February 03, 2010
We've passed the midway point. We're heading to the All-Star break. We're veering toward the trade deadline. Antawn Jamison's(notes) going to be running the point for the Orlando Magic, soon enough. It's all happening.
Why not take a step back and go over one mug's choices for the year-end awards. Click the link and don't tip your drink.
Most Valuable Player
It's not even close. No player combines all the important facets of an NBA game and performs them as well and as consistently as James. At this rate, anything outside of a unanimous win should be cause for concern from the voters.
He might be chucking quite a bit (chucking quite successfully, people should know), but his all-around play and late-game brilliance has Kobe rolling along.
Duncan is outperforming Kobe at his best, but I can't continue to look away from the minutes disparity between the two.
Sixth Man of the Year
He's not just one of Houston's best players, who happens to come off the bench. He is Houston's best player. And he comes off the bench. This alone doesn't separate him from the rest of this list, but it's worth thinking about as you peruse the other names.
3. Jamal Crawford, Atlanta Hawks
Always a good guy who just didn't get it, Crawford's having a fantastic season because he gets it now, and we feel great for this good guy. He's all Atlanta could have hoped for. The difference between him and Manu is closing, too, and as long as JC continues to play more minutes than Ginobili, he'll have him beat soon enough.
Most Improved Player
1. Kevin Durant, Oklahoma City Thunder
Tell me that I'm just tossing out a big name to grab a bit of attention, whatever gets you through the mid-morning. As great as Durant was last season, and as much as someone his age should be expected to get better, it doesn't mean he hasn't been the most improved player I've seen in this league from last season to 2009-10. The semi-intangibles (close-outs, better screens for teammates) and intangibles (rebounds, extra passes, interior shooting accuracy) just make for an MIP for me.
2. Luke Ridnour, Milwaukee Bucks
Luke has gotten much better, without turning the ball over more or losing his ability to find others.
He's always had the talent to do this, sure, but that doesn't mean he hasn't improved quite a bit this season.
Others: Zach Randolph(notes) (not a fan of his shot selection over the last month), Danilo Gallinari(notes) (second year guy, sure, but he's also much, much improved), Chris Kaman(notes) (loses points for playing like this a few years ago)
Defensive Player of the Year
Quick test. Whether you have League Pass, or are following the Cavaliers through that team's 97 national TV appearances this season, count in your head how many times you've seen Varejao flop in a game. I've seen quite a bit of his minutes, and I can barely recall any, a far shot from the three flops per half that infuriated so much (infuriated even Cavs fans, because refs stopped giving him the benefit of the doubt) before this season.
If you're lucky, you have a chance to block three shots (three possessions altered) a game. But every time down court, your ability to show on a screen-and-roll or protect the paint or close out properly or secure a defensive rebound can alter things completely and utterly. That's what Varejao does consistently.
Was I previously a bit too harsh on Howard based on his impact relative to where it was last season? Perhaps. Am I still that way? Perhaps. I'm a sportswriter, after all. Truth isn't always what we're after.
He's starting to get lost a bit more, but Ron can still change things.
Rookie of the Year
All-around play and a startling level of consistency (though he's had some issues of late) that you usually don't see in someone his age.
Brandon missed six of seven shots Tuesday night. He'll do that to you, but the overall body of work holds up.
His stats are way up there because of the sheer amount of minutes he plays (34 a game). But for a guy who some thought wouldn't be up to the task of keeping up on this level, that's a plus. Am I awarding credit to someone based on somebody else's poor scouting? Sure, and you can argue Omri Casspi(notes) or Ty Lawson(notes) in this spot, and I couldn't blame you.
Coach of the Year
1. Lionel Hollins, Memphis Grizzlies
Larry Brown traded for a bunch of guys who knew how to play defense. Hollins inherited and was given a heap of players that knew how to score, but didn't know how to blend in with other teammates. And he's turned their fortunes around. Hollins has created that synergy, and the Grizzlies are fighting for a playoff spot as a result.
2. Larry Brown, Charlotte Bobcats
A sterling job coaching defense from this stalwart.
3. Rick Adelman, Houston Rockets
Name their seventh man. Name him.
Others: Doc Rivers, Mike Brown, Phil Jackson, a cast of — honestly — a half-dozen others