MVP: Giannis Antetokounmpo (Previous: Giannis Antetokounmpo)
It is now Giannis’s NBA and we are simply just living in it. The Bucks have the best record and Giannis is dominating games in quite ridiculous ways. While his stats have slightly dipped over the past month or so, this is because the Bucks build leads so fast that he does not need to play crazy minutes to win games. During December and the first half of January, Giannis only needed 28.8 minutes a night to go 16-3 while averaging 29/12/5 on an impressive 54.7/37.6/66.7 shooting splits. Watching the reigning MVP improve in real time is something special, and I cannot see another person taking the throne from him so far this season.
Runner Up: LeBron James (Previous: LeBron James)
With all due respect to Luka Doncic, I have LeBron narrowly edging him out as the Mavericks have faltered a bit recently, while the Lakers have continued being the dominant team in the West. Doncic has been incredible but LeBron’s defense and efficiency put him slightly ahead of the sophomore phenom for me. I am rooting for LeBron to continue leading the league in assists, not just because it is a cool stat, but because the Lakers’ offense is so much more fluid and dynamic with him out there. I am interested to see how the race continues down the end of the season, but for now, I have Giannis and LeBron as my top guys.
DPOY: Anthony Davis (Previously: Anthony Davis)
Once again, I am not changing my award winner, but that is because Anthony Davis has continued his defensive dominance since the start of the season. Leading the Lakers to the 3rd best defense in the league while having the 5th best defensive rating is signs pointing to him winning his first Defensive Player of the Year award. The only players with a better defensive rating than Davis are three players on the Bucks and Jon Isaac. With Isaac injured and the Bucks having much better defensive players throughout, I have to give the nod to Davis, as he is doing the most with not as great defensive talent next to him.
Runner Up: Giannis Antetokounmpo (Previously: Rudy Gobert)
For what I said to put AD as my award winner, Giannis is still having a phenomenal defensive season to warrant a top-2 mark in DPOY. The Bucks have possibly the most defensive talent in the league, and Giannis is the head of that force. His 96.4 defensive rating (1st in the NBA), 3.1 defensive win shares (1st in the NBA) and 4.7 defensive box plus minus (3rd in the NBA) is a perfect mix in advanced statistics to prove his defensive ability. Other bigs have a chance to knock Giannis out of the 2 spot, but as long as the Bucks stay the best defensive team in the NBA and Giannis continues with his phenomenal metrics, I need to keep him high in the consideration for Defensive Player of the Year.
MIP: Devonte’ Graham (Previously: Devonte’ Graham)
Devonte’ has kept up what initially might have looked like a fluke. Jumping from a barely used and ineffective role player to the best player on a near-playoff team seemed impossible, but his playmaking and shooting has helped him become a stud. While still inefficient, he is a completely changed and improved guard in the NBA, where he looks like how he played at Kansas. I am usually against giving a second year player this award, but usually those players never make jumps as large as Graham has done this year. Devonte’ will be a large part of the Hornets’ rebuild and I would love to see him with better supporting pieces, allowing for his playmaking and shooting to truly flourish.
Runner Up: Brandon Ingram (Previously: Brandon Ingram)
While Zion’s return may cut into Ingram’s statistics, his game and overall impact on winning has improved from a good starter to an all-star level. While his 3 point shooting numbers are starting to come back to Earth, shooting 6 from deep a game has remained at a solid level. Throw in his improved free throw shooting (85% compared to 66% for the Lakers), and Ingram seems to have reached another level. His ability to be a focal point of an offense and make space for his jumper is something we saw out of him in high school, but was hidden a little bit in Duke and largely for the Lakers. And while most of the credit goes to Brandon himself, I must also credit the Pelicans for putting their faith in Ingram to shine in this new role. The two go hand in hand, as Ingram’s improvement and work ethic warranted this treatment, and the Pelicans’ effort to their young star improved his confidence to the point that he seems to be a near All-Star lock and the runner up for Most Improved Player.
Rookie of the Year: Ja Morant (Previous: Ja Morant)
No rookie is close to matching how impactful Ja is both on the court and in the box stats. Zion might be, but given he is about 40 games of production behind the Memphis rookie, I cannot picture a scenario where someone takes the throne away from Ja. He really has no glaring weaknesses, and always looks poised while on the court. Ja does not shy down from anyone and the team really flows with him out there. The Grizzlies hit the absolute lottery with Ja, and getting Brandon Clarke later in the same draft is a true cherry on top.
Another instance of Miami just finding stars, Kendrick Nunn went from a spark plug in the G-League to a starter on a powerhouse all in one year. The fact he played in the G-League last year makes me feel weird classifying him as a rookie, but of people who are eligible for the award, I have to put him at #2 on the list. Nunn loves to let it rain from deep (35.6% on 5.8 attempts/game) and is a perfect piece in the Miami system. While he may never develop into a star, Nunn’s scoring has showed he deserves to be in the league for a very long time, and his production has warranted this designation for his first year in the NBA.
6MOTY: Lou Williams (Previous: Lou Williams)
While a relatively poor January may have dampened his stats, Lou Will has continued to put up incredible numbers off the bench (19.8 PTS/game, 6.2 AST/game). There is no better face for the award and the 33 year old guard should be a four time recipient of this designation. Similar to Ja for Rookie of the Year, I see no way of Lou falling out of the 1 spot for the award built for him.
With all respect to D-Rose, I have Harrell slightly above the former MVP in Sixth Man of the Year voting. Trez’s domination of backup bigs has continued beyond the halfway mark of the year, where he scores over 19 points a night and snags over 7 boards in under 29 minutes a night. And while his stats are intriguing, the energy he brings to the Clippers is a massive asset. His ability to float near the rim for tip ins and hustle plays is invaluable. Pair this with Lou Williams also coming off the bench, other teams crumble at the pure talent coming against their lesser players. The Clippers do need their other pieces to be more consistent to be championship worthy, but until then, they will roll with their two star wings and two stars off the bench.
COY: Erik Spoelstra (Previous: Monty Williams)
Coach Spoelstra has been an incredible coach for his entire career, but constantly got discredited for the stars he had on his team. And while he has Jimmy Butler for this year, the pure talent of his team is much lower than the mid-2010s teams that lived in the NBA Finals. But you know what? The Heat are tied for the second best team in the East and tied for the fifth best in the entire league. I also give Spoelstra credit due to keeping the team running with all the various injuries or absences they have been dealing with. Guys like Goran Dragic, Derrick Jones Jr., James Johnson, Justice Winslow and Dion Waiters have missed at least (and in most cases way more) than 20% of available games, but still the Heat have continued with random pieces around Bam Adebayo and Jimmy Butler.
Runner Up: Nick Nurse (Previous: Erik Spoelstra)
After the departure of Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green, I thought the Raptors would fall down the East standings. However, Nick Nurse has Toronto tied with the Heat for the second best record in the East while having the second best defense in the league. Also similar to the Heat, the Raptors have been able to continue with star players injured. While not as dramatic of time missed, Lowry and Siakam have both missed over 10 games, and in their absences, Nurse has been able to insert other players to make up the difference. It really is impressive to see how well the Raptors have recovered from large losses in the offseason and injuries during the regular season too.
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- The BarnBurner’s 2020 NBA All-Star Selections
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