Opinion: Predictions For The NBA’s Regular Season Awards
With the NBA season still on hold, the league has begun to take the steps necessary for restarting the season. Even one smart sports writer has detailed what he thinks the league should look like if play resumes. In that post, however, I did not outline my predictions for the NBA’s Regular Season Awards. Awards like MVP, Rookie of the Year, Defensive Player of the Year, 6th Man of the Year, Most Improved Player, Coach of the Year and the All-NBA Teams.
In this post, I am going to give my predictions for each of the individual awards, as well as outline my starting fives for each of the three All-NBA squads so with all of that out of the way, let’s get started.
MVP: Let’s begin with arguably the biggest award in the NBA. This year, the MVP race came down to two players in LeBron James and Giannis Antetokounmpo. Although other players were in the conversation briefly, ultimately it came down to these two guys. Both players have led their respective teams to first place in each of their conferences, and statistically have been really good this season. Ultimately, my pick is for James. This season James has averaged 25.7 points per game, an NBA best 10.6 assists per game, 7.9 rebounds per game. All while shooting 49.8% from the field and 34.9% from three. Although his stats don’t trump Antetokounmpo’s (outside of assists), but there has been something about James’ play this year that has made him deserving for the MVP. After missing the playoffs his first year with the Lakers, James has come out with a fire in his stomach and is still proving that he is the best player in the NBA despite being in his 17th season. I also think that what hurts Antetokounmpo is that he won the award last year, and he really didn’t take his game to another level this season, partially because he was so dominant last year.
Rookie of the Year: This award there really is not much debate. My pick for Rookie of the Year is Ja Morant of the Memphis Grizzlies. Zion Williamson was in consideration, but he simply did not play in enough games this year, missing time at the beginning of the year with a knee injury. This year for Memphis, Morant has averaged 17.6 points per game and 6.9 assists per game on 49.1% shooting from the field and 36.7% from three, all while taking Memphis from the second pick in the draft to the eight seed in the Western Conference. Morant is the future of the league, and I am excited to see him back on the court, whether it be this season or next.
Defensive Player of the Year: Similar to the MVP award, I think it comes down to a Laker and a Buck. Anthony Davis from the Lakers and Antetokounmpo from the Bucks. Once again, I am going to go against Antetokounmpo, and I am going to pick Davis for this award. Since being acquired by the Lakers prior to this season, Davis had something to prove and has showed up in a big way. The Lakers have arguably the best interior defense, averaging an NBA best 6.8 blocks per game as a team, with Davis averaging 2.4 blocks per game on his own. Davis also averaged 1.5 steals per game. Overall, a big time presence in the middle for a Lakers squad who is the favorite to win the Western Conference if the season does resume. Of all players who average 31 minutes per game or more, Davis ranks 11th in defensive rating and11th in defensive win shares. Overall huge piece for the Lakers success.
6th Man of the Year: Having good players on your bench can be really crucial for a team’s success. Ultimately for me, I decided to go with Dennis Schroder of the Oklahoma City Thunder. After being a starter during his career with the Atlanta Hawks, ever since being traded to the Thunder prior to the 2018-2019 season, Schroder has been relegated to the bench. Despite no longer being a starter, Schroder has thrived in this role, this year averaging 19 points per game, a career high 3.4 rebounds per game and 4.1 assists per game. Schroder is the back up to Chris Paul and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and this trio has carried the Thunder to fifth in the West. With some teams, there is a drop off when they turn to their bench, not with Schroder and the Thunder, he has had a great season and is well deserving of this award.
Most Improved Player: There were a lot of really good choices for this award this year. Brandon Ingram, Lonzo Ball, Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and Andrew Wiggins all come to mind, but I am not going to go with any of these guys. My pick for the Most Improved Player award is Bam Adebayo of the Miami Heat. This season, with the acquisition of Jimmy Butler prior to the season, Adebayo has become a clear number two option on a Heat team that is currently fourth in the Eastern Conference, but got as high as number two. Adebayo this season is averaging 16.2 points per game, 10.5 rebounds per game, 5.1 assists per game, 1.2 steals per game and 1.3 blocks per game, all of which were career highs for him. Adebayo was also named an All sStar for the first time in his career, will be crucial for the Heat in the playoffs this year, and in the future beyond this season.
Coach of the Year: There are a lot of really good choices for Coach of the Year. Erik Spoelstra of the Heat, Billy Donovan of the Thunder, Brad Stevens of the Celtics, and others have all led their teams to exceed expectations for this season. My pick however goes to Nick Nurse of the Toronto Raptors. After winning the NBA Championship in his first season, Nurse has taken this team to another level, despite losing Kawhi Leonard in free agency. The Raptors have been the clear second best team in the Eastern Conference, barring injuries, I think Nurse can lead this team deep into the postseason. This is a very skilled team and play really well together and Nurse is to credit for this.
All-NBA Team Predictions: The All-NBA teams are three teams that recognizes the best players in the NBA. The one criteria for these lists is that each team has to have two guards, two forwards and one center.
First Team: Guards: James Harden and Trae Young. Forwards: James and Antetokounmpo. Center: Joel Embiid
Second Team: Guards: Russell Westbrook and Damian Lillard. Forwards: Leonard and Luka Doncic. Center: Davis
Third Team: Guards: Ben Simmons and Butler. Forwards: Tatum and Pascal Siakam. Center: Nikola Jokic
Overall there is a lot to look forward to the return of basketball, if the NBA does come back this season, but it will be interesting to see who takes home the hardware once play resumes.