There is still no clear indication as to when, exactly, the NBA season will resume, but we now know that 22 teams will play eight "regular season" games in Orlando before segueing into some version of a postseason. These games shouldn't have a major effect on the NBA Awards, even though these are crucial games. With that in mind, I will hand out my awards based off when the season went on pause.
The biggest award question in the NBA this season is "Who should win MVP- LeBron or Giannis?" The question is not "Who should win MVP?" because Giannis and LeBron are the only two possibilities of winning MVP. The answer should be Giannis Antetokounmpo. Giannis has led the Bucks to the best record in the NBA. This already gives him an advantage in the MVP race, but what makes him better than LeBron. Obviously, LeBron has had the better career and is more of a fan favorite even with more haters than Giannis has. So why should Giannis win? Giannis has led a team with less stars than the Lakers do. The Bucks really only have Kris Middleton to go along with Giannis. For LeBron and the Lakers, LeBron has Anthony Davis, Javale McGee, Rajon Rondo and even Dwight Howard. The Lakers record should not make LeBron look good because Lebron works with AD, who is an MVP candidate of his own. This makes Giannis the true candidate for MVP. The fact that Giannis has led a less stacked team than the Lakers have, makes Giannis the better MVP candidate than LeBron James.
Giannis vs LeBron
Per-36 minutes, Giannis leads LeBron James in points, rebounds, and blocks, with a higher true-shooting percentage for good measure. Per-36, Giannis is doubling up LeBron in rebounds and averaging nearly eight more points. While James has a large lead on Antetokounmpo in assists, LeBron doesn’t even lead his own team in points, rebounds, blocks, or steals per game. Anthony Davis does. In terms of advanced stats, Giannis leads LeBron in VORP, win shares, PER, and box plus/minus. The Bucks have a better record than the Lakers and have had a significantly better net rating for most of the season. Giannis has been arguably more impactful than LeBron offensively, has been better defensively for the balance of the season, and he doesn’t have the benefit of playing with another elite player at the level of Davis. With the NBA regular season most likely over, this hurts LeBron in the MVP race. If Covid-19 didn't get in the way of the NBA season, LeBron could have been capable of catching up to Giannis. This would be possible if he puts up monster numbers down the stretch and if the Lakers can catch the Bucks in wins. Now, LeBron can't possibly catch Giannis in the MVP race with a national pandemic in the way!
I do not care that the Raptors won the NBA finals last year! After Kawhi Leonard left the Raptors, no one had hope in the Raptors this season and everyone thought that they wouldn't make a run for the NBA Finals again. Turns out, they were wrong! The Raptors are one of the most surprising teams in the NBA this year. When the season paused, the Raptors were the 2nd seed in the Eastern Conference, 6.5 games behind the Bucks, and 3 games ahead of the Celtics. What is even more amazing is that the Raptors had a winning percentage at the All-Star break that topped last season in which they had Kawhi. Nick Nurse has led the Raptors and has shaped the Raptors to deal with the loss of Kawhi. Nick Nurse should get the admiration for turning Pascal Siakam into an All Star player. In all, the Coach of the Year award should easily go to Nick Nurse who has led the Raptors to another amazing season, even with the loss of Kawhi Leonard.
As much as NBA fans want to say that Zion Williamson is the Rookie of the Year, Ja Morant solely is. Ja Morant, who was the 2nd pick in last years draft, drafted just behind Zion, is the best rookie in the NBA just because Zion started late in the season. Morant has carried a Grizzlies team that doesn't have much depth to the 8th seed in the Western Conference when play stopped. Since Zion has made his NBA debut, he has been shining and playing better than Morant. Sadly, Zion just came too late to beat Morant in the Rookie of the Year race. At least Zion can say that he beat out Kendrick Nunn in the Rookie of the Year race.
Morant vs Williamson
When we compare the amount of games Morant played versus Williamson, we know it is in favor of Morant. Willamson has only played in 19 games this season compared to Morant's 59 games. What makes it even tougher for Zion to win Rookie of the Year is that no player has played as many or less games than Zion to win ROY. The least games a player has played to win ROY was 50 games, which is no where close to Zion's 19. When the NBA season went on a pause, Zion had averaged 23.6 PPG, 2.2 APG, and 6.8 RPG. Morant averages 17.6 PPG, 6.9 APG, and 3.4 RPG. Morant is one of only 14 guards in NBA history to average at least 17.0 points and 5.0 assists per game as a rookie, some of the others being Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Isiah Thomas, Stephen Curry and Damian Lillard. Morant who has carried the Grizzlies to the 8th seed in the Western Conference, is not the only rookie to carry a team. According to NBA.com, the Pelicans are being outscored by 3.5 points per 100 possessions with Williamson on the bench this season. That means there's a swing of 13.9 points per 100 possessions when he steps foot on the court. That is not normal! Not only does that give Williamson the best net rating on the Pelicans, it's superior to the likes of Giannis Antetokounmpo (12.0), LeBron James (11.7), Kawhi Leonard (10.8) and James Harden (5.6), nevermind Morant (1.8). What gives Morant a slight advantage in the ROY race is that the Grizzlies are a playoff team, and they were expected to be no where close to the playoffs. Only the Cavaliers and Hornets were projected to win fewer games than the Grizzlies. In all, Morant should win ROY of the year just because Zion played way less games, but Morant still earned Rookie of the Year!
Isaac Edelman covers the South Florida sports teams and the Mets as well as other breaking news stories and opinions on Major League Baseball, the NBA, NFL, and the NHL on his SportsCastr live streaming channel.
The Miami Heat are one of the most surprising teams this year. Yes, the Heat were expected to make the playoffs, but as a 6th or 7th seed. Instead, the Heat are the 4th seed in the Eastern Conference when play stopped. Jimmy Butler is not the only reason the Heat are such a surprising team, but Bam Adebayo is. Bam is one of the most underrated players in the NBA this year, even though he found his way to the All Star Game for the first time in his career. While the Heat have been surprising, Adebayo has also been surprising. Before this season, Adebayo has had no triple doubles. Now, he has 3. Adebayo, who is in his 3rd year, has finally gotten playing time in the starting lineup, and this has lead to his success. Previously, Adebayo has spent time on the bench behind starting center Hassan Whiteside. Now that Whiteside is on the Trail Blazers, Adebayo has been in the Heat's starting lineup at the Center and Power Forward positions. Adebayo who has played in 65 games this season, has averaged 16.2 PPG, 10.5 RPG, and 5.1 APG. This has led Bam to the All Star Game in Chicago, where he also won the Taco Bell Skills Competition the night before. Adebayo and Jimmy Butler are both a great duo on the Heat, and are one of the most underrated players in the NBA. Other nominees for Most Improved Players are Brandon Ingram and Luka Doncic. I don't have Donic winning because Doncic did not improve as much as Adebayo and Ingram did. Brandon Ingram was acquired by the Pelicans in the AD trade with the Lakers. Ingram has led the Pelicans most of the season until Zion came along. Ingram turned from a backup on the Lakers, to an All Star on the Pelicans. In all, Bam Adebayo should win Most Improved Player!
Giannis who should win MVP, will probably also win Defensive Player of the Year. For this award, Giannis is going up against Anthony Davis, who has been a tremendous defensive player this season. As good as AD has been, Giannis has also been tremendous and since he will probably win MVP, that just increases his chances of winning this award. Without Giannis' MVP award, which increases his chance of winning Defensive Player of the year, this would be a neck and neck race between Giannis and AD.
Giannis vs. AD
In 57 games, Giannis has averaged 29.6 points per game, which doesn't really play in effect in the Defensive Player of the Year award, but sometimes catches the voters eye. Giannis has also averaged 13.7 RPG and 5.8 APG. This compares to Anthony Davis' 26.7 PPG, 3.1 APG, and 9.4 RPG. As a result, Giannis leads AD in those 3 categories. The only category Davis leads in is blocks per game with AD having 2.4 compared to Giannis' 1.0. In all, Giannis should win the Defensive Player of the Year award by a slight margin.
What could have been the 4th time that Lou Williams won 6th Man of the Year, probably won't happen this year, but his teammate could possibly win. Lou Williams is a nominee once again for 6th Man of the Year along with his teammate Montrezl Harrell, who has a better chance of winning 6MOY than Williams. Instead of picking Harell or Williams, I have to go with Dennis Schroeder from a surprising Thunder team.
Schroder vs. Harrel vs. Williams
Each of the 3 players fighting for this award lead in one of the 3 main categories. Schroder leads in PPG, Harrel leads in RPG, and Williams leads in APG. Schroder has been averaging 19.0 PPG, 3.7 RPG, and 4.1 APG. Harrel has been averaging 18.6 PPG, 7.1 RPG, and 1.7 APG. Lastly, Williams has been averaging 18.7 PPG, 3.1 RPG, and 5.7 APG. Maybe, Williams or Harrel would have won this award if one of them wasn't a nominee for 6MOY or if they were on different teams. In other words, if Harrel wasn't the 6th man like Williams is, Williams would have more points and could possibly take home the 6MOY award. Instead, Schroder should win the 6th Man of the Year award and should be lucky that Harrel and Williams are on the same team.
Abbreviations Used in this Article
ROY- Rookie of the Year
6MOY- 6th Man of the Year
MVP- Most Valuable Player
MIP- Most Improved Player