SI.com's Ian Thomsen and Chris Mannix are among the media members who cast official ballots for the NBA's top performers of the 2008-09 season. Here's how they will vote for each of the major individual awards. (All statistics and records are through Tuesday.)
 
MOST VALUABLE PLAYER
Ian Thomsen
LeBron James
FORWARD
PPGRPGAPGSPG
28.47.67.21.69
2. Kobe Bryant, G, Lakers
3. Dwyane Wade, G, Heat
4. Chris Paul, G, Hornets
5. Dwight Howard, C, Magic
To think that LeBron has yet to peak. At 24, he has led the Cavs to the league's best record and an improvement of at least 21 victories while accumulating the numbers of a modern-day Oscar Robertson. Bryant edges Wade for second because nothing in the regular season is more valuable than leading a team into championship contention. Which does not diminish the accomplishments of Wade, who is the reason Miami is back in the playoffs after its 67-loss season in 2007-08.
Chris Mannix
LeBron James
FORWARD
PPGRPGAPGSPG
28.47.67.21.69
2. Kobe Bryant, G, Lakers
3. Dwyane Wade, G, Heat
4. Chris Paul, G, Hornets
5. Dwight Howard, C, Magic
In addition to his overwhelming offensive play, James has developed Tayshaun Prince-like defensive skills (if he's within 30 feet of the ball when a fast break starts, he's a threat to block a shot) and a Steve Nash-like ability to raise his teammates' games. The truly frightening fact is that the six-year veteran is far from a finished product. With some improvements in his on-the-ball defense and post game, James could be the runaway winner of this award for the next five years.
 
ROOKIE OF THE YEAR
Ian Thomsen
Derrick Rose
GUARD
PPGRPGAPGFG%
16.83.96.347.5
2. Brook Lopez, C, Nets
3. O.J. Mayo, G, Grizzlies
Not only does Rose promise to eventually join Chris Paul and Deron Williams among the top point guards in the league, but he also showed instant leadership of a Bulls franchise that had been seeking an elite star since Michael Jordan. The Nets have their center for the next decade in Lopez, a huge steal with the No. 10 pick. Mayo holds on for the bronze despite a second-half sprint to the finish by Oklahoma City's Russell Westbrook.
Chris Mannix
Derrick Rose
GUARD
PPGRPGAPGFG%
16.83.96.347.5
2. O.J. Mayo, G, Grizzlies
3. Brook Lopez, C, Nets
I had Mayo on top most of the season, but his swoon in March combined with Rose's leading the red-hot Bulls into the playoffs clinched it for the Chicago point guard. Manning the NBA's most complex position like a 10-year vet, Rose has been consistent from start (18.9 points, 6.1 assists in November) to finish (19.0 points, 6.8 assists in April). Mayo may still turn out to be a star, but Rose is poised to join the elite class of point guards next season.
 
COACH OF THE YEAR
Ian Thomsen
Mike Brown
WINSLOSES
6615
2. Rick Adelman, Rockets
3. Erik Spoelstra, Heat
A dozen others could be recognized but no one is more deserving than Brown, who has emphasized defense while building a team around LeBron that resembles the dynamic Phil Jackson created in Chicago several years ago. Adelman started the year developing a half-court offense through Tracy McGrady and finished it winning with two young, up-tempo point guards (Aaron Brooks and Kyle Lowry) and a defense anchored by Shane Battier, Ron Artest and Luis Scola. Spoelstra put together the league's biggest one-year improvement as a rookie coach.
Chris Mannix
Stan Van Gundy
WINSLOSES
5823
2. Mike Brown, Cavaliers
3. Nate McMillan, Trail Blazers
You could make a case for the coach who has taken his team from rags to riches (Spoelstra); the coach who has led his young team to the brink of hosting a first-round playoff series (McMillan); the coach whose team has dominated all season (Brown); or a few other strong candidates. But Van Gundy gets my vote for transitioning from one starting point guard (Jameer Nelson) to another (Rafer Alston) without skipping a beat, for developing spindly Rashard Lewis into an All-Star power forward and for molding a team of fourth-quarter killers (51-1 when leading with five minutes left).
 
SIXTH MAN AWARD
Ian Thomsen
Jason Terry
GUARD
PPGAPGFG%FT%
19.53.446.188.0
2. Nate Robinson, G, Knicks
3. Chris Andersen, F-C, Nuggets
Terry, a starter most of his career, has a higher scoring average than any of the last 18 Sixth Man winners. He has been a steady presence for playoff-bound Dallas. Robinson (16.6 points in 62 games as a sub) had several big performances for the Knicks. Andersen (2.46 blocks) provided crucial production in limited minutes.
Chris Mannix
Jason Terry
GUARD
PPGAPGFG%FT%
19.53.446.188.0
2. Nate Robinson, G, Knicks
3. Travis Outlaw, F, Trail Blazers
Terry is a valuable contributor on a playoff team who always seems to be operating under control. Robinson is also an explosive scorer; that's the good. The bad is that he is reckless with the ball, makes as many boneheaded plays as he does spectacular ones and often has looked to be one turnover away from being throttled by his coach. Advantage, Terry.
 
MOST IMPROVED PLAYER
Ian Thomsen
Danny Granger
FORWARD
PPGRPGBPG3PG%
25.75.01.4240.0
2. Devin Harris, G, Nets
3. Kevin Durant, F, Thunder
Granger does a lot of scoring and a good deal of everything else for the Pacers, who were forced to rely entirely on him because of a near-year-long knee injury to Mike Dunleavy. Harris made the most of the opportunities drawn up for him by coach Lawrence Frank to join Granger as a first-time All-Star. Durant turned from an erratic rookie into a budding star who looks like he'll be dominant sooner than later.
Chris Mannix
Devin Harris
GUARD
PPGAPGSPGFT%
21.36.91.6582.0
2. Paul Millsap, F, Jazz
3. David Lee, F, Knicks
I don't understand some voters. Kevin Durant? He was the No. 2 pick in the draft last season. Danny Granger? He was already nearly a 20-point-per-game scorer and good enough to warrant a $60 million contract in the offseason. This award belongs to a player who burst onto the scene to become a star. No player fits that description better than Harris, who improved his scoring average an NBA-best 6.5 points.
 
DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR
Ian Thomsen
Dwight Howard
CENTER
DRPGBPGSPGMPG
9.62.92.9735.9
2. LeBron James, F, Cavaliers
3. Kevin Garnett, F, Celtics
Known as a finesse three-point team, the Magic rank No. 3 in field-goal defense because Howard controls the defensive boards and the paint. James has committed to defending, which is a big reason why the Cavs rank in the top two in scoring and shooting defense. Though KG sat for most of the final two months, his fingerprints are all over Boston's NBA-leading field-goal defense.
Chris Mannix
Dwight Howard
CENTER
DRPGBPGSPGMPG
9.62.92.9735.9
2. Kevin Garnett, F, Celtics
3. Kobe Bryant, G, LA Lakers
As tempted as I was to vote for Shane Battier, Ron Artest or Bryant, it's impossible to overlook Howard's accomplishments for the Magic, who have become a top defensive team. Howard is set to join Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Bill Walton, Hakeem Olajuwon and Ben Wallace as the only players to lead the NBA in rebounding and blocked shots.
 
ALL-NBA TEAMS
First Team
Ian Thomsen
Kobe Bryant
GUARD
PPGRPGAPGSPG
26.85.24.91.46
Dwyane Wade
GUARD
PPGRPGAPGSPG
30.25.07.52.19
LeBron James
FORWARD
PPGRPGAPGSPG
28.47.67.21.69
Paul Pierce
FORWARD
PPGRPGAPGFG%
20.55.63.645.7
Dwight Howard
CENTER
PPGRPGBPGFG%
20.713.92.9257.4
Chris Mannix
Kobe Bryant
GUARD
PPGRPGAPGSPG
26.85.24.91.46
Dwyane Wade
GUARD
PPGRPGAPGSPG
30.25.07.52.19
LeBron James
FORWARD
PPGRPGAPGSPG
28.47.67.21.69
Tim Duncan
FORWARD
PPGRPGAPGBPG
19.310.63.51.69
Dwight Howard
CENTER
PPGRPGBPGFG%
20.713.92.9257.4
Second Team
G Chris Paul, Hornets
G Brandon Roy, Trail Blazers
F Tim Duncan, Spurs
F Pau Gasol, Lakers
C Yao Ming, Rockets
G Chris Paul, Hornets
G Brandon Roy, Trail Blazers
F Paul Pierce, Celtics
F Dirk Nowitzki, Mavericks
C Yao Ming, Rockets
Third Team
G Tony Parker, Spurs
G Deron Williams, Jazz
F Dirk Nowitzki, Mavericks
F Chris Bosh, Raptors
C Shaquille O'Neal, Suns
Pierce is a first-teamer because of his leadership in Garnett's absence. Gasol stepped into Andrew Bynum's role at midseason while posting terrific numbers. Roy is a shadow MVP as the league's least-recognized fourth-quarter star. Bosh is to Toronto as Garnett was recently to Minnesota, a proud star who holds up his end regardless of others' failings. The most difficult omissions were Joe Johnson (nosed out by Parker) and KG (who missed too many games).
G Tony Parker, Spurs
G Deron Williams, Jazz
F Kevin Garnett, Celtics
F Pau Gasol, Lakers
C Shaquille O'Neal, Suns
Wade's season was enough to bump Paul from the first team. Williams, who was slowed by an ankle injury early in the season, came on strong in the second half to edge Joe Johnson on the third team. Shaq returns to the All-NBA team thanks to his best season in three years. There was no room for New Orleans forward David West, among others. Along with Paul, West has kept the injury-plagued Hornets viable in the Western Conference.
 

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