Injuries among so many stars and inconsistent performances by so many contending teams make it difficult to fill out a midseason awards ballot. But here it is anyway: The best of what we've seen so far, with the hope that something better -- and healthier -- is on the way. (The NBA's official awards ballot includes five spots for MVP and three for the other major awards. The media vote on all the awards below except Executive of the Year.)
Thanks to Bryant, the Lakers have overcome lulls of defending-champion complacency, as well as the early-season injuries to
What were the Grizzlies thinking when they passed on Evans (20.9 points, 5.0 assists, 4.9 rebounds, 1.5 steals) in favor of center
This is a big year for sixth men. Crawford is headed to the playoffs for the first time in his 10-year career while augmenting the Hawks with 17.1 points off the bench. Landry has helped fill in for
Once again this is the hardest category to choose. For now I'm going with Adelman, who is winning in the tougher conference in spite of having no stars. He kept his players believing after the season-ending diagnosis of
Last year, the Lakers won the championship while finishing sixth in defensive efficiency (104.7 points allowed per 100 possessions). Now, they rank No. 2 in that vital category (101.1 points per 100 possessions), and much of the credit goes to Artest. The Magic aren't quite as strong defensively as last year, when Howard won this award, but he is positioned to repeat by leading the league in shot-blocking (2.4 per game) and rebounding (13.0). Charlotte has improved to rank No. 1 in defensive efficiency and No. 6 in field-goal defense, and Wallace is in the middle of it as a 6-7 small forward who rates No. 2 in defensive rebounds per game (9.1) and 13th in steals (1.7) while adding 1.2 blocks.
Durant's scoring is up, he's finding his way to the free-throw line more often, and midway through his third season he has emerged as a legit star as well as the go-to leader of a team positioned to make a run for the playoffs at least one year ahead of schedule. Smith has refined his game (he has practically done away with those blasted three-point attempts) while becoming more disciplined at both ends of the floor, which is another reason for the Hawks' strong start. Gasol has improved his body and, by no coincidence, his numbers across the board.
Roy is like the chef who puts forth three-star dishes while the kitchen is on fire; the depleted Blazers would be nowhere near contention for home-court advantage if not for him responding with the best performances of his career. Nowitzki has the early edge over Duncan by dint of Dallas' superior record; the same goes for Williams' presence on the third team at the expense of
The only job more difficult than building a title team is improving that team, with the risk of ruining a very good thing. When