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The votes that count

SI.com's experts make regular-season award picks

Posted: Thursday April 12, 2007 12:44PM; Updated: Thursday April 19, 2007 12:54PM
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2006-07 Official
Award Ballot
SI.com's Jack McCallum, Ian Thomsen and Marty Burns are among the media members who cast votes for the NBA's top performers. Here's how they will vote:
JACK
McCALLUM
IAN
THOMSEN
MARTY
BURNS
Most Valuable Player
1. STEVE NASH
2. Dirk Nowitzki
3. Kobe Bryant
4. Tim Duncan
5. Chris Bosh
1. DIRK NOWITZKI
2. Steve Nash
3. Kobe Bryant
4. LeBron James
5. Kevin Garnett
1. STEVE NASH
2. Dirk Nowitzki
3. Tim Duncan
4. Kobe Bryant
5. Dwyane Wade
I tried to think of a reason not to vote Nash both because he has won the last two and because Nowitzki has had a great season with a great team. But at the end of the day, I just can't see anyone as valuable to his team as Nash is to Phoenix. He is not only the on-court QB but also the off-court psychologist/diplomat who keeps the Suns together. And his play has picked up over these final two months, particularly in head-to-heads against Dirk and in a recent win over Kobe and the Lakers. Nowitzki is shooting career highs from the field (49.9 percent), three-point range (41.2) and the free throw line (90.2) to go with a career-best 3.4 assists and his typical 24.7 points and 9.1 rebounds. It's his leadership of the league's dominant team that gives him the tiebreaker over two-time MVP Nash, who is producing career highs in scoring (18.8 points), shooting (46.4 percent from three, 53.3 percent overall) and assists (11.5). It's difficult to pass up the best player on the best team (Nowitzki), but I'm going with Nash because he means more to his club. Nash just makes everyone around him so much better. Nowitzki is a double-double machine and a go-to guy, but he doesn't propel the Mavs like Nash does the Suns. Also, Nash schooled Dirk in their most recent head-to-head meetings. That's good enough for me.
Coach Of The Year
1. SAM MITCHELL
2. Jerry Sloan
3. Avery Johnson
1. JEFF VAN GUNDY
2. Sam Mitchell
3. Avery Johnson
1. SAM MITCHELL
2. Avery Johnson
3. Jerry Sloan
I had the first two picks reversed until recently. Sloan has been one of the most underappreciated figures in NBA history, but his team has hit the skids with the playoffs approaching. Mitchell, who at one point looked like he would be fired, has turned things around in Toronto. Van Gundy kept Houston in contention despite injuries to Yao Ming and Tracy McGrady. Johnson did the hardest thing: improved the No. 3 team of last year into the league's dominant side. Mitchell overcame his lame-duck status to guide Toronto to what could end up being its best regular season. Despite an overhauled roster, a new offensive system and his own lame-duck status, Mitchell turned it around after a 2-8 start to lead the Raptors to the Atlantic Division title. Not bad for a guy who was widely panned as one of the NBA's worst coaches a year ago.
Rookie Of The Year
1. BRANDON ROY
2. Rudy Gay
3. Randy Foye
1. BRANDON ROY
2. Jorge Garbajosa
3. Rudy Gay
1. BRANDON ROY
2. Andrea Bargnani
3. Rudy Gay
The story of this category is injuries. I really would've preferred to have given it to Jorge Garbajosa or Andrea Bargnani, both of whom played key roles in the Toronto Raptors' renaissance, but each has missed significant time. Roy was a steady guy on an unsteady team. After an early-season heel injury, Roy has come on to lead his class in scoring (16.7) and assists (4.1). Garbajosa helped lead Toronto its first division title, and Gay improved steadily to post numbers across the board. Along with being the scoring and assists leader, Roy ranks second among first-year players in steals and fifth in shooting percentage. He also hit several big shots late in games. Bargnani might well turn out to be the better player, but Roy was better overall this season.
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