It’s that time of year again! And while this season brought about some unprecedented challenges, the players (and coaches below) are defying the odds and shining bright. Here are my 2020-21 NBA Awards Predictions for the COY, ROY, DPOY, MIP, 6th Man, and of course, MVP.
COACH OF THE YEAR
Top candidates – Quin Snyder, Monty Williams, Tom Thibodeau
Surprisingly, this is what I believe to be the closest call in all of my 2020-21 NBA Awards Predictions. No one is running away with this one like they may be in the other categories. We have a coach who propelled an incredible 8-0 bubble run to a 2-seed in the Western Conference. Monty Williams seamlessly fit new veteran acquisitions Chris Paul and Jae Crowder into a young starting line up. He successfully developed a bench unit capable of outperforming the starters on any given night. The Phoenix Suns took the BIGGEST leap this season, and while everyone in that locker room will hinge their success on playoff performances, this team exceeded expectations thanks in large part to their head coach.
Speaking of big leaps, it is not possible to have this conversation without Quin Snyder. While one can argue that the Suns made the bigger leap, Snyder turned a 5-seed, early playoff exit Utah Jazz into the top team in the league. Not to mention, he achieved this feat without any significant changes to the team’s roster. I find that to be equally impressive, particularly in a conference where coming into the season all teams were considered a tier below the NBA champs.
Let’s not forget about the Eastern Conference, where teams are also making impressive strides. This is where Tom Thibodeau comes into the mix, but it would not be fair to mention him without Doc Rivers. Thibs took a Knicks team with no prospects and turned them into a playoff team. Doc turned a Sixers team who continually failed to meet expectations into one that could represent the Eastern Conference in the NBA Finals. However, both coaches do not have the greatest track records in the playoffs. While this award really only counts for the regular season, I need to see more from these two coaches and their teams.
WINNER – Monty Williams
MOST IMPROVED PLAYER
Top candidates – Julius Randle, Christian Wood, Jerami Grant
On to easier 2020-21 NBA Awards Predictions to make.
Christian Wood was blowing my mind to start the season. Unfortunately, he got hurt and missed games (and happens to play for the worst team in the league). Tough break for him.
On paper, Jerami Grant is the most improved player in the league. He is averaging 10 more PPG as a starter in every game for the Detroit Pistons this season. He is proof that betting on yourself pays dividends, even if it comes with sacrificing wins, something he is not doing much of with his new team. You just know the Denver Nuggets would love to have his production right now going into the playoffs in a very tough Western Conference.
Fear not, Denver. I am throwing another name into the ring for this award from your roster – Michael Porter Jr.
The sophomore standout has really burst onto the scene after the All-Star break and his timing could not be better with Jamal Murray out for the season. I don’t know that he beats out Julius Randle this season, but Porter Jr. still has levels to unlock in his game. As he develops his facilitating and defensive abilities, he will be a viable candidate for this and other awards for years to come.
WINNER – Julius Randle
6TH MAN OF THE YEAR
Top candidates – Jordan Clarkson, Joe Ingles, Jalen Brunson
Recency bias will have you leaning toward Joe Ingles for this award, and with good reason. Jingles is more efficient, a better playmaker, and a smarter defender than his Jazz teammate. But here’s the deal, for better or for worse, this award is all about POINTS PER GAME (off the bench). With that said, this has to be Jordan Clarkson’s award to lose, right? A huge part of Utah’s success this season comes at the hands of Clarkson’s volume scoring in the second unit. Just the other night (albeit in a losing effort), he came out and scored 24 POINTS IN THE FOURTH QUARTER. This will be instrumental for Utah to finish out the regular season and in the playoffs with Donovan Mitchell and Mike Conley coming back from injury.
Another guy who deserves some recognition in this category? Dallas’ Jalen Brunson, who is proving to be a worthy piece to the rotation on a team that has been decimated by injuries this season. He is earning more minutes, particularly in the clutch and will have an opportunity to really prove himself in the playoffs.
WINNER – JORDAN CLARKSON
ROOKIE OF THE YEAR
Top candidates – Anthony Edwards, LaMelo Ball, Tyrese Haliburton
First off, shout out to all of the rookies this season. Most wrote off this rookie class, but they are defying the odds, with some even becoming household names.
One of the rooks who has stepped up to the plate? Sacramento’s Tyrese Haliburton. The 12th pick in the NBA draft is proving his doubters wrong with a level of consistency and composure that makes you forget he just got out of the college game. He is effective off the bench and as a starter, playing a key role in a nice little 7-1 winning streak the Kings went on in March. There is some hope to hang your hats on, Kings fans!
I feel like those who are leaning heavily one way or another between Anthony Edwards or LaMelo are doing so because of personal preference. That’s okay. However, let’s bring a new scenario into the picture – Co-Rookies of the Year.
What? Why? HEAR ME OUT.
Anthony Edwards is surpassing LaMelo Ball now (averaging 19/2.8/4.7 on 41% shooting from the field and 33% from three), but Melo is still the more efficient player (44% from the field and 35% from three). It is not fair to just hand the award to Edwards when Melo missed time due to injury. On the other hand, it is equally unfair to give it to Melo for having the better start and playing for the better team. CROWN THEM BOTH!
WINNERS – Anthony Edwards and LaMelo Ball
DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR
Top Candidates – Rudy Gobert, Ben Simmons, Bam Adebayo
Here are three candidates who have been openly campaigning for this award all season.
See – Bam Adebayo stating his case just last night:
And Ben Simmons not-so subtly declaring himself DPOY back in April over Rudy Gobert:
You’re probably thinking I am going all homer on this one. I LOVE BAM and think he belongs in the conversation, but Ben and Rudy have been absolutely DOMINATING.
You just cannot compare these two players to one another because their roles are different defensively. Here is what it comes down to for me – 107.7 points allowed per 100 possessions with him on the court, 119.6 points allowed per 100 possessions without him on the court. Leader of most defensive stats, including blocks and defensive rebounds per game. The heart and soul of the league’s #1 defense. King of RIM PROTECTION. The embodiment of defense. It’s got to go to Rudy Gobert. Sorry Philly.
WINNER – Rudy Gobert
MOST VALUABLE PLAYER
Top Candidates – Nikola Jokic, Joel Embiid, Giannis Antetokounmpo
This race was close. Had this article been drafted up midseason, I would be writing a dissertation for the grandest award of them all. Joel Embiid was DOMINATING with DPOY candidate Ben Simmons, and succeeding on both ends of the floor, a huge part of the Sixers turn-around this season. But, the injury bug has spared NO ONE and thanks to it, this section will be short and sweet.
There is really no argument to be made at this point, anyone trying to say otherwise is just bored. Doesn’t even matter who is third, fourth, fifth, etc. on the ballot.
Props to the Joker. Plain and simple.