Loren Jorgensen: Utah Jazz: Jerry Sloan won't win (again), but someone will win the top coach, rookie and 6th man
The Bucks were just 34-48 in Skiles' first year, but this season they are 41-34 entering Saturday night's home game against Phoenix. Milwaukee has been without star shooting guard Michael Redd most of the year, but with Andrew Bogut and rookie Brandon Jennings leading the way, Skiles has his team battling for the No. 5 seed in the East.
Prediction: Brooks will win with Skiles second.
ROOKIE OF THE YEAR
No. 1 overall draft pick Blake Griffin had both the terrible luck of getting selected by the Clippers and then being knocked out for the season with an injury before it even got started.
That left the door open for some other rookie to step up and earn this prestigious award, and early in the season Milwaukee's Brandon Jennings looked like the favorite. The 6-1 point guard's 55-point game on Nov. 14 against the Golden State Warriors was the most by a rookie since Earl "The Pearl" Monroe went off for 56 in 1986.
Meanwhile, Sacramento's Tyreke Evans didn't have such an eye-popping coming-out party, but he's been much more consistent than Jennings. Evans is listed as a point guard for the Kings, but at 6-6 he can play both guard positions as well as small forward. He's averaging 20.2 points, 5.8 assists and 5.2 rebounds per game while shooting 45.9 percent from the field.
Jennings, meanwhile, cooled off after his torrid start, but is still playing amazingly well for a 20-year-old who never played college ball and mostly sat on the bench in his one professional season in Italy. He's averaging 15.5 points, 5.9 assists and 1.3 steals per game for a vastly improved team that is headed to the playoffs. One knock on Jennings, however, is his poor shooting percentage — just 37 percent from the field for the year.
Other rookies like Stephen Curry of Golden State, Darren Collins of New Orleans, James Harden of Oklahoma City and Utah's Wesley Matthews have been major contributors for their respective teams as well.
But this award will likely come down to the early leader (Jennings) against the more consistent, better all-around player (Evans).
Prediction: Evans will win, as he should.
6TH MAN OF THE YEAR
Jason Terry of the Mavericks won this award last season and is a legitimate candidate again this time around. Terry has started just 12 times this season, but he's second on the Mavs in scoring, averaging 16.9 points to go along with 3.8 assists.
Lamar Odom of the Lakers has started nearly half of the time this season and he's actually not having as good of an all-around season as he had a year ago, so he's probably out.
That leaves Atlanta's Jamal Crawford and San Antonio's Manu Ginobili as the two biggest contenders to unseat Terry.
Ginobili has started 15 games this season while coming off the bench 54 times, so he still qualifies as a "6th man." The veteran guard from Argentina is averaging 16.4 points and 4.9 assists per game.
Crawford, meanwhile, has been a true super sub, having not started a single game for the Hawks. The veteran guard, now with his fourth team, seems to have finally found a home in Atlanta. He's averaging 17.6 points and 2.9 assists in about 31 minutes per game off the bench for one of the Eastern Conference's best teams.
Prediction: Crawford will edge out Terry and Ginobili for the award.
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