams in the BIG3, but they wouldn’t be Championship contenders without Stephens.
I discussed Earl Clark above – nice numbers, but I didn’t feel like he impacted the game on defense the way Stephens did.
Isaiah Austin was easily the best shot-blocker in the league this season, but I just couldn’t give a DPOY award out to someone who played for the Enemies, who were really lacking on defense this season.
Julian Wright was a solid interior presence, but I never felt like he had the mobility or quick-jump ability to truly shut down the paint.
Isaiah Briscoe can certainly put the clamps on and never quits on defense. However, at the end of the day, a great defensive big man has more impact than a great defensive guard.
ROOKIE OF THE YEAR:
GERALD GREEN, BIVOUAC
This was the toughest call I had to make, because Deshawn Stephens has been absolutely amazing this season. Ultimately, I felt like Green carried more of a burden than Stephens and still managed to be efficient. If you ask me to name the RoY 10 minutes from now, I’ll probably go with Stephens. Still, I think Green is a solid pick here. For more on Green and Stephens, check out the “Too Hard to Guard” and “Defensive Player of the Year” sections.
Not only is Deshawn Stephens my DPOY, he shot 62.3% from the floor and provided “vertical spacing” that greatly helped the Aliens – Dusan Bulut loved throwing lobs to Stephens. He wasn’t a prolific three-point shooter, but he’s made 6 of the 14 shots from three-point range he’s taken this season (42.9%), so you’ve gotta guard him from out there. As I said, it’s truly painful that I can only name one RoY – I’m actually glad I don’t decide who gets the award.
Glen Rice Jr. was a walking bucket for Power all season. He can make shots from anywhere on the floor no matter how tightly he’s covered. However, his defense is an issue, and his iso-ball style of play takes away from what I love about watching Power.
Dominique Johnson is someone I could watch shoot all day. He’s made 16 threes on the season, second only to Jason Richardson and Gerald Green, who have made 17 apiece. Oh, and he’s shooting 53.3% from three-point range. Just as pure a shooter as you’ll find, and a perfect compliment to Frank Nitty, who isn’t the best outside shooter himself but is a willing passer who can always get the defense to collapse on him when he attacks the basket.
Corey Brewer is a nice player. I would definitely say Gerald Green is the rock upon which Bivouac has built its church, so it’s hard to seriously consider him for this award. Still, he does have Bivouac’s only two game-winning baskets since 2019.
4TH MAN OF THE YEAR:
TJ CLINE, POWER
Cline does have a bit of an unfair advantage here – team Captain Cuttino Mobley starts every game for Power. However, Mobley is dealing with a lingering Achilles strain and is 46 years old. This means that Power’s “true” starting lineup has been Glen Rice Jr., Royce White, and TJ Cline.
Cline is just such a wonderful glue guy, and he makes Power’s gameplan work. (This is where I’m obligated to mention that Cline is the son of Power Coach Nancy Lieberman, but Cline has proven himself on his own merits.)
Cline moves without the ball as well as any big man, and he has a knack for making himself open for a layup off a Royce White pass. If he has the ball and a teammate gets himself open under the basket, Cline will make the delivery. He can hit the three, and when he gets closed out on he’ll drive to the rack and unleash his patented floater. He has a sixth sense for what to do in “no-clear” situations, which is mind-boggling considering this is his first year playing FIREBALL3.
He never stops moving, and always has a trick or two up his sleeve. Check out this crossover-to-spin move he used to cash in a Bring The Fire challenge against Aliens center Tomislav Ivosev in Week 6 – I can all but guarantee you Tomislav did not know TJ had that move in his bag.
Well, those are my thoughts for the time being. There were some really tough calls, but the good news for me is that I’m not actually making them. Everyone reading this right now, the BIG3 faithful, will have the final word on who goes home with some nice hardware this offseason. Appreciate all these players have done, and think carefully before making your decision.