T he holidays took us right to the trimester landmark, a traditional time to size up the league's hierarchy and the big awards races. But January 2 brings us to a new year and the 40 percent mark of the season — as good a time as any to take the league's temperature. We'll focus today on the big daddy of postseason awards and the two most interesting races after that, with the rest coming later in the week. Just about every shred of available data went into these choices — traditional statistics, advanced numbers (on-court/off-court differentials, lineup data, adjusted plus/minus, data from the video-tracking service Synergy Sports, and much more), extensive video study, talks with scouts and executives around the league, and the usual load of game watching.
And even all of that leaves some difficult judgments that are basically impossible choices between ultratalented players with similar numbers, working within very different team contexts. Here's a well-intended early shot at three mid-season awards, using the NBA's official ballot structure.