Roundtable: Sizing up awards races
Dwyane Wade is doing his best to enter the LeBron-Kobe MVP discussion
Derrick Rose tops a strong rookie class; Stan Van Gundy may lead coach race
Jason Terry, Manu Ginobili and Nate Robinson are competing for Sixth Man Award
With about six weeks left in the regular season, four SI.com NBA writers break down the races for the six major awards. (All stats and records are through Monday.)
Jack McCallum: Well, you saw the results on Monday night. Miami's Dwyane Wade was fantastic in the Heat's loss to the Cavaliers. In another year, he is the MVP. But that game was a microcosm of the MVP race: LeBron was just a little bit better, and he will be (and should be) this year's MVP. Kobe comes in at a solid third, with Tim Duncan and Dwight Howard at Nos. 4 and 5 in some order.
Chris Mannix: Wade's staggering numbers have made this more than a two-horse race, and Andrew Bynum's injury has brought back the 2007-08 version of Kobe, but this is still LeBron's award to lose. James is a triple-double threat each night, and the Cavs' tenuous hold on the top spot in the East means he will be bringing it right up to the last game of the season.
Steve Aschburner: The elite players tend to win this award in pairs -- winning a second MVP award is the NBA's equivalent of a first-ballot Hall of Fame selection in baseball, only more exclusive. But I'm not prepared to make it Kobe 2, LeBron 0 based on this season. To me, James has had less to work with and more injured teammates to overcome in Cleveland. His leadership, defense and outside shooting all ought to qualify him for Most Improved Player consideration, but since that never goes to the very best, he'll have to settle for the consolation of this prize.
Rookie of the Year
Ian Thomsen: I like Chicago's Derrick Rose, not only as the best long-term talent in this class but also for his leadership and presence. New Jersey's Brook Lopez might be the No. 2 rookie -- again, let's see how the next several weeks unfold -- followed by Memphis' O.J. Mayo and a lot of other talents in what is an excellent rookie class.
Jack McCallum: This is a close one between Rose and Mayo, and Oklahoma City's Russell Westbrook is closing strong. But from the beginning of the season, it was Rose's task to lead the Bulls, and he has done so in an efficient and mature fashion.
Chris Mannix: Rose has been effective all season, and in five years I have no doubt he will be in the Chris Paul/Deron Williams category. But Mayo is just too smooth to ignore. An emerging star at either guard position, Mayo just needs his to-the-basket game to catch up to his NBA-ready jump shot. His defense is already superior to most rookies', too. He'll lose votes because of the Grizzlies' struggles, but no rook is more complete than Mayo.
Steve Aschburner: Rose is the one to catch. Most of the other guys who are getting mentioned heavily -- Mayo, Westbrook, Love -- aren't in pursuit of a playoff spot like Rose's Chicago club, and New Jersey's Lopez doesn't shoulder the load that a starting point guard does.
Coach of the Year
Ian Thomsen: This is always the toughest category. My choice at the moment is Mike Brown, who has his Cavaliers in championship contention with Mo Williams added to the same roster that went 45-37 last year. Orlando's Stan Van Gundy, Houston's Rick Adelman and Utah's Jerry Sloan are worthy, as is Milwaukee's Scott Skiles. It is amazing to find the Bucks in playoff contention despite their injuries and their overhaul in style.
Jack McCallum: I'd be tempted right now to make my annual vote for Sloan, who has never won the award, which is a minor crime. But the injury-plagued Jazz just aren't high enough in the standings ... yet (they've won eight in a row and are within two games of third place in the West). So I'm going with Van Gundy, who coaches his guts out every night and has the Magic within striking distance of first place in the East.
Chris Mannix: Van Gundy has developed three All-Stars and dealt with the loss of his starting point guard (Jameer Nelson) by seamlessly transitioning to a new one (Rafer Alston) to keep the Magic in contention in the East. Barring a late-season fade, Van Gundy should sweep this award.
Steve Aschburner: Van Gundy is the front-runner. This is a process-of-elimination selection for me. My personal leaning is that the guy coaching the likely MVP shouldn't win because he has the league's best player, thereby making his job a tad easier. So that eliminates Cleveland's Brown. Then there's the tendency to look for coaches of improved teams rather than the powerhouses, which explains why Phil Jackson and Gregg Popovich have won only one COY award each. Doc Rivers has last year's defending champs, so he can't be doing much heavy lifting, right? Nobody trusts Denver yet, so George Karl won't be claiming this (and curiously, he never has despite three seasons with 60 victories and five more of 50 or more). Sloan, we all know, cut a deal with the devil, trading all consideration for this award for unrivaled job security. That leaves Van Gundy, who has emotions among voters on his side from his Miami exit and might inspire swell woe-is-me comedy from his brother, Jeff, on NBA broadcasts, if he gets this edge in sibling rivalry.
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