Defensive Player of the Year
Even at the doddering age of 35, the four-time Defensive Player of the Year was named on seven ballots because he can still dramatically change a game by controlling the lane and neutralizing his opposing number. Timberwolves forward Kevin Garnett placed second with four votes. Surprisingly, Pistons power forward Ben Wallace, the league leader in blocks (3.19), received only one mention.
Most Improved Player
Each player received five votes. Martin, the top draft pick in 2000, was a borderline disappointment as a rookie, averaging 12.2 points. This season he has emerged as a defensive stopper with a much improved mid-range jumper who led the Nets in scoring at the break, with 15.9 points a game. Since moving from small forward to shooting guard, Szczerbiak, a first-time All-Star, has given Minnesota a second scorer alongside Garnett. Endowed with the sweetest of strokes, Szczerbiak has added 5.1 points to his scoring average (19.1) and is shooting 51.3% from the field, tops among backcourt players.
At the break the Clippers' 6'6", 223-pound guard, who received six votes, had led his team in scoring more times—II—than any other bench player. After adding 10 pounds over the summer, he has become a formidable inside-outside threat, capable of taking his man off the dribble, scoring in the low post and hitting the three. Another 21-year-old, Pacers forward Al Harrington, placed second with four votes, though he tore his right ACL on Jan. 23 and is out for the season. While Harrington's scoring average rose more than five points from last season (to 13.1), it's his defense that draws the high marks. Says one Eastern Conference coach, "He's played Michael [Jordan] the toughest of anyone."
Executive of the Year