If I Were Voting...
1. Kobe Bryant (Lakers) - Going by his on-court displays, he is the best player in the game today, and he has never won this award. Think about that. It was his sheer force of will that kept the Lakers above .500 until the Pau Gasol trade that suddenly made them the favorites to win the Western Conference. No one is better in the clutch, and he truly has learned how to get his teammates involved. (And he's probably my favorite player to hate.)
2. Kevin Garnett (Celtics) - You know those "Where I remember happens" ads? KG's presense turned a perennial lottery team into a legitimate favorite for the NBA title. Shouldn't that be a factor in NBA MVP? If you were betting money, wouldn't you put it on the Celtics, with three veterans all of the same age and experience playing like it's war and they're getting paid by piece-rate?
3. (Tie) Chris Paul (Hornets) & Deron Williams (Jazz) - CP3 has better individual stats, but there are two things to think about with these two. If they switched teams, would the records of either team be that much better or worse? Also, when they face each other, D-Will dominates Paul. If they face each other in the playoffs, I have very little doubt the Jazz would win the series, so while their regular season record is great, I have no faith in the Hornets making it out of the West. That said, who could have guessed that the lottery-team Hornets would still hold the #1 seed in the West at this point?
5. Tracy McGrady (Rockets) - 22 in a row, half without Yao Ming. He carried his team.
Others: Amare Stoudamire (Suns), LeBron James (Cavs), Tim Duncan (Spurs), Dwight Howard (Magic), Dirk Nowitzki (Mavs).
Last Place: Stephon Marbury (Knicks). Every team he goes to is worse when he gets there and is better when he leaves.
COACH OF THE YEAR
1. Jerry Sloan (Jazz) - I'm totally biased. Any season they get over 50 wins, his name should be written first until he gets the award. That, or change the name of the award to Coach of the Year Who Exceeded ESPN's Expectations. How can he not have this award yet? He should have won this the year the Jazz went 67-15 (it went to Doc Rivers of the 41-41 Magic) or the year he brought the thinnest roster in history (AK47, Carlos Arroyo, Tom Gugliotta, Milt Palacio, Ben Handlogten, Mikki Moore, Michael Ruffin, Jarron Collins, etc.) to a 42-40 season (it went to Hubie Brown of the Grizzlies; a little harder to complain about that one).
2. Rick Adelman (Rockets) - Weird to think he's never won this either. The Rockets are having their best season since the days of Hakeem, and they're doing it with their star center out. Many teams might have crumpled at that point, but Adelman kept believing.
3. Byron Scott (Hornets) - Their bench isn't that deep, but they find ways to win. Who knows what the Nets could have done if Kidd hadn't run him out of town? Clearly the guy knows what he's doing.
4. Stan Van Gundy (Magic) - Anyone think that Miami would be the worst team in the league if Riley hadn't stabbed SVG in the back to swoop in and win a title? If the Magic could upgrade Jameer Nelson and get Fran Vasquez to come over, they'd be title contenders.
5. Flip Saunders (Pistons) - He knows how to get this team to the Eastern Conference finals ever year, and he's developing the bench behind the All-Stars.
Others: Phil Jackson (Lakers), Doc Rivers (Celtics), Gregg Popovich (Spurs), Mike D'Antoni (Suns), Maurice Cheeks (Sixers).
Last Place: Pat Riley (Heat). He quit on his team when the going got rough, then Stan Van Gundy turned them around. Then he took the team back. When the going got rough this year, he took time off here and there all year.
ROOKIE OF THE YEAR
1. Kevin Durant (Sonics) - No one else is even close.
Others: Al Horford (Hawks), Luis Scola (Rockets), Jeff Green (Sonics), Thaddeus Young (Sixers), Al Thornton (Clippers), Jamario Moon (Raptors).
Last Place: Greg Oden (Blazers). What's the dude thinking, playing a pick-up game? If he has been out all season, won't next year really count as his rookie year? He might as well have been a Euro stashed overseas.
GM OF THE YEAR
1. Danny Ainge (Celtics) - Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen? Are you kidding? Hands down.
2. Mitch Kupchek (Lakers) - Any other year, he'd probably win, by getting Pau Gasol for nothing, leading to other desperation trades around the NBA (so, Mavs, how's Kidd working out for you? So, Suns, how's Shaq's salary going to look next year?)
3. Kevin O'Connor (Jazz) - Since the Kyle Korver trade, the Jazz have gone 36-10. But yeah, he's a distant third.
Others: I won't pretend to know the names of all of them, but the guys from the Hornets, Blazers, Sixers, Pistons and Magic deserve credit.
Last Place: Isiah Thomas (Knicks). For some reason, Zeke has never figured out the meaning of the word "chemistry" the way most other GM's have. Headcase after headcase has been brought to the MSG to squander away time and talent. There is not one contract still in New York from when Isiah took over, yet they're in worse shape than when Scott Layden was trading away Nene for Antonio McDyess. It'll be at least two years before Donnie Walsh can clean up the salary purgatory Zeke has put them in.