1. LeBron James
There are three players in the top 20 in both offensive and defensive efficiency — James (sixth offensively and third defensively), Chris Paul (second and 19th) and another Cavalier, Anderson Varejao (20th and fourth). That should say something about LeBron’s ability to make himself and his teammates better.
2. Dwight Howard
His defense is incredible. He affects the game on both sides of the court more than anyone below him on this list.
3. Chris Paul
He makes the Hornets go. And in a season where many of his teammates underperformed, he has led New Orleans to 49 wins.
4. Kobe Bryant
He had an excellent year, but he’s not top 20 in offensive or defensive efficiency.
And he probably has a better supporting cast than anyone on this list. Pau Gasol has more win shares than him.
5. Dwyane Wade
I have Wade lower than most people do because I think he’s benefiting from having an off year last year.
Yes, the Heat sputtered to a 15-67 record last season with Wade hurt for much of the year. But Miami was just 10-41 in games he played.
He’s having the best year of his career, but his numbers aren’t that much better than they were two years ago. His renaissance has been overrated.
1. Richard Hamilton
Without Chauncey Billups, this became Hamilton’s team. After a power struggle with Allen Iverson, Rip came out on top.
And the Pistons are better for it. Since returning to the starting lineup, Hamilton has averaged 21.5 points, 6.4 assists and 3.6 rebounds per game.
Detroit is 28-23 when Hamilton starts. Of Pistons who have started at least three games this season, only Amir Johnson has a better record (15-9).
2. Antonio McDyess
He never got Detroit going completely in the right direction, but could you imagine where the Pistons would be without his rebounding?
More importantly, his toughness and work ethic set a tone.
3. Tayshaun Prince
His defense has fallen off, but his offensive has gotten more consistent. He had just 18 single-digit point games this year, compared to 25 a season ago.
And he’s averaging a career-high 5.6 rebounds per game for a team that desperately needs it.
Rookie of the Year
1. Derrick Rose
He has led a resurgence of the Bulls. He has all the tools to keep getting better.
2. Kevin Love
His rebounding percentage is second to only Dwight Howard. And he has a higher offensive rating than Rose.
3. Brook Lopez
He has had a good rookie season. But I don’t see the sure-fire future greatness everyone else seems to.
1. Walter Sharpe
Well, um …
Coach of the Year
1. Stan Van Gundy
The Magic have some solid players around Dwight Howard, but Van Gundy maximizes everyone’s ability.
2. Mike Brown
Coaching LeBron must be easy. Brown has Cleveland’s role players in position to help themselves and LeBron excel, too. That isn’t as easy.
3. Rick Adelman
With Tracy McGrady’s issues, the Rockets could have wilted. Adelman has them third in the West.
1. Michael Curry
Luckily for Curry, Ron Rothstein doesn’t do Pistons telecasts anymore because he might have won this award if there was any type of other option.
Defensive Player of the Year
1. Dwight Howard
He’s just a beast. He protects the lane better than anyone since Ben Wallace was in his prime.
2. LeBron James
When he sets his mind to it, there’s nothing on a basketball court he can’t do. He hit a one-handed underhand from behind halfcourt on 60 Minutes for Pete’s sake.
3. Shane Battier
He makes life miserable for opposing wing players.
1. Rasheed Wallace
He was embarassingly slow with help-side defense early in the year, but he came around.
2. Antonio McDyess
He still works his butt off on the court, and that’s good enough to be the second-best defender on this team.
3. Kwame Brown
If he wasn’t picked No. 1 in the draft, people would appreciate him a lot more. He’s a good role player.
Most Improved Player
1. Devin Harris
He was pretty good, now he’s an All-Star — and better than Jason Kidd.
2. Paul Millsap
Where were the Jazz hiding him?
3. Danny Granger
He gets the nod because Kevin Durant was better last year.
1. Will Bynum
He went from an international journeyman who was trying to work his way up to becoming an NBA journeyman to Detroit’s go-to player in the fourth quarter.
2. Rodney Stuckey
He was handed the starting spot and major minutes. He had to make a major move up, and he did. Unfortunately, it wasn’t as big as it seemed it could be earlier in the year.
3. Antonio McDyess
What player improves from 33 to 34, especially a big man whose career almost ended because of knee trouble? McDyess stepped up because the Pistons needed him to, and that says a lot about who he is.
Sixth Man of the Year
1. Jason Terry
No bench player is even close to his production
2. Lamar Odom
His numbers are down, but he’s a much better defensive player.
3. Nate Robinson
You can’t ignore his offensive firepower.
1. Antonio McDyess
He qualifies because he came off the bench for more games (32) than he started (30). And he’s obviously the best of the Pistons’ bench players.
2. Jason Maxiell
He wasn’t as good as last year, but he thrives off the bench. He’s a nice change of pace.
3. Will Bynum
This seems a bit low, but he didn’t come on until late in the year.