With all NBA teams close to the 33-game midway mark ahead of All-Star weekend in this truncated season, it's time to toss out some mid-season awards, even if they mean absolutely nothing.MVP
A lot of people seem to be calling LeBron James here, and there's some good reasons statistically for it. LBJ is posting career-best numbers in field-goal percentage, three-point shooting and rebounds, while leading Miami in scoring.
He's also setting a career high in the sexy PER (player efficiency rating) stat, although he's led the league in that compilation category every year since 2008 simply by virtue of his game.
The historic issue with nitpicking an MVP candidate however is whether or not that player makes his team better (the award is for most valuable after all, not best player). And in this season's case, you can say James has done that. Miami is 8-1 with Dwyane Wade out.
That may be James' most important statistic in this race, because without it Kevin Durant (also at career-highs in FG% and three-point shooting to go with almost 28 points per game) would probably be the favourite for the Maurice Podoloff Trophy.
Behind James and Durant, nobody else is even close.Rookie of the Year
I personally love Ricky Rubio's game in Minnesota, but there's no way you can't give it to Kyrie Irving. The rookie from Duke looks like a veteran some nights, and leads the Cavs in scoring. It almost makes you wonder how much better Irving would look with a player of Kevin Love's ilk on the Cleveland roster.
The versatile Kawhi Leonard should be included in the conversation as well, given his shooting and rebounding contributions to the Southwest-leading Spurs.Defensive Player of the Year
It's becoming old hat to give this award to Dwight Howard, so it's fun to look for reasons he won't win it. But even the tornado of trade talk and his own inability to keep it in perspective hasn't affected Howard's defensive dominance, as he's posting a career high in rebounds. As a team however, Orlando seems less imposing.
Here's where you'll get the argument: Is it in an individual award or a team contribution award? While not as individually dominant as Howard, it's pretty clear that Tyson Chandler is a massive reason the Knicks have gone from 27th in points allowed last season to 12th this season.
However to put that in perspective, the Toronto Raptors have also gone from 26th to 13th in the same time, and that's solely because of coach Dwane Casey. You have to give the Sixers' Andre Iguodala credit here too. But a big man will just about always take it over a perimeter defender. Just give it to Dwight, it will only be his fourth straight Defensive Player of the Year award.Coach of the Year:
Speaking of the Sixers, this is a shoo-in for Doug Collins. If you had told me in October that Philadelphia would be leading the Atlantic at the All-Star break, you probably would have been laughed at. If you had told me two years ago that Collins was a good basketball coach, you definitely would have been laughed at.
But give credit it's due. The Sixers are statistically the best defensive team in the NBA right now, allowing a league-low 87.4 points per game and the NBA's lowest points-per-possession going into Wednesday.
Collins has taken a roster that could fairly be viewed the past two seasons as "also-ran" and made them buy into a total team game, clamping down defensively
and sharing the ball on offence.
Not to put too fine a point on Collins, but this may be his finest work. He's never lasted more than three seasons in an NBA coaching job, and he was viewed in Chicago and Detroit as a coach who came up short despite deep talent.Most Improved Player:
Who else but Jeremy Lin. Sorry everybody, this is the only season hardware he's likely to win this year.
In the spirit of Raptors fans watching Roy Hibbert in Sunday's All-Star Game, here's another stupid mistake. While it lacks the high comedy of Javale McGee running back in non-transition
, if you didn't catch it already, here's Minny's Martell Webster stealing the ball and driving for a dunk instead of trying for a game-tying three
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