2012-13 NBA midseason awards
Durant, Lillard lead crowd of exhilarating first-half performances
Carly Wright, a junior psychology major, works on a note to attach to a wrapped book that will be in Lockwood. UB’s Lit Club encourages students to read more and attend its “Blind Date with a Book” event Feb. 14. UB lit- Yusong Shi, The Spectrum
MVP: Kevin Durant, Oklahoma City Thunder: You can't go wrong with either selection of the top two choices here, but Durant is having one of the best statistical seasons of all time. He is on pace to be the first player in history to average at least 50 percent shooting from the field, 40 percent from three, 90 percent from the foul line and lead the league in scoring. Not to mention he is averaging the most assists per game of his entire career.
Runner-up: LeBron James, Miami Heat: Typical numbers for the three-time MVP, which are impressive, but the Thunder are the best team in the NBA right now and it's all because of Durant.
Rookie of the Year: Damian Lillard, Portland Trail Blazers: Lillard is leading all rookies in scoring (18.3 points per game) and is seventh in the league in 3-pointers made. He has the Blazers playing .500 basketball (23-22), much improved from last season's 28-38 record.
Runner-up: Anthony Davis, New Orleans Hornets: Davis is having an above-average rookie campaign (13.0 PPG, 7.9 rebounds per game, 1.9 blocks per game) and appears to be right on track to become the NBA superstar the Hornets expected when they drafted him No. 1 overall. But he has missed too much time (13 games) from injuries to win the award.
Most Improved Player: Paul George, Indiana Pacers: In the absence of Indiana's leading scorer, Danny Granger, George has taken over his team and has the Pacers sitting as the No. 4 seed in the East right now. Three years ago, George was a risky 10th overall pick who had unlimited upside. It's rare in the NBA these days that those types of players live up to their potential, but George has gone above and beyond. He has increased his numbers in every statistical category this season except field-goal percentage, which is understandable because he is taking five more shots per game than last year.
Runner-up: Jrue Holiday, Philadelphia 76ers: Holiday is making his way into the discussion of the best point guards in the league. He has upped his PPG average from 13.5 to 19 and APG from 4.5 to 9. With that said, the 76ers are a disappointing seven gamesbelow .500.
Defensive Player of the Year: Joakim Noah, Chicago Bulls: Noah is averaging 11.3 rebounds, 2.2 blocks and 1.3 steals per game. He is the staple of one of the league's best defenses and at the same time hides Carlos Boozer's defensive ineptitude on Chicago's front line. Noah brings intensity that is unmatched and guards the pick and roll as well as any big in the league.
Runner-up: Marc Gasol, Memphis Grizzlies: Gasol is widely considered the best defensive big man in the league and the Grizzlies are the best defensive team (89.5 PPG allowed). But Gasol has too much support to win this award, as he shares the floor with Tony Allen, the best perimeter defender in the league.
Sixth Man: J.R. Smith, New York Knicks: Smith is an insanely streaky shooter who is among the league's best offensive players when he's hot. Fortunately for the Knicks, he's been hot all year, averaging the second-most points (16.2) on the Eastern Conference's second-best team (28-15).
Runner-up: Jamal Crawford, L.A. Clippers: Smith edges out Crawford here due to the Clippers' stronger supporting cast. Smith has single-handedly kept the Knicks in the seven games 'Melo has missed this year, but Crawford's numbers (16.6 PPG) are respectable.
Coach of the Year: Tom Thibodeau, Chicago Bulls: The Bulls are the third-best team in the East (28-17) and the third-best defensive team in the NBA, allowing only 90.9 PPG. Besides All-Stars Luol Deng and Noah (who aren't the most talented offensive players in the league), the Bulls' rotation includes Boozer, Kirk Hinrich, Nate Robinson, Marco Belinelli, Rip Hamilton and Jimmy Butler. Can you imagine what this roster would be doing if Mike D'Antoni was the head coach?
Runner-up: Mark Jackson, Golden State Warriors: In his first season with the Warriors, Jackson couldn't come through with his guarantee that they would reach the playoffs. His team finished 23-43. In his second season, the Warriors are 27-17 and currently hold the No. 5 seed in the tough Western Conference.
Best team: Oklahoma City Thunder: The Thunder are leading the league in points per game (105.7) and point differential (+8.4). Durant, Russell Westbrook and Serge Ibaka are having the best seasons of their careers and James Harden's replacement, Kevin Martin, is shooting the best 3-point percentage of his career (.439 percent and 15 PPG).
Team most likely to turn it around: Dallas Mavericks: Dirk Nowitzki has led the Mavericks to 12 consecutive playoff appearances since 2001. The Mavs struggled with Nowitzki missing the first 27 games of the season. They are currently seven games under .500 (19-26) and three games back of the No. 8 seed in the Western Conference. With Nowitzki getting back into the swing of things, the Mavericks have won six of their last nine and stealing a playoff spot from the Jazz (who are expected to trade either Al Jefferson or Paul Millsap before the trade deadline) or the Trail Blazers (who's five-man rotation should test their endurance as the season progresses) seems more likely.
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