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Midseason Awards

NBA Midseason Awards
With the 2010-11 season at the halfway mark, SI.com's NBA writers make their picks for the league's top performers. (All stats and records are through Jan. 19.)
MVP
Top 5
LeBron James
Amar'e Stoudemire
Dwight Howard
Kobe Bryant
Derrick Rose
Ian Thomsen
No player has had a greater impact than James. He has transformed Miami into a title contender while running the point, leading the team in scoring, ranking No. 2 in rebounding and contributing to one of the league's top defensive units. Stoudemire has turned the Knicks into surprising playoff contenders, while Howard has kept Orlando in deep-playoff contention despite the absence of size around him. Bryant's contributions go without saying, but Rose has been a revelation by leading the Bulls in points and assists and driving them to a 28-14 start despite numerous injuries.
Top 5
Amar'e Stoudemire
Derrick Rose
Dirk Nowitzki
LeBron James
Dwyane Wade
Lee Jenkins
As James predicted, he and Wade split votes. Nowitzki's candidacy has been boosted by the Mavericks' recent slide without him. And Rose has evolved into arguably the league's most dynamic point guard, keeping the Bulls near the top of the Eastern Conference despite injuries to Carlos Boozer and then Joakim Noah. But Stoudemire has turned the Knicks from afterthoughts to contenders and rejuvenated a historical power with a steady onslaught of 20/10s.
Top 5
Dwight Howard
Chris Paul
Dirk Nowitzki
Derrick Rose
LeBron James
Zach Lowe
Howard is scoring as efficiently as ever despite carrying a heavier load, and he's still the game's most disruptive defensive force. His skill at both protecting the rim and defending pick-and-rolls have allowed Magic GM Otis Smith to focus solely on offense in shaking up the roster. No one does more with less than Paul, who slides above the ultra-efficient Nowitzki here because Dirk has missed about 20 percent of the season. Rose and James belong in the conversation.
Top 5
LeBron James
Derrick Rose
Amar'e Stoudemire
Russell Westbrook
Dwight Howard
Chris Mannix
Even with James sharing the stage with two All-NBA-caliber players, even with the early-season struggles that (briefly) threatened to torpedo Miami's season and even with all the negativity surrounding LeBron since The Decision, he's still the best player in basketball. LeBron's numbers are predictably down across the board from last season, but he is still at near triple-double production on a Miami team that appears to have finally figured each other out.
Top 5
Dwight Howard
Derrick Rose
Dirk Nowitzki
Amar'e Stoudemire
LeBron James
Britt Robson
Howard is the league's best defender and the most indispensable player on the teams with a realistic chance at a ring. Rose has carried the Bulls into championship contention despite injuries to Boozer and Noah. Dallas was one of the top three or four teams but fell apart at both ends when Nowitzki went down. Stoudemire is having his best season under the Gotham microscope without Steve Nash, and LeBron has done a lot of everything to catapult the Heat. I'm wincing at the guys I've left off -- Kobe, Wade, Kevin Durant and Deron Williams, among others.

Stoudemire
Top 5
Amar'e Stoudemire
Dirk Nowitzki
Deron Williams
LeBron James
Kobe Bryant
Paul Forrester
He isn't the player LeBron is, but Stoudemire has arguably been more valuable to his team. The Knicks are relevant for the first time in a decade, and Stoudemire -- with his production and leadership -- is the reason. While LeBron's value and expectations in Miami have changed since his time in Cleveland, he remains one of the league's most talented players. But given the elite talent that surrounds him now, it's unclear if he's more valuable to his team than Nowitzki and Williams are to theirs.
Rookie of the Year
Top 3
Blake Griffin
John Wall
Landry Fields
Ian Thomsen
Instead of being weakened by knee surgery last season, Griffin exploited his year around the Clippers to become one of the league's most explosive big men. Had he been healthy last year, then Wall would be the runaway favorite to win the award this season. Expect a big second year from Wall as the Wizards rebuild their roster around him. Fields, a second-rounder, has turned into the steal of the draft.
Top 3
Blake Griffin
Landry Fields
John Wall
Lee Jenkins
Wall has been electric and effective when healthy. Fields has been by far the biggest surprise. But there is no legitimate competition for Griffin. After sitting out what should have been his rookie season to recover from knee surgery, Griffin has dominated highlight shows and interior defenders alike. With a blend of strength and athleticism seen in LeBron James and few others, Griffin has single-handedly made the Clippers relevant.
Top 3
Blake Griffin
Landry Fields
John Wall
Zach Lowe
A total non-race for the top spot, as Griffin is putting up one of the greatest rookie seasons of all time and already has his name in more noteworthy discussions than the Rookie of the Year balloting. Fields squeaks by two guys with better stats -- Wall and DeMarcus Cousins -- because of his consistency, efficiency on offense, rebounding (tops among all guards) and generally heady play. Wall has missed 12 games, so I wouldn't blame you if you slotted Cousins in the third spot. But I'll take the point guard carrying a heavy burden on a bad team.
Top 3
Blake Griffin
Landry Fields
John Wall
Chris Mannix
What initially looked like an uber-competitive race has become a blowout. Griffin's incomparable talents have pushed him well ahead of a flawed field that is fronted by Fields, a heady second-round pick with a complete and polished game. A healthy Wall could make things interesting in the second half of the season, but barring an injury or an epic -- and I do mean epic -- collapse by Griffin, the Clipper has this award sewn up.
Top 3
Blake Griffin
DeMarcus Cousins
John Wall
Britt Robson
What separates Griffin from the rest of the pack is poise as well as talent. His team was 1-13 over the first three weeks of his career and now he's being canonized in L.A -- and neither phenomenon has really seemed to faze him. His defense and free-throw shooting could use some work, but he's already a relatively complete player, as well as being an incredible athlete. Poise, of course, is Cousins' biggest issue, just as staying healthy is for Wall. Honorable mention to Fields, who just missed out.

Griffin
Top 3
Blake Griffin
John Wall
Landry Fields
Paul Forrester
Not only has Griffin provided the Clippers a must-see star to build around, but he's also given them an edge against all those teams accustomed to rolling over L.A.'s No. 2 franchise. Yes, we know -- no one can screw up a good thing like Donald Sterling, but let's allow Clippers fans to dream for a little longer. Wall's flashed some rare skills, but the injuries are a concern (of course, that hasn't hurt Griffin this season). Fields, who spent four years at Stanford, is much more polished than the typical rookie.
Sixth Man Award
Top 3
Serge Ibaka
Jamal Crawford
Glen Davis
Ian Thomsen
Oklahoma City's Ibaka provides defense and rebounding, and he's one of the league's leading shot-blockers. Crawford is positioning himself to win this award for a second straight year as a combo guard and versatile scorer who exploits mismatches alongside Joe Johnson. Davis provides crucial energy to the elderly frontcourt of the East-leading Celtics.
Top 3
Jamal Crawford
Jason Terry
Glen Davis
Lee Jenkins
After a slow start, Crawford is providing the Hawks with his usual instant offense, and showing why he is the reigning Sixth Man Award winner. He edges Terry, who, whether he starts for the Mavericks or not, always seems to finish for them. Terry has been asked to start more than usual due to injuries, as has Davis in Boston, another blossoming candidate for future Sixth Man awards.
Top 3
Jason Terry
Glen Davis
George Hill
Zach Lowe
Terry's play has dropped off a tick over the last month, but he has still been the league's most consistent bench player for a team that badly needs his offense. He's been a beast in fourth quarters, and his passing -- nearly five assists per 36 minutes -- is an underrated asset. Big Baby is giving the suddenly thin Celtics a badly needed 31 minutes per game, and he's playing quality ball on both ends. Hill is a great two-way player when he's on, a dynamite transition finisher and a reliable three-point shooter. Lamar Odom will have a place on this ballot once he qualifies by coming off the bench more times than he starts.
Top 3
Glen Davis
Jamal Crawford
Jason Terry
Chris Mannix
Whether it's as a fill-in starter (13.7 points, 4.2 rebounds in nine games) or a full-time sub (12.2 points, 5.7 rebounds), Davis has been invaluable for Boston. He's become close-to-automatic from 15 feet, and his 295-pound frame has enabled Boston to go small against bigger teams. Davis' top competition for this award will come from someone not on the list: Lamar Odom, who after starting 31 games is back to being a full-time reserve. Odom is averaging a four-year high in scoring while ranking ninth in the NBA in rebounding and fourth in field-goal percentage
Top 3
George Hill
Glen Davis
Jamal Crawford
Britt Robson
All three are crunch-time performers, two for championship contenders (sorry, Atlanta). Hill fits his team like a glove. Be it taking charges or developing his jumper, Davis compensates for his lack of size as well as anyone in the game. Crawford remains instant offense and a legit go-to option in do-or-die situations. Terry is the most blatant omission, and Odom will be the favorite once he qualifies.

Thomas
Top 3
Tyrus Thomas
Glen Davis
Shannon Brown
Paul Forrester
Thomas has quietly offered a lot of bang for the per-minute buck for struggling Charlotte, averaging 11.1 points, 5.8 rebounds and 1.6 blocks in 21.6 minutes. That's roughly equivalent to the production of starter Boris Diaw in his 35.4 minutes. Winning isn't the issue in Boston, where Davis has helped plug the hole left by Kendrick Perkins, or L.A., where Brown has been an offensive sparkplug and floor-spacing deep shooter.
Coach of the Year
Top 3
Erik Spoelstra
Tom Thibodeau
Gregg Popovich
Ian Thomsen
Wasn't Spoelstra supposed to have been fired by now? Miami is no easy team to manage, but he withstood the roughest opening month of any coach in recent memory to galvanize the Heat's new collection of stars, shroud the rotation's weaknesses and define the Heat as a defense-first contender. Thibodeau has overcome numerous injuries to liberate Rose as an MVP candidate, develop the defense and position the Bulls to seize home-court advantage. Popovich reinvented the Spurs as up-tempo title contenders with the league's best record.
Top 3
Gregg Popovich
Erik Spoelstra
Mike D'Antoni
Lee Jenkins
By raising the tempo of the offense and integrating younger plays into the rotation, Popovich has revitalized a veteran roster and refashioned the Spurs into title contenders yet again. Spoelstra wins votes for surviving a 9-8 start, earning the trust of frustrated superstars and persuading the Heat to follow his defensive blueprint. D'Antoni, with help from Stoudemire, has finally brought the excitement to New York that he did to Phoenix.
Top 3
Gregg Popovich
Tom Thibodeau
Jerry Sloan
Zach Lowe
Wrongly regarded (in some ways) as a rigid taskmaster, Popovich this season has adapted on both ends to fit a faster and smaller roster filled with three-point gunners. And no one manages minutes more wisely. Thibodeau has Chicago playing the best defense in the league, despite the absence of Joakim Noah, and he's using his so-so collection of offensive talent well on that end. The Jazz lost Carlos Boozer, gained Al Jefferson, promoted Paul Millsap and have dealt with a dangerous lack of depth. And yet, Utah remains a threat in the West. The system works.
Top 3
Gregg Popovich
Jerry Sloan
Tom Thibodeau
Chris Mannix
When a team remakes itself the way the Spurs have -- going from a methodical, Tim Duncan-oriented offense to a faster unit that leans on its guards -- without missing a beat, it's time to give the coach his due. Popovich convinced the players to scrap a system that had helped the franchise to four titles in his tenure, a decision that has helped San Antonio march through the first half of the season with the best record.
Top 3
Gregg Popovich
Monty Williams
Tom Thibodeau
Britt Robson
By turns irreverent, irascible and unyielding at all the right times, Popovich had the guts to change his ways to fit his team as it matured into a different beast. The other two coaches are rookies, but Williams has led the league's most pleasantly surprising first-half team, while Thibodeau had the entire roster playing lockdown team defense -- even Derrick Rose -- nearly from Day 1.

Popovich
Top 3
Gregg Popovich
Jerry Sloan
Erik Spoelstra
Paul Forrester
Find us another coach who could tease a 36-6 mark out of a team whose best player logs fewer than 30 minutes a game, while also engineering a more up-tempo attack and maintaining an eye toward defense. Popovich doesn't ride his players harder than others; he just gets them to play smarter. As does Sloan, whose Jazz lead the Northwest Division even after losing Carlos Boozer in free agency. Winning hasn't been a problem in Miami, either, as Spoelstra has maintained control after a shaky start.
Defensive Player of the Year
Top 3
Dwight Howard
Dwyane Wade
Chris Paul
Ian Thomsen
This award is tougher than ever to define because of the proliferation of zone principles and team-defense packages in play today. Howard is the favorite to win for a third straight year because he's more important than ever. Orlando's defense has weakened since its December trades, but that's not Howard's fault, and he's blocking fewer shots because the Magic can't afford him to be in foul trouble. Wade is No. 2 at Miami in blocks and steals, while Paul leads the league in steals without undue gambling.
Top 3
Dwight Howard
LeBron James
Andrew Bogut
Lee Jenkins
Howard's defense has been the one constant in Orlando and a major reason the Magic have held their ground in the East despite massive roster upheaval. The Heat's defensive effort has been equally relentless but more collective with James leading the way on the perimeter and overwhelming smaller guards and slower forwards. Bogut leads the league in blocks and is posting a careerhigh in rebounds, perhaps inching into the Howard class.
Top 3
Dwight Howard
Tyson Chandler
Kevin Garnett
Zach Lowe
No one defends at Howard's level. No big man covers more ground, and no player rejects or alters more shots -- even shots he appears to have no business getting near. Check the plus/minus numbers, and you'll see the Mavs play defense better than any team in the league when Chandler is on the floor. He's been a culture-changer, and his roving presence on the back line is one reason Dallas can play more zone than any team in league history. Garnett edges Bogut for the third spot. He continues to do it all for Boston's elite defense.
Top 3
Dwight Howard
Kevin Garnett
Andrew Bogut
Chris Mannix
Boston's status as a defensive power -- without Kendrick Perkins, no less -- should garner KG plenty of support. But it won't be enough to overtake Howard, whose ability to singularly change a game is unparalleled. Stats aside -- and Howard has some gaudy ones -- his true value is evidenced by the fact that Orlando is one of the top defensive teams despite a starting lineup featuring the defensively limited Jameer Nelson, Hedo Turkoglu and Jason Richardson and undersized power forward Brandon Bass.
Top 3
Dwight Howard
Kevin Garnett
Tyson Chandler
Britt Robson
The Magic are among the top five in the NBA in defensive efficiency. So who is their second-best defender after Howard? For that matter, who else is an above-average defender on that roster? Garnett and Chandler both play with the sort of infectious energy, combative spirit, quickness and dedication that changes the defensive culture of their teams.

Chandler
Top 3
Tyson Chandler
Chris Paul
Dwight Howard
Paul Forrester
Chandler's resurgence has helped the Mavericks improve their field-goal defense while also providing Rick Carlisle an effective funnel for the team's aging perimeter legs. A healthy Paul has turned the Hornets' lowly defense (it ranked 28th in opponents' shooting last season) into a top-six unit this year.
Most Improved Player
Top 3
Kevin Love
Russell Westbrook
LaMarcus Aldridge
Ian Thomsen
Paul Millsap and Raymond Felton could very easily make this short list. But no one has shown greater improvement than Love, the league's leading rebounder in spite of fears at the launch of his career that he was undersized at power forward. Westbrook has turned the corner to become an explosive scorer and playmaker for the Thunder. Aldridge has become a rugged low-post pillar to keep the injured Blazers in playoff contention.
Top 3
Kevin Love
Raymond Felton
Dorell Wright
Lee Jenkins
Wright has more than doubled his scoring going from Miami to Golden State. Felton has significantly raised his points and assists going from Charlotte to New York. Love's numbers, however, are out of another dimension. He is racking up 20/20s -- and even a 30-30 -- at a historic rate, combining gaudy rebounding totals with polished post moves. It is impossible to imagine he was coming off the bench late last season.
Top 3
Eric Gordon
Russell Westbrook
Kevin Love
Zach Lowe
In an always-crowded field, Gordon's jump from exciting outside shooter to all-around backcourt star takes the top spot. His Player Efficiency Rating and scoring average have both jumped by more than six points, and he's attacking the rim at a level few expected so soon. Westbrook's numbers have jumped about as much as Gordon's, and his huge increase in free-throw attempts kept Oklahoma City afloat early. We expected crazy rebounding from Love. The scoring and 44 percent three-point shooting? Wow.
Top 3
Kevin Love
Dorell Wright
Wesley Matthews
Chris Mannix
If Love were simply a rebounder -- a skill that was always his thing -- he probably wouldn't crack the top three on my ballot. But his improvement from the three-point line (where he is up 11 percentage points from last season with a lot more makes) and the free-throw line (up six points), combined with his surge in scoring (a seven-point bump), makes him the leading candidate. Wright has been excellent for Golden State and Portland's Matthews has helped fill the void left by the injured Brandon Roy.
Top 3
Kevin Love
Derrick Rose
Tyson Chandler
Britt Robson
Love is belatedly getting the minutes he deserves this season, but his unbelievable rebounding can't simply be explained by more court time, and his three-point shooting and low-post footwork are miles ahead of where he was a year ago. Rose, like Kevin Durant a year ago, has gone from charismatic talent and indifferent defender to viable MVP candidate. Chandler's contribution to Charlotte's league-best defense was probably underrated a year ago, but his quantum leap forward on offense was totally unexpected.

Westbrook
Top 3
Russell Westbrook
Kevin Love
Eric Gordon
Paul Forrester
Love has deservedly received a lot of press for blossoming into an All-Star candidate and double-double fixture, but part of his rise has to be attributed to Kurt Rambis' realization that his best player should be getting more than the 28.6 minutes he received last season. I'm leaning toward one of Love's former UCLA teammates, Westbrook, who has elevated his game into Chris Paul/Deron Williams territory and emerged as a true second option for a Thunder team that is expected to push deep into the playoffs.

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