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Very Early 2019-2020 NBA Award Predictions

What a year we had in the 2018-2019 NBA season. Coming into the season, all eyes were on Lebron James and the new-look Los Angeles Lakers. That focus eventually turned into James missing the playoffs for the first time since the 2004-2005 season. Lebron and the Lakers’ struggles did not stop him from being voted to be an All-Star team captain (along with Giannis Antetokounmpo). That is where the recruiting to Los Angeles began. James chose Anthony Davis to be on his All-Star team, which of course was a preview to what would become a reality later in the off-season.

Another story was the stellar regular season performance of Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks, who finished 60-22. The Greek Freak, who finished with a 77% majority vote for the MVP award, averaged 27.7 PPG, 12.5 RPG, 5.9 APG, 1.5 BPG, and 1.3 SPG. In coach Mike Budenholzer‘s first season with his new team, he led them to finish as the #1 rated defense and #4 rated offense in the NBA.

With the NBA Finals concluded and the Toronto Raptors winning their 1st NBA Championship in team history, the focus turned to the NBA Awards. Although most of us find it silly that the awards are given out months after the regular season concluded, you have to admit that Shaq was a pretty entertaining host of the awards show that was held on TNT. Here’s a quick review of all of the awards that were given:

Giannis Antetokounmpo took home the NBA’s Most Valuable Player Award
(Joe Scarnici/Getty Images)

Now our focus switches to free-agency. Where will Kawhi Leonard, Kevin Durant, and company land? Who knows. One thing we know for certain is that the NBA off-season is one of the most entertaining times of the Professional Sports year.

2019-2020 Rookie of The Year

With the NBA draft concluding last week, let’s take a look at a few candidates for Rookie of The Year:

  • Zion Williamson (NOLA)
  • Ja Morant (MEM)
  • R.J. Barrett (NYK)
  • Darius Garland (CLE)
  • Cam Reddish (ATL)

With all the hype surrounding Zion Williamson, you would think he would be the runaway candidate for Rookie of The Year. As excited as the NBA world is to see him play, there are 5 very talented candidates that can win this award. Realistically, I think it’ll come down to two candidates. I’ll give you all a hint: Duke University and Coach K develop superstar talent. Zion Williamson and R.J. Barrett were one of the most talented duos in Duke history. The pair were selected to the First Team All-American College Basketball team. This marks the 18th time in NCAAB history that two teammates were featured on the First Team, and first time at Duke since 2006 (Shelden Williams and J.J. Redick).

Zion Williamson and R.J. Barrett were both selected to the NCAAB All-American First Team in the 2018-2019 NCAAB season.
(Duke Athletics)

Zion, drafted by the New Orleans Pelicans, arguably is surrounded with the best young core in the NBA. Joined by Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, Josh Hart, and Jaxson Hayes, Zion will get an ahead start to build chemistry with all of the Pelicans young core. While he won’t necessarily be the leading scorer/ball in his hands on his team, his team will have the best chance at making the playoffs of the ROY candidates. R.J., on the other hand, will have an opportunity to be the man in New York. Being a lethal scorer at the collegiate level, R.J.’s game has a good chance to translate well to the NBA. For this reason, I think R.J. has a pretty good chance to steal the Rookie of The Year honors from Zion. Now, i’m not necessarily saying that the Rookie of The Year is an offensive award, but I think R.J. has the potential to become a walking bucket in this league. It will be an extremely close race that will be fun to keep track of.

My prediction: R.J. Barrett (NYK)

2019-2020 6th Man of The Year

We may as well call this award the “Lou Wil” award, right? It seems that every year Lou Williams is in the running for this award (rightfully so). I spoke about a “walking bucket” when describing R.J. Barrett above. Lou Williams is a certified walking bucket. He is one of two players in NBA history to win the award 3 times (Jamal Crawford). Can he make history next season, or will there be a new winner crowned? Lets take a look at a few candidates for the 6th Man of The Year award:

Montrezl Harrell (left) and Lou Williams were two of the three finalist for the 6th Man of The Year Award in the 2018-2019 season.
(Kelley Cox – USA TODAY Sports)

It was amazing that two of the three finalists of this award in the 2018-2019 season were teammates. It shows the depth of the Los Angeles Clippers. I don’t think that changes for the 2019-2020 season. Both are still under contract for the Clippers, and Doc Rivers (2018-2019 Coach of The Year finalist) does a fantastic job utilizing his player’s minutes. That being said, I do think its Lou Williams’ awards to lose, but I expect Domantas Sabonis to be a very strong candidate on a Pacers team that had one of the most efficient benches in the NBA in the 2018-2019 season.

My prediction: Lou Williams (LAC)

2019-2020 NBA Coach of The Year

Coach of The Year is one of the more underrated accolades that is awarded each year. For teams to realistically compete for an NBA Championship, they have to have a competent coach. Mike Budenholzer took home the Coach of The Year honors in the 2018-2019 season after leading the Milwaukee Bucks to a league-best record of 60-22. This was Budenholzer’s second time (with two different teams) winning the award. This award is a little harder to predict, especially before free-agency starts, and the rosters get set for the 2019-2020 season. Regardless, let’s take a look at a few of the possible candidates for the Coach of The Year honors this upcoming season:

Doc Rivers won the Coach of The Year Award in 2000
(LA Times)

You could make an argument that Raptors head coach Nick Nurse should have taken home (or even been a finalist) for Coach of The Year. He led his team to a 58-24 record in his first season as the head coach. This year, I would be very surprised if he didn’t end the season as a finalist. The adjustments he made when down 2-0 to the Bucks in the Conference Finals were spectacular. His team came back to win the series after winning 4 straight games. Quin Snyder is a sleeper pick for this award. With the addition of star guard Mike Conley Jr, the Utah Jazz have one of the best defensive rosters in the game. This could result in a fair amount of games being won due to their defense. Not to mention, Conley truly defines the definition of a point guard. His court vision, solid fundamental skills, and defensive leadership will help his team attempt to make a deep playoff run this season. Quin Snyder, being a defensive-minded coach, will love the addition of a defensive-minded player. Expect to see the Jazz’s win totals creep up into the mid-to-upper 50s.

My prediction: Quin Snyder (UTA)

2019-2020 Defensive Player of The Year

This was one of the more controversial awards in the 2018-2019 season. The three finalists all had great cases to take home the trophy. Rudy Gobert (the winner) was known as the rim protector. Paul George was known as the lethal on-ball defender. Giannis Antetokounmpo was known as the all-around long defender. Don’t expect the candidates to change. We will likely see the same three finalists next season. In my opinion, Giannis Antetokounmpo should have won the award this season. Although Rudy Gobert is an excellent rim protector, he only stands in one spot on defense. Giannis will start on one end of the floor, and meet you at the rim on the other side of the floor. His chase-down blocks were highlight reel plays. Not only would he meet you at the rim, but he would also swarm you on-ball, take the ball from you, and throw down a windmill dunk on the other end of the court. As far as Paul George goes, i’m not sure if there is a better on-ball defender in the NBA (Marcus Smart is a close 2nd). You can’t really go wrong either way giving this award out, as all 3 were deserving. In addition to those 3 elite candidates, here are a few more to keep your eye on during the 2019-2020 season:

Paul George was the NBA league-leader in steals in 2019.
(Sky Sports)

This race is going to be neck-and-neck all season between the same 3 candidates as the 2018-2019 season. Regardless of the outcome of the award, defense wins championships. Expect one of the final two teams left standing next June to have one of this year’s finalists on the court.

My prediction: Paul George (OKC)

2019-2020 Most Improved Player

This award is another that is very unpredictable. The question is basically: What NBA player makes the biggest leap in his career from last year to this year? Pascal Siakim won the Most Improved award this past season, after a season-long breakout performance. Being a lanky forward from Cameroon, Siakim came into the league in 2016-2017. He started 38 of his 55 games played in during his rookie season (15 MPG). The next season he appeared in 81 games, starting only 1 (20 MPG). This season, he started in 79 of the 80 games he played in (32 MPG). Maybe the issue was that he didn’t play enough! This kid was a remarkable piece of the NBA Champion Raptors. His ability to get to the rim, while shooting respectfully from three made him come into a nice role with the team. A lot of people thought D’Angelo Russell was the true 6th Man of The Year. Russell had a fantastic season, earning the first All-Star bid of his career. Leading the Brooklyn Nets to their first post-season appearance since the 2014-2015 season, Russell averaged 21.1 PPG along with 7 APG. Both of these candidates had a major role of getting their team to a post-season bid. This award is usually given to a playoff-contending team’s player that made a significant jump to become a leader. Here’s a few candidates to keep your eye on next season:

De’Aaron Fox finished 3rd in Most Improved Player voting for the 2018-2019 season.
(Ed Szczepanski – USA TODAY Sports)

De’Aaron Fox was a finalist in the 2018-2019 season, but was clearly overshadowed by Russell and Siakim. The Sacramento Kings young core have been playing together for a couple of seasons now, and many believe that they are one big star away from leaving their rebuild in the rear view mirror. Look for Fox to make a significant jump to be the man in Sac-Town. John Collins is another young stud to keep your eye on. Collins had a great season last season, averaging 19.5 PPG and 9.8 RPG. With the Atlanta Hawks adding a couple more weapons in De’Andre Hunter and Cam Reddish, look for Collins to open up his game and play more comfortably around the rim. Chicago Bulls fans are in for a treat this year. They finally have a young core they can feel good about. With Zach LaVine, Lauri Markkanen, Wendell Carter Jr, and now Coby White, the Bulls have an opportunity to showcase their young talent. Specifically LaVine and Markkanen can both make big jumps in their games while being the vocal leaders on the court for the young Bulls.

My prediction: De’Aaron Fox

2019-2020 Most Valuable Player

Now for the big cheese. MOST. VALUABLE. PLAYER. Who’s the best player in the NBA? That is one of the most debated questions in sports every single year. When evaluating a player’s season, do you factor in team wins? Is it the best overall player? The 2018-2019 MVP race was one of the most debated MVP races in the history of the NBA. Do you give it to the best overall player on the best overall team? Or do you give it to the certified bucket-getter who had a historic scoring season? This race was so difficult this past year, that Paul George‘s best season as a pro was overshadowed by not one, but two candidates who dominated the league all year long. This is by far the most difficult award to be crowned every year. It’s not going to get any easier next season. Lebron James will be back. With help. Anthony Davis has now joined Lebron. As we know, when Lebron is surrounded by another superstar player, he turns into Super Saiyan Lebron James. In an “off” season, Lebron averaged 27.4 PPG, 8.5 RPG, and 8.3 APG on a team who’s 2nd option was Brandon Ingram (no offense if you’re reading this, Brandon). The Lakers will likely add more talent to surround Lebron and AD, which creates more opportunities for Lebron to be Lebron. On the other hand? The Greek Freak. Giannis Antetokounmpo had an amazing MVP season, and folks, he’s only 24 years young. Giannis’ ceiling isn’t in this solar system. A lot of his game can be improved, including his jump shot. Once that comes, watch out league. In addition to those two superstars, there are a few others that can very well become favorites to take home the big award:

Lebron James averaged 27.4 PPG, 8.5 RPG, and 8.3 APG in the 2018-2019 season
(CBSSports)

This award is always the hardest to give out. We all love watching NBA, which is why these guys have the insane contracts. The MVP award can be defined in multiple ways. My definition is pretty obvious: The player in the league who is most valuable to his team. If an MVP caliber player got injured (God forbid) in the 10th game of the year, would his team still make the playoffs? If not, he’s probably very valuable to his team. If so, you’re probably the San Antonio Spurs (shout-out Coach Pop). Anybody of the top 10 players in this league can win this award. That’s what superstars are: Valuable Players. I fully expect next season to be a very competitive race that could ultimately come down to head-to-head match-ups during the regular season. The 2019-2020 season can’t come soon enough.

My prediction: Lebron James

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