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NBA

Frontrunners for 2013 NBA Awards

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Serge Ibaka

Thunder
Mark D. Smith -USA TODAY Sports

The start of the new year has the NBA season kicked into full gear. Fans have had some time to assess who’s really putting in work this 2012-13 season and have been placing their votes to choose starters for the NBA All-Star teams. Which, of course, gets minds to thinking about many of the top awards honors. Who’s really worthy when it comes to top categories like the MVP race and more?

LeBron James has been flat out making all of his millions and then some. He ranked second in the Eastern Conference in scoring (27.5 points per game) and steals (two per game), fourth in field goal percentage (.555), fifth in assists (7.5 per game) and 12th in rebounding (8.1 per game), earning his second straight Eastern Conference Player of the Month award.

James killed Karl Malone's old record for the highest number of games to start a season with at least 20 points. Through 33 games this season, he has yet to score fewer than 20 points once. That is straight putting in work.

Meanwhile, Kevin Durant certainly isn’t punking out of this MVP race. Last year’s loss in the Finals seems to have propelled him this season. Dude has that killer look in his eye. KD took it upon himself to expand his overall game and become more of a well-rounded threat like James. Both LeBron and KD are trading blows like this is Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier. This year’s MVP race might be the closest one in years before it's ultimately decided. But for now, here is a list of my MVP winner and a look other winners to consider in the other major categories.

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Kevin Durant- Most Valuable Player

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Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports

I wish somebody would tell me that Kevin Durant hasn't been out there balling every night this season. He is averaging 28.5 points per game this season, but the most important thing is that he seems to have transformed his all-around game. KD wants that ring. His team is the best in the West and after the 42 points he hung on the Los Angeles Lakers, he is the clear MVP. Case closed.

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Damian Lillard-Rookie of the Year

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Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

The draft may have been Anthony Davis' party, but Damian Lillard is the one making all the right moves so far among rookies. His game is so refined that it's hard to believe he is only 20 years old. It's not really even a contest in this category at this point.

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Jamal Crawford-Sixth Man of the Year

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Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Jamal Crawford landing with the Los Angeles Clippers is what has that team positioned as a true contender. When Crawford enters the game, it's hard keeping count of the racks on racks of points that can put up in such a short period of time. He is an instant game-changer and hands down is the best in the league coming off the bench.

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Serge Ibaka-Defensive Player of the Year

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Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports

Serge Ibaka has really become a much more complete player this year. His improved offensive skills were a pleasant surprise from the start of the season, but his interior defense has made many a man look like a sucker in the paint. He averages nearly three blocks per game and should definitely be the leader for DPOY.

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Vinny Del Negro-Coach of the Year

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Jayne Kamin-Oncea -USA TODAY Sports

Can we please give Vinny Del Negro some props? Everybody is enjoying the success of the Los Angeles Clippers, but never want to give Del Negro any love. Why is that? The Clippers are on the fast track out West and Vinny has his team believing in his system. That's more than can be said for the coach of the other NBA team in LA. You know the one.

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Nikola Vucevic-Most Improved

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Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The fact that we even know his name is a big improvement within itself for Nikola Vucevic. Landing with the Orlando Magic was the best thing that could have happened to this 7-footer by giving him minutes and a chance to produce for Magic fans who were mourning the loss of Dwight Howard. Vucevic has silently amassed some really solid numbers this season, 20 points and 29 rebounds against the Miami Heat recently.

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