Zach Lowe of Sports Illustrated released his picks for NBA Awards at the one-quarter mark of this season and demonstrated I'm not the only one who believes Orlando Magic center Dwight Howard is a serious contender for Most Valuable Player. Bearing in mind that Lowe's picks "are not predictions for who will actually win at the end of the year," here's what he says, in part, about Howard's MVP candidacy in a field he terms "deeper than ever:"
Howard is the centerpiece for everything Orlando does on both ends, and he remains unmatched in his ability to both protect the rim and rush out to disrupt pick-and-rolls. His traditional stats are as good as ever, and he ranks fourth in the league in Player Efficiency Rating.
Howard is also in line to receive his third consecutive Defensive Player of the Year Award. Lowe summarizes his pick here by saying simply, "No one can do what he does," and moving on to his second-place pick, Kevin Garnett of the Boston Celtics.
Howard's scoring a career-best 21.3 points per game on 59.4 percent True Shooting. Only Dirk Nowitzki of the Dallas Mavericks and Kevin Martin of the Houston Rockets have scored more points more efficiently than Howard this season, and neither contributes nearly as much in other areas as Howard.
Lowe also lists Brandon Bass as an honorable mention for Sixth Man of the Year, a possibility I explored here.