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NBA quarter pole awards: Yes, LeBron is the MVP

Jan 24, 2012, 2:37 PM EDT

Miami Heats' LeBron James plays against the Philadelphia 76ers during their NBA basketball game in Miami Reuters

We are a quarter of the way into the NBA season, which is far too early to start talking about end of the season awards, playoffs or much of anything else.

I’m going to anyway.

Here are the awards in a few categories as we reach the quarter pole. We’ve got a long back stretch not to mention the final straightaway to go, but right now we’re starting to get a feel for the races (and some other random categories thrown in).

League MVP: LeBron James. A bunch of LeBron haters just read that then used my name in conjuction with some anatomically impossible acts, but it’s the truth — LeBron has been far and away the best player in the league so far. His PER is more than 8-points higher than the guy in second (Kobe Bryant, technically Manu Ginobili is closer but he has been out). Michael Jordan never had a PER this high for an entire season. He is averaging 29.7 points (on 56.4 percent shooting), 8.3 rebounds and 7.3 assists plus a couple of blocks per game. He is getting to the free throw line more, his post game is better, his shot selection is better, his midrange jumper is improved… and he was already the best player in the league. Kobe and Kevin Durant can battle it out for a distant second with a lot of ground to close.

Best team in the league: The Miami Heat. Yes, the Chicago Bulls have played better team defense and have a better record, plus with the addition of Richard Hamilton their offense is vastly improved. Miami has had injuries (Dwyane Wade is still out) but their new up-tempo offense, the addition of Norris Cole and Shane Battier, plus getting Mike Miller healthy means they are still the team to beat. Miami made the finals last year and are better this year. The Bulls and Thunder can make a serious run at them, but watching the Heat get some easy buckets with their new offense makes me think they are still the team holding up the trophy at the end of the year.

Who are the dark horse contenders: Denver in the West, Orlando in the East: Denver is playing fantastic team basketball — fast and good on offense, with impressive ball sharing and balance. If they bring back some of Wilson Chandler, Kenyon Martin and J.R. Smith after the Chinese season ends, they get that much better.

Orlando (despite the off night in Boston) has the best center in the game and has surrounded him with shooters. They run the pick-and-roll well and Ryan Anderson is a perfect fit in the offense (he is four, the guy you want to help off of to Dwight Howard, but he makes you pay for that with his threes). They play good defense and know who they are. If they keep Howard and can survive the rumor mill, they are the team that could threaten the big two in the East in the playoffs (but most likely they are out in the second round, then will Howard stay?).

Most fun team to watch: Minnesota Timberwolves. The Clippers are the obvious choice here — and with Chris Paul, Blake Griffin, D’Andre Jordan and the rest they certainly are a good choice. But I find myself gravitating toward Ricky Rubio, Kevin Love and the Timberwolves. They are a team getting better every game and that makes them fun to watch.

Most disappointing team: New York Knicks. I thought going into the season they were the third best team in the East, but not only are they losing they look ugly doing it. Carmelo Anthony is not a point forward and Mike D’Antoni has ill-fitting pieces for his system. They need Baron Davis, and I don’t love Baron Davis as a savior. And somebody start using Amare Stoudemire and Tyson Chandler better in the pick-and-roll, they are beasts. Honorable mention to the Celtics and Lakers.

Rookie of the Year: Ricky Rubio. This is shaping up as a two point guard battle, with Kyrie Irving as the other guy. And certainly Rubio has more talent around him to work with, but he comes in a much more polished floor general and a guy who can command a game. Plus his shot is better than we expected at 37.1 percent from three (the mechanics are still a little odd and shot-put like, but fixable).

Sixth Man of the Year: James Harden. It’s not close. There are the Williamses — Lou in Philly and Mo with the Clippers — who are playing well, but the only way Harden loses this is if Scott Brooks sobers up and moves Harden to the starting lineup.

Coach of the Year: Doug Collins, Philadelphia. This is one where there are few good candidates — Nate McMillan in Portland, Frank Vogel in Indiana, George Karl in Denver — and it is really open. But I’ll go with Collins, who has given Philadelphia a system that has made them the story of the young season.

Thing we’ve not liked this season: Sloppy basketball. The lack of training camp, the condensed schedules leaving less practice time, conditioning, it has all led to much sloppier basketball then we saw in years past. It feels like preseason games far too many nights. It’s not pretty to watch. The blame goes on everyone — owners and players — because they wanted as much money as they could after the lockout and gave us this ugly schedule with ugly, sloppy games. It’s hard to watch at points.

  1. southbeachtalent - Jan 24, 2012 at 2:47 PM

    LeBron, MVP… No way, how’s that possible. He’s horrible, not clutch, no heart, doesn’t tip..etc..

    Kurt you know what to expect after this article, 2nd grade jokes and unoriginal material. I’ll stay tuned..

    • rodgersmvp - Jan 24, 2012 at 3:02 PM

      You are basing this assessment off of last year. I hate him for the Decision as much as the next guy, but he playing exceptional so far. The best player in the league is only getting better. The Heat lost the Finals last year because of his sloppy fourth quarter play, but they may win it this year because of his improvements.

    • blueintown - Jan 24, 2012 at 5:04 PM

      Remember that episode of ‘South Park’ where Cartman learns that the ‘Family Guy’ writers are just a bunch of manatees arbitrarily arranging balls with various names of people, adjectives, and places scribbled on them? That’s what I think is going on with the people who live solely to come on here and bitch about LBJ. You’re just a bunch of big, dumb manatees floating around aimlessly constantly rearranging the same argument over and over and over again.

    • BrownsTown - Jan 24, 2012 at 5:05 PM

      Just you against the world, huh? The only thing better than the self-inclusion as a member of the team is the victimhood complex.

      You and Kurt need not get your #6 sherseys in a bunch.

    • detlefschrempfriedrice - Jan 24, 2012 at 10:07 PM

      Horrible? A little hyperbolic don’t you think? And I totally forgot whether you tip or not at restauarants plays into NBA awards. No heart? Seems like a pretty subjective jab. Not clutch? Eh, ok, I’ll give that one to you, he’s still a work in progress and just entering his prime. You seem to have a lot of personal animosity towards him.

      • southbeachtalent - Jan 25, 2012 at 8:02 AM

        I was being scarcastic detlef…..

        did you notice my handle…

  2. illcomm - Jan 24, 2012 at 3:01 PM

    Lebron. lolololol. More like Howard or Kobe or Nash or Duncan or Aldridge.

    • redbullenergydrink - Jan 24, 2012 at 3:10 PM

      LOL? People are definitely laughing… but at you and the players you mentioned… Duncan? Really?

  3. mannyfresh209 - Jan 24, 2012 at 3:08 PM

    Are you two slow? LeBron is head and shoulders above everybody else in the league. Get over it.

  4. heat256 - Jan 24, 2012 at 3:12 PM

    Regular season awards mean little or nothing to James at this point. A Finals MVP or at least the title will validate him now. Anything else and criticism of his game is warranted.

    • southbeachtalent - Jan 24, 2012 at 3:33 PM

      Unfortunately if LeBron is looking for validation from the media and fans he will never find it. Even if he does win it will be attributed to great team mates. You know like MJ had and Kobe had and the 1st big three in Boston, etc.. LeBron was supposed to win it alone..

      Critics, haters and scorned fans will always say he punked out. Even if he has multiple titles.

  5. illcomm - Jan 24, 2012 at 3:13 PM

    The award is for MBPS. Not the best player. Take anyone of those names I mentioned out and those teams are well below .500. Without Lebron, Heat would still be fine.

    • mannyfresh209 - Jan 24, 2012 at 3:20 PM

      The Heat, who are 5-4 with Wade/Lebron, 6-1 without Wade, would be fine without LeBron? Logic please, sir?

      MVP is about the BEST player on the BEST team. In which case, most people agree the Heat, despite their record, is the best team in the league.

    • southbeachtalent - Jan 24, 2012 at 5:08 PM

      illcomm

      see Cleveland.

  6. 00maltliquor - Jan 24, 2012 at 3:21 PM

    I’ve never been on the “Kurt Helin is on his knees for LeBron/Bron fanboy #1″ bandwagon like everyone else on this site but Miami a better team thus far then Chicago?!? No way, not even close.
    On paper, yes. Maybe toward the end of the season, could happen. Now? NO WAY!

    Bulls not just have the better record but they are blowing teams out, some of those games without their best player and reigning MVP. Undefeated at home, not just playing great D but scoring as well. A lot of games in the 100s which was uncommon for this Bulls team last year. Dude, Miami just lost at home to Milwaulkee for christ sakes. Didn’t they just lose 3 in a row not to long ago? At least againt GSW and LAC. Look, I like LeBron and I’m not a CHI fan, I like ‘em but you got to be unbiased as a journalist. Get off your knees please.

    • southbeachtalent - Jan 24, 2012 at 3:28 PM

      First off your points are pretty good, can’t deny that. BUT, in a 7 game series right now (Rose and Wade both healthy) I will take the Heat as will Vegas. The Bulls are great but if Rose is shut down they can be ineffective.

      Let’s be objective here, saying that the Heat are not even close to the Bulls is a bit myopic..

    • mannyfresh209 - Jan 24, 2012 at 3:31 PM

      If I’m not mistaken, Chicago has lot to Memphis, Golden State and Atlanta. Miami lost to the Hawks in what was a blast from the past with McGrady, and 3 out of 5 games at the end of a 5 game road streak. Not that impressive in my book.

      Defensively the Heat are as good as anyone in the league. Offensively, same. Longevity, we saw what the Bulls’ record did for them in the playoffs AGAINST this Heat team that’s only gotten better.

      • boondocksaint224 - Jan 24, 2012 at 3:37 PM

        The Heat lost to Golden State and Atlanta, too. They also lost to the Clippers and Bucks. And take that T-Mac fluke excuse somewhere else. History doesn’t care about how, only about how many, and Miami didn’t have enough to win that game, period.

      • mannyfresh209 - Jan 24, 2012 at 4:02 PM

        The Heat are a better team than the Bulls. History shows us that, also. Put LeBron on Rose and the Bulls are completely shut down. That much hasn’t changed.

      • pudgalvin - Jan 24, 2012 at 11:56 PM

        It has changed. You can’t hide Chalmers on Bogans. I dont deny the Heat are better, but so are the Bulls.

  7. boondocksaint224 - Jan 24, 2012 at 3:24 PM

    I can accept James as the MVP, but the Heat are not the best team. There are currently seven teams with the same winning percentage or better than Miami, and three of those teams (Chicago, OKC and Denver) all have better claims to that title. When you lose to Milwaukee after D-Wade goes down, you lose the right to claim that you’re the best. Denver and OKC have been relatively healthy so far, but the Bulls have lost a total of three games so far this season, and that’s with Rip already having missed ten games, not having either of their point guards for one, and now having to deal with injuries that range from “nagging injuries” to “serious problems” to Taj Gibson, Joakim Noah, Luol Deng and John Lucas III, as well as a turf toe problem for Derrick Rose that isn’t going to go away this season.

    • mannyfresh209 - Jan 24, 2012 at 4:04 PM

      Wasn’t this their m.o. last season, also? Feel good story get blown out in the postseason

      • boondocksaint224 - Jan 24, 2012 at 4:17 PM

        You know how I can tell you’re a Heat fan? You didn’t watch any of those games.

        Anyone who actually DID watch those games wouldn’t say that the Bulls got blown out. In three of Chicago’s four losses, the Bulls were either leading late in the 4th, tied late in the 4th, or taken to OT.

      • chicitybulls - Jan 24, 2012 at 7:59 PM

        What exactly does last season have to do with this season? Obviously I’m a Bulls fan and you’re a Heat fan but the difference is that I’m objective and honest. The best TEAM this year is the Bulls so far. They have the best record and are playing the best right now. You cannot base anything off of last year because both teams are different. By your logic he Mavs are the best team in the league but we know that’s not the case because they are not the same team. That’s why the author’s logic and reasoning to dismiss their records as an after thought show’s his fan hood. The fact that he mentions the Heat’s injuries but ignore’s the Bulls injuries also add to it. The Bulls have played more games and more games on the road than any other team in the league coming into today. They should be more tired but they still manage to win because other players on the team have stepped up.

        I tried to ignore other poster’s rants about the author and his obvious devotion to the Heat but when it’s this blatant and obvious I can see their point. Now he probably wont respond to this (he responds strategically to some posts but not all) because its logic based and leaves little to be argued. Like a backup point guard, he knows how to “pick his spots”. Oh and the grammatical errors….really….from someone who’s supposed to get clear information through to its readers? PBT, are you all hiring?

      • chicitybulls - Jan 24, 2012 at 8:01 PM

        And I dont know how they’re a “feel good story”. They’re not even being talked about in the media despite having the best record to date.

      • blueintown - Jan 25, 2012 at 7:15 AM

        “Obviously I’m a Bulls fan and you’re a Heat fan but the difference is that I’m objective and honest. The best TEAM this year is the Bulls so far”, said chicitybulls.

        Not accusing you of not being objective, just sounds funny.

  8. dirksimmons - Jan 24, 2012 at 3:33 PM

    I gotta go with the Bulls for best team too. You don’t mind plugging that the Heat have played without Wade, but you don’t even bother mentioning that the Bulls have gone 4-1 without their best player. Come on now. Not to mention they have the best record too.

    • mannyfresh209 - Jan 24, 2012 at 3:45 PM

      The Bulls are better defensively without Rose on the floor. They’ve added Rip to compensate some of the scoring that the 2 couldn’t provide last year.

      The Bulls are a solid team but who really thinks they’ll be able to beat Miami in a 7 games series? If you’re honest with yourself, you should say NO. And the fact that you can say NO to that question, should mean Miami is the best team in the league, records aside. Unless of course, your argument is for OKC… then that’s a whole other story, but I’m still favoring Miami to win it all over any other team.

      • passerby23 - Jan 24, 2012 at 8:58 PM

        I’m honest with myself and right now I would say a Bulls-Heat 7-game series is a pick ‘em at this point. We saw what stifling defense (the Mavs) could do to the Heat in the Finals and Chicago has that offensive piece they lacked last year (Hamilton). Again, if health is not a factor, the Bulls are every bit as good as the Heat. It’s going to come down to the same scenario this year: can Lebron show up at the biggest moments? If he does, they win. If he doesn’t, I like the Bulls. Lebron was huge against Chicago and disappeared against Dallas.

      • chitownmatt - Jan 25, 2012 at 1:26 PM

        First of all, the Bulls play great D with or without Rose on the floor. Rose’s D is just fine as he is fast enough to go around a pick and stay on his man.

        Second, if you have watched the Bulls over the last two or three weeks you would have concluded that they, up until Deng and Gibson got injured, were playing as good as any team in NBA history. (They have not been “winning” they have been “destroying”. They hustle the first five minutes of the first quarter like its the last five minutes of a playoff game. Their bench doesn’t hold a lead, they extend it. 2-3 sometimes 4 offensive rebounds on a possession.)

        If they can get healthy and return to that level of play by playoff time, no other team in league even comes close over a 7 game series.

  9. cured76 - Jan 24, 2012 at 3:35 PM

    Let’s just see how Lebron does in the 4th quarter of the season. We all know he’s all-world in the first 3 quarters. ;)

  10. goforthanddie - Jan 24, 2012 at 3:36 PM

    Of course leb’s MVP of the FIRST quarter, that’s never been his issue.

    • david8726 - Jan 24, 2012 at 8:08 PM

      bhahahahahaahaha a LeBron is good early in games but not late in games jokes bhahahahahaha i’ve never heard anything like that before.

      • goforthanddie - Jan 24, 2012 at 8:48 PM

        I see nothing funny in wasted potential.

      • david8726 - Jan 24, 2012 at 9:58 PM

        Yea, you’re right, he’s a total failure. Winning two MVP awards and always having very good teams around him = huge waste. And since he’s 27 he’s too old to ever win a championship.

        Oh wait.

  11. dtownpayne - Jan 24, 2012 at 3:38 PM

    “Sixth Man of the Year: James Harden. It’s not close.” – I might be biased but you should take a look at the stats for Al Harrington and then look at some tape, you’ll see how clutch he’s been. Not saying he should get Sixth Man but at the least he should get honorable mention, just sayin…

    • redbullenergydrink - Jan 24, 2012 at 4:36 PM

      No bias. You are completely correct.

  12. dalucks - Jan 24, 2012 at 3:59 PM

    Lebron is the King of regular season awards.

  13. icu84bs - Jan 24, 2012 at 4:06 PM

    No love for Kevin in Houston for coach of the year? Seven straight wins with that rag tag bunch deserves some type of recognition. Still, I agree with Doug Collins leading the pack at this time. Good coach, good guy, great color analyst (when he is not coaching) Cheers.

  14. slowclyde86 - Jan 24, 2012 at 5:09 PM

    Sorry. Didn’t know “Best team in the league” = “Most likely to win title at the end of the season”. Typically these types of things are awards (so to speak) based on performance to date during the season. In that context, the Heat have not been the best team. Hypothetically, were they under .500 but still favored to win the title would you still have them as “best” so far? It’s not about potential but results (like every other award listed here).

    Yeah, can’t see why the typical reader of this site considers Kurt a bron fanboy.

  15. david8726 - Jan 24, 2012 at 8:00 PM

    LeBron is in the lead for MVP right now, but the Bulls have been the best overall team I think.

    That doesn’t mean the bulls are the most likely team to win the title (I think that’s the Heat), but they’ve performed the best night in and night out till this point.

  16. glink123 - Jan 24, 2012 at 9:26 PM

    your “articles” are laughable.

  17. chitownmatt - Jan 24, 2012 at 10:18 PM

    The Bulls WERE the best team right up until Lou and Taj got injured. I don’t know if any of you Miami fans have watched any of the last few games, but the Bulls have been wrecking the house as dangerously as any team in NBA history. It seems like they haven’t had to play a fourth quarter in months.
    The question is not whether the Bulls can beat the Heat, the question is whether the Bulls can get healthy and get back to playing the way they have the last two weeks. If they can, nobody and I mean NOBODY can stop them over a 7 game series.

  18. chitownbulls - Jan 24, 2012 at 11:34 PM

    The truth is, everyone picked the Miami Heat in the beginning of the season as the “best team in the universe.” Heat helped their cause by bulldozing teams in the beginning, causing some pundits to go as far as saying they would win 58 games. #sideeye.

    Then they go on a slide and of course, they are still the best. They could lose 6 in a row, doesn’t matter. They have to be, they’ve already been selected as the winners of the Larry O’Brien trophy… We are just playing the games as a formality. The hats have been embroidered, the T-shirts printed… The champagne is on ice and the articles have been drafted. Just gotta wait til’ June and trot everything out for the prematurely crowned Heat.

    I know it makes no difference, since they are only playing to be second best, but in Bulls news, Taj has a high-ankle sprain, but its not like he’s out for the season… Maybe 2 weeks at the most. Lu’s injury is the most significant, a ligament tear in his wrist, and he’s now listed as week to week. He’s refraining from having surgery because he believes the Bulls are going to make a run for the title that’s already been decided. I know the script has already been written, but I’ll watch the games anyway and see what happens.

    –ct

    • chitownmatt - Jan 25, 2012 at 1:30 PM

      Yeah, the media has not handed the title to a team this early in the season since the 2004 Lakers… lol.

  19. uscfan1988 - Jan 25, 2012 at 12:20 AM

    The regular season means absolutely nothing.

  20. chilechipotle - Jan 25, 2012 at 2:25 AM

    what do the bulls need to do to get some respect? outside of winning the title? I won’t hate, but I will say, just wait and see. But in the mean time you can keep stroking Miami’s ego.

  21. uptownvick - Jan 25, 2012 at 2:54 AM

    LISTEN ALL YA LEBRON HATERS STOP HATING ON THE SHYT HE DOES ND realize Wat he doin….. people always talk he always have a team he finally do nd I speak with honesty he a dumb ass for not winning the title last year… but u can’t keep knocking him down just to say somethin negative bout him…. new year nd ya don’t have Nuthin to say bout him till he in the finals (which he is)

    • blueintown - Jan 25, 2012 at 10:55 AM

      …what?

    • tcclark - Jan 28, 2012 at 10:31 PM

      I weep for your English teachers…

  22. africanballer - Jan 25, 2012 at 9:09 AM

    It is very difficult to analyse LeBron because everybody dislikes him. Even if LeBron wins a ring this year and tears up teams in the 4th quarter it won’t change anything in most people’s minds because it’s a personal issue. I don’t know why you’re still writing about this guy Kurt

    • southbeachtalent - Jan 25, 2012 at 12:04 PM

      It’s not difficult to analyze the numbers…

      They still write about him because…well… 49 comments and counting.

    • iskuterista - Jan 26, 2012 at 12:58 AM

      because you keep on coming here to read it.

  23. crafttractor1234 - Jan 28, 2012 at 12:31 AM

    Sloppy basketball, kinda like the sloppy chin that Kurt has when LeChoke finishes in his mouth. LeQuit has his ultimate butt boy in Kurt.

  24. crafttractor1234 - Jan 28, 2012 at 12:32 AM

    KERBLAM.

  25. cantonbound13 - Jan 29, 2012 at 1:20 PM

    Durant is clearly the MVP & will end up with more rings than LeChoker.

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