The NBA: Awards Watch: 3rd Edition

As the battles for playoff spots are heating up, so does the race for individual awards. There are about 5 weeks left in the season and less than 20 games to go for most teams.

Anyway, it's time to examine which players have performed very well during the season. The Top 5 players in each individual award category are listed.

If you missed the 1st Edition, CLICK HERE

If you missed the 2nd Edition, CLICK HERE

Statistics used are from games until March 14, 2014.

Follow me on Twitter: @rollzter

Kevin Durant and LeBron James are battling for the MVP award
(Image from: SI.com)


MVP

1. Kevin Durant, Oklahoma City Thunder | Last Rank: 1
Kevin Durant still has the slight edge on LBJ for the MVP award. KD carried the Thunder to a 22-8 record without Russell Westbrook. Durant leads the league in scoring and PER (Player Efficiency Rating) plus he has 3 triple-doubles (tied for 2nd) while LBJ has zero. He is averaging career-highs in points and assists while shooting nearly 51% from the field.

2. LeBron James, Miami Heat | Last Rank: 3
LeBron James almost overtook KD at the top with a strong run during February but he has cooled off in March. Miami is 6-4 in their last 10 games and LBJ is only averaging 20 points in his last 5 games after notching 61 points vs the Bobcats. His rebounds and assists are lower than last season and he only has 10 double-doubles after getting 36 last year.


3. Blake Griffin, Los Angeles Clippers | Last Rank: Not Ranked
I mentioned in our Hoop Nut Podcast Episode 1 that Blake Griffin is the best PF right now and quite possibly a MVP candidate after he carried the Clippers to a winning record (13-6) when Chris Paul was hurt. Griffin is 6th in scoring and 11th in PER. His jumper is more reliable this season and he has developed a better low post game that makes him more than just a dunker.

4. James Harden, Houston Rockets | Last Rank: Not Ranked
The Rockets are a top 4 Western team and are within striking range of the best mark in their conference. The Beard has been instrumental in leading Houston in points, assists and steals. His offensive numbers are very similar to what he averaged last season even with Dwight Howard now getting more shots with the Rockets.

5. Paul George, Indiana Pacers | Last Rank: 2
The Pacers have cooled off after a fantastic first half of the season and the same thing has happened to Paul George. He was averaging around 24 points on 47% shooting in December but in February and March, PG24 was averaging below 20 points on 40% shooting. His lowest output of the season came against the Bobcats where he scored just 2 points on 0-9 shooting.

Honorable Mentions: Damian Lillard, Kevin Love, Tony Parker, LaMarcus Aldridge, Chris Paul, Dwight Howard, Joakim Noah, Steph Curry


MCW does not have a lot to smile for in regards to the horrible play of the Sixers
(Image from: USA Today)

ROY

1. Michael Carter-Williams, Philadelphia 76ers | Last Rank: 2
The Sixers are terrible but MCW is a fantastic player. He has two triple-doubles already to lead all rookies (tied for 5th in NBA). Carter-Williams can do a lot of things on the floor. He is a playmaker and a terror on the passing lanes (2 steals/game).

2. Trey Burke, Utah Jazz Last Rank: 1
Utah is 21-32 with Burke which already gives him more wins than MCW and Oladipo who have played a lot more games than him. He leads all rookies in FT% while 3rd in points and 2nd in assists. Burke is also 2nd in assists per turnover ratio.

3. Victor Oladipo, Orlando Magic Last Rank: 3
Oladipo is struggling with some minor injuries now which has lessened his production and effectiveness. His minutes are also down to 28 mpg after peaking at 35 mpg during January. Orlando is definitely tanking so expect his minutes to go up again soon.

4. Tim Hardaway Jr., New York Knicks Last Rank: 5
Hardaway has been a pleasant surprise for the Knicks. He leads all rookies in threes made (107) while shooting at a solid clip of 38% which ranks 4th among rookies. He is averaging 12 points in February and March which already makes him the 3rd best scorer for the Knicks.

5. Ben McLemore, Sacramento Kings Last Rank: 4
McLemore had a decent Slam Dunk contest and his numbers after the All-Star break have improved. He is only scoring 8 ppg while shooting 37% from the floor, 32% from downtown which is very poor for a shooter.

Can Taj Gibson win Sixth Man of the Year with his hustle and defense?
(Image from: sportsnet.ca)
Sixth Man
1. Jamal Crawford, LA Clippers Last Rank: 1st
Crawford has started 23 of 61 games played so he qualifies for Sixth Man. He is 24th in scoring at close to 19 per game while leading the NBA in 4-point plays as usual. His best game came vs OKC where he had 36 points on 13-20 shooting.

2. Taj Gibson, Chicago Bulls Last Rank: Not Ranked
Gibson plays almost as many minutes as Carlos Boozer. In fact, Taj plays more minutes in the 4th quarter because of his activity and defense. Gibson is averaging career-highs in points and minutes. He also has 11 double-doubles.

3. Manu Ginobili, San Antonio Spurs | Last Rank: 5
Ginobili last won this award in 2007-08. His numbers this year aren't that impressive but the important thing is that he has been relatively healthy. Compared to last season, his scoring is up and so does all of his shooting percentages.

4. Markieff Morris, Phoenix Suns Last Rank: Not Ranked
The Suns are within reach of a playoff spot and Markieff Morris has been an important contributor for them. Morris is averaging career-highs in points, rebounds and FG% shooting. His uncanny connection with his twin, Marcus Morris has been great for Phoenix.

5. Reggie Jackson, OKC Thunder Last Rank: 4
His minutes and numbers are down due to Russell Westbrook being back in the starting lineup. Still, Jackson has been an integral part of their second unit. He has an all-around game and can be a very pesky defender despite of his slim frame.


Lance Stephenson leads the NBA in triple-doubles
(Image from: indystar.com)

Most Improved Player

1. Isaiah Thomas, Sacramento Kings Last Rank: 1
The Kings made Thomas their starter in December and he hasn't disappointed. Thomas is 19th in scoring and tied for 12th in assists. He has career-highs in points, assists and steals.

2. Lance Stephenson, Indiana Pacers Last Rank: Not Ranked
Anyone surprised that Stephenson leads the NBA in triple-doubles? I know I am. He has been amazing for the Pacers with his all-around play. He has career-highs in points, rebounds, assists and FG shooting.

3. DeAndre Jordan, Los Angeles Clippers Last Rank: Not Ranked
DJ is averaging a double-double for the season. He is tied for 8th with 34 double-doubles for the year which is a career-high. Jordan also leads the league in FG shooting at 66%.

4. Goran Dragic, Phoenix Suns Last Rank: Not Ranked
Dragic did not make the All-Star team but he has been playing like one for the Suns. Dragic has career-highs in points and shooting percentages. Dragic is the 3rd guard to shoot over 50% (Wade and Parker) this year.

5. Terrence Jones, Houston Rockets | Last Rank: 2
Like Thomas, Jones has not disappointed since becoming a starter in just his second year. He has doubled his scoring and rebounding compared to last year. Jones is also shooting a solid 54% from the floor.


DeAndre Jordan has been a difference maker on defense for the Clippers
(Image from: Yahoo Sports)

Defensive Player of the Year

1. DeAndre Jordan, Los Angeles Clippers Last Rank: Not Ranked
Jordan is 1st in rebounds per game and 3rd in blocks. He has been a steady defensive anchor for the Clippers who are among the elite in the West. The Clippers are 14th in points allowed but tops in point differential.

2. Dwight Howard, Houston Rockets Last Rank: 3
Howard is happy and healthy in Houston. He is 4th in rebounding and 8th in blocks. The Rockets are 17th in points allowed after being around the mid 20's earlier in the season and being among the bottom last season. 

3. Roy Hibbert, Indiana Pacers Last Rank: 1
The Pacers still lead the East and they are tops in points allowed but Hibbert has not been a force on the glass (7.3 rpg). However, Hibbert is still 4th in blocks so that's a plus for "verticality".

4. Anthony Davis, New Orleans Pelicans Last Rank: 2
Davis still leads the NBA in blocks and is 10th in rebounds. He is also 12th in double-doubles. Consequently, the Pelicans are a much improved team defensively with Davis protecting the rim.

5. Joakim Noah, Chicago Bulls Last Rank: Not Ranked
Noah is the best defender for the Bulls and you can count on him to always give maximum effort. Noah is 6th in rebounds, 11th in blocks and 10th in double-doubles. He also has 3 triple-doubles.


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