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2019-2020 NBA Awards: Kevin Broom makes his picks

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New Orleans Pelicans v Milwaukee Bucks
Giannis Antetokounmpo should win MVP and Defensive Player of the Year for 2019-20.
Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images

NBA awards ballots for 2020 were due a few days ago. The league decided to base this season’s honors on Before Times performance — what happens in The Bubble won’t count. I wrote about All-NBA back in April so there’s no need to rehash that here.

I’m not an NBA awards voter, but if I had a ballot, here’s how I’d vote.

Most Valuable Player

  1. Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks
  2. LeBron James, Los Angeles Lakers
  3. James Harden, Houston Rockets
  4. Damian Lillard, Portland Trail Blazers
  5. Kawhi Leonard, Los Angeles Clippers

There’s been talk recently about choosing Lebron over Giannis for this award, which is nonsensical to me. Lebron is a great player having a great season. Giannis’ season is freakish.

His per game numbers are suppressed because he plays just 30.7 minutes per game. Per 100 team possessions, he’s averaging 43.8 points, 20.3 rebounds and 8.5 assists. Now consider the complete list of players to average 40-20-8 per 100 team possessions since the NBA began tracking the data necessary to determine pace:

Giannis Antetokounmpo.

That’s it. That’s the list.

That’s also the list for players averaging 40-20-8 per 48 minutes. Even in the 60s, when teams shot (and missed) a lot more, no one did it. Not Wilt. Not Oscar. No one.

Throw out the assists requirement and Wilt managed 40-20 twice.

Keep assists at 8.0 per 48 minutes and drop the rebounding requirement to 10.0, and the list is:

  • Giannis x2 (2018-19 and 2019-20)
  • Russell Westbrook (2016-17)
  • Luka Doncic (2019-20)

If that isn’t enough, Giannis also plays great defense AND he’s on the winningest team. He’s the MVP.

I have Lebron in the runner-up spot because he’s been the most important player on the best team in the West this season. The Lakers are basically break-even when he sits. With him on the floor, they’re +10.9 per 100 possessions.

Harden is third because he’s probably the NBA’s most dangerous offensive player. He’s been 6.6 points per 100 possessions more efficient than league average with a preposterous 37.9% usage rate.

Lillard is fourth because of his absurd efficiency (ortg: 123 vs. league average of 110.4) on a high usage rate (30.6%), and because of his leadership. Portland suffered multiple injuries to key rotation big men, and Lillard is the biggest reason they’re still contending for the playoffs in a loaded West.

Leonard lands fifth because his presence transforms a good Clippers team into a potentially great one. They manage his minutes to keep him healthy for the playoffs, but he still put together a great season.

Also considered for the top five:

Defensive Player of the Year

  1. Giannis
  2. Rudy Gobert, Utah Jazz
  3. Leonard

For me, picking Giannis for DPOY was as easy as picking him for MVP — he’s the best defender on the NBA’s best defensive team. The Bucks were decent defensively when he sat and suffocating when he played.

Gobert is the two-time reigning DPOY whose defensive impact slipped a little this season in my analysis. What he did was still terrific, however. He’s one of the league’s top rim protectors, and he’s stunningly effective as an iso defender.

Leonard could have passed Gobert on my ballot if he’d started the Before Times season the way he ended it. Early on, he was okay defensively — like, he would have been Washington’s best defender by a mile — but far from the game’s elite. Then he hit the gas and it was like he was back in San Antonio: The Claw that wrecked opposing offenses by forcing them into indecision and wasted shot clock.

Also considered:

Rookie of the Year

  1. Ja Morant, Memphis Grizzlies
  2. Brandon Clarke, Memphis Grizzlies
  3. Kendrick Nunn, Miami Heat

If Zion Williamson had been healthy, this would have been his award. He was an offensive wrecking ball who scored with high efficiency on high usage. His defense wasn’t great, but his team’s defense was better when he played. But, he played just 565 minutes.

The above paragraph should not be construed as Morant being winner by default. Morant was terrific this season — a stuntman PG who made two or three plays a game that no one’s ever seen before. His combination of scoring and passing made him dangerous, and he’s only going to improve.

Clarke being a ROY candidate is unsurprising. The darling of stat-based draft analysts (like myself), I could still see why teams near the top of the draft shied away. He was a strange player in college — a big man’s game in a hyper-athletic SG’s body. How would that work in the NBA? Quite well, as it turns out — he finished around the basket, shot 40% from three-point range (on fairly low volume), and he rebounds and defends with excellence. I think he’ll end up a DPOY candidate in the future.

Nunn was a valuable starter for a playoffs team. He’s a bit challenged offensively — and older than the “normal” rookie — but he’s a quality defender.

Also considered:

Coach of the Year

  1. Nick Nurse, Toronto Raptors
  2. Billy Donovan, Oklahoma City Thunder
  3. Taylor Jenkins, Memphis Grizzlies

The Raptors lost a league MVP candidate via free agency and suffered a never-ending stream of injuries to rotation players and still sit second in the East behind the Bucks. Yes, they have a deep roster of savvy veterans and improving youngsters, and a big reason they have so many effective players is because of the development work and tactical adjustments put in by Nurse.

Donovan has done a great job this season shifting the team’s focus from the heliocentric “Westbrook does everything and Steven Adams does the rest” system to an “all-five” approach where lots of guys contribute. He’s gotten a great season from the seemingly ageless Chris Paul, and outstanding performances from Danilo Gallinari , Adams, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Nerlens Noel and Dennis Schroder. Their three-PG lineup has been devastating late in games.

The Grizzlies had the league’s youngest rotation this season and they’re sitting eighth in the West with a 3.5 game lead on ninth. He constructed a system that takes advantage of what Morant, Clarke and Jaren Jackson do best, while also leaving room for a dinosaur like Jonas Valanciunas.

Also considered:

  • Mike Budenholzer, Milwaukee Bucks
  • Frank Vogel, Los Angeles Lakers
  • Rick Carlisle, Dallas Mavericks
  • Erik Spoelstra, Miami Heat

(And, I would listen to top three arguments for Doc Rivers or Brad Stevens.)

Sixth Man of the Year

  1. Montrezl Harrell, Los Angeles Clippers
  2. Donte DiVincenzo, Milwaukee Bucks
  3. Delon Wright, Dallas Mavericks

This award is traditionally given to the best bench scorer for a good team. I wanted to take a more comprehensive view — there’s more to the game than scoring.

Harrell jumped out as the obvious choice. He’s an efficient scorer and solid rebounder who also works hard on defense. His overall defensive impact is limited a bit by his size, but he’s a critical player for one of this season’s true title contenders.

DiVincenzo provides adequate shooting and elite defense for the league’s best team. I wouldn’t want him as the primary offensive option, but his presence helped replace the contributions of Malcolm Brogdon, who departed for the Indiana Pacers last summer. He rebounds, does a solid job as a secondary playmaker, and defends with excellence.

Wright’s been important off the bench for the Mavericks this season. He scores efficiently on low usage and also rebounds his position well, is an excellent playmaker, and a very good defender.

Also considered:

Most Improved Player

  1. Luka Doncic, Dallas Mavericks
  2. Brandon Ingram, New Orleans Pelicans
  3. Bam Adebayo, Miami Heat

From the outset, I eliminated second year players who didn’t play much as rookies. It’s kinda easy to make a big jump from being a rookie (most of whom stink) to becoming a quality professional.

For me, Doncic is the pick. He had a very good rookie season and then made The Leap to become a superstar in 2019-20. The comps at this stage of his career are all-timers like Lebron James, Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan, etc.

Ingram struggled his first three seasons in the league. This season, he came back a better shooter, who also rebounded more, did a better job playmaking, and even a passable defender.

Adebayo has been climbing the ladder. His rookie year was good, his second season was very good, and this year he jumped to All-NBA level. He’s an outstanding defender and rugged rebounder, who’s also an excellent playmaker.

Also considered:

All-Defense

First Team

G — Kris Dunn, Chicago Bulls

G — Patrick Beverly, Los Angeles Clippers

F — Giannis

F — Davis

C — Gobert

Second Team

G — Ben Simmons, Philadelphia 76ers

G — Danny Green, Los Angeles Lakers

F — Leonard

F — Adebayo

C — Brook Lopez, Milwaukee Bucks

All-Rookie

First Team

  • Morant
  • Clarke
  • Nunn
  • P.J. Washington, Charlotte Hornets
  • Rui Hachimura, Washington Wizards

Second Team

  • Terence Davis, Toronto Raptors
  • Matisse Thybulle, Philadelphia 76ers
  • Jaxson Hayes, New Orleans Pelicans
  • Eric Paschall, Golden State Warriors
  • Michael Porter, Jr., Denver Nuggets

Also considered:

  • Jordan McLaughlin, Minnesota Timberwolves
  • Cameron Johnson, Phoenix Suns
  • Daniel Gafford, Chicago Bulls
  • Tyler Herro, Miami Heat
  • Coby White, Chicago Bulls

That’s what my ballot would look like. Who’s on yours?