Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes to weigh in on the three most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.
At the season’s halfway point (roughly), give me your Sixth Man, Coach and MVP of the first half. (In that order. And expound a little.)
Steve Aschburner: James Harden is my Sixth Man halfway through, same as he was before this thing began. His team is winning, he’s playing well and he isn’t starting – done! I’m going with Philadelphia’s Doug Collins over San Antonio’s Gregg Popovich for COY because Collins has gotten the Sixers to buy in even though they’re young, rely on defense and don’t line up behind any superstars to get their results. My first-half MVP is Miami’s LeBron James, whose all-around game and killer efficiency gives him the separation from Dwyane Wade that conventional wisdom said would make it tough for either of them to win this award while teammates.
Fran Blinebury: Sixth man: James Harden. The Thunder have the best record in the league and his numbers across the board are a career-best. Coach: Doug Collins. Recent stumble notwithstanding, nobody expected this. MVP: LeBron James. It shouldn’t be debatable.
Scott Howard-Cooper: James Harden, a scorer and a playmaker and an important reason the Thunder has set the pace in the West the entire season. Coach: Gregg Popovich in a close call over Doug Collins, just because it would &!#% off Popovich to have to go to center court to accept the award. OK, and because the Spurs remain near the top of the conference despite meshing youth with experience while overcoming the Manu Ginobili injury. MVP: LeBron James, the best player on the best team, or on any team.
Shaun Powell: Sixth man is a layup; James Harden is getting buckets. At times, he’s the best player on the floor for the Thunder, which is saying plenty. For coach, I’m going with Gregg Popovich; this might be his best season ever, surviving Ginobili’s injuries, getting something from Tony Parker and Tim Duncan at this late stage of their careers and winning with role players. MVP is LeBron James, who is doing it all for Miami and then some; he probably wrapped this up when D-Wade sat for a stretch and Miami didn’t miss a beat.
John Schuhmann: I’ll choose Thaddeus Young as my Sixth Man. He doesn’t score as well as Harden, but he does make a huge offensive impact when he comes into the game with Lou Williams and Evan Turner. And he’s a much better defender than Harden or his reserve teammates. Stan Van Gundy is my Coach of the
Year First Half for having the Magic at 21-12 with just two consistent players and a whole lot of distractions. And LeBron James is my MVP thus far, putting up ridiculous numbers on the league’s best team, which has been outscored when he hasn’t been on the floor.
Sekou Smith: Sixth man honors belong to Philadelphia’s Lou Williams. You could make a strong case that Williams and not Andre Iguodala deserved the All-Star bid that went to the 76ers. Williams has been as consistently good as anyone on that team this season and when the game is on the line he’s usually the one with the ball in his hands.
Coach of the Year is a bit tougher, what with as many as five different coaches having legitimate claim to the crown. But it comes down to two. Doug Collins is doing a fantastic job in his second season with the Sixers and Gregg Popovich doing his usual masterful (yet unappreciated) job guiding the veteran Spurs through another splendid season. Collins gets credit for pushing a team without a clear-cut superstar into the upper echelon of the Eastern Conference standings, but Pop is showing us all that the Spurs continue to be the class of the league when it comes to having a near-foolproof system of getting the most out of whatever players are on the roster. Slight edge to Pop.
The MVP is just as tight, with a four-man group of LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Chris Paul and Kobe Bryant all in the mix right now. James, however, had continually distinguished himself (via all of the metrics and whatever the naked eye tells you). By any measure, he’s having a season for the ages. He’s having the best shooting season of his career from inside and outside of the arc and the free throw line. He’s the best all-around player on both ends of the ends of the floor on the planet and there’s no disputing it.