Off the Glass' Official 2019-20 NBA Awards
The NBA's bubble is set to resume in Orlando in just over a week. Each team has eight games on the schedule before playoffs begin, starting on July 30th.
Though these 88 games will have millions of viewers, they shouldn't have much bearing on the accolades that players receive for this season. Several star players aren't heading to Orlando, and some pundits have already declared who they think this season's best performers were (you can find OTG's collection of Team Awards here).
Therefore, the entire OTG staff got together to decide who should win the NBA's six most prestigious awards for 2019-20. Most Valuable Player, Defensive Player of the Year, Rookie of the Year, Most Improved Player, Sixth Man of the Year and Coach of the Year all incited great debates between our group.
Each writer was given four to six options for each honor, depending on how strong the race was before the season paused. Anyone with a legitimate chance to hoist the trophy was included in each prompt.
So based on a percentage of the votes, here's who the OTG staff thinks is in line to win each award.
Most Valuable Player: Giannis Antetokounmpo (68%)
Others receiving votes: LeBron James (32%)
The Greek Freak was dominant in his first season winning the MVP, and he somehow got even better this season. His nightly stats require many to do double and triple-takes, and they don't even come close to showing just how dominant he is.
Averaging 29.6 points, 13.7 rebounds and 5.8 assists a night on 60.8% true shooting is pretty ridiculous. Combine that with his league-leading player efficiency rating (PER), defensive win shares (DWS), defensive box plus-minus (DBPM), and overall box plus-minus (BPM), and you've got an unequivocal MVP.
The Milwaukee Bucks have catered to his strengths well, but he's not the first player to have a good support cast. What Antetokounmpo has done the last two seasons is astounding no matter how you slice it.
He's the alpha and omega for the best team in the league while putting up record tallies. Playoff success be damned, the reigning MVP has won it again.
Defensive Player of the Year: Giannis Antetokounmpo (53%)
Others receiving votes: Rudy Gobert (21%), Anthony Davis (16%), Kawhi Leonard (5%), Marcus Smart (5%)
If the consecutive MVPs weren't enough for you, Giannis' DPOY nomination will certainly impress you. No player has ever won both awards in the same season, but there's also never been anyone like Antetokounmpo.
As mentioned earlier, Antetokounmpo's DWS led the league at 4.8. At the rate he was going over a full season, he would've accumulated the highest amount the league has seen since Joakim Noah's tally of 6.6 in 2013-14 (As fate would have it, Noah won DPOY that season).
The Bucks have an elite defensive scheme thanks to head coach Mike Budenholzer, but the Greek Freak makes it historically good. The term "positionless defender" is often overused these days, but Giannis truly is that. He can truly guard anyone in the NBA effectively, from James Harden all the way to Joel Embiid.
His defensive impact has been the rising tide that lifts others' boats too. Three of the top five players in the league in DBPM are Bucks, as are six of the top 50. The Bucks have some good individual defenders, but the threat of Giannis creates ripple effects for everyone around him.
That's exactly the type of player who should win this award.
Rookie of the Year: Ja Morant (95%)
Others receiving votes: Zion Williamson (5%)
The most lopsided vote amongst our staff was a justified one. The Memphis Grizzlies find themselves with the 8th seed in the West heading into the bubble, and Morant has been their most important player en route to contention.
That's hard enough for any rookie to pull off, but that Morant is doing it as a point guard is substantially more impressive. That's the hardest position to learn in the transition to the NBA, and Morant has handled it better than anyone would've imagined.
17.6 points and 6.9 assists a night for a contender is very rare for a first-year player. Only eight other rookies have surpassed the threshold of 17 and 6, and only one of those eight was on a playoff team (Magic Johnson, whose Los Angeles Lakers won a title).
Williamson's small sample of only 19 games paved the way, but Morant did more than enough to win this award. His success in the NBA has been unique and awesome.
Most Improved Player: Brandon Ingram (32%)
Others receiving votes: Bam Adebayo (26%), Pascal Siakam (21%), Jayson Tatum (16%), Luka Dončić (5%)
So a New Orleans Pelican wins after all. Sporting a new jersey did wonders for Ingram, who put up a well-rounded stat line of 24.3 points, 6.3 rebounds and 4.3 assists a night. He also hit 38.7% of his 6.3 3-point attempts per game, 50.9% of 11.6 2-pointers per game, and 85.8% of the 5.9 free throw attempts he took per game.
The lanky scoring forward finally broke out in year four, scoring effectively from nearly every part of the floor. The Pelicans were lacking an alpha scorer when Williamson went down with a knee injury, and Ingram proved more than capable of taking on the role.
Ingram may not sustain those gaudy figures next to WIlliamson, but those two can be a sneaky good tandem in the Orlando bubble. And with the former ticketed for restricted free agency this fall, he's sure to cash out relative to the cap.
Sixth Man of the Year: Dennis Schröder (42%)
Others receiving votes: Montrezl Harrell (26%), Davis Bertans (16%), Lou Williams (11%), Jordan Clarkson (5%)
This season saw a lot of backups thrive, but Schröder's work with the Oklahoma City Thunder stands out. Averaging 19.0 points on 57.3% true shooting is extremely good for a backup, and was more than enough to hold the team over when one of its star guards sat.
Not only was he vital for OKC's bench units, but he's also part of the deadliest crunch-time lineup in the league. The quintet of Chris Paul, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Schröder, Danilo Gallinari and Steven Adams has an eye-popping net rating of plus-26.8 per 100 possessions. Schröder's inclusion over a wing is supposed to lose something defensively, but his potent offense on and off the ball has mitigated that so far.
The Thunder will be a tough out thanks to their three-headed backcourt Hydra, and one of those heads is in pole position to win this award.
Coach of the Year: Nick Nurse (58%)
Others receiving votes: Billy Donovan (21%), Taylor Jenkins (11%), Frank Vogel (5%), Brad Stevens (5%)
What this season has taught us about coaching is that creativity pays off. Nurse has been instrumental in the Raptors' great season, one that wasn't expected to go this well without Kawhi Leonard.
Even the guys still in Toronto have missed significant time; Kyle Lowry, Fred VanVleet, Pascal Siakam, Norman Powell, Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka have missed a combined 101 games this season.
Thanks to Nurse's fearlessness and adaptivity, it hasn't mattered. From box-and-ones to triangle-and-twos to Siakam guarding 5s, there's nothing Nurse won't try. But it's not enough to concoct these big brain schemes; every Raptor is on the exact same page, a cohesion that is evident in all parts of the franchise.
Toronto is well on its way to the 2 seed heading into the playoffs, with depth and synergy that will play up even on the most talented foes.