MVP: LeBron James, Miami
A three-time winner already, he’s such a predictable pick…and such a right one again this season. He’s part point guard, part shooting guard/small forward, part big man, not to mention a versatile defender whose work gets overlooked in that department and a stunningly efficient 56-percent shooter from the field.
Contenders: Kevin Durant, Oklahoma City; Chris Paul, L.A. Clippers; Carmelo Anthony, New York; James Harden, Houston.
Top sixth man: Jarrett Jack, Golden State
J.R. Smith probably is the favorite for his late-season surge and Jamal Crawford gets a lot of pub, but let’s go with an underrated, multi-dimensional pick. Steph Curry, David Lee and Klay Thompson get all the credit, but the Warriors wouldn’t be where they are — the playoffs — without this guy off the bench.
Contenders: Smith, New York; Crawford, L.A. Lakers; Ryan Anderson, New Orleans; Manu Ginobili, San Antonio.
Most improved: Paul George, Indiana
Sorry, Wolves fans, I gotta do it. The guy the Wolves would have been in position to pick if they were willing to trade Jonny Flynn for the 2010 draft’s 10th pick has blossomed into a bona-fide star. He’ll play shooting guard at 6-10 and is turning into a hellacious defender as well.
Contenders: Larry Sanders, Milwaukee; Nikola Vukevic, Orlando; Jrue Holiday, Philadelphia; Greivis Vasquez, New Orleans.
Top rookie: Damian Lillard, Portland
This contest was over almost before it started, due to Anthony Davis’ season-starting injuries. Lillard was near unstoppable in games against the Wolves, and against just about everybody else. Even Kobe Bryant gushed last week over a guy who sure looks like your classic scoring point guard.
Contenders: Bradley Beal, Washington; Davis, New Orleans.
Top defender: Tony Allen, Memphis
So many shot blockers get consideration (see the list of contenders below), but let’s go off the board for a shooting guard, underrated even after all these years. He’s a tenacious perimeter defender in a perimeter-oriented league.