2009-10 NBA Award Watch: LeBron James Leads Race for MVP
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After next weekend's All-Star break, the NBA 's stretch run will unofficially be underway.
While the teams try to sort themselves out for playoff positioning, players (and coaches) will also be jockeying for postseason honors.
So, with the final stretch almost upon us, which players are distancing themselves as the main contenders for major awards?
Most Valuable Player
1. LeBron James (CLE)
With Kobe Bryant battling an array of injuries, LeBron James has taken over as the absolute frontrunner to win his second-consecutive MVP.
James is averaging 29.4 points, 7.1 rebounds, and 8.2 assists per game for a Cleveland Cavaliers team distancing itself from the pack in the East.
The King, still just 25 years old, has become the league's best all-around player, dazzling fans on a nightly basis with his strength, athleticism, court vision, and highlight reel plays.
2. Kobe Bryant (LAL)
In my opinion, Kobe was on his way to winning this award until Cleveland took off.
3. Carmelo Anthony (DEN)
The NBA's co-leader in scoring, while having missed time recently due to injury, has helped the Denver Nuggets prove that last season's success was no fluke.
4. Dirk Nowitzki (DAL)
The Dallas Mavericks are struggling, but Dirk has continued his under-the-radar stellar season.
5. Chris Bosh (TOR)
The Toronto Raptors are rapidly rising in the standings, led by a career season from Bosh (averaging 24 points and 11 rebounds).
Rookie of the Year
1. Tyreke Evans (SAC)
Evans ranks 13th in the league in scoring (20.7 ppg) and, although the Sacramento Kings have faltered since the return of Kevin Martin, is still the leading candidate for Rookie of the Year.
He's been battling injuries lately, but they haven't been enough to adversely affect his performance on the floor.
His scoring knack has translated to the NBA almost seamlessly, and while he may not be a true point guard, his numbers reflect great all-around talent.
2. Brandon Jennings (MIL)
Jennings stormed onto the scene during the NBA's first half, but his shooting has tailed off since then.
3. Stephen Curry (GS)
Curry's numbers took off in January, and he hasn't let all the losing affect his positive attitude.
4. Jonny Flynn (MIN)
Flynn has been a solid scoring option for the Minnesota Timberwolves all year long, but has struggled a bit in the role of a true point guard.
5. Omri Casspi (SAC)
Casspi has been a big hit as a rookie, and has been a great boost of energy all season long.
Coach of the Year
1. Lionel Hollins (MEM)
Hollins has helped bring the Memphis Grizzlies from the cellar of the West up towards the brink of playoff contention.
While he's been helped by the play of one of the league's most improved frontcourts, his efforts cannot be overlooked.
Should they make the playoffs, the Grizzlies would be one of the most surprising "Cinderella" teams in history.
2. Mike Woodson (ATL)
He's taken them from the lottery to two consecutive playoff appearances, and this year he has the Atlanta Hawks breaking into the upper echelon of teams in the East.
3. Rick Adelman (HOU)
The 2009-10 installment of the Houston Rockets may be Rick Adelman's finest coaching job just yet.
4. Nate McMillan (POR)/Scott Brooks (OKC)
Despite an injury of his own, McMillan has kept the injury-riddled Portland Trail Blazers relevant out West.
The Oklahoma City Thunder have already surpassed last season's win total and have perhaps the brightest future of any team in the league.
5. Larry Brown (CHA)
The Charlotte Bobcats are in position to make the playoffs for the first time in franchise history.
Sixth Man of the Year
1. Jamal Crawford (ATL)
As mentioned above, the Hawks are legitimate contenders in the Eastern Conference for the first time in years.
Crawford has been a major part of that, averaging almost 18 points per game coming off the bench.
He's always been able to put the ball in the basket, but, for the first time in his career, he's doing it for a playoff team.
2. Carl Landry (HOU)
Landry, in his third season, is having the best year of his career and has teamed with Aaron Brooks to form one of the league's more underrated high-low combinations.
3. Lamar Odom (LAL)
Odom is averaging 9.7 rebounds per game in just over 31 minutes per game this season.
4. JR Smith (DEN)
Smith is a dynamic scorer off the bench and is averaging about 15 points per game in about 27 minutes per.
5. Jason Terry (DAL)
Terry has had a solid season, but if he remains in Dallas' starting lineup, he won't be eligible for this award at the end of the year.
Defensive Player of the Year
1. Dwight Howard (ORL)
Howard is once again leading the league in rebounding (13.3) and blocked shots (2.73).
Still just 24 years old, this is an award Howard could conceivably win every season for several years.
2. Gerald Wallace (CHA)
Wallace, just 6'7", is averaging 11 rebounds per game (seventh in the NBA), 1.6 steals, and 1.2 blocks per game.
3. Marcus Camby (LAC)
The Cambyman is still doing it at 35 years old, averaging 12 boards and two blocks per game.
4. Josh Smith (ATL)
Smith finally appears to be on his way to harnessing all that talent and is having his best season yet.
5. Joakim Noah (CHI)
Like Smith, Noah is having the best year of his career and is averaging 12 rebounds and 1.7 blocks per game.
Most Improved Player
1. Aaron Brooks (HOU)
No player has enjoyed a bigger leap in his scoring numbers than Brooks this season for the Rockets.
He's become their leading scorer averaging 19.3 points per game this season, up from 11 last year.
Much of the improvement can be attributed to playing time, as he's averaging almost 11 more minutes per game this season than last season.
2. Josh Smith (ATL)
Smith's game and has taken a huge leap this season and, in my opinion, he is the biggest All-Star snub.
3. Joakim Noah (CHI)
Noah worked hard during the offseason to improve on both ends of the court, and the effort is showing with his production.
4. Kevin Durant (OKC)/Monta Ellis (GS)
Durant has progressed quickly from his rookie season and he's starting to look as dominant in the NBA as he did in college. Scary.
Ellis, after a tumultuous year last year, is quietly sixth in the league in scoring at 26.5 points per game.
His assists are also up to 5.4 per game from 3.7 last year.
5. Marc Gasol (MEM)
Marc Gasol has helped to make the Pau Gasol trade from a couple years ago look much better than it did initially.
He currently ranks third in the league in field goal percentage for the surprising Grizzlies.
All-NBA First Team
C: Dwight Howard (ORL)
F: Carmelo Anthony (DEN)
F: LeBron James (CLE)
G: Kobe Bryant (LAL)
G: Dwyane Wade (MIA)
All-NBA Second Team
C: Brook Lopez (NJ)
F: Chris Bosh (TOR)
F: Dirk Nowitzki (DAL)
G: Joe Johnson (ATL)
G: Steve Nash (PHX)
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