The 2019-20 NBA season is a quarter of the way through. Here are predictions for each of the NBA Media-Voted Awards, if the season ended today.
Coach of the Year
It is hard to believe that Erik Spoelstra has never been voted the Coach of the Year. Spoelstra has his squad playing hard every single year regardless of talent, and it has been a long time since the Miami Heat were ever considered a “push over.” Last season, the Heat finished 39-43 and missed the playoffs. Today, they are 17-6 (good for third in the Eastern Conference) and already have a marquee win in Toronto against the Raptors. Spoelstra has not had this amount of talent on his team since the LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, and he is well on his way to earning his first ever Coach of the Year award, if Miami keeps up this level of play.
Runner-up: Frank Vogel
Most Improved Player
To whom much is given, much is expected, and Devonte’ Graham has truly made the most of his golden opportunity. Graham is seeing nearly 20 more minutes per game (33.6 mpg) and has dramatically improved in nearly every statistical category from last year. Last season, Graham averaged 4.7 points, 1.4 rebounds and 2.6 assists per game with 34.3% shooting from the field and 28.1% from three-point range. So far this season, the former Jayhawk is scoring 18.8 points, 3.7 rebounds and 7.8 assists per game, shooting 41.2% from the field and 42.1% from deep. Graham is more than deserving of this award and could be a player highly-coveted during the trade deadline.
Runner-up: Luka Dončić
Defensive Player of the Year
The race for DPOY is as hot as it has been in recent years. Interestingly enough, Celtics shooting guard Marcus Smart’s name has been tossed around in recent discussions. The DPOY tends to be a rim-protecting center, and I think the award stays with the big men once again this year, as Rudy Gobert three-peats with this award. Gobert is averaging just under two blocks per game. However, he is up for a career-high in rebounding this season, with 13.4 per game, which is third in the league.
Runner-up: Marcus Smart
Sixth Man of the Year
When I think about the ideal sixth man in the NBA, someone who is capable of instantly galvanizing the offense comes to mind. And nobody has done it better than Lou Williams. Like Gobert, Williams has a chance to win this award for the third straight season. At 33 years old, Williams is averaging 20.7 points, which is just 0.7 short of his career-high from 2017-18. If he can keep up the pace this season with his passing, Williams will average 6.2 assists, which is about one assist higher than his previous career-high from last season. Williams is like a fine wine and continues to get better with age.
Runner-up: Montrezl Harrell
Rookie of the Year
There are few rookies who have truly taken the league by storm this year like Ja Morant. In his rookie season, Morant is leading all rookies in scoring (18.6) and assists (6.4). Morant also grabs 3.2 rebounds per game and is shooting 41% from three-point range. However, after a scary fall that resulted in a back injury, Morant is listed as “week-to-week,” which offers the would-be runner-up for this award a chance to close the wide gap Morant has created so far this season.
Runner-up: Eric Paschall
Most Valuable Player
The MVP race is as tricky to predict as ever, as Giannis Antetokounmpo and James Harden continue to be the frontrunners for the award. I give the edge to Giannis, because he has (somehow) improved after winning the award last season and because his team has succeeded more than Harden’s thus far. Giannis is averaging 30.8 points and 13.1 rebounds to go along with shooting 31.6% from three-point range. For the first time in his career, Giannis is averaging 1.6 made threes per game. It isn’t much, but the idea of Giannis shooting even average three-point numbers should terrify the rest of the league. Additionally, the Milwaukee Bucks are 20-3 and team success does play a role when considering who the MVP of the league is.
Runner-up: James Harden