Picking MVP, 6th Man of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year for 2019-20 NBA season


If the NBA season had proceeded as usual, the first round of the playoffs would be underway. Since we don’t have any basketball to occupy ourselves with because of the coronavirus pandemic, now is as good a time as any to make our picks for this season’s NBA award winners. (We also did a Sixers-only edition of these awards.)

MVP: Giannis Antetokounmpo, Bucks

If there was ever any doubt, LeBron James showed this year that he’s a basketball genius and still one of the league’s top players at 35 years old.

Antetokounmpo, though, has had the better year. Only James in 2008-09, Wilt Chamberlain and Michael Jordan have had better single-season PERs than Antetokounmpo’s 31.63 this season. If that’s not your cup of tea, his traditional stats are incredible: 29.6 points, 13.7 rebounds and 5.8 assists per game. And he’s only playing 30.9 minutes a night because of how often the 53-12 Bucks have built commanding fourth-quarter leads.

Rookie of the Year: Ja Morant, Grizzlies 

Nineteen games is simply not enough for Zion Williamson to be a contender for this award. 

Morant’s open-court improvisation is a joy to watch, and he had the Grizzlies on the verge of a surprising playoff berth. 

Defensive Player of the Year: Giannis Antetokounmpo, Bucks 

Antetokounmpo is first in defensive win shares and defensive box plus-minus. Bucks' lineups with Antetokounmpo on the floor have a 96.3 defensive rating, which is over five points better than Milwaukee’s overall NBA-best 101.6 defensive rating.

Ben Simmons also has a good case, as does Anthony Davis, but Antetokounmpo should be the first player to win both MVP and Defensive Player of the Year since Hakeem Olajuwon in the 1993-94 season. 

Sixth Man of the Year: Montrezl Harrell, Clippers

We have Harrell ending teammate Lou Williams’ two-year streak and beating out the Thunder’s Dennis Schroder.

Harrell scores well both in intangible categories like effort, energy and toughness, and in tangible categories like PER and VORP. Though Schroder holds a slim edge over Harrell in scoring, Harrell’s line of 24.1 points, 9.2 rebounds and 1.5 blocks per 36 minutes for the second-place Clippers is that of the most valuable bench player in the game.

Most Improved Player: Bam Adebayo, Heat 

There are a few strong contenders for Most Improved Player. Luka Doncic went from Rookie of the Year to legitimate superstar, Brandon Ingram thrived in New Orleans and DeVonte’ Graham increased his scoring average over 13 points per game from Year 1 to Year 2.

We give Adebayo the nod, in part because his improvement went hand and hand with Miami’s. Adebayo ranges from competent to tremendous in so many areas outside of shooting and is now easily one of the best big man passers in the sport. 

Coach of the Year: Nick Nurse, Raptors 

Nurse lost Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard to the Clippers, dealt with a bunch of significant injuries and has led Toronto to the second seed in the Eastern Conference.

He’s helped players like Pascal Siakam, Fred VanVleet and Norman Powell have career-best seasons, and his creative, unorthodox defenses are one reason why the Raptors have the second-best defensive rating in the league. 

Coaching isn’t often easy to evaluate in the NBA because of how heavily the league is dictated by superstars and how unusual it is to “trick” the opposition, but it’s clear Nurse has done a great job. 

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