The 2019-20 NBA season is rapidly approaching the All-Star break. In fact, the teams have been announced and everyone on Twitter has been debating the snubs the last few days. Leaving All-Star Weekend aside for now, along with the bizarre new format of the game, let’s take a midseason look at who is projected to win the end-of-season awards at this point.
To no one’s surprise, Milwaukee Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo is the favorite to win the award right now. Most books have him priced right around -300. LeBron James, James Harden, and Luka Doncic are all typically in the +500 to +600 range.
The issue for James is that he plays on a team with Anthony Davis, who is among the MVP candidates, and we know that without Davis on the roster, James would not be in this conversation. That likely cancels them out. As for Harden, his Houston Rockets haven’t exactly performed to the level we expected so far, so he’s not a serious contender right now. As for Doncic, he was neck-and-neck with Giannis for a while but a couple of minor injuries have slowed him down – along with the Mavericks.
Antetokounmpo is first in the NBA in PER, second in points scored (30.0) and fifth in rebounds (13.0). He’s also averaging 5.7 assists, 1.6 threes, 1.1 blocks and 1.1 steals for the team with the best record in the NBA. This is his award to lose.
Rookie Of The Year Award
Ja Morant has been outstanding for the Memphis Grizzlies this season, averaging 17.5 points, 7.1 assists, and 3.4 rebounds. More importantly, he’s helped propel the Grizzlies into a playoff spot, which is quite shocking. The Grizzlies won just 33 games last year; they already have 24 wins in 2019-20.
What’s interesting about this race is that Zion Williamson has finally returned for the New Orleans Pelicans and we can see what he’s capable of doing. Williamson has played just five games but is averaging 19.2 points, 7.8 rebounds, 1.8 assists and 0.8 threes per game. At the end of the season, his per-game averages will probably look better.
This will come down to whose team makes the playoffs. If the Pelicans edge ahead of the Grizzlies, Zion could win it. Otherwise, this should be Morant’s award because of the body of work he’s already built up.
Sixth Man Of The Year Award
This is a tricky award as there are players like Dennis Schroder, George Hill and Derrick Rose in the mix. However, at the end of the day, I’d bet one of the two Los Angeles Clippers: Lou Williams or Montrezl Harrell.
Harrell is my bet right now as he leads the NBA in bench scoring. He’s poured in 21.2 points per game with 7.0 rebounds over his last 10 contests. That includes a career-high 34 points against the New York Knicks. He basically plays starter minutes even though Ivica Zubac is the “starter”. That being the case, I expect him to keep this up and collect the award.
Defensive Player of the Year Award
For this award, we’re looking at guys like Jimmy Butler, Rudy Gobert and Kawhi Leonard as the front runners. My concern with Leonard is his load management, so that probably keeps him from winning this award. Gobert’s numbers have been down somewhat on the season but over his last 10 games, he’s scoring 20.2 points per game with 15.1 rebounds, 2.4 blocks and 0.7 steals. Those are the type of numbers that have led him to win this award in the past.
Butler deserves a lot of credit as the Heat’s defensive rating is much better with him on the court than off it, but I’m not sure if that will be enough. This likely comes down to which team performs better in the second half. The Jazz had been red-hot prior to a current three-game losing streak while the Heat are just 5-5 in their last 10. I’ll give a slight edge to Butler as of now but this is a close one.
Most Improved Player Award
This is another wide-open award as we’re looking at players like Brandon Ingram, Bam Adebayo, Devonte Graham, and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander as all having a shot to win it. We’re likely to see voters go in multiple directions here.
SGA was a key piece in the Paul George trade and while some thought he’d be stellar down the road, few expected nearly 20 points per game this season with 6.2 rebounds, 3.2 assists, and 1.2 steals. The Oklahoma City Thunder are currently a playoff team.
As for Graham, he’s soaked up the minutes left vacant by Kemba Walker and becomes a key piece of the foundation with 18.2 points, 7.6 assists, and 3.6 rebounds. He’s come out of nowhere.
Miami’s Adebayo is scoring 16.0 points along with 10.4 rebounds, 4.7 assists, 1.2 steals and 1.1 blocks and is a key piece on the Heat’s roster. He’s one of the main reasons they’re a top-four seed in the East.
Ingram, though, is scoring more than seven points than he did last year along with 6.3 rebounds, 4.3 assists.
For me, the winner here is Gilgeous-Alexander if the Thunder make the playoffs. However, a lot of players are likely to get votes here.