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Midseason awards


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Not to distract from the trade talks, but I thought these midseason awards were worth passing on, from ESPN stat guru John Hollinger



Defensive Player of the Year: Anderson Varejao, Cleveland


Varejao has always been among the game's best frontcourt defenders, but have you seen the guy this season? He's moved beyond the Raggedy Andy flopfest of recent years to become a court-roving defensive monster. The shift in the game toward stretch 4s and pick-and-roll guards has only increased his value, as his freakish mobility for his size makes him one of the few players capable of both defending the post and smothering quick guards on switches.


A perfect example came against Portland on Jan. 10, with the Cavs nursing a six-point lead and less than four minutes left. Brandon Roy came off the pick-and-roll looking to explode to the rim, just like he's done a thousand times before, but Varejao made the switch so quickly that Roy went right into his chest. Roy was stymied and stunned, dribbled the ball off his leg and out of bounds, and the Cavs were well on their way to leaving the building with a victory.


His value goes far deeper than one play, of course. According to basketballvalue.com, Varejao has the best adjusted defensive plus/minus in the league at minus-11.5 points per 100 possessions, which in rough terms means the Cavs are below average without him on the court and the best in the league when he's on it. And unlike a lot of the Cavs' plus/minus differences, this one wasn't built on LeBron James' coattails; Varejao spends much of his playing time with the second unit.


Several other players merit consideration here. Dwight Howard, the reigning Defensive Player of the Year, has been no slouch, Ron Artest has quietly excelled in L.A., and Atlanta's Josh Smith and Boston's Kendrick Perkins and Rajon Rondo all are worth a look. But in my book, none has been as good as Varejao so far this season.


Honorable mention: Ron Artest, L.A., Rajon Rondo, Boston; Kendrick Perkins, Boston; Dwight Howard, Orlando; Josh Smith, Atlanta



MVP: LeBron James, Cleveland


Calling this a one-horse race no longer does justice to the lead James has over the competition; he's making Secretariat's win at the Belmont seem like a cliffhanger. James is the best player in the league and nobody else is close right now, with LeBron's league-leading 31.51 mark nearly matching his Jordanesque performance of a season ago.


James is hitting a career-high 50.9 percent and averaging 29.9-7.9-7.2 per contest, helping Cleveland stay atop the Eastern Conference standings despite the team's struggles to incorporate Shaquille O'Neal. So thoroughly is he dusting the competition that he has more than a third more estimated wins added than any other player.


If anything, James' lead on the field has increased. Last season, Dwyane Wade and Chris Paul nearly matched James with their own historically great seasons, plus Kobe Bryant led the Lakers to 65 wins. This season, the field isn't as strong. Wade has upped his play of late after a slow start, but Paul missed several games with an injury and hasn't been as good since he returned, while Bryant has labored through multiple injuries after a strong start.


A few other candidates warrant mentioning but similarly fall short of James' ridiculously high standard. Tim Duncan is having the best offensive season of his career, Chris Bosh has been similarly effective for a Toronto team that plays only one side of the floor, and Kevin Durant and Carmelo Anthony have done yeoman's work rounding out what were once one-dimensional games. That said, nobody has seriously matched James' impact in scoring, rebounding, passing and defending, and with the Cavs owning the NBA's best record and a season sweep of the Lakers, this award seems a slam dunk.


Honorable mention: Bryant, Bosh, Duncan, Wade, Anthony, Durant




Most improved: Luke Ridnour

Rookie: Tyreke Evans

6th man: Carl Landry

Coach: Larry Brown



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Lebron is playing out of his mind this year, he will be MVP. Howard will probably win the Defense award. If Lebron does leave our Cavs, I wont be mad. He has given us fans more to cheer about in the last 7 years, how can we not be thankful to have had him. It will completely suck if he leaves though.

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