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Mid-season standings for NBA’s top awards

The All-Star break is a natural opportunity to look at players in the running for the league’s primary awards, and whether any Warriors have a shot at winning personal hardware.

NBA: Playoffs-Portland Trail Blazers at Golden State Warriors
Stephen Curry hoists the Maurice Podoloff trophy for most valuable player.
Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

There are seven primary NBA awards for basketball-related activities, and we’ll run through them all — discussing players on other teams who are in the race, Warriors who are close to being in the race, and the exceptional player currently holding the lead. Luckily for us, the star-studded Golden State Warriors are very well-represented across the board.

Executive of the Year

Who’s in the race? Bob Myers (Warriors), David Griffin (Cavaliers), Dennis Lindsey (Jazz) — and generally anyone else not named Phil Jackson (Knicks).

Which Warrior is close? See above.

Who has the lead? Bob Meyers. Even if he hadn’t added Kevin Durant to a 73-win team, signing Zaza Pachulia for pennies and stealing Patrick McCaw in the second round would still make for a solid case.

Coach of the Year

Who’s in the race? Gregg Popovich (Spurs), Michael D’Antoni (Rockets), Scott Brooks (Wizards) and Quin Snyder (Jazz).

Which Warrior is close? Sorry, Steve Kerr, but the crystal ball doesn’t see a coach with Stephen “Chef” Curry, DPoYaymond (Draymond Green), the Durantula (Kevin Durant) and a former Finals MVP (Andre Iguodala) getting any love this year.

Who has the lead? This was D’Antoni’s award to lose until his Rockets hit a rough patch last month, losing eight of 13 games. However, the voters tend to favor strong playoff teams, and that makes Scott Brooks look really attractive as an alternative. But, as of today, this race is still too close to call.

Apologies to: Erik Spoelstra (Heat). Thirteen-straight wins for a team that was written off months ago is nothing to sneeze at. But if the Heat can’t get into playoff position, he won’t get any love either.

Sixth Man of the Year

Who’s in the race? Lou Williams (Lakers), Wilson Chandler (Nuggets), Marcus Smart (Celtics) and Marreese Speights (Clippers).

Which Warrior is close? Andre Iguodala will get a lot of love because voters tend to get lazy on these things. But he’s not as deserving as others — in part, because the Warriors aren’t nearly so reliant on the fabled Death Lineup as in previous years.

Who has the lead? Jamal Crawford is so terrible this season that the voters can’t possibly give it to him again. Instead, it should be Speights, who has been phenomenal all season long for the oft-injured Clippers. But I’m going to predict that the voters fall in love with Sweet Lou’s 18-plus points per game average, and give it to him.

Most Improved Player

Who’s in the race? C.J. McCollum (Blazers), Giannis Antetokounmpo (Bucks), Nikola Jokic (Nuggets) and Harrison Barnes (Mavericks).

Which Warrior is close? Kevin Durant? Dude has exploded into a fringe Defensive Player of the Year candidate, and on offense he’s having his most efficient season ever, by far. But if you think he’s got a shot at winning the glorious MIP-py, I’ve got a bridge to sell you.

Who has the lead? Like Monta Ellis years back, McCollum has a strong case to repeat as Most Improved Player in back-to-back seasons. But Giannis has made an absurd, almost unprecedented, leap from fascinating prospect into legitimate MVP candidate, and that has to trump anything McCollum is doing for the disappointing Blazers. Jokic is dazzling, but without eye-popping averages, he won’t get enough attention. Barnes plays for a team in the cellar, and that hurts his chances.

Rookie of the Year

Who’s in the race? Joel Embiid (76ers), Dario Saric (76ers), Malcolm Brogdon (Bucks) and Domantas Sabonis (Thunder).

Which Warrior is close? Patrick McCaw? Also, no one.

Who has the lead? Embiid, and it’s turning into a laugher. He earned legitimate All-Star consideration despite missing games left and right and having a strict limit on minutes. If he goes down for an extended period of time, we’re going to wind up with a historically bad RoY competition.

Defensive Player of the Year

Who’s in the race? Draymond Green (Warriors), Rudy Gobert (Jazz) and Paul Millsap (Hawks).

Which Warrior is close? Aside from Green, Durant deserves a lot of credit for turning into a shot-blocking dragon this season. But, as with the MIP, he won’t get any consideration for this award.

Who has the lead? Voters tend to be very bad at recognizing defense, and they pretty much never get it right unless it’s in-your-face obvious. With that, I wholly believe that DeAndre Jordan will win for utterly no good reason. But Gobert and Green are both incredibly deserving, and either would be a fine pick. After getting screwed out of DPoY awards over the last two seasons, giving it to Green is the right thing to do. He earned it in the two previous seasons, and he’s certainly earning it now.

Most Valuable Player

Who’s in the race? Kevin Durant (Warriors), James Harden (Rockets), Kawhi Leonard (Spurs) and Russell Westbrook (Thunder).

Which Warrior is close? Stephen Curry is making a furious push back into the limelight. Reports of his demise were greatly overstated. As I predicted back in August, I believe voters will be more comfortable voting for Curry over Durant, and if Curry makes it close, he will steal Durant’s thunder.

Who has the lead? No one in Golden State — for now. It appears to be a two-man race between Harden and Westbrook. Due to Houston’s better season, things are likely to tip in his favor. But if Westbrook completes a triple-double season, all bets are off on what the voters will do.

Apologies to: Chris Paul, who dropped out of the race with his recent thumb injury. We’re not apologizing for ignoring Isaiah Thomas (Celtics), who is the worst defender in the NBA, and completely undeserving of MVP consideration.

Let us know your picks in the comments.

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