Early Award Predictions

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If the Remainder of the Season is Cancelled, Who Takes the Hardware?

The NBA regular season has been suspended indefinitely with the growing concern of the coronavirus.

In what has been an unprecedented sequence of events, commissioner Adam Silver plans to re-evaluate the situation within the next 30 days at which time the rest of the league will receive more clarity on when play will resume. Until then, we really do not have enough information on what the future holds.

Will the league jump right into the postseason? Will the season even be played out? Will the NBA prefer to hold a brief training camp to ramp players back up to game speed? Is the 2019-20 regular season over?

There are many questions that have yet to be answered, but if this is in fact the end of the 2019-20 season, we have acquired enough of a sample size to carry out some important evaluations. While all of this is purely hypothetical, the hope remains that the NBA returns soon and the final bit of the regular season is played out. That being said, we have decided to hand out our season awards because why not?

We might as well!

Most Improved Player of the Year: Devonte’ Graham, CHA

In a season in which we have seen many big jumps from a multitude of players, no one player has been as big of a revelation as sophomore Devonte’ Graham. Seemingly coming out of  no where, the Charlotte Hornets guard is averaging an incredible 13.5 extra points per game this season and has been rewarded with an additional 20 minutes of play per night.

A standout at Kansas, Graham is averaging 18.2 points per game and is boasting a near 10 percent bump in his three-point shooting percentage. He is also averaging 7.5 assist per game compared to the 2.6 assists he averaged in his rookie campaign. Across the board, Graham has experienced a big spike in his offensive rating, true shooting percentage, PER, and offensive win shares.

While many talent evaluators liked him coming out of the draft last year, Graham was a four-year senior and is by all accounts an undersized combo-guard, slipping to the early second round. One year later, he has exploded onto the scene with the Hornets, silencing many critics and showing that he is deserving of the Most Improved Player of the Year Award.

  • Honourable Mentions: Brandon Ingram (NOP), Jayson Tatum (BOS), Norman Powell (TOR),

Sixth Man of the Year: Montrezl Harrell, LAC

Once again, the Los Angeles Clippers have the two best second unit players in the league in Lou Williams and Montrezl Harrell, but unlike last season, it seems like Harrell may have the edge now.

The Louisville standout has smashed all types of expectation coming out of college and has become a focal point of a legitimate title contender. Averaging a career-best 18.6 points and 7.1 rebounds per game, Harrell has also been an important piece defensively for the Clippers. Currently in the league’s top-20 for win shares, Harrell also leads all bench players in VORP (value over replacement player), and offensive box score plus/minus.

The Sixth Man of the Year award may be remaining in California, but it will be held by a different member of the Clippers this year.

  • Honourable Mentions: Lou Williams (LAC), Dennis Schroder (OKC), Derrick Rose (DET)

Coach of the Year: Nick Nurse, TOR

Counted out from the very start, the Toronto Raptors have dealt with over 200 combined missed games due to injury, and yet, they are second in the Eastern Conference and were the second team in the league to clinch a playoff berth.

They are tough-minded and resilient team, and a lot of that character stems from head coach Nick Nurse who has proven time and time again that he is unquestionably the best in-game adjuster in the entire league. Always willing to experiment with various lineups, and trying out different offensive and defensive schemes, Nurse has overcome every bit of adversity thrown his way.

The Raptors current roster has a bunch of undrafted kids, and only one lottery pick (Stanley Johnson), yet were on a 50+ win pace. Nurse has done a remarkable job with this group and should unquestionably be this year’s Head Coach of the Year.

  • Honourable Mentions: Erik Spoelstra (MIA), Billy Donovan (OKC), Mike Malone (DEN)

Rookie of the Year: Ja Morant, MEM

It is incredibly easy to overreact to Zion Williamson’s explosive start.

The athletic freak out of Duke has been averaging 23.6 points per game through his first 19 contests, but at the same time it’s important to note that most of his points have been coming near and around the rim. Moreover, for as incredible as his vertical and lateral explosiveness is, Williamson has been a complete train-wreck on the defensive side of the ball, partially due to lack of fitness.

Meanwhile, Ja Morant has been incredible, leading the Memphis Grizzlies to a return to the postseason, while averaging 17.6 points and 6.9 assists per game. The Grizzlies are one of the more exciting young teams in the league and a lot of it has to do with Morant’s electric play. Additionally, while not an incredible defender by any stretch of the imagination, Morant has definitely improved a couple notches since his last season at Murray State. Coincidentally, Morant and Williamson share the exact same defensive rating (113), which should tell you a lot about how disappointing Zion has been on that end of the floor.

Don’t get caught up in the eyewash, Morant is clearly the favourite to win Rookie of the Year and there is not much Williamson, or anyone else for that matter, can do about it.

  • Honourable Mentions: Kendrick Nunn (MIA), Zion Williamson (NOP), Brandon Clark (MEM)

DPOY: Giannis Antetokounmpo, MIL

Rudy Gobert may have shut the entire NBA down, but Giannis Antetokounmpo has been the best defensive player in the NBA this season and it’s really not even close.

With his length and athleticism, The Greek Freak can guard all five positions and with his shear presence on the court, he makes everyone around him better defenders as well. Not to take anything away from other Milwaukee Bucks players, but Giannis leads the league in defensive win shares and four other Bucks players find themselves in the top-20. Antetokounmpo’s league leading defensive rating is 96.3 with the next closest players being Brook Lopez and Donte DiVincenzo coming in at 99.0 and 100.1 respectively.

It’s absolutely bonkers how good Antetokounmpo is defensively. With him being off the floor, the Bucks defensive rating as a team drops by a whole 8.0 points. The Bucks net rating with Giannis on the court is +11.4, which is just incredible.

Simply put, Antetokounmpo has this one in the bag.

  • Honourable Mentions: Rudy Gobert (UTA), Anthony Davis (LAL), OG Anunoby (TOR)

MVP: Giannis Antetokounmpo, MIL

LeBron James’ on/off court numbers are absolutely jaw-dropping and it’s crystal clear how integral he is to the Los Angeles Lakers success.

Nevertheless, Antetokounmpo laps The King in just about every analytical category. Already the odds-on favourite for Defensive Player of the Year, The Greek Freak leads James in win shares, VORP, offensive and defensive box score plus/minus, box score plus/minus, PER, and scoring. Not to take anything away from James because he has had a remarkable season to this point, but Antetokounmpo has very clearly been better and far more valuable to the Bucks.

Expect to hear Antetokounmpo’s name fairly often at this year’s NBA Awards.

  • Honourable Mentions: LeBron James (LAL), Luka Doncic (DAL), James Harden (HOU)

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