Most Valuable Player Watch
Sixth Man of the Year Watch
1. Jamal Crawford, Hawks: They call him "The Difference" in the ATL, and no other offseason acquisition has made more of one on his team this season than this well-traveled scoring phenom.
2. Manu Ginobili, Spurs: Tony Parker's broken hand has forced Manu into the starting lineup for the past 13 games. But Ginobili is easily the best player in the NBA who regularly comes off the bench -- something he has proved of late by averaging 22.4 points on 52 percent shooting in March.
3. Jason Terry, Mavs: By shooting 46 percent during his past 14 games, last year's award winner is making a late-season push to join Kevin McHale and Detlef Schrempf as the only players with two Sixth Man of the Year trophies.
4. Lamar Odom, Lakers: This point-forward turned NBA champion turned newlywed turned national corporate pitchman is doing what he always does: a little bit of everything.
5. Anderson Varejao, Cavaliers: Andy doesn't have the statistical pedigree to hang with the other candidates, but he is the engine behind the best team in the league's stingy interior defense, and his haircut is now providing style inspiration for every big man from Robin Lopez to well, I guess just Robin Lopez.
Rookie of the Year Watch
1. Tyreke Evans, Kings: Let's review. Stunning statistical accomplishment? Check. (Good shot at 20 points, five rebounds, five assists.) Noticeable impact on team? Check. (The Kings may not win very much, but they have significant wins over good teams, had a hot start and hang with everyone, most often because of him.) Game-winning shots? Check. Reke's got the checklist, and the ROY on lockdown.
2. Brandon Jennings, Bucks: The line between fearless and foolish is paper thin, and Jennings treads it like it's a lifeline. His instincts and natural ability, combined with courage in the biggest moments, make him a big part of one of the most dynamic young teams in the league. The playoffs will provide him a platform to show us something others on this list won't be able to.
3. Darren Collison, Hornets: Collison's ability to probe the defense by looping under the basket and either pulling up or delivering to the cutter is devastating. It is going to be interesting to watch his development behind Chris Paul.
4. Stephen Curry, Warriors: Running! And gunning! And dishing! And not playing defense! The consummate Warrior. Curry's vision is much better than anticipated, but we'll have to see if he develops into the total package.
5. James Harden, Thunder: It's rough overlooking DeJuan Blair, Ty Lawson, Marcus Thornton and Taj Gibson, but Harden has been a bigger part of the Thunder's success than it seems like from the stat sheet. He makes smart plays -- the kind that a young team needs -- and has been reliably cool when called upon. Big things are in store for the Next Beard.
Coach of the Year Watch
1. Scott Brooks, Thunder: It's rare that you get a young team to buy in on the defensive end, but the Thunder have (fifth in defensive efficiency), and it is because of Brooks.
2. Scott Skiles, Bucks: During his final year in Chicago the players tuned him out. Now in Milwaukee, he has his guys buying into his system.
3. George Karl, Nuggets: Seeing how the Nuggets have played when Karl isn't there shows you what kind of impact he has on his team.
ESPN'S NBA AWARDS WATCH
Defensive Player of the Year Watch
1. Dwight Howard, Magic: If you were trying to name the most terrifying thing about Howard's game, there would be a number of candidates on your list. But here's the topper: He's not even close to reaching his ceiling as a defender. Even as a big man that dominates the paint like no other in the league, he could be better. Yikes.
2. Gerald Wallace, Bobcats: It's simple: He's the stopper on maybe the league's best defensive team. Charlotte has a number of gifted defenders, but it all starts and centers around Wallace's effort on the defensive end.
3. Anderson Varejao, Cavaliers: Nobody hedges a screen quite like Varejao. His excellent footwork, combined with his high energy, gives him the ability to blow up a pick-and-roll all by himself.
4. Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, Bucks: If you're looking for a versatile defender who can cover four positions, rebound, block shots and lock down on the opponent's top scorer, he's your man. Kevin Durant named Mbah a Moute one of the toughest defenders in the league after the Buck roughed up KD for 48 minutes back in January.
5. Thabo Sefolosha, Thunder: Sefolosha isn't the flashiest defender. He doesn't block shots at the rim or grab a ton of rebounds. But here's one quality example of what he does: Against Sefolosha on Friday, Kobe Bryant had nine turnovers -- in the first half.
Most Improved Player Watch
1. Aaron Brooks, Rockets: The Rockets have slipped out of the playoff race, but that shouldn't diminish Brooks' spectacular season.
2. Kevin Durant, Thunder: It's not easy to make the jump from very good to elite, but Durant has done it.
3. Andrew Bogut, Bucks: He had a rough three-game stretch, but with 18 points, 11 rebounds and four blocks against the Grizzlies on Sunday, it appears he's back.
4. Josh Smith, Hawks: Smith's improvement is remarkable because it has come in every area besides scoring. How many players have the focus to do that?
5. Marc Gasol, Grizzlies: A strained neck kept him out two weeks, but he could climb back up this list with a strong finish.
NBA Statistical Leaders
Field goal percentage
Dwight Howard, Magic (60.7)
NBA field goal leaders