Health is the priority of the world right now and the NBA is no different. After Rudy Gobert tested positive for the COVID-19 virus, the NBA immediately suspended its 2019-20 season. In the declaration, the league said that it would halt play for at least 30 days. Last weekend, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention recommended that gatherings of 50 or more people in the United States be suspended for the next eight weeks. Considering that the 30 NBA teams have also suspended their practices, it’s safe to say that the league won’t be back immediately after the CDC lifts its ban, if ever. So while we are hopeful that we are going to see the NBA resume play before July 1 as what its governors are reportedly eyeing after Tuesday’s meeting, there is also a possibility that the 2019-20 NBA season is over.
Let us pray that the pandemic will be over soon and that a cure will be discovered so we can watch our favorite NBA teams again. But in the worst-case scenario, let’s take a look at who would win the NBA’s annual individual awards if indeed the season is over:
2020 NBA MVP
When you take a look at the current odds board ( yes, there are still NBA betting odds) at SportsBetting as of 03/19/20, the MVP race is down to two players. The reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo is the betting favorite at -400 while the Los Angeles Lakers’ LeBron James is the underdog at +250. Antetokounmpo is the frontrunner in the race not only is he playing at the same MVP level as he did last season but he has led his Milwaukee Bucks to the best record in the league at the time of play suspension. The Bucks have led the team standings from start to suspension and although they faltered a 1-4 right before the pause, Milwaukee has been the most consistent team this season.
As for LeBron James, The 17-year veteran and three-time NBA champion led the Lakers to the best record in the Western Conference. King James was also the NBA’s assist leader as of last week and while he’s gotten plenty of support from Anthony David, James’ leadership has been the main factor in the Lakers’ clinching of their first playoff berth since 2013. The 35-year old James is no longer the unstoppable force he once was during his prime but despite his age, he continues to be dominant and relevant.
Before his injury, I had Antetokounmpo as my favorite because he’s grown into such a dominant force and has continued to improve year after year and this season was no different. However, during the last week or so of the season, it was James who dominated the league, leading his Lakers to back to back victories over the Bucks and the Los Angeles Clippers. I’m not saying that two victories will win the MVP for the King but he was dominant in both games and placed his stamp on both wins. I’m a little surprised at why the betting lines are so lopsided. I think it’s closer than that and given what LeBron displayed at the last part of the season before it was suspended, he played like wanted to win the MVP award. And he did. Sometimes, the last events are those that stick to our minds and I think when the voting comes, that will be the case. I’ll take the plus money here.
Prediction: LeBron James
2020 NBA Rookie of the Year
Everyone was talking about Zion Williamson after the draft but this year’s #1 overall pick spent the start of the season on the sidelines because of a knee injury. In his absence, Memphis Grizzlies rookie Ja Morant came out of nowhere and stole the spotlight. Not only did the diminutive guard put up impressive numbers but he also led the Memphis Grizzlies to the 8th best record in the ultra-competitive Western Conference.
Individually, Morant was on pace to become the 4th rookie guard in NBA history to average at least 17 points and shoot 47% from the floor.
The other players who achieved that feat were Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, and Oscar Robertson. Morant also had seven games where he posted at least 20 points and 10 assists. Only Magic Johnson, Chris Paul, Luka Doncic, and Trae Young have ever done so as rookie guards.
There is no denying that Zion Williamson is a once in a lifetime talent. The New Orleans Pelicans forward dominated the court from the minute he stepped in. He woke his team up and led them back to playoff contention and he also became the first player since Michael Jordan to have 20 or more points in 16 out of his first 20 NBA games. Williamson has been as advertised, no question about that. But the fact that he missed 44 games this season will hurt his chances. Zion is currently a +250 underdog to Morant who is at -400 at SportsBetting as of 3/18/20 but I’m not inclined to take the plus money even if I personally like Zion more. I believe that Morant has shown the larger body of work and that to me is the clincher here.
Prediction: Ja Morant
2020 Defensive Player of the Year
Rudy Gobert is the 2019 NBA Defensive Player of the Year as he shut down opposing defenses around the league. This season, Gobert shut down the entire league when he tested positive for the COVID-19 virus. So does he earn a second straight DPOY nod? Kidding aside, I think that this year’s Defensive Player of the Year winner will be Anthony Davis of the Los Angeles Lakers. Not only did AD say before the season that he wants to win this award more than the MVP, he played like he meant what he said. As a defender, opponents shot only 38.5% from the floor with Davis guarding them. He also ranked third overall in the league in blocked shots at 2.4 blocks per game.
Prediction: Anthony Davis
2020 Sixth Man of The Year
I won’t be mad if they give it to Lou Williams again but on a personal note, I think the award will go to Dennis Schroder of the Oklahoma City Thunder. Schroder came off the bench in 62 out of 63 games played this season and his season averages are 19.0 points, 3.7 rebounds, and 4.0 assists per game in 31 minutes of playing time per contest. The Thunder traded their top two players of the previous season in Russell Westbrook and Paul George and was expected to be in a rebuild this season. But the team is currently ranked 5th in the Western Conference team standings and are just one game behind the 4th seeded Utah Jazz.
While Chris Paul, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, and Danilo Gallinari have been the main reason for OKC’s success, Schroder has been the main man off the bench. He’s led the Thunder bench in 57 out of 62 games played and the OKC bench has also outscored their opponents’ bench in 57 of 62 games played. The Thunder are 25-5 since November 25 and Schroder is part of the Thunder’s five-man lineup that closed out those games.
Prediction: Dennis Schroder
2020 NBA Most Improved Player
Brandon Ingram took his game to the next level this season. He was selected to his first NBA All-Star selection. The Slenderman struggled with expectations after he was drafted 2nd overall by the Los Angeles Lakers. When LeBron James arrived, it was clear that the Lakers weren’t going to be his team. Then his break came last summer when the Lakers included him in the trade package for Anthony Davis.
Ingram has fit like a shoe in New Orleans and he had his best season ever before play was halted. Ingram averaged 24.3 points, 6.3 rebounds, 4.3 assists and shot 38.7% from behind the three-point arc.
During his first three NBA seasons, Ingram only had a total of seven games with at least 17 points, 5 rebounds, and five assists. He posted that statline 17 times already this season. To me, Ingram is the clear winner here.
Prediction: Brandon Ingram
2020 NBA Coach of The Year
You have to like what Mike Budenholzer has done in Milwaukee and how Frank Vogel has lived up to the expectations in Los Angeles. However, there is no doubt that Toronto’s Nick Nurse is having a better season. The Raptors lost their best player in free agency shortly after winning their first-ever NBA title. Because of that, they were expected to struggle this season. But lo and behold, the Raptors are playing as well as they did with Leonard in their lineup. Toronto is 2nd in the Eastern Conference behind the Bucks despite Pascal Siakam, Fred VanVleet, Marc Gasol, and Serge Ibaka missing a total of 70 games this season. Nurse juggled with 15 different starting lineups to put Toronto on top of the Atlantic Division team standings and they even won a franchise-record 15 straight games this season. You have to give it to Nick Nurse.
Prediction: Nick Nurse