Published by the Students of Johns Hopkins since 1896
January 17, 2021

This NBA season could see first-time winners for every award

By JOSH FELTON | December 9, 2020

doncic

Javier Mendia García / CC BY 2.0

Dallas Mavericks star Luka Doncic is a favorite to win Most Valuable Player this season.

The National Basketball Association (NBA) season is just a few weeks from starting. With training camp arriving, there is speculation as to who will take home the hardware and awards of this NBA season. Based on player performances from last season, promising offseason transactions and optimistic expectations, here are my favorites to win each award this season.

Most Valuable Player: Luka Doncic, Dallas Mavericks

Luka Doncic is coming off of a fantastic sophomore season where he established himself as an elite player in the league. Not only did he put up impressive stats last season, but his postseason was just as remarkable. 

With Doncic’s teammate Kristaps Porzingis missing the start of this season because of a torn meniscus, Doncic’s usage rating will likely be among the highest in the league. If he can put up impressive numbers and lead the Mavericks to a top three seed in the Western Conference, he has a legitimate chance at being the MVP this season.

Runners Up: Giannis Antetokounmpo, James Harden

Defensive Player of the Year: Bam Adebayo, Miami Heat

After being selected to the NBA All-Defensive Second Team last season at age 23, the sky's the limit for Bam Adebayo as he hopes to build off of his impressive 2019-20 campaign. Adebayo finished fifth in Defensive Player of the Year voting last season and was an invaluable player during Miami’s finals run. Adebayo also just signed a massive extension to stay in South Beach. Heat president Pat Riley praised Bam this offseason.

“He’s a multi-faceted player right now and his game needs to expand. And it will expand because he is a player that’s willing to work at it,” Riley said. 

Adebayo is surrounded by a fantastic defensive team and the expectation is that he will be the anchor and the leader on that front. If Riley believes in him, then so should we.

Runners Up: Anthony Davis, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Rudy Gobert

Sixth Man of the Year: Gary Trent Jr., Portland Trail Blazers

Gary Trent Jr. may not be a favorite to win this award, but he is in a great position to do so. Last season he averaged a modest eight points on 40% shooting from three while only playing 21 minutes a game. But in the postseason, his minutes jumped to 30. 

I expect that this season his minutes will likely be between 25 and 30, typical numbers for winners of this award. Playing next to Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum means Trent Jr. will be relied upon to shoot plenty of threes, and if he can maintain anywhere close to the percentages he shot in the playoffs, his numbers and value to his team will skyrocket, making him a sleeper pick for this award.

Runners Up: Spencer Dinwiddie, Caris Levert, Montrezl Harrell

Most Improved Player: Christian Wood, Houston Rockets

The reason Christian Wood is a candidate for MIP this season is because of the role he will play with Houston and the style of player he is. Wood is the prototypical center for the Houston Rockets. At 6 feet 10 inches tall, Wood is a respectable three-point shooter who will have an immediate impact on Houston offensively and defensively. Houston’s Achilles’ heel last season was lack of height and size, so Wood will be heavily relied upon to fill that void. 

With his skillset, this should make the perfect storm for Wood to stuff stat sheets and put himself as a frontrunner for this award.

Runners Up: OG Anunoby, Tyler Herro

Rookie of the Year: James Wiseman, Golden State Warriors

James Wiseman is one of the favorites to win this award and the reasoning behind it is quite simple: Wiseman is playing beside point guard Stephen Curry, one of the best offensive players in the game. 

Curry draws double teams and attention that will lead to open looks for Wiseman and the rest of his teammates. Wiseman is also very athletic and will get plenty of looks and attention from the media for Rookie of the Year voting.

Runners Up: Anthony Edwards, LaMelo Ball

Coach of the Year: Frank Vogel, Los Angeles Lakers

Reports are circulating that Lebron James may participate in load management this season. The amount of rest he has been able to get this offseason is extremely brief, so if he does in fact miss games, it will be on Frank Vogel to find a way to win without his star forward. 

If Vogel is able to coach the Lakers to the number one seed in the Western Conference regardless of whether James or Anthony Davis plays, this will be his award to win. The expectations for this team are high, and all eyes will be on Vogel to coach the new-look Lakers to victory.

Runners Up: Brad Stevens, Tyronn Lue

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