Los Angeles Lakers 2019-20 Team Awards
Before the pandemic-induced hiatus, the Los Angeles Lakers found themselves back at the top of the Western Conference after several years of missing the playoffs and landing at the bottom of the conference and league.
They had been developing a promising young core last season, and while they showed promise, it just wasn’t meant to be. Eventually, they traded for Anthony Davis and added some effective veteran pieces, which propelled them to their present position among the NBA's very best. As we wait for the season to come back, let’s figure out the team awards so far for the current title favourites.
Sixth Man of the Year: Dwight Howard
When Dwight Howard enters the game, he changes the tempo for the Purple and Gold, energizing the team with a game-changing defensive presence at the five. He's racked up a PER of 18.7 (league average being 15.0) as a super-sub, starting merely two games all year yet still delivering stifling value off the pine. He’s also fifth on the team in VORP (Value Over Replacement Player), which is a feat in itself on a roster filled with high-quality contributors and savvy role players - but Dwight’s resurgence arc is just too tempting to pass up for this award.
Each member of the bench unit has brought something special this season. An honorary mention here is Alex Caruso. I don’t need to mention why, because every single one of you out there know exactly why, thanks to the coverage he gets. And he deserves it all. A reminder: he doesn’t just dunk. His passing, shot selection, defensive acumen and overall play has turned into a five-tool bench prospect that can give the Lakers something on any given night.
Defensive Player of the Year: Anthony Davis
At the beginning of the season, Anthony Davis made it clear he was coming for the Defensive Player of the Year award this season. It’s been his personal goal, along with obviously capturing his first NBA championship. He’s had several games in which he had 5 blocks, and his highest block total, 8, came against the Detroit Pistons back in January. But we don’t have to look at his block totals to determine if he’s been a defensive presence. His length makes it exceptionally hard for opponents to score anywhere inside the arc (and sometimes, even along the perimeter!). He moves exceptionally well for a big man, using his lateral agility to contest passing lanes and deflect the ball at any given opportunity. Just when you think you might have the shot, there comes Anthony Davis and his length to mess you up. There‘s really no other Laker who should be coming away with a fictional team award that AD might be winning in real life.
Most Valuable Player: LeBron James
If we’re being honest, the Lakers have two MVPs. LeBron James and Anthony Davis. The team would be nowhere near the top of the conference without them both. But LeBron takes the crown. The King came into this season with a chip on his shoulder, ready to show everyone that he was still the best player in the league.
Can’t really argue with that after seeing what he’s accomplished this season.
After missing the playoffs last season and being able to rest and recover his body, LeBron showed up for Year 2 ready to rock. He has been averaging 25-7-10 while shooting 49% from the field. Something that has been on full display this season has been his playmaking abilities; the guy is averaging 10 assists per game. He has never done that before; 35 years old, he’s defeating Father Time and adding even more to his expansive arsenal!
LeBron wows us every night with his incredible individual play, but the one-two punch of him and Anthony Davis has been incredible to witness. The pick-and-roll dynamism, half-court lobs, and passes thrown the entire floor length right into the hands of Davis have all been nigh impossible for opponents to defend. It’s likely because of Anthony Davis‘ presence and the fact that veteran Lakers are hitting their shots consistently that LeBron’s assist numbers have spiked, and to great effect.
Rookie of the Year: Nobody, but Talen Horton-Tucker has been great in the G-League
Unfortunately, Talen Horton-Tucker didn’t get any real playing time for the Lakers because he’s been on their G-League affiliate team, the South Bay Lakers.
His stat line in 38 games (all starts, 30 mins per game): 18.1 points, 6.3 rebounds, 3.9 assists, 1.4 steals per game on shooting splits of 42/31/74 (FG%/3PT%/FT%).
Here are some THT South Bay Lakers highlights that show just how talented he is:
Most Improved Player: Kentavious Caldwell-Pope
Not many players can start off slow, then start knocking down shots left and right. KCP started this season off quite slow - in fact, Lakers’ Twitter let him know every game how disappointed we were. At about the 20-game mark, he snapped out of the slump and started becoming the reliable scorer we all thought he could and should be, adding an extra bit of scoring depth for the team.
He’s recording career-high marks in 3PT% (39.4%), eFG% (56.5%), and WS/48 (0.114), all of which allude to a sweet-shooting guard that has a remarkable knack for perimeter defense. While Lakers fans may wish Kuzma deserved this award this year (and he may well make a significant playoff impact for L.A.), a KCP who’s locked in on both ends has been the perfect compliment to lineups featuring another shooter and one (or both) of LeBron and Davis.
Statistics courtesy of Basketball Reference