Another MVP for The Greek Freak?

by Jon Klein

Predicting the winners for each NBA award if the season is cancelled

With the suspended season due to the coronavirus pandemic, the awards for this season are uncertain. Here are the potential NBA award winners if the season is ultimately canceled.

MVP - Giannis Antetokounmpo

Although LeBron James was making a surge for the MVP award when the season was suspended, Antetokounmpo’s all-around extraordinary season makes this decision easy. Among all NBA players, Shaquille O’Neal is the only other person to average 29.6 points and 13.7 rebounds per game. ‘The Greek Freak’ is also shooting nearly 55% from the field and 30% from the 3-point line. Defensively, Antetokounmpo has been consistently one of the best in the league, using his exceptional combination of size and athleticism to guard any position on the floor. Finally, Antetokounmpo has led the Bucks to the best record (53-12) in the NBA before the suspension of the season. There is no argument here; Antetokounmpo deserves a second straight MVP.

Other considerations: LeBron James

Coach of the Year - Nick Nurse

Nick Nurse coached the Raptors to their first NBA title in 2019, simultaneously ending the Warriors’ dynasty. Although Nurse went from a no-name coach to a world champion, the departure of Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard to the Los Angeles Clippers seemed to jeopardize Tornonto’s future success. However, Nurse has proven that the absence of Leonard is no issue at all. The Raptors boast the second-best record in the Eastern Conference at 46-18, which is third in the entire league, ahead of talented teams such as the Clippers and Celtics. Several Raptors, including All-Star Pascal Siakam, have made great improvements this year under Nurse, and the team has been true contenders throughout the whole season.

Other considerations: Erik Spoelstra, Taylor Jenkins

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Most Improved Player - Brandon Ingram

Hope for Brandon Ingram was dwindling quickly after the Lakers dealt him to the Pelicans in a blockbuster trade involving Anthony Davis. Unable to assert himself as the centerpiece in LA, Ingram seemed projected to take a backseat to the stardom of Zion Williamson in New Orleans. However, the Kentucky graduate surprised everyone with tremendous improvements in his statistics. In his 56 games with the Pelicans, Ingram averaged 24.3 PPG, a 6 point increase from last season. Another notable development in Ingram’s game was his 3-point shooting, improving from 33% last year to 39% this season while attempting three times as many 3-point shots. Additionally, Ingram’s growth has come with no increase in minutes played. These significant improvements are just enough to put him past another major contender for the award, Bam Adebayo. Adebayo has shown massive development across several parts of his game, but an 11-minute increase in his average playing time, as well as a larger offensive role (a 5.2 increase in field goal attempts per game from last year), made his breakout somewhat predictable. Ingram’s improvements were impressive and unpredictable, proving him to be deserving of the award.

Other considerations: Bam Adebayo, Jayson Tatum

Sixth Man of the Year - Dennis Schroder

Yes, you read that right, Lou Williams should not be Sixth Man of the year. Williams, the winner of the award in the previous two seasons, seems like the easy choice here given that his stats are almost identical to last year. However, Schroder is actually besting the Clippers guard in scoring (19.0 PPG), FG% (46.8%), and 3P% (38.1%). More importantly, Schroder has recorded these outstanding stats on a Thunder team that lacks elite talent. On the contrary, Lou Williams and Montrezl Harrell have the luxury of playing with two superstars in Paul George and Kawhi Leonard, making their stats less valuable than Schroder's.

Other considerations: Lou Williams, Montrezl Harrell

Rookie of the Year - Ja Morant

Yes, the stardom of Zion Williamson was evident in his short stint this year, but Morant’s availability and consistency throughout the season make him the clear choice for this award. Ja Morant has proven himself throughout the whole season, beating out an impressive yet injury-prone year from Williamson. Of rookies that have played at least 20 games, Morant leads the NBA with 17.6 PPG and 6.9 APG. Alone, those two statistics warrant a Rookie of the Year award for Morant, as they blow other qualified rookies' stats out of the water.

Other considerations: Zion Williamson, Kendrick Nunn

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Defensive Player of the Year - Anthony Davis

Who should win it? Giannis Antetokounmpo. He has proven to be the best all-around defender in the league, and no other player puts as much effort into every defensive possession as he does. The Greek Freak’s offensive game, though, might be the reason he doesn’t take home this award, as it has made him a lock for the MVP award. The only two players to ever win MVP and DPOY in the same year are Michael Jordan and Hakeem Olajuwon; however, voter fatigue is why Antetokounmpo will not be the third. Voters simply do not want the winner of the NBA’s biggest award to also take home another major award like the Defensive Player of the Year. For example, Tim Duncan averaged nearly 3 blocks, 1 steal and 10 defensive rebounds per game in his 2002-03 MVP season, but finished only fourth in DPOY voting. This is where Anthony Davis, a player who has been an elite defender for much of his career, comes in. Davis is tied for second in the league in blocks per game (2.4) and also ranks second in defensive win shares (4.1), only behind Giannis Antetokounmpo. His overall contribution on the defensive end will surge him past back-to-back winner of the award, Rudy Gobert.

Other considerations: Giannis Antetokounmpo, Hassan Whiteside, Rudy Gobert

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