MVP: LeBron James- SF (CLE)
James led his Cavaliers to the league's best record for the second straight season, and now he'll set his sights on winning his first NBA Championship.
There is plenty of support for Kevin Durant in this category, but let's face it- Durant is on his way, but he's still not even close to LeBron's level. Durant became the youngest player in NBA history to lead the league in scoring, but LeBron finished second, while setting the NBA record for assists by a forward (8.6 per game).
According to ESPN's formula for per-game player efficiency, LeBron averaged 52.7 to Durant's 45.6. While Durant's figure is impressive, LeBron posted the highest total since ESPN began tracking the figure in the 2002-2003 season.
Simply put, LeBron James had a historic season in 2009-2010, and regardless of Cleveland's fate in the NBA playoffs, King James deserves some hardware to commemorate his record-breaking campaign.
(Pre-Season Prediction: James)
ROY: Tyreke Evans- PG/SG (SAC)
Evans had a very consistent season, though his team's results were up-and-down. Evans averaged 20.1 points, 5.3 rebounds, and 5.8 assists as a rookie, joining Oscar Robertson, Michael Jordan, and LeBron James as the only rookies in NBA history to average 20-5-and-5.
Making it a close race, however, was Golden State rookie Stephen Curry. Curry, a cult hero in his days at Davidson, got off to a relatively slow start as a rookie, but played spectacularly over the last 50 games, ending the season with averages of 17.5 points, 4.5 rebounds, and 5.9 assists.
Interestingly, each player's strength is the other's weakness. Evans' size and strength made him almost unguardable at times, while Curry is considered undersized. And, while Curry's outside shot will likely always be his best asset, Evans struggles when he's kept out of the paint.
Both players had wonderful seasons and have bright futures, but both were part of miserable teams in 2009-2010, which makes it hard to distinguish one winner from the pair. The difference, though, has to be the supporting cast. Kevin Martin played just 22 games for Sacramento this season, and while Carl Landry played well over the final 28 games, Evans was always the focus of the opposing defense. Curry had the benefit of playing with Monta Ellis (25.5 points per game) and Corey Maggette (19.8) for a combined 134 games.
(Pre-Season Prediction: Evans)
Coach of the Year: Scott Skiles- MIL
Milwaukee won 46 games led by a defensive-minded center and a loudmouth rookie point guard. For much of the season, their third best player was Carlos Delfino. Yet, somehow, this little team that could continue to pile up win after win, and their coach deserves much of the credit. Skiles was able to transform Brandon Jennings, the tenth overall pick in the 2009 NBA Draft into an instant superstar, posting an NBA season-high 55 points in a November win over Golden State. He was also able to get unbelievable contributions from some unlikely sources (Delfino, Ersan Ilyasova, Kurt Thomas, Jerry Stackhouse) over the course of the season.
The injury to Andrew Bogut will likely spell playoff doom for the Bucks, but it shouldn't detract from their accomplishments this season, and Scott Skiles deserves to be rewarded for his role in the team's miraculous turnaround.
(Pre-Season Prediction: Flip Saunders- WAS [OUCH!])
Defensive Player of the Year: Dwight Howard- C (ORL)
Howard has become much more of a complete player, especially offensively, but Superman still does his best work on the defensive end. Howard led the league in rebounds (13.2 per game) and blocks (2.8 per game) for the second straight season. To put that accomplishment into historical perspective, Howard becomes the first player in NBA history to pull the double more than once. And he did it in back-to-back seasons. That is a feat we may never see duplicated.
(Pre-Season Prediction: Dwyane Wade)
Most Improved Player: David Lee- PF (NYK)
Lee has done a terrific job of augmenting his game over the past few seasons. He went from a player who was a liability offensively, to a one-trick pony, to a player who now has the ability to step out and knock down a 17-footer. He was always an above average rebounder, but Lee has really done a nice job of improving his all-around game, finishing 8th according to ESPN's player efficiency rankings. Lee averaged over 20 points per game, up from 16 a year ago, and 10.8 in 2007-2008. He also shot 54.5% from the floor and 81.2% from the free throw line, making him one of the most efficient offensive players in the league. He also managed to increase his assist average by 71.4% from 2.1 per game to 3.6 per contest.
(Pre-Season Prediction: Rodney Stuckey)
6th Man of the Year: Jamal Crawford- SG (ATL)
They say that there's a name for the best player on a losing team. That name? A loser. Jamal Crawford finally got his first taste of the playoffs in his 10th NBA season, and now that he's no longer a loser, he might as well be a winner as well. The 6th Man of the Year Awards should be almost as big of a runaway as the MVP race. Crawford was Atlanta's second-leading scorer this season, averaging 18 points per game in 31.1 minutes per game off the bench. He also played a large part in turning a "Also Ran" Hawks team into a legitimate championship contender.
(Pre-Season Prediction: Jason Terry)
Executive of the Year: Steve Kerr- PHO
This is a close call over Rick Sund of the Atlanta Hawks, who brought in the 6th Man of the Year, Jamal Crawford, but Kerr wins by a hair. Kerr made a fairly under the radar move last summer by bringing in Channing Frye, who had just concluded a forgettable stint in Portland. He also replaced former head coach Terry Porter with Alvin Gentry, who restored Phoenix's up-tempo run-and-gun system. The combination paid big dividends, as Frye made 172 3-pointers (He had 20 career makes before this season.), Phoenix averaged 110.2 points per game, and won 54 games en route to the third seed in the Western Conference playoffs.
(No Pre-Season Prediction)