Around the NBA: Midseason awards

Chris Beaven

Boston is back, and so might be the Lakers. Portland was virtually unbeatable for a month, while Miami can’t win. And usual suspects San Antonio and Detroit hang around near the top of the standings.

Halfway through the NBA season, those are some of storylines through the first three months. So what about the top individual performance? Here’s one view on who deserves what major awards midway through the season.

Sixth Man

Fifteen players have picked up this award since Detlef Schrempf won it back-to-back in 1991 and 1992 with Seattle. Make it 16 after Spurs guard Manu Ginobili takes the prize this season.

The 6-foot-6 Ginobili has come off the bench in all but two games for the world champs. He averages 19.2 points, 4.8 rebounds, 4.3 assists and 1.8 steals, and shoots 39.8 percent from 3-point range. All figures are career highs, and he does it in 29.6 minutes a night.

Defensive Player of the Year

Nuggets center Marcus Camby is poised to become the seventh player to win this in back-to-back seasons.

Playing alongside two of the game’s biggest stars -- Carmelo Anthony and Allen Iverson -- Camby has become the guy who holds everything together. He still can make a difference offensively, but he excels on defense.

Camby leads the league with 3.93 blocks per game and is second in rebounding at 14.5. Both figures are higher than last year’s when he won the award averaging 11.7 rebounds and 3.3 blocks.

Most Improved Player

Monta Ellis of the Warriors got the nod last year, and he’s raised his game another level.

But the most significant improvement can be found in Portland forward LaMarcus Aldridge. When No. 1 pick Greg Oden was lost with a knee injury, the Blazers were written off. Nearly three months later, they are a legitimate playoff contender with Aldridge and Brandon Roy leading a young, deep team. Aldridge’s scoring has soared from 9.0 to 17.3, while he averages 7.4 rebounds and shoots 48.8 percent from the floor.

Rookie of the Year

Sonics guard Kevin Durant long ago locked up this prize. One of just three first-year players averaging double-figures in scoring, Durant’s 19.4 figure nearly doubles the next best rookie. He also already is doing something many veterans struggle to do, make free throws (86.2 percent).

Once the 6-9 Durant gets stronger (remember, he’s still 19), expect his shooting percentage to climb from .404.

Executive of the Year

Awful luck in the lottery led Danny Ainge to two moves that instantly lifted the Celtics from worst to first in the Eastern Conference.

Instead of looking at rebuilding around Oden or Durant, the Boston GM needed to do something else to make the Celtics relevant again. Trades for Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett did the trick. Adding veteran wing James Posey and drafting power forward Glen “Big Baby” Davis further strengthened the team.

Coach of the Year

The previous five awards look clear-cut. This is where more arguments can be made.

Boston’s Doc Rivers has managed egos well, while meshing together odds and ends around his trio of All-Stars. Portland’s Nate McMillan has pulled together a young team and got it to buy into his system. Orlando’s Stan Van Gundy guided the Magic to a fast start, and they are an outstanding road team.

Byron Scott has helped the Hornets enter the weekend with the best record in the Western Conference.

But the pick is the Lakers’ Phil Jackson, who last won this award in 1996 with Michael Jordan as his star. Kobe Bryant is his star now, but this situation is completely different for Jackson.

The season began with Bryant wanting traded, Lamar Odom injured and Jackson unclear if he would coach beyond this season. But Jackson pulled everything together and as recently as last week, the Lakers owned the top record out West. Jackson got Bryant to buy into the team concept, and the coach has molded young players such as Andrew Bynum and Jordan Farmar into contributors.

Most Valuable Player

This looks like a three-man race -- Garnett, Bryant and LeBron James of the Cavs.

With Garnett having Allen and Paul Pierce, we’ll eliminate him first. He has two other big guns to turn to on off nights. Bryant and James do not have that luxury. They must get it done as a scorer, playmaker and defender nearly every night.

If the Lakers stay near the top of the West with Bynum out eight weeks, Bryant becomes an even stronger pick to win his first MVP award.

But James gets the edge now because of his fourth-quarter dominance and the Cavs relying many nights completely on his ability to take over games.

Reach Repository sports writer Chris Beaven at (330) 580-8345 or e-mail