NBA Midseason Awards: James Harden finally lands MVP; Celtics' brass shines

We all know that NBA championships aren't won in January, and neither are awards. But that doesn't mean that we can't reflect on the first half of the season and dish out our own Midseason Awards.

A lot can, and likely will, change by the end of the season, but as of now there are clear front-runners in most of the races for postseason awards like MVP, Rookie of the Year and Most Improved Player. CBS Sports NBA writers Bill Reiter, Reid Forgrave, James Herbert, Brad Botkin, Chris Barnewall, Jack Maloney and Colin Ward-Henninger have cast their votes, and the winner of each category is listed below.

Here are the CBS Sports 2017-18 NBA Midseason Awards.

Who's the MVP front-runner at the midway point of the season? Graphic illustration by Michael Meredith (CBS Sports)

Most Valuable Player

It's not the runaway that it was looking like through the first quarter of the season when Houston was the best team in basketball and Harden was clearly the most dominant player, but as we've crossed the midway point, the Beard is still the MVP frontrunner. For starters, he's scoring 31.7 points per game, which leads the league by more than a full three points, and he's third in assists at 9.0 a night. Also, there's a bit of a lifetime-achievement feel to his candidacy, as he's finished second two of the last three seasons. 

If there is an argument against Harden, it's that LeBron James is having another phenomenal season, perhaps his best ever, and Stephen Curry is currently leading the league in offensive box plus-minus. Why is that important? Because the last six MVPs, and eight of the last nine, have led the league in that stat. That said, Harden is right on Curry's heels with the league's No. 2 offensive BPM, and considering Durant will likely steal some of Curry's votes, and vice versa, Harden still has the inside lane. -- Brad Botkin

Defensive Player of the Year

Draymond Green may have said he would give Kevin Durant his vote for Defensive Player of the Year, but the rightful frontrunner is Green himself. While Durant has been exceptional as a rim protector and continues to get better as an all-around defender, Green remains the Golden State Warriors' most irreplaceable player on that end of the court. The reigning DPOY's combination of anticipation, quickness, length, strength and sheer determination is unmatched today and perhaps in NBA history.  -- James Herbert

Rookie of the Year

While there's certainly a case to be made for Donovan Mitchell of the Utah Jazz, it's hard to argue against Ben Simmons. Traditional stats love him (he's second among rookies with 16.6 points, first with 7.2 assists and first with 8.0 rebounds). Advanced stats love him even more: Simmons leads rookies in value over replacement player and box plus minus, and he's second to Jayson Tatum in win shares. He's done all this despite not yet having a reliable outside shot. -- Reid Forgrave

Sixth Man of the Year

It almost feels unfair to have Sweet Lou in this category since he could start for so many teams in the league -- including his own. Willams has been other-worldly this season, particularly over the past month, and his 50-point performance to lead the ragtag Clippers over the Warriors in Oakland was one of the signature moments of the NBA season. The only way he'll miss out on his second Sixth Man of the Year Award is if the Clippers put him in the starting lineup for good. -- Colin Ward-Henninger

Most Improved Player

It's easy to see why Victor Oladipo deserves the Most Improved Player award, as what he's done this season is unprecedented. It wasn't that long ago that the Pacers were roundly criticized for taking on him and his contract as the major return in their Paul George trade. He's become Indiana's best player and it has everything to do with the massive strides he's made in just one season. 

Oladipo is shooting nearly 41 percent from 3-point range and the Pacers have lost big in games he missed due to injury. He's gone from a potentially decent role player to a star so quickly, and this isn't the traditional case of this award where the player was always this good and just needed the extra minutes. Oladipo didn't show this ability in Orlando, and he certainly didn't show it in Oklahoma City. What he's doing in Indiana this season is amazing and is exactly why he deserves this award. -- Chris Barnewall

Coach of the Year 

Brad Stevens (Boston Celtics): There are plenty of worthy candidates here, with Gregg Popovich as the constantly overlooked Jedi Master, but it's hard not to give this award to Stevens. On top of having an entirely new roster, dealing with the aftermath of trading away one of the team's most popular players and adding a 25-year-old All-Star ego, Stevens saw arguably his best all-around player go down for the season in the very first game of the season. To come out of that with the best record in the East and one of the best records in the NBA makes Stevens the hands down choice for Coach of the Year up to this point. -- Colin Ward-Henninger

Executive of the Year

Danny Ainge (Boston Celtics): Before the season began, there were plenty of questions about the multitude of moves Danny Ainge made in the summer. But as we move past the midway point of the season, with the Celtics in first place in the conference and cruising, it's clear once again that he knows what he's doing. Kyrie Irving is doing Kyrie Irving things, Jayson Tatum is arguably the best rookie in the draft class, and even Daniel Theis, whom no one had ever heard of, is playing important minutes. Oh, and they've done all of this without any contributions from their big free-agent signing, Gordon Hayward, and they very well could have another top-five pick in this loaded 2018 NBA Draft. -- Jack Maloney

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