There comes a time in every NBA season to choose the award winners, so here's one sample ballot:
Most Valuable Player
The winner this year should be unanimous, while the other four place-winners are very subjective. There might be five guys who could make a solid claim for second place. I left Kobe Bryant off the list, just because the Lakers could probably make the playoffs without him. Miami might win 10 games without Dwyane Wade.
1. LeBron James, Cavs; 2. Kevin Durant, Thunder; 3. Dwight Howard, Magic; 4. Wade, Heat; 5. Carmelo Anthony, Nuggets.
Coach of the Year
Oklahoma City's Scott Brooks might be the favorite here, but the Thunder's improvement was 99 percent Kevin Durant. Milwaukee's Scott Skiles is 10 games over .500 and just throttled the Bulls with a starting lineup of Brandon Jennings, John Salmons, Kurt Thomas, Carlos Delfino and Luc Richard Mbah a Moute. Granted, Ersan Ilyasova did see plenty of minutes off the bench. 1. Skiles, Bucks; 2. Brooks, Thunder; 3. Jerry Sloan, Jazz.
Rookie of the Year
Two very solid candidates at the top this year - Sacramento's Tyreke Evans (20.1 points, 5.8 assists, 5.3 rebounds, .458 FG pct.) and Golden State's Stephen Curry (16.9 points, 5.9 assists, 4.3 rebounds, .460 FG pct.).
Both of their teams are bad, so the final decision could probably go either way. 1. Evans, Kings; 2. Curry, Warriors; 3. Brandon Jennings, Bucks.
Sixth Man Award
Believe it - Jamal Crawford is finally a winner in his 10th NBA season. There were actually some good candidates this year that didn't make my top three, such as Manu Ginobili, Lamar Odom and Paul Millsap. 1. Crawford, Hawks; 2. Carl Landry, Rockets/Kings; 3. Jason Terry, Mavs.
Joakim Noah might have won this award if he hadn't gotten hurt. He deserves to be in the top three, I'd say. 1. Aaron Brooks, Rockets; 2. Noah, Bulls; 3. Carl Landry, Rockets/Kings.
Defensive Player of the Year
The era of the lockdown defender appears to be gone, now that Ron Artest has moved onto other interests. Statistically, Miami is the league's best defensive team, which is why Dwyane Wade gets a plug here. 1. Dwight Howard, Magic; 2. Josh Smith, Hawks; 3. Wade, Heat.
To me, this might be the toughest decision this year. LeBron James is obviously one forward; Dwight Howard is the center; Kobe Bryant and Dwyane Wade are the guards. So who gets the other forward spot - Kevin Durant (29.9 ppg), Carmelo Anthony (28.4) or Dirk Nowitzki (24.7)? I'll go with Durant but don't feel entirely comfortable with it.
Another question is whether Derrick Rose can sneak onto the third team, since Chris Paul missed so much of the season. Steve Nash really stepped it up this season, and Rajon Rondo might have been the most valuable Celtic, so it looks doubtful for Rose.
First team: Bryant, Lakers; Wade, Heat; Howard, Magic; James, Cavs; Durant, Thunder.
Second team: Deron Williams, Jazz; Joe Johnson, Hawks; Amare Stoudemire, Suns; Anthony, Nuggets; Nowitzki, Mavs.
Third team: Nash, Suns; Brandon Roy, Blazers; David Lee; Knicks; Chris Bosh, Raptors; Zach Randolph, Grizzlies.
1. Eastern Conference: It was supposed to be gaining on the West last year, but now seems to be weak as ever.
2. Washington Wizards: Most predictions had those guys in the playoffs. Instead, the team was blown up and the star player suspended for a very stupid decision.
3. Hedo Turkoglu: The Raptors made him their big move to pursuade Chris Bosh to stay. Well, good luck selling your house, Chris.