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Article:NBA Midseason Awards

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Sorry Kobe haters, number 24 is the league's most valuable player this year.

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MVP: Kobe Bryant, Los Angeles Lakers It's amazing that Kobe Bryant has been in the NBA for ten years but has failed to garner one MVP trophy. While this may not be Kobe's best season in terms of fifty point outbursts and eighty-one point games, but it is his best season in terms of winning and leadership. Besides ranking second in the league in scoring with 28.0 points, Bryant has excelled in other facets of the game. Currently, he is averaging 6.1 rebounds, 5.3 assists and 1.9 steals per game. He doesn't rebound or score as much as LeBron James, but his experience and leadership make him even more valuable to his team. Despite numerous trade rumors prior to the start of the season, Kobe has played unselfishly in an attempt to develop his teammates. Guys like Jordan Farmar, Sasha Vujacic, Trevor Ariza, and Andrew Bynum, are all having career years. By taking a back seat, and holding his competitive desire in check, Kobe has allowed his teammates to be aggressive as well on the offensive end. As a result of his play, the Lakers have become one of the top teams in the NBA once again.

Rookie of the Year: Kevin Durant, Seattle Supersonics Due to a fairly lackluster rookie class, and Greg Oden's knee injury, Durant for rookie of the year is a pretty obvious claim right now. So far this year, the 6'9" forward is averaging 19.4 points per game, which is nine more than the second-place rookie, Juan Carlos Navarro. While Durant is only shooting forty percent, he is the focus of opposing defenses all season and forced to be the team's top scorer. Al Horford looks to be a future double-double guy, but he is no where near Durant yet. It's really too bad that Oden isn't around to make this a more compelling race.

Coach of the Year: Nate McMillan, Portland Trail Blazers Despite having the NBA's youngest roster, McMillan has taken a team that was 32-50 a year ago and transformed it into one of a Western Conference powerhouse. When Greg Oden was injured over the summer and would miss the season, the Blazers could have easily folded. However, McMillan kept the team together and focused on their goal of making the playoffs. McMillan's poise and leadership is transferring to the players on the court as they have played extremely well in the fourth quarter of games.

Sixth Man Award: Manu Ginobili, San Antonio Spurs In order to be eligible for this award, a player must come off the bench for more games than he starts. Because of this rule, Chicago's Ben Gordon, Toronto's Jose Calderon and Washington's Antonio Daniels, are eliminated from contention. However, Manu Ginobili would still be the clear frontrunner even if those guys were eligible. At the break, the 6'6" swingman is averaging 19.4 points, 4.6 rebounds, 4.1 assists and 1.6 steals. Ginobli has not only been the league's top sixth man, but he also probably should be in New Orleans playing in the All-Star Game.

Defensive Player of the Year: Marcus Camby, Denver Nuggets Camby, who is also the reigning Defensive Player of the Year, is having another outstanding season. Currently, the Nuggets' seven footer leads the NBA in blocked shots with 3.95. This is the highest figure since Dikembe Mutombo's averaged 4.5 blocks per game during the 1995-96. In addition to his block shots, Camby ranks second in rebounds with just over fourteen per game. The Nuggets rank a respectable 12th in field-goal percentage allowed (45.0), due to Camby's presence in the middle.

[1] Most Improved Player: Chris Kaman, Los Angeles Clippers After getting a huge contract extension a year ago, Kaman was written off as a bust as he failed to live up to those lofty expectations. After a terrible season a year ago, the "Kaveman" has answered the bell this season. While his team has struggled without Elton Brand all year, Kaman has become a reliable post scorer with 16.4 points per game. However, Kaman's improvement has been most noticeable on the defensive end, as he has transformed into an elite rebounder (13.8 rpg, third in the NBA) and a great shot blocker (3.1 bpg, third in the NBA). After a poor season a year ago, Kaman could have tanked, but instead, he has become one of the best centers in the NBA.

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