Predicting the 2020 NBA Awards

Mar 2, 2020; Miami, Florida, USA; Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo (34) defends Miami Heat forward Bam Adebayo (13) in the second quarter at American Airlines Arena.

Last week, the NBA announced that the individual regular season awards would not consider seeding games in Orlando. This means that the races for awards such as MVP and DPOY, along with the All-NBA teams, are already over. Voting began earlier this week and will go on until the 28th of July, just before the season is resumed. With this in mind, here are predictions for the 2020 NBA awards.

Rookie of the Year: Ja Morant

Mar 7, 2020; Memphis, Tennessee, USA; Memphis Grizzlies head coach Taylor Jenkins talks to guard Ja Morant (12) during a game against the Atlanta Hawks at FedExForum. Memphis won 118-101
Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

Runner Up: Kendrick Nunn

3rd Place: Brandon Clarke

Had Zion Williamson played more games, this race would have been extremely tight. As it stands, however, this award undeniably belongs to Ja Morant. He came into a Grizzlies team projected by most to finish at the bottom of the West into the playoff race. His 17.5 points, 3.5 rebounds, and 7 assists were impressive enough, but his efficiency stands out. Rookie point guards typically struggle with efficiency, but Morant shot 49% from the field and 36% from beyond the arc. Kendrick Nunn deserves mention for his contribution to a terrific Heat team, but Morant has to be the winner. 

Sixth Man of the Year: Montrezl Harrell

Mar 1, 2020; Los Angeles, California, USA; Los Angeles Clippers forward Montrezl Harrell (5) reacts after blocking a shot in the second half of the game against the Philadelphia 76ers at Staples Center.
Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Runner Up: Dennis Schröder

3rd Place: Lou Williams

This season’s Sixth Man of The Year Award is a three-horse race. Dennis Schroder and Lou Williams have been outstanding this season, but the edge should go to Montrezl Harrell. Harrell is having the best season of his career, averaging 18.5 points and 7 rebounds a game. He shot nearly 60% from the field and played the best defense of his career. Despite being just 6’8, Harrell has shown his ability not just to play, but dominate against bigs who are much taller. While Schroder is also having a terrific season with career bests in efficiency, Harrell gets the edge due to team success. 

Defensive Player of the Year: Giannis Antetokounmpo

Mar 2, 2020; Miami, Florida, USA; Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo (34) defends Miami Heat forward Bam Adebayo (13) in the second quarter at American Airlines Arena.
Jim Rassol-USA TODAY Sports

Runner Up: Anthony Davis

3rd Place: Ben Simmons

At first glance, the numbers may suggest that Anthony Davis should take home this award over Giannis Antetokounmpo. Davis is averaging 1.5 steals and 2.4 blocks, while Antetokounmpo is averaging a steal and a block per contest. However, a further dive into the impact that each of these players has on defense tells a different story. When Giannis is on the floor, the Bucks concede 10 fewer points per 100 offensive possessions. The Bucks bench has been terrific throughout the season, but with Giannis, their defense goes from good to incredible. He also showed his incredible defensive versatility this season. His combination of size, speed, and strength allow him to lockdown practically every player in the league. He is particularly effective when protecting the rim, holding opponents to under 42% in the paint when he is contesting them. Antetokounmpo has blossomed into a two-headed monster and someone who will challenge for this award for the foreseeable future. 

Most Improved Player: Bam Adebayo

Mar 11, 2020; Miami, Florida, USA; Miami Heat forward Bam Adebayo (13) dunks the ball against the Charlotte Hornets during the second half at American Airlines Arena.
Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Runner Up: Brandon Ingram

3rd Place: Jayson Tatum

Bam Adebayo earned a starter spot in his third season and used it to full advantage. His stats improved from 9 points, 7 rebounds, and 2 assists last season, to 16, 11, and 5 a contest this season. He also showed his versatility and talent defensively, with more defensive win shares than Joel Embiid. This rapid improvement earned Adebayo his first All-Star appearance. Bam gets the edge here over Brandon Ingram and Jayson Tatum due to the unexpectedness of his rise. Due to their higher roles in their team’s offense, Ingram and Tatum’s improvement was more predictable. Meanwhile, with the arrival of Jimmy Butler, it seemed as if Adebayo would get even fewer touches. 

Coach of the Year: Nick Nurse

Mar 9, 2020; Salt Lake City, Utah, USA; Toronto Raptors head coach Nick Nurse reacts during the first half against the Utah Jazz at Vivint Smart Home Arena
Russell Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

Runner Up: Billy Donovan

3rd Place: Taylor Jenkins

The Coach of the Year award often goes to the coach of one of the best teams in the league or an underdog story. This season, the Toronto Raptors have been both, which is why Nick Nurse is deserving of the trophy. Despite being reigning champions, the loss of Kawhi Leonard had the Raptors projected to be a low playoff seed. Heading into the restart, Toronto occupies the second seed in the East, and are three games ahead of the three seeded Celtics. This was due to an All-Star campaign from Pascal Siakam, along with the dramatic improvement of players like Norman Powell. There have to be mentions for Billy Donovan of the Thunder, and Taylor Jenkins of the Grizzlies here. The Thunder and Grizzlies were both projected to finish towards the bottom of the West, and both find themselves occupying a playoff slot. 

Most Valuable Player: Giannis Antetokounmpo

Mar 4, 2020; Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA; Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo (34) takes the ball downcourt against the Indiana Pacers in the third quarter at Fiserv Forum.
Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

Runner Up: LeBron James

3rd Place: James Harden

Of all the 2020 NBA awards, this one may be the most sought after. Only Michael Jordan and Hakeem Olajuwon have ever won MVP and DPOY in the same season. However, there is a massive possibility that Giannis Antetokounmpo joins this list. Giannis is averaging 29.5 points, 13.5 rebound, and 6 assists, in just 31 minutes per game. His advanced numbers tell a similar story, with 10.4 Win Shares and a 31.5 PER. While LeBron James is having a terrific season, voter fatigue would be the only reason that he would take home the award. The Bucks are currently the best team in the entire league. Combining this with his unbelievable statistics and defensive value makes him the easy choice for MVP. 

That concludes our predictions for the 2020 NBA awards. Leave your thoughts in the comment section below!

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