NBA awards heading into All-Star break

Posted: February 11, 2011

TECHNICALLY, next weekend's NBA All-Star break is more like three-fourths through the season instead of halfway. Still, the upcoming pause in the schedule provides a logical break to assess what has gone on so far and determine the front-runners for myriad awards:

Most Valuable Player

Even if, out of principle, I had not disqualified LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh for putting together that little triumvirate in South Beach, I wouldn't give it to any of them.

The Heat is not the invincible juggernaught everyone predicted it would be and, frankly, it's hard to figure out whether James (26.4 points, 7.3 assists, 7.3 rebounds) or Wade (25.2 points, 4.4 assists, 6.8 rebounds) is more important to the team.

But I do have co-MVPs - Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker, of the San Antonio Spurs.

With Tim Duncan slowing down after 13 years of NBA pounding, no one expected the Spurs to post a league-best 44-8 record going into tonight's game against the Sixers.

By combining for nearly 36 points and 12 assists, Ginobili (18.3 points, 5.0 assists) and Parker (17.5 points, 6.8 assists) have transformed the way the Spurs have done things and got them right back into the championship mix.

Also in the running are scoring leader Kevin Durant, of the Oklahoma City Thunder, and point guard Derrick Rose, of the Chicago Bulls.

Coach of the Year

You have to stay in Texas and go with Gregg Popovich, of San Antonio.

Despite having four NBA championships, Popovich always seems to get overlooked when talking about all-time great coaches.

A year ago, the Spurs won 50 games and were the seventh seed in the Western Conference.

Now, with basically the same players, "Pop" had the Spurs leading the West by seven games, heading into last night.

I know Sixers coach Doug Collins has done an amazing job, but the coach of the year can't be from a team that probably won't finish over .500.

Rookie of the Year

Blake Griffin is so good he might actually be able to overcome the curse of the Los Angeles Clippers. It looked like typical Clippers luck when Griffin blew out his knee in the preseason after being drafted No. 1 overall in 2009.

He missed all of what should have been his rookie campaign.

The wait has been worth it.

Griffin leads rookies in scoring (22.6) and rebounds (12.6), while ranking second in the league in double-doubles.

Oh, yeah, he is the first rookie to be an All-Star since Yao Ming was voted to start in 2003.

John Wall is the best player from the 2010 draft, but he's played only 39 games. His teammate at Kentucky, DeMarcus Cousins, finishes second, with New York Knicks rookie free agent Landry Fields placing third.

Sixth man

Once again, we'd like to give a hometown discount, but, justifiably, we can't.

Lou Williams (13.8) has been tremendous off the bench for the Sixers, but Jason Terry, of the Dallas Mavericks, scores more (15.9) and logs nearly 9 more minutes a game.

If you want to question the inclusion of Terry because he does have 10 starts, Atlanta's Jamal Crawford (15.7 points) is the leading scorer among players with no starts.

Most improved player

I generally believe lottery picks never should be eligible to be most improved. If a lottery pick gets better, I call it realizing his potential. But the NBA doesn't see it that way.

So how can you not go with Minnesota Timberwolves big man Kevin Love?

After averaging 14.0 points and 11.0 rebounds last season, Love has bumped those numbers up to 21.4 points and 15.6 rebounds.

He leads the NBA with 47 double-doubles in 52 games. Love will make his All-Star debut in the city were he played in college at UCLA.

Making a run at Love is his former UCLA teammate, Oklahoma City point guard Russell Westbrook, another first-time All-Star, and Los Angeles Clippers guard Eric Gordon.

Executive of the Year

Dywane Wade, of the Miami Heat. We know he's a player , but if being a great executive is about acquiring players, nobody orchestrated a greater transaction than Wade.

In fact, considering Wade enticed both James and Bosh to Miami, the award might have to be retired permanently.

How do you top the greatest player-acquisition move in NBA history? James likely would have stayed in Cleveland if Bosh had joined the Cavaliers.

Wade squashed that by reminding Bosh of how much better it is lie on the sand on South Beach than lie on the shores of Lake Erie.

Once Bosh said no thanks to Cleveland, James made "The Decision" to take his talents to South Beach.

Miami president Pat Riley likely will get the award, but, thanks to Wade, all Riley had to do was watch the ink on the contract dry.

Worst prediction

Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert angrily responded to LeBron James' leaving for Miami by guaranteeing his team will win an NBA championship "before the self-titled former 'King' wins one."

The way things are going, James might win an NBA title before the Cavs, who have lost an NBA-record 26 straight, win another game. *

Send e-mail to

smallwj@phillynews.com.

For recent columns, go to

www.philly.com/Smallwood.

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