2009-10 NBA Awards Watch: Durant Gaining Steam in MVP Race
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The NBA regular season is nearing its end, with most teams having about 25 games to go.
After that, teams will either be battling it out in the playoffs, or positioning themselves for the draft and the upcoming free agency bonanza.
Could a reigning MVP be one of the players that actually changes teams this summer?
We'll see, but for now let's see where everybody stands for potential regular season awards as of today.
Most Valuable Player
1. LeBron James (CLE)
LeBron keeps his spot atop the rankings, as his amazing season continues.
As of Thursday afternoon, James is tied with Kevin Durant for the league lead in scoring (29.8 ppg), and also ranks sixth in the league in assists (8.5 apg).
It's not inconceivable to imagine James one day leading the league in both categories for an entire season, becoming the first player to do so since Tiny Archibald in the 1972-73 season.
As I've mentioned before, he's averaging this many assists on a team that doesn't provide him the greatest supporting cast in the world.
As long as he has his Cavaliers atop the Eastern Conference standings, this is LeBron's award to lose.
2. Kevin Durant (OKC)
If you took the best player away from each team with a legitimate MVP candidate, which team would struggle the most?
The answer is likely the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Durant has charged up the rankings amidst a recent nine-game winning streak, and his amazing 29-game streak of scoring 25 or more points in a game.
The Thunder are extremely talented, but without Durant, where would they be today?
3. Kobe Bryant (LAL)
Kobe returned from his injury in style Tuesday night with a game-winning three pointer to knock off the Grizzlies.
Unfortunately, the injury combined with the stellar play of Durant has cost him his previously-held two spot in these rankings.
4. Carmelo Anthony (DEN)
The oft-overshadowed Anthony has blossomed into one of the game's premier all-around players, and is leading a fearsome Nuggets team on a collision course with the Lakers in the Western Conference Finals for the second straight year.
5. Dirk Nowitzki (DAL)
The Mavs have been rejuvenated by the Caron Butler trade, and it should help Dirk to have some of that scoring load lifted off of his shoulders.
Rookie of the Year
1. Tyreke Evans (SAC)
Evans has a firm grasp on this award right now, and it'll be a shock if he doesn't win it.
In his last five games, Evans has upped his assists from an average of 5.4 on the season all the way up to eight.
Without Kevin Martin alongside him in the Kings' backcourt these days, his scoring numbers could continue to rise as well.
Evans is averaging just over 20 ppg on the season, and overall is having an amazing rookie season.
2. Brandon Jennings (MIL)
Jennings' season-long body of work keeps him here, but his shooting percentage is all the way down to just 37 percent.
Unless he improves again quickly, he will be overtaken.
3. Darren Collison (NO)
While his season stats aren't overwhelming (9.8 points, 4.4 assists), Collison has been an unbelievable surprise as Chris Paul's fill-in.
Over his last five, he's averaging 22.4 points, 9.8 assists, and 5.6 rebounds per game.
He's been much better as a pro than a college player.
4. Stephen Curry (GS)
Curry has been overshadowed by the other great rookie point guards this season, and it certainly doesn't help that he plays for the lowly Warriors.
Like Evans and Collison, Curry has been blowing up in his last five games: 19.4 points, 7.6 assists, 7.4 rebounds.
He's been a huge surprise as a passer and rebounder so far.
5. Marcus Thornton (NO)
Yet another red-hot rookie.
The Hornets' two guard is averaging 20 ppg over his last five, including a 23-point second quarter in Tuesday's loss to the Cavaliers.
It will be very interesting to see what kind of long-term role he can play for a team.
Coach of the Year
1. Scott Brooks (OKC)
Brooks has his Thunder in position to make the Western Conference playoffs. This is quite a feat considering they won just 23 games all of last year.
It certainly helps that Brooks has the most talented roster of young players in the entire league.
Brooks has done a magnificent job with this team, and he doesn't get nearly enough credit for their amazing turnaround.
2. Mike Woodson (ATL)
Woodson has helped turn the Hawks from perennial doormat to realistic Finals contenders.
3. Jerry Sloan (UTA)
The Jazz have been streaking lately, and Jerry Sloan once again gets very little credit.
Is this the year he finally takes home a Coach of the Year trophy?
4. Larry Brown (CHA)
The Bobcats are right on the verge of their first-ever playoff berth, and Brown has been instrumental in their success.
5. Lionel Hollins (MEM)
The Grizz have fallen off recently, but they're still alive for a playoff spot.
Considering how inexperienced the roster is, their success this season has been a huge surprise.
Sixth Man of the Year
1. Jamal Crawford (ATL)
With the trade of Carl Landry to Sacramento (where he's become a starter), Crawford appears to have this award all but wrapped up.
He's averaging 17 ppg this season, and has provided Atlanta with a great scoring punch off the bench all season long.
2. Lamar Odom (LAL)
Odom plays just 31 minutes per game, yet averages a double-double (10 ppg, 10 rpg).
3. Jason Terry (DAL)
Terry has rebounded after a slow start to the season, and will once again be coming off the Dallas bench with the addition of Caron Butler to the Mavericks' lineup.
4. JR Smith (DEN)
He continues to be a streaky shooter, but still averages 15 ppg off the bench.
5. Paul Millsap (UTA)
In perhaps his last season as Carlos Boozer's backup, Millsap has continued his steady play, averaging 11.5 points and 6.3 rebounds per game.
Defensive Player of the Year
1. Dwight Howard (ORL)
Howard continues to lead the league in both rebounding and shot-blocking, and is going to win this award for the second straight year.
2. Josh Smith (ATL)
Smith is averaging 8.6 rebounds and 2.1 blocks per game.
Amazingly, he's still only 24-years-old.
3. Gerald Wallace (CHA)
I said this last time, but it continues to amaze me. Wallace is just 6'7", and is averaging almost 11 rebounds per game.
He also averages 1.5 steals and over one block per game.
4. Anderson Varejao (CLE)
The Cavs' energy boost off the bench continues to be one of the more under-appreciated players in the league.
While his numbers don't jump out and his game isn't pretty, you can't argue with his effectiveness.
He could also be a Sixth Man candidate.
5. Brendan Haywood (DAL)
Haywood may have an argument to be higher, and if his performance continues the way it's been, he will rise.
He's averaging 12 rebounds and over three blocks as a member of the Mavericks, and has proven to be just as important an acquisition as Caron Butler has.
Most Improved Player
1. Aaron Brooks (HOU)
The arrival of Kevin Martin should benefit the young Rockets' point guard.
As the primary scorer all season long for Houston, Brooks is averaging 19 ppg.
He's made at least one three-pointer in 29 consecutive games, and leads the league in three-pointers made this season, with 141 so far.
2. Josh Smith (ATL)
Smith has improved as an overall player this season, and has been a major factor in Atlanta's surge out East.
3. Monta Ellis (GS)
Ellis averages a whopping 41 minutes per game this season, and that has certainly helped his numbers.
He's become a number-one scoring option, and averages 26 ppg.
4. Marc Gasol (MEM)
One of the league's most underrated players just keeps chugging along.
Gasol averages 15 points, nine rebounds, and just under two blocks per game.
5. Kevin Durant (OKC)
He's become a top-five player in the league this season, but it would be tough to say it wasn't expected.
He's tied with LeBron James for the league lead in scoring at 29.8 ppg (up from 25.3 last season), and is also grabbing 7.5 rebounds per game (up from 6.5 last season).
All-NBA First Team
C: Dwight Howard (ORL)
F: LeBron James (CLE)
F: Kevin Durant (OKC)
G: Kobe Bryant (LAL)
G: Dwyane Wade (MIA)
All-NBA Second Team
C: Andrew Bogut (MIL)
F: Carmelo Anthony (DEN)
F: Dirk Nowitzki (DAL)
G: Joe Johnson (ATL)
G: Steve Nash (PHX)
All-NBA Third Team
C: Brook Lopez (NJ)
F: Amar'e Stoudemire (PHX)
F: Chris Bosh (TOR)
G: Chauncey Billups (DEN)
G: Deron Williams (UTA)
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