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By Jim Brighters, NBA Editor - Archive - Email
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Individual honors abound
Kevin Durant is the best player in the league without an MVP.
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - No player in the NBA wants to come forward and say, "I want to win the MVP, or the Most Improved Player" award.

It's tacky. It's dotty. Just bad form as some would say.

Basketball is a team sport and the end goal is, for every guy in the league, an NBA championship.

But these individual awards exist and someone has to win them.

Here's a hunch at those winners. Much like the Oscars, we'll sprinkle some of the bigger awards throughout to peak your interest.

ROOKIE OF THE YEAR - ANTHONY DAVIS, NEW ORLEANS HORNETS

The No. 1 pick in the draft is not always a clear path to this piece of hardware. Three of the last four Rookie of the Year winners went No. 1, but since 2000, only one other top overall pick, LeBron James in 2003-04, won this honor.

Davis will walk into the NBA and become an impact defensive force. He's that good and his instincts are such around the basket that he should finish in the top five in blocked shots.

But Davis' offense has already improved. Hornets head coach Monty Williams intends to play Davis at all three front court positions, including small forward thanks to a deft mid-range touch.

"He's shown some things that I started to see in workouts that I didn't see in college," Williams told the (New Orleans) Times Picayune. "He's got a nice handle and he can shoot the ball. I think someday he's going to be able to shoot for range consistently."

Davis has averaged 13.4 points per game in the preseason and grabbed 10 boards a game. With a defensive game ready for the NBA and an offensive game already improving, Davis will get the Rookie of the Year award.

Also in the mix: BRADLEY BEAL, WASHINGTON WIZARDS; DAMIAN LILLARD, PORTLAND TRAILBLAZERS. Dark horse: MAURICE HARKLESS, ORLANDO MAGIC

COACH OF THE YEAR - GEORGE KARL, DENVER NUGGETS

Would it shock you to learn that with 1,000 career wins and eight division titles, Karl has never won this honor?

The award generally goes to the coach of the team who either a.) had the biggest turnaround in wins from the prior season, or, b.) had such a remarkable season he couldn't be ignored.

Karl fits neither.

Since Karl took over the Denver Nuggets with 40 games to go in the 2004-05 season, his team is 134 games over .500. He has won the Northwest Division three times and finished second the other five. The problem for Karl is, in those eight seasons, Denver has advanced past the first round once.

This is a regular-season award and the Nuggets are built to win a lot of regular-season games. They play in the same division as the reigning Western Conference champions, the Oklahoma City Thunder, but Denver will win 55 games without a single All-Star.

Karl will fall head over heels in love with the newly acquired Andre Iguodala and has a roster littered with high-energy, defensive-minded athletes. You will marvel at how good the Nuggets can, and will, be.

Also in the mix: MARK JACKSON, GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS; MIKE BROWN, LOS ANGELES LAKERS. Dark horse: MONTY WILLIAMS, NEW ORLEANS HORNETS

DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR - DWIGHT HOWARD, LOS ANGELES LAKERS

It's not a monumental leap to choose the guy who won this award three straight years before a late-season injury cost him the honor last season.

The first two seasons Howard won this award, he led the NBA in rebounding and blocked shots. The one season he didn't lead the league in either, the 2010-11 campaign, he still averaged 14.1 boards and 2.4 blocks.

When healthy, Howard owns the paint. He will have to this season or the Lakers will give up 130 points per game. In front of Howard this season are Steve Nash and Kobe Bryant. Once upon a time, Bryant was a great defender, but not anymore. Never upon a time was Nash a great defender.

Guards will be able to get by those two on the perimeter and Howard will be waiting to swat the shots to Jack Nicholson's loafers.

Want another reason to like Howard for the award? He's angry he didn't get it last season.

"I thought I should have won it last year, to be honest with you," Howard told reporters after practice Monday. "I was a little bit upset about that."

A Superman possessed is a dangerous Superman.

Also in the mix: TYSON CHANDLER, NEW YORK KNICKS; ANDRE IGUODALA, DENVER NUGGETS. Dark horse: JOSH SMITH, ATLANTA HAWKS

SIXTH MAN OF THE YEAR - JASON TERRY, BOSTON CELTICS

Over the last five NBA seasons, Terry has finished third, second, second, third, first and third in Sixth Man of the Year voting. He did it all from the bench of some great Dallas Mavericks teams.

This season, "The Jet" is headed to Boston to essentially replace Ray Allen, who bolted for Miami in the offseason. Terry is just a perfect fit for the veteran Celtics. His intensity is such that he could end up fist-fighting Kevin Garnett in practice over a loose ball.

Terry is a great fourth-quarter player and 3-point shooter. He suits up every night and is a prolific scorer who can handle, pass and torment. Honestly, you can't create a better replacement for Allen, for the Celtics, in a lab.

Rajon Rondo led the NBA in assists last season. He penetrates at will and loves kicking out for 3s. Who benefits from that the most? Jason Terry.

Also in the mix: JAMES HARDEN, OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER; LOU WILLIAMS, ATLANTA HAWKS. Dark horse: ALLEN, MIAMI HEAT

MOST IMPROVED PLAYER - PAUL GEORGE, INDIANA PACERS

This award is so hard to predict. It should be renamed the "Player who got more minutes and played decently award."

George is the choice and it's strictly based on his talent and the upward trend in his brief career.

As a rookie in the 2010-11 season, George played 20.7 minutes per game, scored 7.8 points, grabbed 3.7 rebounds and had 1.1 assists. The next season, George started all 66 games, played almost 30 minutes a night and the totals jumped to 12.1 ppg, 5.6 rpg and 2.4 apg.

Why wasn't he the winner last year? Well, Ryan Anderson had better numbers, but George is going to get even better. He is the starting shooting guard on a real good Indiana Pacers team and might get to that 33-minutes-per-game mark.

Like the Sherminator, confidence is high for George.

Also in the mix: KAWHI LEONARD, SAN ANTONIO SPURS; TRISTAN THOMPSON, CLEVELAND CAVALIERS. Dark horse: JIMMER FERDETTE, SACRAMENTO KINGS

MVP - KEVIN DURANT, OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER

Durant is the pick based on a theory that has nothing to do with Durant himself.

LeBron James has won this award three out of the last four seasons. The Heat finally won the NBA title. This choice is based on the hypothesis that voters will tire of choosing James.

Durant makes the most sense to replace James' name on the Maurice Podoloff Trophy. He is the best player in the league without an MVP. He finished second, fifth and second in voting the last three seasons and his Oklahoma City Thunder made the NBA Finals last season and will be just as good again this season.

Durant has led the league in scoring the last three seasons and his numbers almost across the board increased in 2011-12. He averaged more points, rebounds, assists, steals and blocks than the season before. Durant's 8 rpg and 3.5 apg were career highs.

The Thunder will give the Miami Heat a good run for best record in the NBA. Durant is obviously the main reason for that and, because voters are tired of James, Durant will get that first MVP.

Also in the mix: JAMES, MIAMI HEAT; CHRIS PAUL, LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS. Dark horse: CARMELO ANTHONY, NEW YORK KNICKS