While the Los Angeles Lakers’ focus in Orlando is coming home with the organization’s 17th championship, there are individual awards that will be given out while they are there as well.
The Lakers own the best record in the Western Conference at 49-14, meaning their stars, LeBron James and Anthony Davis, should factor into the MVP and Defensive Players of the Year discussions, respectively.
Many thought that at age 35 and in the 17th season of his career that James’ level of play would decline. Instead, it has been the exact opposite.
James is leading the league in assists, averaging a career-high 10.6 to go along with 25.7 points and 7.9 rebounds while also playing some of the best defense he has played in years.
Meanwhile, Davis leads the Lakers in scoring (26.7 points) and rebounds (9.4) while also being among the league leaders in blocks (2.4). His biggest impact has come on the defensive end, leading the Lakers to the third-best defensive rating in the league at 105.5.
Lakers head coach Frank Vogel understands the impact both of his stars have had on the team’s success and believes James should win MVP and Davis should win Defensive Player of the Year.
“Nobody impacts winning more than LeBron James. I believe he should be the MVP this year, and I believe Anthony Davis should be Defensive Player of the Year,” Vogel said. “I hope those awards go to our two players. That’s not to take anything away from some of the other candidates.
“What LeBron means to our team, even before the season begins when the roster is being put together, with the number of guys on the Lakers because LeBron James is here and they want to play with him. I think it starts there. And then obviously what he’s able to do on the basketball court, orchestrating the offense, leading the league in assists and really setting the tone on the defensive end.
“We’re the third-best defense in the NBA, best in the West, and a lot of that comes from his commitment this season, which has been greater than the last few years from what I’m told. It has really set us apart in terms of currently having the best record in the Western Conference. I’m hopeful those two awards go to those two players.”
The weekend before the NBA was shut down, the Lakers picked up back-to-back convincing wins over the Milwaukee Bucks and L.A. Clippers, who are presumed to be the other two-best teams in the league. Naturally, James and Davis were significant factors in those victories.
“Anthony dominates in his own matchup in most cases, but he also has the ability to switch out and guard anyone on the floor of any size and be one of the best rim protectors in the game. That versatility and dominance makes him the frontrunner in my book,” Vogel said.
“In that weekend, LeBron took the toughest assignment in both games. He guarded Kawhi in the Clippers game and did a great job there, and he guarded Giannis in the Bucks game when A.D. was in foul trouble and did a great job.
“What he’s able to do on the defensive end, combined with the dominance he exhibits with not just scoring and assisting the ball, but leading the offense, orchestrating us on the break, I think that weekend was probably a great measuring stick.”
Orlando seeding games won’t count towards award voting
Typically, all 82 regular-season games are taken into consideration for NBA awards. The circumstances are different this year though, so it’s not surprising to see them doing things a little different.
It was recently reported that MVP, Defensive Players of the Year and all of the other awards will be based upon regular season through March 11, when the season was suspended. That means that the eight seeding games the Lakers play in Orlando won’t be counted towards James’ and Davis’ cases.
Milwaukee Bucks All-Star Giannis Antetokounmpo is potentially the leader in the clubhouse for both awards, so it will be interesting to see if James or Davis did enough to pass him up with the head-to-head victory and then another impressive performance against the Clippers.
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