Amid the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic currently sweeping the entire world, the NBA has needed to make major changes to the way they do things in order to limit spread. They were the first major sports league to suspend all operations – doing so on March 11.
While teams resumed individual workouts at practice facilities last month, and shifted to full-fledge practices in the Walt Disney World bubble, play is not starting up again until next week with scrimmages. That will be followed by the NBA restart officially tipping off on July 30.
Among the many things that have needed to be altered in the 2019-20 season, the NBA’s regular season awards should remain fairly similar. At the time of the hiatus, most teams had played over 75% of their schedule, meaning award winners were becoming fairly obvious.
The NBA has decided that – in order to maintain fairness to the eight teams not in the Orlando bubble — the season awards would only consider games played through March 11, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic:
Sources: NBA has informed teams: "The decision to exclude seeding games from awards voting ensures a fair process in which players and coaches from all 30 teams will have the same opportunity to be honored…" League will soon announce voting process and plan to announce winners. https://t.co/lTyO11LtFN
— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) July 17, 2020
While there will not be an NBA Awards show like they’ve done in the past couple seasons, awards will still be handed out for this strange season.
Perhaps the player that this decision affects the most is Los Angeles Lakers All-Star LeBron James. Prior to the hiatus, James was making a major push for the MVP Award. Sustaining that momentum is now nearly impossible given that he did not have time to try and push for the league’s overall best record.
Because of this, Milwaukee Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo will likely be the frontrunner to repeat as MVP. In addition, Antetokounmpo is also seen as the favorite for the Defensive Player of the Year award. Anthony Davis was an early favorite but Antetokounmpo slowly took over as the year progressed.
Other favorites include Ja Morant of the Memphis Grizzlies for Rookie of the Year. Zion Williamson could have made more noise had the season finished as normal and the New Orleans Pelicans had surpassed the Grizzlies for the No. 8 seed.
Toronto Raptors head coach Nick Nurse is the presumptive Coach of the Year favorite, as the team lost Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green and maintained the exact same 46-18 record through 64 games.
The only two awards that perhaps aren’t quite as clear are Most Improved Player and Sixth Man of the Year, with both awards having at least three good choices to pick from.
Frank Vogel endorses LeBron, Davis
To Lakers head coach Frank Vogel, there naturally isn’t any question who should win MVP and Defensive Player of the Year. “Nobody impacts winning more than LeBron James,” Vogel said.
“I believe he should be the MVP this year, and I believe Anthony Davis should be Defensive Player of the Year. 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.
“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.”
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