In a tight race for SI's annual honors, Tim Duncan retains his MVP crown
Will the finally surging Lakers four-peat? Or will the Spurs or the Kings win it all? The playoffs can be tough to predict, but here, without any doubt, are the award winners of 2002-03:
Tim Duncan, Spurs. Yes, Kevin Garnett had the finest season of his eight-year career, carrying the Timberwolves. But Duncan's supporting cast is not much better than Garnett's, his numbers are comparable, and at week's end San Antonio had the league's best record—and nine more wins than Minnesota.
Coach of the Year
Gregg Popovich, Spurs. The triple crown for any coach is to make the most of his roster, have his team peaking before the playoffs and clinch home court advantage throughout the playoffs. Popovich has done the first two and as of Sunday was closing in on the third.
Rookie of the Year
Yao Ming, Rockets. The 7'5" Yao proved to be the rare player who can put up good numbers and consistently make his teammates better.
Defensive Player of the Year
Ben Wallace, Pistons. At week's end he had a shot at becoming the first player to lead the NBA in both boards (15.4 per game) and blocks (3.15) in successive seasons.
Most Improved Player
Jason Williams, Grizzlies. He had been written off as erratic and grossly overpaid—until Hubie Brown became his coach in November. Through Sunday, Williams ranked third in the league in assists (8.2 per game) and first among starting point guards in assist-to-turnover ratio (3.71).
Executive of the Year
Joe Dumars, Pistons. Dumars brought in a new starting backcourt by dealing Jerry Stackhouse to the Wizards for Richard Hamilton and signing free agent Chauncey Billups. Detroit claimed the Central Division crown—and it still has room under the luxury-tax threshold to improve this summer.
Bobby Jackson, Kings. He could start for many teams, but he's content to spark a title contender with his playmaking, scoring and defense.
Lifetime Achievement Award
Jerry Sloan, Jazz Though he hasn't won a championship or a Coach of the Year award, Sloan's teams have epitomized selflessness and hard-nosed play while averaging 52 wins in 15 seasons with Utah.