Posted: Thursday April 14, 2005 1:25PM; Updated: Thursday April 14, 2005 1:27PM
Emeka Okafor has proved to be a consistent building block for the expansion Bobcats.
Scott Cunningham/NBAE via Getty Images
Marty Burns will periodically answer questions from SI.com users in his mailbag.
With just a week left in the regular season, it's time to e-mail my NBA awards ballot back to David Stern. Last week I presented my choice for MVP. Now it's time to take a look at the other postseason honors. (Note: The NBA asks media voters to rank the top three in each category, hence the inclusion of two runners-up. Also, the NBA does not officially give out an executive of the year award, but I've decided to throw that one into the mix just for fun.)
ROOKIE OF THE YEAR
Winner: Emeka Okafor, Bobcats
Runners up: Ben Gordon, Bulls; Dwight Howard, Magic
This is one of the most hotly-contested races, with three terrific candidates. Gordon was the most sensational, and Howard might well turn out to be the best of the bunch, but Okafor deserves it for his overall body of work.
The 6-foot-10 power forward leads all rookies in points (15.3 per game) and rebounds (10.9) while ranking second in blocks (1.75). It's true he plays far more minutes than Gordon, and his shooting percentage (.447) isn't as good as Howard's (.522), but Okafor has had to face constant double teams in being the No. 1 option on an expansion team. He also has had to deal with the off-court responsibilities of being the franchise's only marquee player. Yet he was out there every night battling in the paint for 35 minutes. He led the NBA in offensive rebounds (3.9), and is one of just eight players in the league to average a double-double (along with Howard).
The bottom line is no other rookie had to carry his franchise on his shoulders like Okafor. And the fact that Gordon is also up for Sixth Man makes the call a lot easier. Faced with two strong choices, it seems fair to do like King Solomon and split the baby. Many other media voters will do the same thing, even if they don't want to admit it.
COACH OF THE YEAR
Scott Skiles, Bulls
Runners up: Mike D'Antoni, Suns; Rick Carlisle, Pacers
This award is nearly always a tough choice, but this year it's ridiculous. D'Antoni, Skiles and Carlisle all have done masterful jobs, as have Seattle's Nate McMillan and Denver's George Karl. Normally, D'Antoni would have an iron-clad case. He led the Suns to the NBA's best record by having the courage to stick to his vision. He also showed creativity by using Amare Stoudemire as a center.