The Race for NBA Player Awards Is Over: Here Are Our Picks
NBA teams were informed by the league last Friday that none of the seeding games slated to start on July 30th will be taken into consideration for the postseason player awards.
Included in the memo was the following: "The decision to exclude seeding games from awards voting ensures a fair process in which players and coaches from all 30 teams will have the same opportunity to be honored as top performers for the regular season."
This means that all individual awards will be based solely on the season up to the March 11th pause. However, statistical awards will remain up for grabs until the end of the seeding games sometime in mid-August.
Now that it is known that all player awards will be solely based on play before the March 11th pause, we can equitably assemble our picks to win the NBA's top awards.
MVP - Lebron James
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While the reigning 2019 MVP, Giannis Antetokounmpo is a favorite pick for back to back MVP awards, our pick for MVP is with the King: Lebron James. Although the "Greek Freak" may be dominating in various statistical categories, including field goals, points, blocks, and rebounds, Lebron's overall achievements this season should be enough to grant the 4-time MVP his 5th award. Leading the league this year in assists, his ability to maximize the talent around him only adds to his case. James has led this Laker team to top spot in a stacked Western Conference, he has exceeded the expectations of what anyone thought possible in their 17th season of basketball, and it looks like he's far from being done.
Rookie of the Year - Ja Morant
There was a good chance the Rookie of the Year Award may have gone to Zion Williamson of the Utah Jazz before the announcement of seedling game exclusions, but with only counting his 19 played games this season, Ja Morant of the Memphis Grizzlies is undoubtedly the pick for rookie of the year. Morant is one of only three rookie players in the NBA to ever average over 20 points and 8 assists in their first year. Morant leads a young core group of players that are looking to establish themselves as playoff contenders in Memphis, and he provides the superstar foundation that teams are looking to harness for the future.
Sixth Man Award - Dennis Schroder
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This one was a tough call between Montrezl Harrell and Lou Williams of the LA Clippers and Dennis Schroder of the Oklahoma City Thunder, but Schroder's ability to carry his team this season won our pick for sixth man. Of course, his 19 point and 31 minutes played average helps prove our case, as well.
The Thunder have put together an unexpected season after the departures of both Russell Westbrook and Paul George. While Chris Paul has been the biggest reason for Oklahoma City's fifth-place standing in the western conference, it can also be attributed to the play of Schroder coming off the bench and maintaining a high level of scoring ability from the guard position.
Defensive Player of the Year - Anthony Davis
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It's finally time for the Lakers' Anthony Davis to win Defensive Player of the Year. Statistics may favor reigning champ Rudy Gobert of the Utah Jazz, but Davis' defensive game this year simply can't be matched. The Lakers rank third in the league for points allowed per 100 possessions, mostly due to Davis.
The Frank Vogel-led Laker defense has allowed Davis to play at his natural position of power forward as the Lakers have made a point to bring in traditional centers so Davis wouldn't have to play out of position the way he did in New Orleans. This has allowed Davis to have much better matchups and has also allowed him to roam in the paint more to disrupt opposing offenses from getting easy scores.
Most Improved Player - Bam Adebayo
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Bam Adebayo of the Miami Heat had a phenomenal year coming off of a two-year reserve role for the Heat–one which earned him our pick for most improved. As a starter this year, he put up an impressive line of stats and has proven that he can defend any opponent. Much like Dennis Schroder's Thunder, the Heat have over-performed compared to expectations, and Adebayo has proven to be one of the most promising young talents in the league, earning his first all-star selection this season.
Coach of the Year - Nick Nurse
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Coach Nick Nurse of the Toronto Raptors unequivocally gets our pick for how he handled his team this year. Things didn't look promising for the Raptors at the beginning of the season with the loss of their 2019 MVP, Kawhi Leonard, and the rocky start of the season due to injuries. At one point, the Raptors weren't projected to even make the playoffs–now they sit at 2nd place in the eastern conference. Without Nurse at the helm to adapt to the constant changes needed this season in lineups, we doubt the Raptors would be where they are right now.
Voting for the awards began on the 21st and will run through the 28th of July.