The Grueling Truth - Where Legends Speak / Predicting the 2019-2020 NBA regular season awards

Predicting the 2019-2020 NBA regular season awards

Who comes away with the trophies?

With the NBA potentially angling to cancel the 2019-20 season without crowning a champion because of the current pandemic, we could receive the regular season award winners sooner than expected. In this article, I predict who will claim the most-prestigious awards if the season ended today. There’s also an NBA Finals prediction because I can’t bring myself to admit that the season might already be over.

MVP- Giannis Antetokounmpo, PF Milwaukee Bucks

Runner-up- LeBron James, PG Los Angeles Lakers

While James certainly deserves recognition for his incredible production in Year 17, this should be a runaway victory for Antetokounmpo. The Greek Freak is also in the Defensive Player of the Year conversation and is contributing 34.5 points per 36 minutes. He’s arguably dominating more this season than he did last year.

Both Antetokounmpo and James are invaluable to their teams, which both hold the top seed in their respective conferences. Without a doubt, the MVP race should come down to these two players, but Antetokounmpo will win in a landslide. James Harden can have a distant third.

Rookie of the Year- Ja Morant, PG Memphis Grizzlies

Runner-up- Zion Williamson, PF New Orleans Pelicans

Williamson is the better player, and it’s not even close. While playing on limited minutes early in his return, the Duke product still posted 23.6 points per game while converting 58.9% of his field goal attempts. Williamson also snagged 2.9 offensive rebounds per game, which would rank eleventh in the NBA if he played enough games to qualify, and that’s why he won’t win Rookie of the Year.

While Williamson dominated during his time on the court, he only appeared in 19 games. In comparison, Morant appeared in 59 games, putting up his own stellar numbers. If both players made the same number of appearances, Williamson walks away with the award, but that’s not the case.

Defensive Player of the Year- Giannis Antetokounmpo, PF Milwaukee Bucks

Runner-up- Ben Simmons, PG Philadelphia 76ers

Antetokounmpo holds opponents to an incredibly low percentage on their shots. He does this better than Anthony Davis, Joel Embiid, or even Rudy Gobert, primarily because Antetokounmpo possesses the versatility to guard all five positions and move around freely. In comparison, someone like Gobert sticks to the paint.

While none of Antetokounmpo’s raw numbers suggest he’s in place to become the third player to win the MVP and DPOY in the same season, advanced metrics show his shot altering ability as the best in the league.

Davis likely finishes second in this race. He won’t deal with the voter fatigue that could hinder Gobert or possibly even Antetokounmpo. Embiid, while still a defensive anchor, is watching his presence in the NBA slip over the past several seasons. Besides, Simmons played a more diverse defensive role in Philly this season.

I don’t think Simmons will finish second, but he should. The 6-10 point guard is arguably the most versatile defender in the NBA today and is a lock for the All-Defensive 1st Team. He leads the league with 2.1 steals per game.

Sixth Man of the Year- Montrezl Harrell, C Los Angeles Clippers

Runner-up- Dennis Schroder, PG Oklahoma City Thunder

No, it’s not Lou Williams. The three-time Sixth Man of the Year didn’t come close to approaching the scoring clip he reached last season, producing about four fewer points per 36 minutes this year. However, Williams’ younger teammate and fellow rotation player reached new heights this season.

Harrell set new personal bests in various points per game metrics this season. He also flashed his impact on the defensive side of the ball, despite being a 6-7 center. Inside the arc, he’s an offensive wrecking ball. After players like Williams and Jamal Crawford dominating the Sixth Man of the Year voting for the past two decades, it would be nice to see someone like Harrell take home the honor.

In his 63 appearances this season, Schroder smashed his previous single-season field goal percentage personal best. He also elevated his three-point shooting efficiency to a new level. Playing alongside Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Chris Paul in OKC’s deadly three-guard set, Schroder helped the team surpass expectations this season.

Coach of the Year- Nick Nurse, Toronto Raptors

Runner-up- Erik Spoelstra, Miami Heat

The Heat surprised some NBA fans by going 41-24 before the suspension, dominating at home, and making it to the fourth seed in the Eastern Conference. Spoelstra’s job seemed in jeopardy at times during the LeBron years in Miami, but Spoelstra is now in his twelfth season as Miami’s head coach and is thriving. However, the true Coach of the Year is obvious.

After winning a championship with Kawhi Leonard last year and designing some beautiful formations, Nurse needed to find a way to win without Leonard. Usually, teams that lose their superstar player enter a rebuilding phase or struggle to recapture their previous success. Instead, at 46-18, the Raptors hold the second seed in the East and boast a better winning percentage this season (71.9%) than last year (70.7%).

Keep in mind, this is only Nurse’s second season at the helm in Toronto. At the pace he’s going, Nurse could become a phenomenon in the NBA.

Executive of the Year- Pat Riley, Miami Heat

Runner-up- Lawrence Frank, Los Angeles Clippers

The Clippers brought in Paul George and Kawhi Leonard. The front office also somehow found room for Reggie Jackson and Marcus Morris Sr. The flashy additions certainly should propel Frank into the Executive of the Year race, but the real award winner goes to the man who built a contending team without signing a true superstar.

Riley started the season off strong by stealing Tyler Herro with the 13th pick in the NBA Draft. He also added Jimmy Butler, moved on from Hassan Whiteside so Bam Adebayo could take over, traded for Jae Crowder and Andre Iguodala, and traded away James Johnson, Justise Winslow, and Dion Waiters. Miami’s roster construction is genius, especially considering they aren’t even paying one of the ten best players in the league.

Most Improved Player- Jayson Tatum, SF Boston Celtics

Runner-up- Bam Adebayo, C Miami Heat

Turns out, all it took was removing Boston’s old leadership for Tatum to take his place as one of the brightest young stars in the league. With Kyrie Irving and Al Horford gone, Tatum became Boston’s best player, even surpassing Kemba Walker.

To put Tatum’s explosive season in perspective, look at his scoring totals from last year compared to this year. In 2018, he scored 1,243 points in 79 games. This season, in 59 games, he scored 1,390 points. Tatum is more than a scorer too. He can be active on the glass and does his part on the defensive end.

Adebayo also carries his weight defensively. The new additions to Miami’s roster and some timely development propelled the third-year player to his first All-Star game. Adebayo nearly doubled his previous points per game career-high this past season (albeit in more minutes) and racked up 8.1 win shares. However, Tatum possesses a more diverse offensive game, even if Adebayo is a better facilitator.

Also, for the few Hornet fans calling for Devonte’ Graham to win this award, Graham didn’t even make 38.5% of his field goal attempts this season. If he does that on any other team, he’s getting benched or traded.

NBA Finals Matchup- Los Angeles Lakers vs. Milwaukee Bucks

It’s a little boring to predict that the top seeds in each conference will meet each other in the finals, but it feels like both Antetokounmpo and James are on a mission this year. Even against Nick Nurse’s coaching or the Clippers’ deep bench, I think the two frontrunners for MVP will prevail and square off in a contest to see who is the face of the NBA. It would be the LeBron-Kobe matchup we never got.

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