The NBA: Awards Watch: 1st Edition

The season has reached the quarter mark of the 82-game schedule. The Memphis Grizzlies and the New York Knicks are legit contenders while the Boston Celtics and LA Lakers are sputterring in their first 20 games or so. Superstars and role players have stepped up (or struggled) to lead their teams atop the standings.

So, which players are having a great start 25% into the season? It's time to check the Top 5 players in each individual award category who have been playing well and in some cases, surprised us.

Is Kevin Durant the best player in the NBA?
(Image by: USA Today)

1. Kevin Durant, OKC Thunder
He leads the Thunder in points and rebounds. He is currently averaging 50% shooting, 40% threes and 90% free throws. The last person to do that was Steve Nash when he won his first MVP. KD has been a much improved defender this year.

2. LeBron James, Miami Heat
LBJ leads the Heat in points, rebounds, shooting% and assists. He leads the NBA in Player Efficiency Rating. He has 11 double-doubles in 18 games which places him in the top 5. The Heat is 3-0 when Dwyane Wade is not in the lineup but LBJ is playing.

3. Tim Duncan, San Antonio Spurs
He is playing superb basketball even at 36 years old. Duncan has 11 double-doubles and is averaging a solid 18 and 10 with 2.4 blocks in just 30 minutes of action. He is looking spry and playing efficiently which is similar to his past MVP campaigns.

4. Carmelo Anthony, New York Knicks
The Knicks are a much improved team due to Melo's growth as a player and his willingness to make an effort to defend. Melo still gets his points and isos but he does try to involve his teammates more in the flow of the offense.

5. Zach Randolph, Memphis Grizzlies
Z-Bo is healthy this year and his numbers show that. He leads the NBA in double-doubles with 15 in 18 games. The Grizzlies are among the top in the West due to his scoring and rebounding.

Damian Lillard was the 6th pick of the 2012 NBA Draft
(Image by: SB Nation)

1. Damian Lillard, Portland Trailblazers
He has been the best rookie all-season long. He leads all rookies in points, steals, threes made and assists. He has done a decent job leading the Blazers to a 8-12 record which is 2 games from the 8th spot in the Western Playoffs.

2. Dion Waiters, Cleveland Cavaliers
Waiters formed an explosive backcourt tandem with Kyrie Irving. The rookie is 2nd in points among all rookies and 3rd in assists. His shooting stroke needs more work though.

3. Harrison Barnes, Golden State Warriors
Barnes has 3 double-doubles (tied for 1st among rookies) and is a consistent starter for the Warriors, starting in all of their games.

4. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Charlotte Bobcats
MKG is the best defensive player among all rookies (Davis injured) and he has poured in 11 points and 6 rebounds plus a block per game. He has 2 double-doubles.

5. Bradley Beal, Washington Wizards
Beal has been doing a decent job starting for the Wizards even without John Wall supporting him in the back court. Beal is 3rd in rookie scoring and 2nd in assists.

Sixth Man
Crawford can dribble among the best
(Image by: USA Today)

1. Jamal Crawford, LA Clippers
Crawford is 2nd in scoring for the Clippers, just a shade below Blake Griffin. He also leads the NBA in four-point plays (33 which holds the NBA record) and is among the Top 20 in threes made.

2. Kevin Martin, OKC Thunder
Martin has replaced Harden without any problems. He is shooting a higher percentage on threes than twos. Martin is in the Top 10 for threes made and Top 10 in free throw shooting.

3. Carl Landry, Golden State Warriors
Landry is quietly averaging 13 and 7 with 56% shooting for the Warriors. He has done a solid job eating minutes that should have gone to the injured Andrew Bogut.

4. Ray Allen, Miami Heat
Rayray has thrived with his new role as a bench player for the Heat. He is still clutch from downtown with already 3 game-winners. He is shooting 51-49-85 from the field.

5. JR Smith, New York Knicks
Smith has better all-around numbers this year compared to last year. He has been an important cog in the Knicks' improved play so far in the season.

Most Improved Player
Andy Varejao has been a monster on the glass
(Image by: Getty Images)

1. Anderson Varejao, Cleveland Cavaliers
He leads the NBA in rebounds per game and he has 15 double-doubles in 20 games. Varejao has doubled his career averages in points and rebounds (7.6 and 7.5) with his 14 and 15 numbers this season.

2. Omer Asik, Houston Rockets
The center for the Rockets has 10 double-doubles this season and is averaging a decent 11 and 11. He has improved his offense (3 ppg last year) and can make a midrange jumper every now and then.

3. OJ Mayo, Dallas Mavericks
Mayo is 2nd in threes made but 1st in shooting percentage with a sparkling 53%. He leads the Mavs in scoring while Dirk has not played yet. Mayo is in the Top 10 in PPG.

4.Chandler Parsons, Houston Rockets
The 2nd-year player for the Rockets has improved numbers in all major categories. He is the 2nd best scorer on the Rockets and has been a better player than Jeremy Lin.

5. Nicolas Batum, Portland Trailblazers
Batum is now a full-time starter for the Blazers and his numbers have improved. He has been clutch a couple of times, winning games for the Blazers

1. Anderson Varejao, Cleveland Cavaliers
Varejao is excellent at taking charges and he leads the NBA in defensive rebounds and total rebounds. He also gets 1.5 steals a game.

2. Joakim Noah, Chicago Bulls
Noah can also take charges and he rebounds well at 11 a game. His advantage on Varejao can be seen on blocks per game (2.3).

3. Andrei Kirilenko, Minnesota Timberwolves
AK-47 is filling up the boxscore just like he did during his Utah Jazz days. Kirilenko is grabbing 8 boards to go with his 2 blocks and 1.7 steals.

4. Serge Ibaka, OKC Thunder
Ibaka is 2nd in blocks per game but his rebounds (7.5) are underwhelming since he is not even the best rebounder with the Thunder.

5. Tyson Chandler, New York Knicks
The Knicks are defending well as a team but on individual numbers, Chandler is not even averaging a block or a steal per game.

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