Jan. 29, 2008 -- With the regular season at its midway point, there is not a better time to see how those preseason predictions are holding up and to honor the best of the 2007-08 campaign to date.
Most Valuable Player:Chris Paul, Hornets
Orlando’s Dwight Howard, Boston’s Kevin Garnett and the Lakers’ Kobe Bryant have each occupied and lost the No. 1 spot in the R2MVP rankings this season. Now it is Paul’s turn to wear the bull’s eye. Paul has taken the title of best point guard in the league away from Phoenix’s Steve Nash and the Hornets have followed their leader to the top record in the Western Conference. Whether it’s scoring, passing or defense, Paul has provided the Hornets with what they have needed.
Rookie of the Year:Kevin Durant, Sonics
When the Blazers' Greg Oden got injured in the offseason, this award became Durant’s to win or lose. Although his game still needs some work, there is no denying his ability to put the ball in the basket. If he doesn’t keep improving, don’t be surprised if Atlanta’s Al Horford steals the award away from him.
Coach of the Year:Nate McMillan, Blazers
The Hornets have the second best overall record in the league, so of course Byron Scott deserves some love in this space, but the choice is McMillan who in my eyes has done more with less. Remember, the Blazers are the youngest team in the league.
Sixth Man Award:Manu Ginobili, Spurs
Ginobili has been so good this season that earlier in the year he was considered an MVP candidate. He is averaging 19.2 points, 4.8 rebounds and 4.2 assists per game for the defending champs.
Defensive Player of the Year:Marcus Camby, Nuggets
He is averaging one steal, 14.2 rebounds and a league-best 3.8 blocks per game. It will be a shame if he doesn't make the All-Star team.
Most Improved Player:Chris Kaman, Clippers
This is an easy choice. Kaman is averaging a career high in blocks (3.03), points (17.2) and rebounds (13.9) per game, easing some of the loss the Clippers have felt by not having Elton Brand in the lineup all season. The second choice for this award is Dwight Howard.
Last Week's Rank - 4
How can you not root for Paul? Following his 23-point, 17-assist, nine-rebound performance against the Nuggets on Monday, he was asked by AP what he thought about the crowd screaming, "MVP" throughout the game. His response: "I was thinking they're exactly right. (David West) and (Tyson Chandler) might be MVPs.'' He also said, "The only thing that's on my mind right now, to tell you the truth, is to get my coaches in the All-Star Game.''
Last Week's Rank - 3
Cleveland has won 10 of its past 12 and LBJ just outplayed Kobe Bryant on Sunday in a matchup of the two most talented players in the game. Why you ask is he not No. 1 then? Because Chris Paul, who is as valuable to his team as James is to his, has equally as impressive statistics for a club that has won nine straight and 12 of 13 in the rugged Western Conference.
Last Week's Rank - 1
Maybe Andrew Bynum is the real MVP of the Lakers afterall. I don't agree with that line of thinking, but I was receiving tons of e-mails saying that he was the reason for Los Angeles' success and now the Lakers have lost four out of five proving that maybe the fans are right.
Last Week's Rank - 5
D12 has Orlando fans thinking back to the 1990s when a dominant big man named Shaquille O'Neal led the franchise to the NBA Finals. Howard's rise from good player to superstar has happened faster than most "experts" could have predicted.
Last Week's Rank - 6
After begging and pleading for fans to join forces with me in the Jason Kidd is better than Steve Nash debate, I finally got some e-mails on my side. Then again, that was before the Nets' losing streak reached nine and Kidd said he wanted to be traded.
Last Week's Rank - 7
AI, who is known for coming up with steals on defense, came up with the biggest theft of his great career when he caught Houston's Tracy McGrady for one of the starting guard spots in the West during the final days of fan voting.
Last Week's Rank - 11
The Nets' Jason Kidd is Mr. Triple-Double, but it was Davis who stole the show in their head-to-head matchup last week, posting 25 points, 12 rebounds, 10 assists and five steals. By the way Baron, more help is on the way to Golden State.
Quick, name the three players in the NBA who are averaging more than 20 points, six rebounds and four assists per game. The Cavs' LeBron James and the Lakers' Kobe Bryant are no-brainers. The third person is ... Caron Butler of the Wizards. Quietly Butler has transformed himself into one of the top all-around players in the game. He has made 70 consecutive free throws, which is the seventh longest streak in league history. The all-time record is 97 set by the Wolves' Micheal Williams from 1992-93 to 1993-94.