- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 15, 2009

The NBA's regular season comes to a close Wednesday night, and the race to first place, race to last place and playoff picture are all nearly complete. Now it's time for some awards. The NBA soon will announce the rookie of the year, most improved player, sixth man, coach of the year, defensive player of the year, MVP, All-NBA Team, All-Defensive Team and All-Rookie Team.

Ballots are due Thursday afternoon, so here's a peek at my picks:

Rookie of the year

Derrick Rose

Without question, Rose has lived up to expectations after being the top pick in last summer's draft. Solid from start to finish, Rose has averaged 16.8 points, 6.3 assists and 3.9 rebounds a game. His only legitimate competition was New Jersey's Brook Lopez and Memphis' O.J. Mayo. But only Rose was able to lead his team to the playoffs, a year after Chicago finished 33-49.

Most improved player

Danny Granger

As much as I would have loved to give my pick to Roger Mason Jr., Granger's overall body of work and significant strides top the strong, much-improved seasons posted by Mason, Devin Harris and Kevin Durant. Averaging 25.7 points and 5.0 rebounds, Granger has upped his scoring by 6.1 points a game this season. Granger also ranks fourth in the league in fourth-quarter scoring behind LeBron James, Kobe Bryant and Dwyane Wade.

Sixth man

Jason Terry

With 19.5 points, 3.4 assists and 1.3 steals a game, Terry edges out a field that includes Lamar Odom, Travis Outlaw and Nate Robinson. The 10th-year vet is averaging more points than each of the last 18 winners of this award; Ricky Pierce of the Bucks was the last sixth man to average more (23.0 ppg) in the 1989-90 season.

Coach of the year

Mike Brown

Really wanted to give this to another Brown — Larry — but the Charlotte Bobcats fizzled, fell out of the playoff hunt and likely will finish up with only three more wins than they did last year. Sure, Mike Brown's job is made easier by LeBron James, but often overlooked are his skills as a defensive coach. The Cavaliers are holding foes to a league-best 91.1 points a game. They have a 39-1 record at home, one win from tying an NBA record.

Defensive player of the year

Dwight Howard

Dwyane Wade's 2.2 steals and 1.3 blocks are impressive stats, but Howard is simply a monster, boasting league highs in rebounds (13.9) and blocks (2.9).


LeBron James

With 28.4 points, 7.6 rebounds, 7.2 assists and 1.7 steals a game, James posted the finest all-around individual season since Michael Jordan's 32.5-point, 8.0-rebound, 8.0-assist, 2.9-steal campaign in 1988-89. Take James off the Cavaliers and they're lottery contenders, which couldn't be said of the squad of his closest competitor, Kobe Bryant.


First team

F LeBron James, F Tim Duncan, C Dwight Howard, G Dwyane Wade, G Kobe Bryant

Second team

F Pau Gasol, F Paul Pierce, C Yao Ming, G Brandon Roy, G Chris Paul

Third team

F Dirk Nowitzki, F Chris Bosh, C Shaquille O'Neal, G Tony Parker, G Devin Harris


First team

F Kevin Garnett, F Shane Battier, C Dwight Howard, G Dwyane Wade, G Chris Paul

Second team

F Ron Artest, F Emeka Okafor, C Marcus Camby, G Kobe Bryant, G Rajon Rondo


First team

F Michael Beasley, F Kevin Love, C Brook Lopez, G O.J. Mayo, G Derrick Rose

Second team

F Jason Thompson, F Rudy Fernandez, C Marc Gasol, G Eric Gordon, G Mario Chalmers


1. LAKERS (64-17)

A 2-0 mark against the Cavaliers and being the only team with a win at Quicken Loans Arena equal No. 1.

2. CAVALIERS (65-15)

Go for the tie of the all-time home record of 40-1 or rest the horses in preparation for a deep playoff run?

3. CELTICS (60-20)

Winning three-quarters of their games with Garnett sidelined for 20 games is an impressive feat.

4. MAGIC (58-22)

Way to fizzle down the stretch. Orlando goes 1-4 in the last week.

5. NUGGETS (53-27)

Could Denver reach the second round of the playoffs for the first time since 1994?

6. TRAIL BLAZERS (52-28)

Young Blazers post the franchise's best record since a 59-23 mark in the 1999-2000 season.

7. ROCKETS (52-28)

Two questions heading into the playoffs: How will Yao's foot hold up, and will they ever win a series?

8. SPURS (52-28)

Too bad they're not healthy because they have the pieces and depth to contend with anyone.

9. HORNETS (49-32)

Looking at a playoff date with Houston; given the Rockets' history, that's favorable.

10. HAWKS (46-34)

From 37-45 and the eighth seed last year to the fourth seed in the East this year.



This is finishing in style. The Sacramento Kings ensured themselves last place in the NBA with a 95-92 loss to the Spurs on a buzzer-beating 3-pointer from Michael Finley on Sunday and the next night fell to Denver for their ninth consecutive loss. The curtain call is a road date against the Timberwolves. So give them the most pingpong balls and see whether they get the top spot — something that's happened for the worst team in the league only four times since the draft was instituted.


Team Record L 10 Pct.*

Sacramento 16-65 1-9 25.0

L.A. Clippers 19-62 2-8 17.8

Washington 19-62 3-7 17.7

Oklahoma 22-59 2-8 11.9

Memphis 23-58 5-5 8.8

* Chances of landing No. 1 pick


67 Times since entering the NBA in 2003 that LeBron James has recorded at least 37 points, five rebounds and five assists in a game. It's the highest total for a player during that span, ahead of Kobe Bryant's 56 times.

707 Assists this season handed out by Phoenix's Steve Nash. It's the fifth straight 700-plus assist season for Nash; the only players with longer such stretches are Magic Johnson (10), John Stockton (10) and Oscar Robertson (six).

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