It's award time. Well, not really. With more than half of the NBA season completed, it's time to assess who are the leaders for the league's annual awards.
Some things haven't changed.
LeBron James is still the best player. Tom Thibodeau continues to coax more out of his team's talent than any other coach.
Kevin Durant can score on anyone, and James Harden still has his beard.
Here's a look at some annual (and some not-so-traditional) awards with the All-Star break next weekend:
LEBRON JAMES, MIAMI
James is in the top 25 in 28 major statistical categories and is the game's best two-way player. His brilliance is becoming a once-in-a-lifetime-type show. While Dwyane Wade has been inconsistent and Chris Bosh has had stretches of ineffectiveness, James has carried the Heat to the best record in the Eastern Conference.
Rookie of the Year
DAMIAN LILLARD, PORTLAND
Point guards will always have an advantage in this race because they'll have the ball with more chances to produce. But Lillard is the clear choice. The Trail Blazers were a wayward bunch last season, but Lillard's leadership has helped keep them in contention for a playoff spot.
Sixth Man of the Year
J.R. SMITH, NEW YORK
Los Angeles Clippers guard Jamal Crawford had the momentum for this award early, but I'm leaning toward Smith. He's one of the game's best clutch shooters and a big reason the Knicks are thinking they can be a problem for the Heat.
Coach of the Year
TOM THIBODEAU, CHICAGO
The talent pool isn't as deep this season. Derrick Rose has yet to play. But the Bulls are still in contention in the Central Division. Not sure what else Thibodeau has to do to receive the lucrative contract extension he deserves.
Most Improved Player
PAUL GEORGE, INDIANA
Yes, part of George's improvement is due to playing more. But with Danny Granger injured, George has assumed the role as a go-to guy and become a premier defender. He suddenly has the look of the player the Pacers will have to build around.
Defensive Player of the Year
It's time to reward James' all-around greatness with an honor he has yet to receive.
Mess of the Year
LOS ANGELES LAKERS
Three head coaches, two All-Star starters and one mess of a season. The Lakers have gone from a slow-down defensive team that wasn't good on offense under Mike Brown to a fast-paced offensive team that's not very good on defense under Mike D'Antoni. Pau Gasol is injured. Steve Nash was injured. Dwight Howard is playing injured. And Kobe Bryant faces the prospect of missing the playoffs for only the second time. All while the man in charge, Jim Buss, passed on rehiring legendary coach Phil Jackson. Aside from all that, things are normal.
Shake-up of the Year
The Grizzlies finally traded Rudy Gay but haven't looked right since their cost-cutting move to rid themselves of his contract. The new ownership and front office still say they want to win now, but they forgive their fans if they're not buying it. You can thank the luxury tax for moves like this in the future. The days of teams stockpiling big contracts could be ending with the costs for doing so becoming more punitive.
Swap of the Year
JAMES HARDEN FOR KEVIN MARTIN
The principal players in this preseason trade have done fine thus far. Harden has become an All-Star in Houston, while Martin has provided the offense Oklahoma City needs from the bench.
The LOL Award
MIKE BROWN, FORMER LAKERS COACH
And you thought it was all HIS fault? The Lakers are still paying him, and the team hasn't looked any better without him.