Early-season NBA awards

The NBA season is less than a month old, but that’s not going to stop me from handing out some early-season awards…

The most outstanding rookie award goes to…Rudy Fernandez.
Derrick Rose is probably the front-runner for the ROY award, but Rudy has been better thus far. His PER is an eye-popping 23.89 (Rose’s is 17.78), which is second-best amongst all shooting guards, and it seems like night after night he’s making a highlight-reel play. Fernandez is averaging 15.4 points, 2.9 rebounds and 2.0 assists, while shooting 48% from the field and 46% from long range. To top it off, he’s nailing 93% of his free throws and is registering 1.3 steals per game. His fine play is allowing the Blazers to be patient with Jerryd Bayless by running Brandon Roy at he point and Fernandez at off guard. Michael Beasley, O.J. Mayo, Jason Thompson and Kevin Love deserve honorable mention.

The league MVP goes to…LeBron James.
Cleveland is 6-2 and that projects to a 62-win season. If the Cavs can accomplish that, LeBron is going to run away with the MVP award. He’s averaging 29.8 points, 8.4 rebounds and 6.9 assists, and is shooting 49% from the field and 78% from the free throw line (which would be a career-high). A case could be made for Kobe Bryant, but he has a much better supporting cast and LeBron’s numbers are better across the board. (Besides, I don’t think voters would want to give Kobe back-to-back MVP awards.) Paul Pierce is a possibility, but he’s only shooting 41% from the field this season. Chris Paul is having an even better year than last season’s remarkable jump, but the Hornets are just 4-3 thus far. Atlanta’s Joe Johnson might be LeBron’s biggest challenger early in the season, but King James has him beat in virtually every statistical category. LeBron it is.

The “I’m the real reason the Bucks traded away Mo Williams” award goes to…Ramon Sessions.
Even though he’s playing fewer minutes (barely) than starter Luke Ridnour, Sessions is averaging more points (15.6 to 10.6), steals (1.1 to 0.9), has a better assist-to-turnover ratio (2.7 to 1.9), a better FG% (48% to 34%) and a better 3PT% (40% to 27%). I don’t think the Bucks are going to be too heartbroken when Ridnour’s contract is up after next season because it looks like Sessions, the former second-round pick, is Milwaukee’s point guard of the future. He’s in the final year of his rookie deal, so it’s going to be interesting to see what kind of contract he gets next summer.

The “maybe it wasn’t such a good idea to come to L.A.” award goes to…Baron Davis.
First, he thinks he’s going to get to play with Elton Brand, but Brand bolts for Philly. Now the Clippers are 1-7 and are losing games by a league-worst 13.4 points per game. Their defense is bad, but their offense is worse. They have scored the second-fewest points per game (88.3) and have the second-worst field goal percentage (41%). For his part, Davis hasn’t done much to help the cause. He’s shooting 37% from the field and just 26% from long range. If this keeps up, the Clippers will be out of the playoff race by Christmas.

The “boy, Devin Harris and those two first round picks are looking really good right now” award goes to…Mark Cuban.
Last year, when the Dallas owner pulled the trigger on a trade that sent Devin Harris and two first round picks to the Nets for a 34 year-old Jason Kidd, I was very skeptical. It was a longshot that the trade would pan out, as it was debatable at the time of the trade whether or not Kidd was even better than Harris. Certainly, Harris had a lot more upside, and his stint in New Jersey has allowed him to flourish. The first of the two picks was used on Ryan Anderson, and he is playing pretty well in limited minutes this season. The second pick is an unprotected first rounder in 2010, which could be a lottery pick if the Mavs can’t get things straightened out. They are 2-5 and their top four players – Kidd (35), Dirk Nowitzki (30), Jason Terry (31) and Josh Howard (28) – are all at least 28 years-old. Barring an injury to one of these guys, the Mavs will probably be fighting for a playoff spot in April, but that’s not exactly what Cuban had in mind.

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