Monday , Apr , 17 , 2006 C.Y. Ellis

Who deserves NBA hardware?

By Warren Blatt, Sports Network NBA Editor

(Sports Network) – Another NBA season is about to be history and now would
be a good time to recognize the executive, coach and players that deserve
accolades for their accomplishments during the 2005-06 campaign.

Here is one analyst’s opinion for this year’s winners of the awards that will
be given out by the NBA during the postseason.

MVP: LEBRON JAMES (CLEVELAND CAVALIERS)

James and the Cavaliers finally got over the hump this season. It is only
fitting that the 6-7 superstar has led Cleveland back to the playoffs for the
first time since 1998. A two-time All-Star, James leads the Cavs in scoring
and assists and is third on the club in rebounding.

Originally selected out of St. Vincent-St. Mary High School in the first
round (first pick overall) of the 2003 NBA Draft by the Cavaliers, the 21-
year-old James has taken Cleveland on his back and won games single-handidly.
He is the team leader and has shown that he has what it takes to take a game
over when his club needs him most. A deserving recipient for the NBA’s most
prestigious, individual award.

HONORABLE MENTION: Chauncey Billups (Detroit Pistons), Kobe Bryant (Los
Angeles Lakers), Steve Nash (Phoenix Suns), Dirk Nowitzki (Dallas
Mavericks) and Dwyane Wade (Miami Heat).

ROOKIE OF THE YEAR: CHRIS PAUL (NEW ORLEANS/OKLAHOMA CITY HORNETS)

The Wake Forest product helped a team that won only 18 games last season
contend for a playoff berth until the last week of the season. Paul leads the
Hornets in assists and is second on the club in scoring.

Paul, who was selected with the fourth overall pick in the 2005 NBA Draft, is
a great player for the Hornets to build around. The multi-talented point guard
is a future All-Star and showed as a rookie that he is one of the bright stars
in the league.

HONORABLE MENTION: Andrew Bogut (Milwaukee Bucks), Charlie Villanueva (Toronto
Raptors), Deron Williams (Utah Jazz).

COACH OF THE YEAR: MIKE DUNLEAVY (LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS)

Who would have thought the Clippers would be participating in the postseason?

Dunleavy was able to blend youth with veterans and make the Clippers, who last
played in the playoffs in 1997, a competitive, winning team. The Clippers have
talent and don’t look like the sorry franchise that they have been in the
past. Dunleavy has changed the attitude of his players and has them playing
with enthusiasm which has resulted into victories in the standings.

HONORBALE MENTION: Mike Brown (Cleveland Cavaliers), Mike D’Antoni (Phoenix
Suns), Byron Scott (New Orleans/Oklahoma City Hornets).

DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR: ANDREI KIRILENKO (UTAH JAZZ)

Kirilenko can do it all. The athletic forward leads the league in blocks and
is a player who can change the tempo of a game with his play on the defensive
end of the court.

The 6-9 Kirilenko makes the Jazz a tough team to go inside against because of
his athletic ability and hard-nosed defensive play. He has helped Utah become
more effective in transition and was simply the best defensive player in the
league this season.

HONORABLE MENTION: Ron Artest (Sacramento Kings), Bruce Bowen (San Antonio
Spurs) and Ben Wallace (Detroit Pistons).

MOST IMPROVED PLAYER: BORIS DIAW (PHOENIX SUNS)

The Suns acquired Diaw and two conditional first round picks from the Hawks
last offseason for guard Joe Johnson. The 6-8 Diaw, who averaged 4.8 points,
2.6 rebounds and 2.3 assists in the 2004-05 campaign, has averaged over 13
points and more than six rebounds and six assists for Phoenix this season.

Diaw is a versatile player who can play multiple positions. He has given the
Suns another player who can play their fast-paced style. Even though Johnson
is a very talented player, Phoenix has to be thrilled with what they received
in the controversial deal.

HONORABLE MENTION: Chris Kaman (Los Angeles Clippers), Kevin Martin
(Sacramento Kings), Smush Parker (Los Angeles Lakers).

SIXTH MAN OF THE YEAR: ANTOINE WALKER (MIAMI HEAT)

The 29-year-old Walker has done a nice job adjusting to his role with the
Heat. Miami’s success is based on the performances of All-Stars Shaquille
O’Neal and Dwyane Wade.

Walker has given the Heat another threat on the perimeter. A three-time All-
Star, Walker is playing under 30 minutes per game for the first time in his
career and has accepted the fact that he is part of the supporting cast in
Miami. He is still averaging double-digits in scoring and over five rebounds
per contest.

HONORABLE MENTION: Shareef Abdur-Rahim (Sacramento Kings), Michael Finley (San
Antonio Spurs), Donyell Marshall (Cleveland Cavaliers).

EXECUTIVE OF THE YEAR: DANNY FERRY (CLEVELAND CAVALIERS)

Ferry, who spent 10 season with the Cavaliers as a player, was hired last
offseason to take over the club as general manager. Cleveland couldn’t get to
the postseason during its first two years with James on the roster, and Ferry
knew he had to surround his superstar with players who could mesh with his
unbelievable talents.

To help get the Cavs back into the postseason, Ferry signed Larry Hughes,
Damon Jones and Donyell Marshall, who were all unrestricted free agents. Ferry
got James players who work well with him and could help Cleveland qualify for
the playoffs. Mission accomplished. A job well done!

HONORABLE MENTION: Elgin Baylor (Los Angeles Clippers).