by Lang Whitaker

Last week I got an email from the NBA asking me to vote in the official NBA postseason awards balloting. This is my third year voting in these awards, and I always take it seriously. I’ve always been transparent in my voting, telling you guys whom I voted for and why I voted for those guys. It’s always bothered me when you hear some random player got like one vote for Defensive Player of the Year, and the vote came from a guy who works for that team. I’ve always taken the voting for these awards as seriously as I can. I am honored that the NBA thinks highly enough of me to value my vote, and I’m going to stand behind my vote.

That said, I have until later next week to actually file my vote, and I’m going to take a few days to meditate on this. Which is why I want your opinions. As much basketball as I watch, I don’t see everything. Also, I’m from SLAM, and you guys — our readers — are a huge part of SLAM. Always have been, always will be. So I’ll take your opinions into consideration. Make a reasoned, well thought-out case, and I’m willing to think about it.

As always, I’ll listen to your arguments, but the final say is mine. It’s my name on the ballot, for better or for worse.

Here are the categories I’m supposed to vote on. And all players I mention will be mentioned in alphabetical order, just so there’s no favoritism going on.

Rookie Of The Year
NAMES: Steph Curry, Tyreke Evans, Brandon Jennings.
THOUGHTS: These three guys have to be the top three candidates. This one could get controversial — the other day back in the office I mentioned my early thoughts on how I wanted to vote in this category, and everyone got all worked up about it. Curry’s been the most effective scorer (and is second in the NBA in steals), Evans the leader of his team, and Jennings is the only one going to the Playoffs. Yet you could argue Jennings doesn’t play in crunch time and has a poor FG percentage, Evans is successful only because he dominates the ball, and Curry is just a product of playing time and their system.

Coach Of The Year
NAMES: Rick Adelman, Scott Brooks, Larry Brown, Alvin Gentry, Lionel Hollins, Nate McMillan, Scott Skiles, Jerry Sloan.
THOUGHTS: And I didn’t even mention Mike Brown, who has the best record in the NBA (and the best player in the NBA).

Defensive Player Of The Year
NAMES: Dwight Howard, Rajon Rondo, Josh Smith, Gerald Wallace
THOUGHTS: I think it’s Dwight’s award, but Rondo makes a good case as sort of a protest candidate as a guy who is dominant defensively on the ground. Also interesting that there’s very little talk about Ron Artest or Shane Battier, two perennial candidates in this category.

All-NBA Team (three teams)
NAMES: Too many to list here
THOUGHTS: With three teams to figure out, there’s a lot of think on. Worth noting is that the ballot only asks for two guards, two forwards and a center on each team. NOT A POINT GUARD AND A SHOOTING GUARD, ETC. For purposes of filing players within positions, I use NBA.com and see where they have a player listed (for instance, they say Kevin Durant is a Forward, so you have to put him at Forward and can’t slot him as a Guard.) But there’s a lot to think on. For instance, if Dwight Howard is the first team center, and maybe Amare Stoudemire is second team, who is third team center? (And it can’t be Tim Duncan, because even though he plays center, he’s listed as a Forward.)

Sixth Man
NAMES: Jamal Crawford, Manu Ginobili, Lamar Odom, Jason Terry, Anderson Varejao
THOUGHTS: Jamal’s got this in a runaway. Worth noting: Ginobili’s started almost one-fourth of San Antonio’s games, and Lamar’s started about one-third of L.A.’s games.

MVP
NAMES: LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, Kevin Durant, Dwight Howard, Dwyane Wade.
THOUGHTS: Oh, did I put LeBron first even though alphabetically he should be listed later? Whoops! My bad!

Most Improved Player
NAMES: Corey Brewer, Aaron Brooks, Channing Frye, Marc Gasol, George Hill.
I know Brooks is much improved, averaging 19.7 ppg up from 11 ppg, but it’s hard for me to consider those stats from a point guard who averages 16 shots and 5 assists per game. And another thought: His numbers might not be all that different from last season, but I think you can make a pretty good case for Josh Smith having made as much improvement as anyone else.