With the season 3/4 of the way over, here are my picks to close out their respective categories and take home the hardware:
Champs- As much as it pains me to say this, I have to give the nod to the Cavs right now. They're too big for the Bynum-less Lakers and too deep for the Posey-less Celtics. I also think that Joe Smith is better for that offense than Ben Wallace. Smith's like a poor man's Horace Grant- a good rebounder and post defender who nails the 15 footer consistently. Delonte West and Mo Williams know their roles and make open 3s. Big Z's great on the offensive glass. I don't see anyone beating them.
MVP- Lebron over Kobe. James was already one of the best offensive players in the league. This season, he proved he can play All-Star caliber D. That said, if Cleveland hits a lull over the final few weeks, Kobe could catch fire and snatch his second Podoloff in a row. Props to DWade, Brandon Roy and Dwight Howard but it's a two-man race between James and Bryant.
Defensive Player Of The Year- Howard. Sure, Wade and James learned a thing or two about defense from Kobe at the Olympics but Superman's a rebounding and shot blocking machine.
Most Improved- Everyone's talking about Devin Harris but wasn't he this good last year, too? The player who took the biggest leap this offseason was Howard. The guy went from 'freakish athlete' to 'superstar with potential to be the best ever' in three months. Kevin Durant is going fucking ballistic, too. Think about how much better he'll be when he actually has a muscle or two on that skinny frame. Ironically, Shaq also showed great improvement this year, going from a useless fat bastard to dominant All-Star since hitching up with the Phoenix Suns training staff.
Coach Of The Year- It'll be Mike Brown or Stan Van Gundy but my vote would go to Nate McMillan. Nobody expected anything from Portland (especially with Oden dinged up) but Nate established a great rotation where every player knows his role. He was also smart enough to hand over the reins to Roy, who's proven himself worthy of MVP talk. Big ups to Erik Spoelstra for keeping the Heat over .500 with one of the youngest teams in the NBA.
Executive- How can it NOT be Donnie Walsh? Goodbye, Isiah Thomas, Stephon Marbury and Jerome James. Hello, Mike D'Antoni, Al Harrington and cap room for next year's big free agent run which will net them either Lebron, DWade, Amare or Chris Bosh. Masterful. The Gallinari pick is a blemish but I'll put that one on D'Antoni.
6th Man- Jason Terry or Manu Ginobili will win but I LOVE what Trevor Ariza has done off the bench for LA this year. If they win the title, Ariza will a major reason why. Think about this for a sec: if LA had Ariza in the Finals last year, does Paul Pierce score at will off of isolation plays? Um, no.
Pictured: Ariza posterizing Grant Hill
Rookie- Derrick Rose gets the nod over OJ Mayo, Russell Westbrook and Brook Lopez. I talked shit about both Mayo and Westbrook around draft time, referring to them as Smurfs. I was wrong. They're both really good. I still think Mayo is more Ben Gordon than Michael Jordan but he's not a Smurf, by any means. Sorry. I suck.