With the conclusion of the All-Star break last night it's time to take a look at how the race for the NBA's regular season awards is shaping up.
Winner - Lebron James, Cleveland Cavaliers
If your answer is not Lebron then you are in denial. This guy is beasting it this year, leading the league in scoring to the tune of 29.7 points a night and he is shooting 50.7% from the field. He also has a 62.1 true shooting percentage which accounts for the added value of three point shots and free throws. More impressive though is that Lebron is 6th in the league in assists averaging 8.3 per game. His versatility is off the charts with his ability to play anything from power forward to point guard, which he has done for the past 11 games, because of Mo Williams' injury. The Cavs' record without Williams? 11-0.
Runner-Up - Kevin Durant, Oklahoma City Thunder
While Durant may not be the creator that James is, he can flat out score from anywhere on the court. He's not just putting up big numbers, he's also doing it efficiently. He's shooting 48.5% from the field and his true shooting percentage is right behind Lebron at 60.6%. He's upped his rebounding from 6.5 boards a game last season to a team leading 7.4 this year. Durant's focus on the defensive end has also been noteworthy. While he's still not an elite defensive player, he's no longer a liability and he is turning into a much better team defender as he has learning to force players into areas where he can get defensive help. By the way, he's only 21. Scary.
Arbitrary Corresponding Hip-Hop Quote - Jermain Dupri
"I'm the MBP most ballinest playa, make my own moves, call me the mayor" - Welcome to Atlanta Remix
Sixth Man of the Year:
Winner - Jamal Crawford, Atlanta Hawks
Instant offense? Check. Game-winning shots? Check. Illest crossover in the NBA? Check. Crawford has proven the stupidity of the loser label he was tagged with. After stints on terrible teams in Chicago, New York and Golden State he has been one of the main reasons behind Atlanta's move up to the NBA elite. He's shooting a career high 46.4% from the field and a habit of stepping up big late in games. Crawford has added an explosive element to Atlanta's bench and if the game is close at the end can single handedly carry the Hawks across the finish line. He's one of the main reasons why the NBA's big boys don't want to see Atlanta in the playoffs.
Runner-Up - Carl Landry, Houston Rockets
Anytime you're listed as a 6-9 playing center for a team that lost its two leading scorers from the year before you have your work cut out for you. Landry has helped fill the void playing out of position and undersized with his ability to effectively score in the post over and bigger players. Landry has also been an effective rebounder and shows good effort and instincts on defense. The Rockets have been treading water in the West with role players having to step up and deliver night in and night out and few have done it as well as Landry has this year.
Arbitrary Corresponding Hip-Hop Quote - Kanye West
"My favorite girl wanna leave me just because I got a girlfriend, my freak girl told me now she's a Christian, my white girl wanna move back to Michigan, I'm pullin girls off the bench like a sixth man" - This Way (Dialated Peoples ft. Kanye)
Most Improved Player:
Winner - Aaron Brooks, Houston Rockets
Brooks has upped his numbers across the boards. He is averaging 19.4 points per game up from 11.2 last year and is doing it while shooting a better percentage from the field, even as teams key in on him as the Rockets' primary playmaker. While he's certainly not the best passing guard in the league his scoring contribution for a team lacking in star power has helped keep the Rockets in the thick of the playoff hunt in the uber competitive Western Conference.
Runner-up - Josh Smith, Atlanta Hawks
If not for Brooks, Josh Smith would be an easy choice for this award. He has rid himself of the poor shot selection that had plagued him throughout his career. Consequently removing the perimeter jump shot from his offensive repetoire has led to an improved field goal percentage. Smith has also upped his rebounding number from 7.2 last season to 8.5 this year. It's no coincidence that the Hawks have entered the discussion as a legitimate contender at the same time that Smith has taken the next step in his evolution as a player.
Arbitrary Corresponding Hip Hop Quote - Jay-Z
"You can blame Shawn but I ain't invent the game, i just rolled the dice trying to get some change" - Public Service Announcement (Interlude)
Defensive Player of the Year:
Winner - Dwight Howard, Orlando Magic
While his offensive game remains elementary at best, Howard continues to don his Superman cape on the other side of the ball. No player controls the paint in the league like Howard does, averaging 2.7 blocks per night not to mention the countless shots that opposing players are forced to alter due to his sheer presence. Orlando continues to be one of the league's best defensive units and Howard's shot blocking presence and ability to dominate the defensive glass is one of the primary reasons why.
Runner-up - Gerald Wallace, Charlotte Bobcats
Wallace has upped his game to another level this year. Already a good defensive player, Wallace has emerged as one of the league's top rebounders, averaging just under 11 boards per night. Oh Wallace is also a pain for opposing swingmen collecting 1.6 steals per game and is also a shot blocking presence averaging 1.2 blocks. Charlotte looks destined to clinch the franchise's first playoff birth and Wallace's defensive contributions have been a major factor in their rise to playoff contention.
Honorable Mention: Marc Gasol (MEM), Josh Smith (ATL), Joakim Noah (CHI), Jared Jeffries (NYK)
Arbitrary Corresponding Hip-Hop Quote - Lil Wayne
"Now whats defense to an assassin? Killer instincts, murder the basket, then steal the ball back, hold it for ransom" - Kobe Bryant (Yes, that is the name of the song. One of the most bizarre efforts I've ever heard from a guy who's creativity seems to coincide with how much codeine he put in his purple drank on any given day)
Rookie of the Year:
Winner - Tyreke Evans, Sacramento Kings
Imagine Lebron James, but standing at only 6'5 and weighing in at 220. That's what Evans is. No point guard in the NBA can match up with Evans' combination of size, strength, quickness and hops. He's averaging 20.3 points per night in addition to collecting 4.8 boards and dishing out 5.1 assists. At 21 years old, Evans is still developing and in only his second year playing as a point guard, has barely scratched the surface of his potential. Rajon Rondo and Derrick Rose need to step aside and make some room for Evans in the discussion for best young point guard.
Runner Up - Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors
Stephen Curry is developing into a baby faced assassin and alongside Monta Ellis forms half of might be the NBA's most exciting young backcourt. He's lighting it up from deep shooting a ridiculous 43.4% from three point range en route to averaging 14.8 points a night. He's also dishing out 4.9 assists a night. In his last game before the All-Star break Curry put up a triple double of 36 points, 13 assists and 10 rebounds. It looks like any concerns about his ability to adjust to the NBA's speed were misplaced.
Arbitrary Corresponding Hip-Hop Quote - Big L
"And when it comes to nookie I'm not a rookie, I got girls that make that chick Toni Braxton look like Whoopie" - Put It On
Coach of the Year:
Winner - Lionel Hollins, Memphis Grizzlies
Remember in the summer when everybody was laughing at this team for bringing notorious ball stopper in Zach Randolph and Allen Iverson? Well with A.I. gone to Philly, Hollins has helped mold this team into a playoff contender in the West, something few people saw coming. He has been able to continue to develop the Grizzlies' young talent in O.J. Mayo, Rudy Gay, Marc Gasol and Mike Conley and has led this team to an impressive recovery after a nightmare 1-8 start.
Runner-up - Scott Brooks, Oklahoma City Thunder
When your average is 24.4 and your team is in the thick of the Western Conference playoff picture, the coach is doing something right. Brooks deserves credit for overseeing the rapid development of Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and Jeff Green and getting them to play together as a team. His ability to get his young guns to compete on the defensive end has made the difference in the Thunder's rapid ascension in the West.
Honorable Mention - Rick Adelman (HOU), Larry Brown (CHA), Nate McMillan (POR)
Arbitrary Corresponding Hip-Hop Quote - Pacewon
"Back when Willis Reed came into the game scoring, back when Bill Bradley wasn't so darn boring, back with Phil Jackson before he had Jordan" - Four Quarters (That was a stretch)
First Team All NBA:
G Kobe Bryant (LAL), G Dwyane Wade (MIA), F Lebron James (CLE), F Chris Bosh (TOR), C Dwight Howard (ORL)
Second Team All NBA: