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News » And the winner should be ?

And the winner should be ?

And the winner should be ?
Last week in this space the NBA's Most Valuable Player race was analyzed. The conclusion was that Cleveland's LeBron James deserves to edge out Miami's Dwyane Wade and the Lakers' Kobe Bryant for the association's top individual honor. Today, with just 10 days remaining in the regular season, here's a look at the other major NBA awards: COACH OF THE YEAR The top candidates: Cleveland's Mike Brown, Orlando's Stan Van Gundy, Portland's Nate McMillan, Houston's Rick Adelman, the Lakers' Phil Jackson. The arguments: First off, it's just wrong that Utah's Jerry Sloan has never won this award.

Some will say he deserves consideration this year for keeping the Jazz afloat while they had numerous injuries. But, truth be told, the Jazz have underperformed down the stretch while healthy, and this hasn't been Sloan's best coaching job of the past 20 years. This isn't a lifetime achievement award, either. The Cavs and Lakers will finish with the best records in the league, but Brown and Jackson have the luxury of having the two best players in Basketball ? James and Bryant, respectively ? playing for them. Brown should get some top-coach consideration thanks to his team's willingness to play tough defense and winning a franchise-record number of games. Van Gundy, the Ron Jeremy look-alike, has done an outstanding job with the Magic even after star point guard Jameer Nelson went out with a season-ending injury. Adelman's Rockets, meanwhile, got better without star Tracy McGrady, while McMillan has the young Blazers poised to get back into the playoffs. Who should win: Van Gundy just barely over Brown. ROOKIE OF THE YEAR The top candidates: Memphis' O.J. Mayo, Chicago's Derrick Rose, Oklahoma City's Russell Westbrook, Minnesota's Kevin Love, New Jersey's Brook Lopez The arguments: Mayo leads all first-year scorers, averaging 18.3 points per game, but was better in the first half of the season. Rose is the starting point guard on a playoff-bound team, is second in rookie scoring (16.6 ppg) and first in assists (6.2 apg). He's also a good rebounder for a guard, grabbing nearly four boards per game. Westbrook, a combo guard from UCLA, has been a huge bright spot for the Thunder. He's a strong all-around player, averaging 15.6 points, 5.1 assists and 4.8 points. Love, Westbrook's teammate at UCLA, started slowly and wouldn't have even been in this discussion during the first half of the season. But he's come on strong during the second half of the season for the Timberwolves and is the top rebounder among rookies, averaging 8.9 per game. Lopez has been solid all season, averaging 13 points and eight boards per game for the otherwise disappointing Nets. Who should win: In a solid rookie class, Rose smells the sweetest. DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR The top candidates: New Orleans' Chris Paul, Miami's Dwyane Wade, Houston's Shane Battier, Orlando's Dwight Howard, Cleveland's LeBron James. The arguments: James is the best defender on the best team, but he'll get his reward as the league's MVP. Paul leads the league in steals once again, followed by Wade. Both are pesky and nearly as good of defenders as they are offensive players. Battier is the ultimate team player who is known for his smarts. He's missed too much of the season to win this award, though. That leaves Howard, who leads the league in both blocks (2.93 per game) and rebounds (13.9). Who should win: Howard. He's having an MVP-caliber season for one of the best teams in the league but will come in fourth in the voting. This will be a nice consolation prize. SIXTH MAN OF THE YEAR The top candidates: Utah's Paul Millsap, New York's Nate Robinson, Phoenix's Leandro Barbosa, Dallas' Jason Terry, San Antonio's Manu Ginobili. The arguments: The Jazz's top candidate for this award was supposed to be Andrei Kirilenko. Instead, Millsap, Utah's lowest-paid player, has completely outperformed Kirilenko, Utah's highest-paid player. One problem for Millsap is that he's started too much this year to be considered a true "sixth man" thanks to the extended injury to Carlos Boozer. Terry and Robinson have both been instant offense for their clubs. Terry averages 18.6 points per game, while Robinson, the shortest current player in the NBA, averages 18.1. Ginobili won the award last season and Barbosa won it for the 2006-07 campaign. But both former winners have had injury problems this time around. Who should win: Terry, who is a major reason the Mavs are headed to the playoffs. MOST IMPROVED PLAYER The top candidates: Utah's Paul Millsap, Oklahoma City's Kevin Durant, Indiana's Danny Granger, Denver's Nene, New Jersey's Devin Harris. The arguments: Millsap became a double-double machine when Boozer was injured and has become the best value in Basketball. No one should feel sorry for him, however, since he will earn a big payday this summer. Durant was last season's Rookie of the Year, yet he's gotten so much better this year that he's a major candidate for most improved player. He will finish the season fourth in scoring ? behind only Wade, James and Bryant. Granger, the former New Mexico star, was rightfully selected to his first All-Star game this year. He's averaging 25.3 points per game, which is nearly 10 points better than his career average. One drawback for him, however, is that he missed a month due to injury. This used to be known as the "Comeback Player of the Year" award. If it still were, it would be Nene's this season, no questions asked. The one-named Brazilian big man returned to become a major factor in the Nuggets' success after sitting out most of last season while battling testicular cancer. Harris, meanwhile, put up much bigger numbers in his first full season with the Nets than he had when he was with Dallas. He became an All-Star in the process. Who should win: Nene. Coming back from cancer to help Denver likely reclaim the Northwest Division crown is a remarkable achievement. E-mail:

Author: Fox Sports
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Added: April 6, 2009


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