Jan 14 2014 11:34AM

Midseason Awards

All NBA teams will be hitting the season halfway point sometime in the next seven days, so now seems like a good time to check out the front-runners in collecting hardware for this 2013-14 NBA season.


Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE/Getty Images

MOST VALUABLE PLAYER: LeBron James, Heat

Runner-ups: 2. Kevin Durant, Thunder; 3. Tim Duncan, Spurs; 4. Roy Hibbert, Pacers; 5. Paul George, Pacers

It's the usual suspects at the top of our ballot again, with a couple Pacers replacing James Harden and injured Chris Paul on the bottom of the ticket. As usual, LeBron is on pace to take his level of efficiency (.672 true shooting percentage) to parts unknown (no player with 1000 shots has shot so well). His team is jogging through the regular season and, at worst, will land a No. 2 seed. Same is also true of Player Efficiency Rating leader Kevin Durant, who can play Superman to Russell Westbrook's Batman one minute, and in the next minute when Batman goes missing, he can play Nick Fury and create a whole new cast of Avengers with young talent off the OKC bench. Then you've got all-time plus-minus king and analytics' ageless wonder Tim Duncan who keeps San Antonio's perennial Top 5 defense standing tall, while also balancing out the Spurs' Top 5 offense with his pinball-starting pick-and-roll arcade game. And then you've got the Pacers defensive dynamic duo of Roy Hibbert and Paul George, who are both leading Indiana near the top of the all-time defensive charts.

ALL-NBA FIRST TEAM

Tim Duncan, Spurs LeBron James, Heat Kevin Durant, Thunder Paul George, Pacers Stephen Curry, Warriors

ALL-NBA SECOND TEAM: Roy Hibbert, Pacers; Kevin Love, Timberwolves; Andre Iguodala, Warriors; James Harden, Rockets; Manu Ginobili, Spurs.

ALL-NBA THIRD TEAM: Chris Bosh, Heat; LaMarcus Aldridge, Trail Blazers; Dirk Nowitzki, Mavericks; Dwyane Wade, Heat; Tony Parker, Spurs.


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DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Roy Hibbert, Pacers

Runner-ups: 2. Tim Duncan, Spurs; 3. Andrew Bogut, Warriors

No individual affects a game defensively like Hibbert, Duncan and Bogut, who turn grown men into jelly when they enter the paint against them, holding opponents at the rim anywhere from 41 to 46 percent. Duncan has long been the architect of the best defensive edifices of The Three-Point Shot Era, with the Spurs owning the record and nine other Top 50 D's, but now Duncan's summer workout partner is taking the baton by leading his Pacers to a mind-blowing 92.6 points per 100 possessions. It's a continuation of Hibbert's dominance in the playoffs when the NBA world recognized they made a mistake by not recognizing his All-Defense talent sooner. Carmelo Anthony and LeBron James will never be the same again after meeting up with The Great Wall of Hibbert in the 2013 NBA Playoffs. Hibbert affects the games in ways that only the all-time greats do. As for Bogut, he brought Top 5 defense back to Oakland in the playoffs last season, and now--along with newcomer Andre Iguodala's help--has helped Golden State transform its identity from a shoot-first, small-ball team to a defensive/rebounding force of a franchise.

ALL-DEFENSE FIRST TEAM

Roy Hibbert, Pacers Tim Duncan, Spurs Paul George, Pacers Andre Iguodala, Warriors George Hill, Pacers

ALL-DEFENSE SECOND TEAM: Andrew Bogut, Warriors; Serge Ibaka, Thunder; David West, Pacers; Lance Stephenson, Pacers; Kyle Lowry, Raptors.


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ROOKIE OF THE YEAR: Michael Carter-Williams, 76ers

Runner-ups: 2. Giannis Antetokounmpo, Bucks; 3. Trey Burke, Jazz.

The rookie Class of 2013 is so weak I put C.J. McCollum on the second squad, even though the formerly injured Blazer just played his first game last week (he has looked good--14 points on 11 shots in 28 minutes). But the majority of other lottery picks have been a disaster, with only five of the 14 lotto picks making this 10-team All-Rookie squad. But enough of that. Let's focus on bright spots, like Michael Carter-Williams, who can't shoot, but is showing the NBA he can do everything else on the basketball court. Or check out Antetokounmpo, who is looking so good as a newly-19-year-old Buck that fans are forcing themselves to spell-memorize and correct-punctuate his name. Dude's got all-around athleticism. And then there's Trey Burke, whose rookie play has totally justified Utah's rebuilding process.

ALL-ROOKIE FIRST TEAM

Steven Adams, Thunder Mason Plumlee, Nets Giannis Antetokounmpo, Bucks Michael Carter-Williams, 76ers Trey Burke, Jazz

ALL-ROOKIE SECOND TEAM: Tim Hardaway Jr., Knicks; Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Pistons, Victor Oladipo, Magic; C.J. McCollum, Trail Blazers; Nate Wolters, Bucks.


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MOST IMPROVED PLAYER: Miles Plumlee, Suns

Runner-ups: 2. DeAndre Jordan, Clippers; 3. Isaiah Thomas, Kings.

Thomas should have been starting in Sacramento for three years now, but both Paul Westphal and Keith Smart were slow to hand him the job, until the small point guard eventually took the position through force by January every year. Even Mike Malone was slow to give Thomas his due, but thankfully the Kings traded Grevis Vasquez to Toronto, allowing Thomas the space he needed to quarterback this team. So now his level of improvement and past steady play is on display every night. Jordan too is a success story created by new Clippers Coach Doc Rivers, who empowered Jordan when he made DJ part of this newly-created Clippers' Big 3, taking the Chris Paul/Blake Griffin dynamic duo act to a trinity-inspired team. Jordan has delivered for Doc, transforming himself into a league-leading shot-blocker AND rebounder. But perhaps the best representative for this Most Improved Player award is Phoenix Suns center Miles Plumlee, who only played 55 minutes a season ago. Who knew that his high level of defensive and rebounding play would enable the Suns to not only trade starting center Marcin Gortat for a future first-rounder, but would somehow help propel the team to playoff-contention status. Plumlee's third-string-to-first-string ascension is something nobody outside of Phoenix saw coming.


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SIXTH MAN OF THE YEAR: Manu Ginobili, Spurs

Runner-ups: 2. Reggie Jackson, Thunder; 3. Chris Andersen, Heat.

This is old hat for Ginobili, a perennial Sixth Man of the Year vote-getter who won the 6MOY in 2007-08. But Gino's All-Pro quarterback ways have hit a new level this season, with the 36 year old posting the second-best plus-minus numbers of the season thus far, while also out-performing perhaps every shooting guard in the game today (second only to James Harden in Regularized Statistical Plus Minus). Jackson, who ranks fourth on the plus-minus list, is a dual candidate on this awards list. He very easily could also earn the Most Improved Player trophy for not only helping Oklahoma City forget about former sixth man Kevin Martin, but also for replacing Russell Westbrook as a starter of late with equal aplomb. And then there's Birdman. Mr. Andersen to LeBron's Neo. The Heat backup center, who now is playing even more off the bench at 19 minutes per game, has been such a tremendous asset these past two seasons, he certainly deserves recognition of some kind for his valuable contributions. Even if he really is Miami's seventh man.


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COACH OF THE YEAR: Erik Spoelstra, Heat

Runner-ups: 2. Gregg Popovich, Spurs, 3. Frank Vogel, Pacers.

Spo, Pop and Vogel never quit coaching. Always keep developing. You see it with Spo in getting his champions to out-efficient themselves, going against the mirror as competition when no one else in the East (besides Indiana) comes close to measuring up. Rehabbing the images, bodies and games of Greg Oden and Michael Beasley as well. Then you've got San Antonio's Pop, whose rest-and-recovery ways continue to revolutionize basketball, while we see continued improvement from Boris Diaw, Patty Mills, Cory Joseph and newcomer Marco Belinelli. And then there's Vogel, who has created so many Most Improved candidates in Indiana (Lance Stephenson is his latest) that they really should name the award after him.


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EXECUTIVE OF THE YEAR: Sam Presti, Thunder

Runner-ups: 2. Bob Myers, Warriors; 3. R.C. Buford, Spurs.

Give Presti the award for all the crap he took when he traded James Harden and saved his franchise $20-something million annually, while still improving the Thunder's winning percentage every season, by cranking out new talent like Jackson, Jeremy Lamb, Perry Jones and Adams. Then give Myers some credit as well, for dumping Richard Jefferson, Andris Biedrins and first-rounders to make salary-cap room for Andre Iguodala, yet ignoring the temptation to bring back Jarrett Jack and Carl Landry after they received overvalued contract offers. And don't forget Pop's right-hand man Buford, who locked up Tiago Splitter when Portland was about to make him a serious offer, got Ginobili to sign for a hometown discount and then brought in Belinelli and Jeff Ayres, who have both played big roles on the 2013-14 team already.