NBA Award Predictions Post All-Star Break

02/21/2020

Welcome to the unofficial second half of the NBA season and we still have more questions than we have answers. Are the Bucks forreal, or will Budenholzer's playoff monster rare its ugly head again? Will the 76ers figure things out before the playoffs role around? Are the Clippers really the best team in Los Angeles? Is this the year the Nuggets get to the conference finals? Can a rookie Ja Morant really carry the Grizzlies to the playoffs? Only time will answer these questions, but that doesn't stop us from giving you our predictions. Ryan in red and Victor in blue are joined by ICT Zone newcomer, Jake in green as they take their turn at predicting the end of season awards.


Ryan:

Most Valuable Player - Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks

Runner-up: LeBron James, Los Angeles Lakers

I'm sticking with my preseason MVP pick of Giannis, as his dominance has led the Bucks to a 70+ win pace. The Greek Freak has lived up to his nickname, somehow improving upon his MVP-season last year. His numbers are up this year compared to his previous campaign while playing 2 minutes less per game. Antetokounmpo is the clear-cut MVP choice, and it's not even close at this point.

Jake: 

Most Valuable Player - Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks

Runner-up: LeBron James, Los Angeles Lakers

To be honest, I don't even really think this is a race. The league loves to factor in team success into who the MVP should be, and the Bucks look like they are well on their way to having the best record in the league for two years in a row. As if last year's stats weren't good enough, he is now averaging 30 PPG, 13.5 RPG, 5.8 APG, 1.1 SPG, 1.1 BPG, while having a 54.9 FG% and even incorporating a three pointer into his game too at 31.3 3P%. When you break down who the "most valuable player" is in the league, the first guy anyone should think of is how valuable Giannis is to the Bucks' success. Unless something drastic happens, I can't see anyone but Giannis winning this award.

Victor:

Most Valuable Player - Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks

Runner-Up: LeBron James, Los Angeles Lakers

Once again, Giannis Antetokounmpo is your NBA MVP favorite. Last year, I highlighted how Giannis was having one of the most historic seasons of all time. This season, all he's done is reach career highs in points, rebounds, and three-point percentage while .1% off his career high in assists. If the season were to end today, his PER would be the highest ever recorded, and yes, that includes all of Wilt's historic seasons. Oh and by the way, the Bucks are currently on pace to reach 70 wins.


Ryan:

Rookie of the Year - Ja Morant, Memphis Grizzlies

Runner-up: Zion Williamson, New Orleans Pelicans

Morant is the runaway Rookie of the Year this season, in no small part because of Zion's extended time off the court. That's not meant to diminish Morant's accomplishments this year; he has been incredible so far. He's managing a level of efficiency you don't really see in a rookie guard, and he's turned the Grizzlies from a likely bottom-five team into a playoff team. You don't often see a rookie impact wins quite as much as Ja has, but he's the main reason why the Grizzlies are ahead of schedule on their rebuild.

Jake:

Rookie of the Year - Ja Morant, Memphis Grizzlies

Runner-up: Kendrick Nunn, Miami Heat

Similarly to MVP, I don't think this award is much of a competition right now either. Zion coming back and remaining healthy could make things interesting in the race for ROTY. Although, Zion and the Pelicans would have to have an absurd second half of the season to top Ja for his award. Ja currently leads the Grizzlies in both PPG and APG with 17.6 and 7.1 while leading them to be in 8th place in a very competitive Western Conference. I can't imagine many people expecting the Grizzlies competing for a playoff spot this season and a lot of that credit should go to the impact Ja has had immediately. Nunn also deserves a shout out for his work as the starting PG for 4th seed Miami Heat, but his impact has not been as significant as Ja's.

Victor:

Rookie of The Year - Ja Morant - Memphis Grizzlies

Runner-Up: Rui Hachimura, Washington Wizards

I am happy to say I was right about my preseason sentiment concerning the human highlight reel that is Ja Morant. The best part is, he is already contributing way more to winning basketball than other elite young guards like Trae Young and Devin Booker. There's something about his game that produces winning basketball, it might be the startling efficiency (49% FPG), or the elite passing ability (8.5 APG per36), either way Ja Morant is the clear rookie of the year no matter how impressive Zion Williamson performs to close out the season. With Zion only at 10 games so far this season, right now my runner up is Rui Hachimura, second amongst qualifying rookies in PER, Hachimura has had an underrated rookie season and is poised for a big second half. 


Ryan:

Sixth Man of the Year - Dennis Schroder, Oklahoma City Thunder

Runner-up: Lou Williams, Los Angeles Clippers

This year's 6th man race is tight this year, with Schroder and Williams, as well as Derrick Rose to a lesser extent, putting up big-time numbers off the bench. Schroder gets the nod over Williams for a couple of reasons. For one, Schroder has shot the ball with more efficiency than Lou, shooting a career-high 47% from the field. Also, Schroder has been a key factor in the Thunder being a surprising playoff team in the West this season. The level to which they have exceeded expectations should be rewarded with some sort of regular season hardware.

Jake:

Sixth Man of the Year - Dennis Schroder, Oklahoma City Thunder

Runner-up: Lou Williams, Los Angeles Clippers

Despite trading away their two stars in favor of a platoon of first rounders, the Thunder still find themselves as the 6th seed with a 33-22 record. Some of this credit certainly should go to the improved role of Dennis Schroder. His 19.3 PPG and career-high 38.7 3PG% has provided a much needed spark off the Thunder bench. Although Lou Williams could very well still win, I think the competition within his own team for the award with Mo Harrell could be a reason he doesn't end up winning.

Victor:

Sixth Man of The Year - Dennis Schroder - Oklahoma City Thunder

Runner-Up: Lou Williams, Los Angeles Clippers

I know it's become taboo to not give the award to Lou Williams, but hear me out. Which player has the greater contribution to his team's success off the bench? Is it the guy whose team has one of the most talented rosters in the league and boasts two bench scorers averaging at least 18 points a game (Lou Williams 19.5 PPG, Montrez Harell 18.8 PPG)? Or is it the guy averaging close to 20 points a game for one of the league's most surprising teams? Yeah Dennis Schroeder is your sixth man of the year.


Ryan:

Defensive Player of the Year - Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks

Runner-up: Rudy Gobert, Utah Jazz

It's finally time for Giannis to win this award. He has been worthy of it for the past several seasons (and he should have won last year), and he will see his defensive abilities be fully appreciated come award season. The Bucks are a historically great defensive team, and Antetokounmpo is the anchor. There are other worthy candidates for this award, but it just seems right for Giannis to finally win.

Jake:

Defensive Player of the Year - Anthony Davis, Los Angeles Lakers

Runner-up: Rudy Gobert, Utah Jazz

Rudy Gobert could very easily win this award again for the third time in a row, but I think AD has a slit edge over him so far. Davis already has great defensive stats with 2.4 BPG and 1.6 SPG while leading the Lakers to be atop the Western Conference with a top 5 defensive rating. It feels like Davis has been close to winning a DPOTY for awhile now and I think it is inevitable that he wins one eventually. Though the success the Lakers are finding this season should be enough to help seal his case.

Victor:

Defensive Player of The Year - Giannis Antetokounmpo - Milwaukee Bucks

Runner-Up: Joel Embiid, Philadelphia 

This one looks just like my preseason predictions. He should have won it last year and he must win it this year. Once again, the NBA leader in defensive win shares, it seems like his dominance on the ball distracts from his dominance off the ball. There's a reason the Bucks are one of the most dominant teams in NBA history and it's in large part thanks to the effort Giannis shows on the defensive side of the ball. Joel Embiid also deserves a mention but with the rollercoaster of a season the 76ers have had, he takes a back seat here and understandably so, he lies in second place in defensive win shares behind Antetokounmpo.


Ryan:

Most Improved Player - Luka Doncic, Dallas Mavericks

Runner-up: Bam Adebayo, Miami Heat

Doncic was already terrific last season, which is a testament to just how phenomenal he has been this year that he is going to be the Most Improved Player in the league. He went from being a near-All-Star last season to an MVP-caliber player this season, which is an abnormal career trajectory, to say the least. Not only are his numbers way up, but he's also led the Mavericks to a potential top-5 seed in the Western Conference. Even the most optimistic of Doncic supporters didn't foresee him getting this good, this fast. There's no telling how high he will climb as his career progresses, but there will likely be MVP awards in his future.

Jake:

Most Improved Player - Brandon Ingram, New Orleans Pelicans

Runner- up: Bam Adebayo, Miami Heat

There are a lot of great options for this season's MIP, but leading the way should be Brandon Ingram. After getting out of the LA spotlight he has finally shown fans the offensive firepower that was expected of him coming into the league. Ingram has improved his PPG from 18.3 to 24.9, averages about one more APG and RPG from last season, and even shoots 40% from three now. This was good enough to see him earn his first all-star appearance and with Zion back now, we could even see the Pelicans make a late run at the 8th seed. You can make great arguments for guys like Bam Adebayo, Jaylen Brown, or even Devonte Graham, but Ingram also has the storyline of being traded for Davis on his side.

Victor:

Most Improved Player - Bam Adebayo - Miami Heat

Runner-Up: Brandon Ingram, New Orleans Pelicans

Most improved player is a weird one, how do you gauge someone who got more touches versus someone whose contributions directly correlate to wins. Basically Bam-Bam vs Brandon Ingram. I ultimately went with Bam Adebayo, the Heat are having an unexpected seasons, while his 16-10-5 average is a huge improvement from 9-7-2 last year. Brandon Ingram is also having a huge season but the Pelicans not so much.


Ryan:

Coach of the Year - Mike Budenholzer, Milwaukee Bucks

Runner-up: Billy Donovan, Oklahoma City Thunder

When a coach finds a way to improve upon a team that had previously had the best record in the league, they should automatically get consideration for Coach of the Year. Budenholzer has done an excellent job of incorporating new players into his system and getting them up to speed without trouble. If the Bucks win 70 or more games, there is little reason why Budenholzer shouldn't win, unless Billy Donovan wins on the back of the Thunder's surprise season.

Jake:

Coach of the Year - Nick Nurse, Toronto Raptors

Runner-up: Erik Spoelstra, Miami Heat

There are a lot of great candidates for COTY with Budenholzer continuing to get the job done in Milwaukee and Erik Spoelstra shocking everyone with his development of the young players in that team. Although, I don't think anyone is more deserving of the award than the work done by Nick Nurse this season. After losing one of the greatest players in the world to the Clippers and really doing nothing to improve the team, the Raptors still find themselves in the 2nd seed with a record of 40-15. Coming into the season people were questioning if the Raptors even had what it takes to be a playoff team and that they could become a potential seller at the trade deadline. The Eastern Conference still isn't very strong, but the performance from Nurse and the Raptors this season has been extremely impressive.

Victor:

Coach of The Year - Mike Budenholzer - Milwaukee Bucks

Runner-Up: Erik Spoelstra, Miami Heat

It's hard not to go with the coach that is currently on pace for 70 wins. The Bucks don't have that great of a roster, it's just down to great fit and great coaching. The jury is still out for Budenholzer's history of high profiled playoff failures, but this is a regular season award. My runner up is Eric Spoelstra, his coaching ability has gone unnoticed for far too long. The Heat are outperforming expectations and have managed not to completely collapse post-LeBron like the Cavaliers have.


Ryan:

NBA Champions - Los Angeles Clippers

Runner-up: Milwaukee Bucks

I haven't budged from my preseason pick, and the recent additions the Clippers have made is making my choice seem all the better, as Marcus Morris and Reggie Jackson should be important contributors throughout the playoffs. They will face stiff competition between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Milwaukee Bucks, but the Clippers just have the best playoff roster in the league. For that reason, the Clippers will be hoisting up the Larry O'Brien trophy at the end of the season.

Jake:

NBA Champion - Los Angeles Clippers

Runner-up: Milwaukee Bucks

As much as I honestly want to pick the Lakers due to such a great narrative building this season, the Clippers just have too much talent to not pick them. With the tragic passing of Kobe Bryant and LeBron finally getting his group of guys around him, it feels like the Lakers should win if this was a movie. Although, the Clippers have assembled a team that is built for the playoffs. With two superstars in Kawhi and Paul George, great role players in Beverley and Marcus Morris, and a bench unit that could start for most teams, the Clippers are the team to beat in my opinion this postseason. Whoever wins, this is building up to be a Western Conference Finals for the history books, and the Bucks after that won't be a pushover either.

Victor:

NBA Champions - Los Angeles Lakers

Runner-Up: Milwaukee Bucks

My gut tells me the Lakers are going to pull this through. The only real concern is that the Lakers have not looked great against the Clippers this season, which does not bode well for playoff basketball. Elsewhere, the Bucks are so dominant that they will have a say, but while Antetokounmpo is shooting better from 3, his free throw percentage has dropped significantly which might be an issue in a tight playoff series. The 76ers and Celtics also deserve consideration but this might be the year the Bucks finally get through the East.



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