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Al Iannazzone’s NBA midseason awards

Oklahoma City Thunder guard Russell Westbrook (R) reacts

Oklahoma City Thunder guard Russell Westbrook (R) reacts after dunking the ball in the second half of the NBA basketball game between the Memphis Grizzlies and the Oklahoma City Thunder at the Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, USA, 11 January 2017. Credit: EPA / LARRY W. SMITH

MVP

Candidates: Kevin Durant, James Harden, LeBron James, Russell Westbrook

Midseason winner: Harden and Westbrook are neck-and-neck. They’re both having the best years of their careers. Westbrook is averaging a triple-double, but Harden leads the league in assists and the Rockets have the NBA’s fourth best record so he gets the edge.

COACH OF THE YEAR

Candidates: Mike D’Antoni (Houston), Billy Donovan (Oklahoma City), David Fizdale (Memphis), Gregg Popovich (San Antonio), Quin Snyder (Utah)

Midseason winner: D’Antoni brought his fast-paced system to the Rockets, gave Harden the keys to the offense, and opened up the offense even more. It’s working, maybe better than it did in Phoenix.

ROOKIE OF THE YEAR

Candidates: Malcolm Brogdon (Milwaukee), Joel Embiid (Philadelphia), Buddy Hield (New Orleans), Dario Saric (Philadelphia).

Midseason winner: Embiid has been worth the wait. After being injured the past two years, the 2014 first-round pick is averaging nearly 20 points despite being on a minutes’ restriction.

SIXTH MAN OF THE YEAR

Candidates: Marco Bellinelli (Charlotte), Jamaal Crawford (Clippers), Eric Gordon (Houston), Zach Randolph (Memphis), Lou Williams (Lakers).

Midseason winner: Williams leads his team in scoring off the bench, but Gordon is scoring more and doing it for one of the best teams in the league. His shot selection could be better, but his impact is evident.

DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR

Candidates: Anthony Davis (New Orleans), Rudy Gobert (Utah), DeAndre Jordan (Clippers), Kawhi Leonard (San Antonio), Hassan Whiteside (Utah).

Midseason winner: Close call here but the more versatile Leonard, who guards many positions, gets the nod over Gobert, the Stifle Tower who anchors the league’s best defense in Utah.

MOST IMPROVED PLAYER

Candidates: Giannis Antetokounmpo (Milwaukee), Harrison Barnes (Dallas), Avery Bradley (Boston), Zach LaVine (Minnesota), Porzingis, Myles Turner (Indiana).

Midseason winner: Antetokounmpo is one of the most versatile players in the league, and has blossomed since more was put on his plate by coach Jason Kidd. Antetokounmpo will be a first-time All-Star this year.

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