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This Is Who Should Win the 2018-19 N.B.A. Awards

Category: Other Sports,Sports

You ask; I answer. Every week in this space, I’ll field three questions posed via email at marcstein-newsletter@nytimes.com. (Please include your first and last name, as well as the city you’re writing in from, and make sure the subject line reads “Corner Three.”)

Q: Deandre Ayton hasn’t had a terrible rookie year, but it has paled in comparison to what we’ve seen from Luka Doncic and Trae Young. What do you think Ayton needs to improve on — and will he ever match Luka or Trae’s potential? — Henry Roth (Scottsdale, Ariz.)

STEIN: It speaks to how far the Suns have faded from prominence that Ayton, as the No. 1 overall pick last June, got so little attention given the numbers he posted (16.3 points and 10.3 rebounds per game).

The leaguewide fascination with Doncic and Young is also a factor, as you mentioned, but Ayton was overlooked in the extreme this season. Suns fans should be hoping that the snub helps motivate Ayton in Year 2, because consistency and sustained energy have been issues for him so far.

From a technical standpoint, Ayton has to develop into more of a rim protector. With his mobility and athleticism, Phoenix should be able to build a defense around him. He’s not close to elite yet at that end.

But it would also be unfair to ignore that Ayton was frequently forced to start alongside two other rookies on a squad that still doesn’t have a starter-level N.B.A. point guard.

Q: Dirk Nowitzki hasn’t come out and said he is retiring, but everyone else seems to be saying it. At first I didn’t believe Adam Silver would have put Dirk in the All-Star Game if he didn’t have it on good authority that Dirk would soon retire, but could this actually not be his final year? It looks like Dirk’s ankle has finally recovered from surgery and he’s moving a lot better. Why not play one more season with Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis and try to go out with a playoff berth? — Sharad Acharya

STEIN: This much I can tell you: Dirk joining Dwyane Wade in the All-Star Game as a so-called “commissioner’s pick” has nothing to do with Nowitzki’s retirement plans. As Dirk stated before, during and after his trip to Charlotte, this was his All-Star swan song no matter what, even if he decided to play next season.

I think there have been times since the All-Star break when an encouraged Nowitzki has imagined himself carrying on. He’s been a huge Porzingis fan for years and would naturally love to experience the Doncic/Porzingis tandem. But the reality is that season No. 21 has been a bigger challenge physically than he ever imagined.

Is it really worth putting his body through the rigors of yet another nine-month ride? The case against coming back is much stronger than the case for it, which is why you’ve heard the likes of Mark Cuban and Steve Nash give interviews in recent days that make it sound as though the end is near.

Q: I’d like to hear your thoughts on how Stephen Curry makes everyone else on the floor better and how that may not necessarily be the case with Kevin Durant? — Michael Dortheimer

STEIN: Anyone who believes this must not have watched the last two N.B.A. finals.

Steph is Golden State’s No. 1 playmaker and a true revolutionary when it comes to the way his seemingly limitless shooting range bends defenses.


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