The NBA has just passed the halfway point of the season, and we are getting to the time of year when experts make their predictions for the end of year awards. These awards include Most Valuable Player (MVP), Coach of the Year, Rookie of the Year (ROTY), Sixth Man of the Year, Defensive Player of the Year, and the Most Improved Player of the Year. The NBA awards ceremony, where they will announce and hand out these awards, will take place on June 24.
Here are my predictions:
MVP: Giannis Antetokounmpo
Runner-ups: Lebron James, Luka Doncic, and James Harden
Giannis Antetokounmpo, the small forward/power forward for the Milwaukee Bucks, is pushing towards winning back to back MVPs, having won MVP for the 2018-2019 NBA season. “Giannis is the best offensive player this season and the best defensive player this season, yes this is the MVP,” says Max Kellerman. Antetokounmpo is currently leading the Bucks to the best record in the NBA, 51-8. Besides leading the Bucks to such a historic season, Antetokounmpo is also on pace to become the second player in NBA history to average 30 points, 12 rebounds, and five assists; the first player having done so being Wilt Chamberlain in 1966.
Coach of the Year: Nick Nurse
Runner-ups: Mike Budenholzer, Erik Spoelstra, and Frank Vogel
Nick Nurse was hired by the Toronto Raptors in the off-season, before the start of the 2018-2019 NBA season, after long time head coach Dwayne Casey had been fired as a result of his struggles in the playoffs. Nurse had been the team’s assistant coach for the past five years. In Nurse’s first year as head coach, he led the Raptors to the franchise’s first championship. Soon after the championship win, superstar Kawhi Leonard, finals MVP in the same season, announced he would test free agency and eventually signed with the Los Angeles Clippers. Coming into this season, everyone expected the Raptors to struggle. Surprising the rest of the NBA, Nick Nurse and the Toronto Raptors have had an impressive season with a current record of 42-16, as well as being second place in the eastern conference.
Rookie of the Year: Ja Morant
Runner-ups: Zion Williamson, Kendrick Nunn, and R.J Barrett
Ja Morant entered the league with something to prove after he was selected second in the NBA draft by the Memphis Grizzlies. Morant has used his motivation and athleticism to perform electrifying dunks almost every game. Although the Grizzlies season has been a disappointment, Morant has not been a let down, averaging 17.5 points, 3.4 rebounds, and 6.8 assists. Morant is having these numbers with a less than mediocre team. Shannon Sharpe says that “He is no doubt the rookie of the year because he is leading this Grizzlies team to the eighth seed in the west.”
Sixth Man of the Year: Dennis Schroder
Runner-ups: Lou Williams, Montrezl Harrell, and Norman Powell
Coming into this NBA season, the Oklahoma City Thunder were not expected to be much of a playoff contender after losing star players Russell Westbrook and Paul George this past off-season. The Thunder, to the shock of many in the league, are competing for a playoff spot with a record of 37-23, which is good enough right now for sixth place in the Western Conference.
Dennis Schroder this year is averaging 19.3 points per game, which is the most by any bench player in the league. This year is one of Schroder’s best; he’s even shooting 41.2 percent from three which is his career high. Schroder is one of the key reasons for Oklahoma City Thunder’s success so far this season.
Defensive Player of the Year: Giannis Antetokounmpo
Runner-ups: Rudy Gobert, Ben Simmons, and Anthony Davis
It is extremely rare to see a player win Most Valuable Player and Defensive Player of the Year in the same season. However, it has happened twice before, with Michael Jordan and Hakeem Olajuwon. This year Giannis Antetokounmpo has made the case as to why he should be among these players to win both awards. He has led the Milwaukee Bucks to the best record in the NBA and to the best defensive team in the entire league. Milwaukee’s defensive rating of 101.7 is the best in the league, with the second best defensive rating being Toronto’s 105.2. The Greek Freak also is averaging 11.5 defensive rebounds, 1.1 blocks, and 1.0 steals per game. Antetokounmpo’s rim protecting skills and defensive leadership are major reasons for why Milwaukee has the best record in the NBA.
Most Improved Player of the Year: Brandon Ingram
Runner-ups: Bam Adebayo, Devonte Graham, and Luka Doncic
Brandon Ingram has faced plenty of criticism throughout his career after being selected second overall to the Los Angeles Lakers in the 2016 draft. The Lakers traded Ingram to New Orleans after he has been under performing during his four years with the team. This change in teams is one of the best things that has happened for Ingram, as his play has improved significantly. This NBA season, Ingram is averaging a career high in points per game (24.5), rebounds per game (6.3), and assists per game (4.3). Ingram is also shooting a fantastic 40.2 percent from three this season. Along with this being his most impressive season, this year Ingram made his first all-star appearance.
This season has been full of great plays and great games. Players across the league look to continue to fight for these awards, along with spots in the playoff as the season comes to a close.