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  • John Bazemore / The Associated Press

    Pacers center Roy Hibbert (55), rejecting a shot by Hawks forward Mike Scott, has learned to use his 7-foot-2 height to defend the basket while avoiding foul trouble.

  • Don Ryan / The Associated Press

    Following the lead of forward Kevin Durant (35), Oklahoma City has thundered along to the best record in the Western Conference, even without injured Russell Westbrook.

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    Even when he’s sitting, Michael Carter-Williams manages to stand out on a bad 76ers team. He leads all NBA rookies in scoring average, rebounds, assists and steals.

NBA Beat: All-Star break is a good time for awards

Published: Sunday, Feb. 16, 2014 - 12:00 am
Last Modified: Sunday, Feb. 16, 2014 - 1:58 pm

The NBA regular season is two-thirds complete, which means enough games have been played to assess favorites for postseason awards.

MVP: Kevin Durant, Oklahoma City

This is perhaps the toughest award to sort out, and it easily could go to the Miami Heat’s LeBron James.

Durant deserves praise for leading the Thunder to the best record in the Western Conference with Russell Westbrook out for an extended period after knee surgery. Durant has been close to unstoppable most nights, averaging a league-leading 31.5 points, and coach Scott Brooks insists Durant is underrated defensively.

But let’s not dismiss the best player in the world. James has been so good for so long, it’s easy to take for granted he’s shooting 57.1 percent and is a threat for a triple double every night. And, James has carried the Heat while Dwyane Wade has been in and out because of knee problems.

Rookie of the Year: Michael Carter-Williams, Philadelphia

This is the easiest award. Carter-Williams leads rookies in scoring (17.1 points), rebounds (5.4), assists (6.5) and steals (2.1). In what has been an underwhelming season for rookies – not surprising since last year’s draft lacked impact players – Carter-Williams has stood out since opening day. The 76ers are bad, but they’re much worse without their rookie leader.

Defensive Player of the Year: Roy Hibbert, Indiana

Hibbert anchors the best defense in the NBA, and he’s mastered the league’s rule of vertical play, maintaining a vertical position without getting called for a foul. That, coupled with his 7-foot-2 frame, allows Hibbert to affect shots near the rim, even without blocking them.

Hibbert isn’t an elite rebounder, but his overall impact defensively cannot be ignored.

Most Improved Player: Anthony Davis, New Orleans

Davis’ improvement has kept the Pelicans from being even worse after injuries to Ryan Anderson (Oak Ridge High School) and Jrue Holiday. Davis is a better scorer this season and is emerging as one of the better defenders in the league.

Sixth Man of the Year: Jamal Crawford, Los Angeles Clippers

Crawford is a big reason the Clippers didn’t fall apart when point guard Chris Paul was injured. Crawford was second in Sixth Man voting last season and won the award in 2010, when he played for Atlanta.

Coach of the Year: Jeff Hornacek, Phoenix

It’s easy to look at a team that wasn’t supposed to be good and pick its coach when that team overachieves. Hornacek, however, deserves this honor. Not only did he take a team that supposedly was tanking and establish a style of play that fit the roster, he’s kept the team going without injured guard Eric Bledsoe.

All-NBA first team: Guards – Paul, L.A. Clippers, and Stephen Curry, Warriors; forwards – Durant, Oklahoma City, and James, Miami; center – DeMarcus Cousins, Kings.

All-NBA second team: Guards – Damian Lillard, Portland, and James Harden, Houston; forwards – Paul George, Indiana, and LaMarcus Aldridge, Portland; center – Dwight Howard, Houston.

All-NBA third team: Guards – Tony Parker, San Antonio, and Lance Stephenson, Indiana; forwards – Blake Griffin, L.A. Clippers, and Carmelo Anthony, New York; center – Joakim Noah, Chicago.

Follow The Bee’s Jason Jones on Twitter @mr_jasonjones and read more about the team at

Read more articles by Jason Jones

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