Alpha Wolf Kevin Garnett, the heady leader of the West's top team, should be MVP

April 25, 2004

This was a bad season for good players. Kobe Bryant and Shaquille
O'Neal missed a combined 32 games because of injuries,
suspensions and court dates. Tracy McGrady and Allen Iverson
started as the best players in the East and finished like a pair
of battered fighters forced to throw in the towel. Knee injuries
sidelined Tim Duncan, Jason Kidd and Karl Malone for long
stretches, and their need for rest this summer may cost the U.S.
a gold medal at the Olympics in Athens. But that's bad news for
another day; let us now dwell on the healthier performances of

MVP Kevin Garnett, Timberwolves. First in rebounding (14.0 per
game), third in scoring (24.2) and 23rd in assists (5.1 per game;
Vlade Divac is the only frontcourt player with a higher average),
Garnett has become all things to all people: a 7-footer with
Michael Jordan's heart and John Stockton's head. Garnett never
missed a game, excelled at both ends of the floor and, by always
putting the team first, carried Minnesota to the best record in
the Western Conference.

ROOKIE OF THE YEAR Carmelo Anthony, Nuggets. LeBron James became
only the third rookie to average 20 points, five boards and five
assists; Anthony led all newcomers with 21.0 points per game.
Both are worthy candidates, but by leading his team to 26 more
wins and a postseason berth while playing in a tougher
conference, Carmelo gets the nod.

COACH Jerry Sloan, Jazz. In his 16th year in Salt Lake City--and
his first without Malone and Stockton--Sloan kept Utah (42-40) in
playoff contention despite losing top scorer Matt Harpring to
knee surgery in January. The only negative to this feel-good
choice is that it comes at the expense of the Grizzlies' Hubie
Brown, who would have won in almost any other season.

DEFENSIVE PLAYER Ben Wallace, Pistons. Wallace ranked second in
blocks (3.04 a game) and seventh in steals (1.77) for the
league's stingiest D, a unit formidable enough to make Detroit a
bona fide title contender.

SIXTH MAN Manu Ginobili, Spurs. He's been the league's most
exciting sub since Jan. 5, when Hedo Turkoglu replaced him in the
lineup. Not only did Ginobili shoot a higher percentage and
average more points per minute than he did as a starter, but the
6'6" swingman also changed the tempo of games with his frenetic

MOST IMPROVED Zach Randolph, Blazers. No one took bigger strides
than this 22-year-old power forward, who more than doubled his
scoring (from 8.4 points per game to 20.1) and rebounding (4.5 to

EXECUTIVE Jerry West, Grizzlies. By signing free-agent forward
James Posey and then trading for guard Bonzi Wells in December,
he helped turned a feckless franchise into the conference's No. 6
seed. In this era of disposable coaches West also backed up
Brown's use of a 10-man rotation to exploit the league's deepest
roster. If only other NBA executives would offer such firm

ALL-DEFENSIVE TEAM Ron Artest, F, Pacers; Kevin Garnett, F,
Timberwolves; Ben Wallace, C, Pistons; Bruce Bowen, G, Spurs;
Baron Davis, G, Hornets.

ALL-ROOKIE TEAM Carmelo Anthony, F, Nuggets; Josh Howard, F,
Mavericks; Chris Bosh, C, Raptors; LeBron James, G, Cavaliers;
Dwyane Wade, G, Heat.

COLOR PHOTO: DAVID E. KLUTHO A 3-D threat, KG was first in boards, second in frontcourt assists and third in scoring.

SI's All NBA Teams


F--Tim Duncan, Spurs

F--Kevin Garnett, T-Wolves

C--Shaquille O'Neal, Lakers

G--Kobe Bryant, Lakers

G--Sam Cassell, T-Wolves


F--Jermaine O'Neal, Pacers

F--Peja Stojakovic, Kings

C--Yao Ming, Rockets

G--Tracy McGrady, Magic

G--Jason Kidd, Nets


F--Dirk Nowitzki, Mavericks

F--Ron Artest, Pacers

C--Brad Miller, Kings

G--Paul Pierce, Celtics

G--Baron Davis, Hornets

Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)