As the NBA regular season continues on after the All-Star break, its time to hand
out our midseason awards.
Defensive Player of the Year: Dwight Howard (Orlando)
14.1 boards and 2.9 blocks plus a steal per game is downright filthy, but it only
tells part of Howard’s defensive dominance. Even with Orlando starting two semi-professional
matadors, Rashard Lewis and Hedo Turkoglu, the Magic are top five in the league
in points allowed, opposing field goal percentage, and opposing three-point percentage.
Head coach Stan Van Gundy deserves much praise for Orlando’s defensive success
(and he’ll get it in a while), but a large portion of the credit should be directed
to Howard. Without Dwight patrolling the paint, Orlando can’t do the things that
make them successful on defense. Orlando can overplay the three-point line, chasing
guys off knowing that their Superman is waiting in the paint to deter penetration
and lay-ups. His stats are off the charts, but his importance to what Orlando
does on defense makes him the choice for DPOY.
Most Improved Player: Kevin Durant (Oklahoma City)
He’s receiving a little more recognition now, but Kevin Durant has mainly been
under the radar for most of the season. It’s too bad, because he’s quietly putting
up devastating numbers that get better and better as the season progresses.
Durant is becoming deadly efficient, shooting 48% from the field, 43% from three,
and 86% from the free throw line. He’s recently moved past Danny Granger, becoming
the leagues fifth highest scorer at 25.5 points a game, a full five points more
than he was averaging last year. He’s upped his rebounding from 4.4 to 6.7, and
has also improved his assist and block averages.