Philadelphia acquired Dikembe Mutombo to contend with the West's topflight centers in the Finals, but the Sixers may not get that far now that Mourning is back. " Miami has too many big guys for them," says one scout. Knowing that Mourning is covering for them in the paint, the Heat's perimeter defenders can be even more aggressive against Allen Iverson's Philly teammates, who were a combined 17 for 50 in a telling 83-81 loss at Miami on April 10.
The Finals: The Spurs beat the Heat. All five scouts believe the Spurs' combination of depth, balance and home court advantage will carry them to the Western tide. Not only do the Spurs possess the league's best one-two inside punch in Tim Duncan and David Robinson, but they also had made 41.1% of their threes through Sunday—not to mention what they don't have: the selfishness that has disrupted the Lakers and the Blazers. The Spurs were holding opponents to an NBA-low 41.7% shooting at week's end. "To beat them you've got to attack their perimeter guys on the dribble and score from outside," says an Eastern scout.
Miami's chances may hinge on point guard Tim Hardaway's bruised left foot, which he will rest the last three games of the season, and on the left shoulder of Eddie Jones, which was dislocated on March 5. In his return last week Jones was far from being the effective perimeter scorer and defender that the Heat would need to upend San Antonio.
MVP? It's Not Allen Iverson
The suspense is over: It's time to announce SI's annual awards. The envelopes, please.
MVP: Tim Duncan, Spurs. The 24-year-old Big Fundamental sets the standard for all young players at both ends of the court: averages of 22.4 points, 12.3 rebounds and 2.38 blocks, along with a league-leading 66 double doubles at week's end for a team favored to win its second title in three years. Much has been made of Allen Iverson's value to the 76ers—and with good reason-but recall what happened to San Antonio last year when Duncan was injured: The Suns eliminated the Spurs in four games in the first round.
Rookie of the Year: Kenyon Martin, Nets. Three-point specialist Mike Miller (11.8 points per game through Sunday) has heated up for the Magic in recent months, but Martin's across-the-board productivity—12.0 points, 74 rebounds and 1.66 blocks per game—before he broke his right leg on March 22 was better. The 6'9" Martin had also established himself as one of the East's top defensive forwards.
Coach of the Year: Larry Brown, 76ers. The league's Obi-Wan Kenobi helped turn the once derelict Iverson into a full-fledged Jedi warrior. Brown's bunch epitomizes the selflessness that marks the best of the NBA.
Sixth Man Award: Aaron McKie, 76ers. Pacers point guard Travis Best deserves consideration, but his team's record was far weaker. The 6'5" McKie handled both guard spots and provided indispensable defense.
Most Improved Player: Tracy McGrady, Magic. When Grant Hill failed to recover from ankle surgery, the 21-year-old McGrady was asked to make that rarest of leaps: from complementary player to superstar who carries a team. At week's end he was seventh in the league in scoring, with 271 points per game.