NBA Award Winners for the 2019-2020 Season
The NBA and the entire world are in unprecedented times. Sports aren’t being played, businesses have closed up shop until further notice, and people are told to stay at home. We will be taking a look back at the NBA season to see who is most likely to win the individual players awards for the 2019-2020 season. We do not know if the regular season will be completed or if we will jump into the playoffs as soon as the NBA can open its doors again. One thing we do know is how the players have performed up to this point and luckily, we have seen enough to select our award winners for the wild 2019-2020 season.
Most Valuable Player (MVP): Giannis Antetokounmpo, SF, Milwaukee Bucks
The most prestigious individual award in sports is the MVP, and this year the race for the best player in the league seems to have a clear-cut winner. Giannis Antetokounmpo, the reigning winner is having another amazing season leading the Milwaukee Bucks to the NBA’s best record at 53-12. This season “The Greek Freak” is averaging 29.6 ppg, 13.7 rpg, and 5.8 apg, improving in points and rebounds, with the same number of assists per game as last season in less minutes per game. Giannis does not seem to be slowing down and is not only improving as a team leader but is expanding his overall game. Most noticeably he has improved his three-point shooting in volume and percentage, last season he was shooting 2.8/game at 25.6% and this year so far, he is shooting 4.8/game this season at 30.6%.
LeBron James has shown why he is the “Chosen One” with the numbers he is putting up at age 35 and leading the league in assists per game for the first time in his career. Putting up 25.7 ppg, 7.9 rpg, and 10.6 apg, all while leading the Los Angeles Lakers to the best record in the Western Conference at 49-14. Adding to his MVP worthy numbers, LeBron and his running mate, Anthony Davis, are anchoring the league’s best defense. LeBron will be in the MVP race as long as he has the Lakers playing at a high level and putting up the numbers he is, but until we see an unexpectedly poor season from Giannis, he looks to be the favorite moving forward.
Rookie of the Year (ROY): Ja Morant, PG, Memphis Grizzlies
One rookie in this year’s class stole all of the attention from his peers this past summer and is the highest valued prospect entering the league since LeBron James was drafted number 1 overall in 2003. Zion Williamson made his NBA debut on January 22nd for the New Orleans Pelicans after having surgery in the summer on a torn meniscus he suffered during a pre-season game. Zion did not disappoint, putting up 23.6 ppg, 6.8rpg, and 2.2 apg in only 19 games. Williamson has already missed 45 games this season and although his numbers may be more impressive than any other rookie this year, he will not end the season with enough games to take home the honored NBA Rookie of the Year award.
The Memphis Grizzlies selected Ja Morant with the number 2 overall pick after he burst onto the scenes with an impressive 24.5 ppg, 5.7 rpg, and 10 apg in his final year at Murray State. He has led the Grizzlies as the most impressive team thus far with a 32-33 record and the final playoff spot in the competitive Western Conference. This same Memphis team had an over/under of 27.5 wins before the season tipped off. Ja has played all but 6 games this season and has been the leader for the young Memphis squad. He has put his name in the mix with Zion as the most exciting prospect from the 2019 draft class and their resumes will be compared throughout their careers. The first award goes to Morant but I look forward to watching these young stars grow and battle head-to-head for years to come.
Defensive Player of the Year (DPOY): Anthony Davis, PF, Los Angeles Lakers
Rudy Gobert is looking to be only the second player in NBA history to win three DPOY awards in a row, Dwight Howard 2008-2010. Gobert has had a similar year statistically on the defensive end compared to last season, 13 rebounds/game and 2.3 blocks/ game compared to 13.7 rpg and 2 bpg this season. Gobert although having a down year is still in the top 5 of blocks and rebounds. The Frenchman has a defensive impact that doesn’t always show on the stat sheet, because of his length and defensive awareness. Although Gobert is a great defender and has shown that throughout the years, this year the DPOY award will have a new home.
Speaking of new homes, Anthony Davis has made his first year on the Los Angeles Lakers a memorable one. The match made in heaven occurred this summer when the Lakers traded for the superstar power forward and paired him with LeBron James to make the deadliest one-two punch in the league. As mentioned before this tandem has Lakers opponents struggling to score points on any given night. Although the defensive numbers are a representation of the team as the whole, very few can argue that Davis is the leader on that end of the floor. Davis is responsible for more wins defensively than last season and the Lakers top the league in blocks/game and are third in points allowed/game. Anthony Davis was a star in New Orleans and no one questioned his talent, but now with the Lakers he is taking the step to superstardom and adding silverware to his trophy cabinet.
Sixth Man of the Year: Dennis Schroder, PG, Oklahoma City Thunder
This award has recently been dominated by guards, with Jamal Crawford and Lou Williams winning three each, Eric Gordon, J.R. Smith, and James Harden winning it once each. This year an argument can be made for both Lou Williams (winner last year) and Montrezl Harrell (finished third last year) to be in the top three again. Montrezl has had a better year than last season and is having a better year than Lou up to this point. Their tandem is undeniable and has excited Clippers fans since this partnership began. Harrell this year has emerged in the sixth man race out of Lou’s shadow and looks to be the first forward to win the award since Lamar Odom in the 2010-2011 season. Harrell is averaging 18.6 points, 7 rebounds, and 1 block per game. The Clippers have acquired two big names in the wild summer of 2019, and the modern-day load management trend has been a part of the team’s strategy game to game. Montrezl stepping up and helping the team win games while Kawhi and/or Paul George take a night off, could be enough to win him the honorable award, and a hefty contract this summer. This may be the last season he is in the conversation for this award.
One of the biggest surprises this season is the Oklahoma City Thunder, that were heading to the lottery and after having three MVP winners, they were in full rebuild mode. Chris Paul, Danilo Gallinari, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Steven Adams, and the topic of conversation for this award Dennis Schroder had different plans. Schroder is putting up an impressive 19 points, 4 assists, and almost 1 steal per game. Playing behind an all-time great Chris Paul and a very talented up and comer in Gilgeous-Alexander, Schroder has flourished in the 31 minutes per game he has played this season and their 40-24 record shows that. The Thunder traded MVP winner Russel Westbrook to the Houston Rockets and they currently hold the same record, in shock to many NBA fans. Although I am a Clippers fan, putting preference aside, I believe this award is for Schroder to take home.
Coach of the Year: Nick Nurse, Toronto Raptors
The question that determines the honorable Coach of The Year award winner is, does the team that exceeded expectations and made a large improvement from the previous season or does the coach that led his team to the top of the standings and sustained the success from previous years. Now, at times a candidate may have done a little of both and those are the special coaches that go on to receive the award.
This year Nick Nurse of the Toronto Raptors has managed to take a step above the phenomenal title run in last years playoffs. Losing their best player and a top 5 player in the league at the moment, Kawhi Leonard, the Raptors have managed to hold onto the number 2 seed in the Eastern Conference. Toronto has a record of 46-18, ahead of the powerful Boston Celtics (43-21). Not only did Leonard jump ship to the Los Angeles Clippers in the move of the summer, but Danny Green also join him in LA when he joined the Lakers. Toronto did not improve their roster and many experts, even Las Vegas sportsbooks, counted out the defending champions. They opened the season with an over/under win total of 46 wins, they currently have matched that win mark with 18 games remaining. Credit can be given to Nurse for the development of last year’s Most Improved Player, Paskal Siakam, and the step he took to make the All-Star team this season. Players like Fred VanVleet, Kyle Lowry, and Serge Ibaka have stepped up and relieved a lot of the pressure from the young star. Toronto has an eye for hiring great NBA coaches, with former coach Dwane Casey winning this award during the 2017-2018 season. Executive Masai Ujiri has changed the culture of this franchise and his services will be highly sought after this offseason.
Taylor Jenkins of the Memphis Grizzlies is the first name that comes to mind when thinking about coaches that have exceeded pre-season expectations. Beginning with Jenkins, who has led this very young Grizzlies team to a 32-33 record and the final playoff spot in the Western Conference. If the season were to end today and Jenkins were to win the trophy, he would be only the second coach to win it with a losing record. Although that doesn’t seem likely at all because that honor goes to Red Kerr, coach of the Chicago Bulls, who won it in the 1966-67 season with a record of 33-48. With only 10 teams in the league at the time, it is very unlikely this feat is accomplished again. Doc Rivers was the closest at an even 41-41 record when he won the award in 1999-2000 with the Orlando Magic. With the performance, youth, and great potential of the Memphis Grizzlies, Taylor Jenkins is on the path to one day win this award, and we look forward to what this team can do with Rookie of the Year favorite Ja Morant, young forward Jaren Jackson Jr., and Brandon Clarke filling the wing role.
Most Improved Player: Devonte’ Graham, SG, Charlotte Hornets
The award that either propels a player to consistent All-Star level talent, or is considered a one-off in their otherwise average career. Names like Kevin Love, Gilbert Arenas, Jermain O’Neal, Tracy McGrady, Paul George, and most notably Giannis Antetokounmpo have won this award and never looked back. While Ben Simmons, Boris Diaw, Aaron Brooks, and Ryan Anderson weren’t able to continue the success that earned them the Most Improved Player award. This season Brandon Ingram of the New Orleans Pelicans has blossomed into the talent that had him go number 2 overall in the 2016 draft. After the blockbuster trade that sent Anthony Davis to the Lakers, Ingram was able to get out of the LA lights and flourish in the free-flowing Pelicans offense. Playing only a minute more/ game Ingram is averaging 6 points, 1 rebound, and 1 assist more than last season. The difference has largely come in being able to play his style without deferring to a LeBron or Kobe Bryant early in his career. There isn’t pressure to perform like a number 2 overall pick, and with the addition of rookie Zion Williamson and all of his hype, Ingram will be able to develop into the star we expect him to become.
If I mentioned the name Devonte’ Graham before the season began you would look at me with a puzzled face and probably wouldn’t even know what team he was on. I know I was one of those people, but this season he has made a name for himself. The wild offseason had the Charlotte Hornets losing All-Star point guard Kemba Walker and signing point guard Terry Rozier in a free agency swap with the Boston Celtics. Expectations were low for the Hornets team as they began the season but Graham has been the shining light. In 46 games last season he put up 4.7 points, 2.6 assists, and 1.4 rebounds per game while playing an average of 15 minutes a night. This season he is playing a well-deserved 35 minutes per game and an impressive 18 points, 7.5 assists, and 3.4 rebounds per game. Graham went from starting 3 games last year to 53 this season. Hornets fans are hoping he takes the steps to becoming an All-Star and that this isn’t the ceiling of his career.