Christmas is here! It's the most wonderful time of the year, in part because it's an unofficial hoops holiday with five games. It's also roughly a third of the way through the regular season, which means it's a good time to give an update on the award races.
Our NBA.com Staff, who had given their award predictions prior to the season tip-off, are back to update their picks and expand upon their toughest calls.
Click the link for each individual award for our explanations on our preseason picks - MVP | DPOY | MIP | ROY | 6MOY
|Award||Micah Adams||Scott Rafferty||Carlan Gay||Gilbert McGregor||Kyle Irving||Yash Matange|
|MVP||Giannis Antetokounmpo||Giannis Antetokounmpo||James Harden||Giannis Antetokounmpo||Giannis Antetokounmpo||Giannis Antetokounmpo|
|DPOY||Marcus Smart||Anthony Davis||Marcus Smart||Anthony Davis||Anthony Davis||Anthony Davis|
|Most Improved||Devonte' Graham||Bam Adebayo||Aron Baynes||Devonte' Graham||Bam Adebayo||Devonte' Graham|
|Rookie||Zion Williamson||Ja Morant||Ja Morant||Ja Morant||Ja Morant||Ja Morant|
|Sixth Man||Derrick Rose||Montrezl Harrell||Spencer Dinwiddie||Lou Williams||Lou Williams||Lou Williams|
|Coach||Erik Spoelstra||Erik Spoelstra||Nick Nurse||Nick Nurse||Brad Stevens||Erik Spoelstra|
|Executive||Lawrence Frank||Lawrence Frank||Lawrence Frank||Lawrence Frank||Lawrence Frank||Lawrence Frank|
Micah Adams (@MicahAdams13): My toughest call is sticking with Zion Williamson for Rookie of the Year.
I know, I know, I know... he hasn't even played yet! But I still can't get preseason out of my head and when he does return, I expect him to dominate unlike anyone else in this rookie class.
There's no question that Ja Morant has been the best rookie so far, but I'm not sure he's so far and away better to erase all doubt. At this point, Williamson could still suit up for roughly half of the games and I fully anticipate a situation similar to 2016-17 when Joel Embiid only played 31 games, but was far and away the most impressive rookie.
Embiid, of course, did not win the award which went to Malcolm Brogdon. For what it's worth, I would have voted for Embiid.
The Pelicans have the NBA's easiest schedule after the All-Star break, setting up a late Zion-powered surge up the standings which could be enough to outweigh missing the first few months of the season.
Some quick hitters on the others:
- Giannis. Luka. Harden. LeBron. You could pick any of those four right now and I wouldn't quibble.
- I can't put into words how bad of a whiff the "Boylen for Coach of the Year" preseason pick will turn out to be. I thought the Bulls would be much better. They ummm... haven't been.
- Adebayo is certainly in the MIP conversation, but this is Devonte' Graham's to lose right now.
- Anthony Davis is going to win Defensive Player of the Year. But I'm stubborn and sticking with Smart.
- Derrick Rose is having an amazing season in Detroit and just might push Lou Williams for the Lou Williams Award.
|Preseason||Giannis Antetokounmpo||Marcus Smart||Bam Adebayo||Zion Williamson||JJ Redick||Jim Boylen||Lawrence Frank|
|Christmas||Luka Doncic||Marcus Smart||Devonte' Graham||Zion Williamson||Lou Williams||Monty Williams||Lawrence Frank|
Scott Rafferty (@crabdribbles): Sixth Man of the Year is definitely the toughest call for me.
Lou Williams could still win it, but I like what Montrezl Harrell has been doing this season a little more. His numbers are up across the board to 19.0 points, 7.5 rebounds, 2.0 assists and 1.2 blocks per game and he's been incredibly important to the success of a team that has all the makings of a contender. We already knew how well he complemented Williams on offence, but Harrell has been a perfect match with Paul George and Kawhi Leonard as well.
The result? The Clippers have been 5.8 points per 100 possessions better offensively with Harrell on the court through 30 games, giving him the best differential on the team.
The Clippers have also been better defensively with Harrell in the lineup this season. I still don't know if he can be LA's answer to Anthony Davis, Joel Embiid and Nikola Jokic in the playoffs, but that has no bearing on this award.
|Preseason||Giannis Antetokounmpo||Anthony Davis||Bam Adebayo||Zion Williamson||Lou Williams||Quin Snyder||Lawrence Frank|
|Christmas||Giannis Antetokounmpo||Anthony Davis||Bam Adebayo||Ja Morant||Montrezl Harrell||Erik Spoelstra||Lawrence Frank|
Gilbert McGregor (@GMcGregor21): I had a tough time with a number of these choices but my hardest call was sticking with Nick Nurse as my pick for Coach of the Year.
I was so impressed by Nurse's ability to draw up X's and O's last season that I was encouraged for this upcoming year, despite the fact that the Toronto Raptors had lost key contributors in Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green to free agency.
To my surprise, Nurse has done even more than expected, getting the most out of this roster despite injuries to major contributors in Kyle Lowry and Serge Ibaka.
What made it a difficult decision is the fact that some other coaches have done remarkable jobs early on. In Phoenix, Monty Williams has the Suns playing hard and looking like a legitimately competitive team on a nightly basis. He hasn't just changed the team, he's working to rebuild a culture.
Erik Spoelstra has the Heat exceeding plenty of expectations early on and in LA, Frank Vogel has blocked out the outside noise to help propel the Lakers to the league's top record through the first month of the season.
Still, through it all, I stuck with my original pick to give Nurse the credit for all he's done so far.
|Preseason||Giannis Antetokounmpo||Rudy Gobert||Zach Collins||Zion Williamson||Lou Williams||Nick Nurse||Lawrence Frank|
|Christmas||Giannis Antetokoumpo||Anthony Davis||Devonte' Graham||Ja Morant||Lou Williams||Nick Nurse||Lawrence Frank|
Kyle Irving (@KyleIrv_): My toughest call was keeping Giannis Antetokounmpo as the MVP.
It sounds ridiculous, I know. Especially when you look and see he's averaging nearly 30 points, 15 rebounds and seven assists per game and his team is right where you would have expected them to be at this point of the season. But there are other more attractive narrative options than just giving the award to the guy that won it last season.
The idea of a 20-turning-21-year-old phenom carrying his team to the playoffs ahead of schedule while nearly averaging a triple-double is a great narrative for an MVP.
So is a 35-year-old superstar playing at the same level he did in his prime, all while essentially re-inventing his style of play to a pass-first point guard while leading his team to the top of the West.
And so is a player who was an MVP runner-up last season responding by possibly becoming the first player to average over 40.0 points per game in over 50 seasons.
But I'm sticking with Antetokounmpo because he's dominating the league in a way we haven't seen for a long time. He's shooting just as efficient as last season from the field, has made improvements as a passer and has worked diligently to add a 3-point shot into his repertoire.
It's a hard call, but he still gets my vote.
|Preseason||Giannis Antetokounmpo||Anthony Davis||Lonzo Ball||Zion Williamson||Lou Williams||Brett Brown||Lawrence Frank|
|Christmas||Giannis Antetokounmpo||Anthony Davis||Bam Adebayo||Ja Morant||Lou Williams||Brad Stevens||Lawrence Frank|
Yash Matange (@yashmatange2694): The hardest pill to swallow while making these picks was for MVP.
Nikola Jokic, my preseason pick, is the best player on the Denver Nuggets which is among the top teams in the West but he's nowhere in the discussion. He's shown some form in the couple of weeks leading up to Christmas but the level is still far behind the player in real MVP contention - Luka Doncic, Antetokounmpo, LeBron James, and James Harden.
However, I'm picking Antetokounmpo because I don't see any of the other three players in the discussion having the same impact on both ends of the floor all through the regular season as he can.
The best from The Greek Freak:- Milwaukee Bucks (@Bucks) November 26, 2019
50 PTS | 14 REB | 6 AST | 2 STL | 55% FG pic.twitter.com/dl8bUUFucF
For the second consecutive season, he's averaging career-highs across the board in points, and rebounds, and is not far off his career-mark for assists and steals. He's taking and making three-pointers at a career rate while carrying the Bucks to the East's best record at the Christmas break.
A few points on the other picks:
- Sticking with my pick for Coach of the year because the Heat have impressed with their start to the season but I did think real hard about putting Nick Nurse there. Given the injuries the defending champions have suffered, it's a testament to Nurse's great coaching system that the Raptors are still among the East's top tier.
- I also had to change my DPOY pick. The Utah Jazz is at the bottom of the top 10 in defensive rating while the Lakers are in the top 5. Anthony Davis ranks second in the league in blocks per game, so I had to pick over reigning two-time DPOY winner Rudy Gobert.
- I was way off on my pick for MIP. Expected Terry Rozier to grab the opportunity with the Hornets, instead, it's been his teammate off the bench - Devonte' Graham - picking up the bits.
|Preseason||Nikola Jokic||Rudy Gobert||Terry Rozier||Zion Williamson||Lou Williams||Erik Spoelstra||Lawrence Frank|
|Christmas||Giannis Antetokounmpo||Anthony Davis||Devonte' Graham||Ja Morant||Lou Williams||Erik Spoelstra||Lawrence Frank|
Carlan Gay (@TheCarlanGay): New information is out so that impacted a lot of my picks. Look, I'm not ashamed to say I was wrong or way off on some of my early season calls.
I am happy to stick with both Nick Nurse and Spencer Dinwiddie for Coach of the Year and Sixth Man of the Year, respectively. Dinwiddie has been everything I've expected for the Nets this season, averaging a career-highs in points (19.8) and assists (5.4) per game. The only issue is Kyrie Irving hasn't been out forcing Dinwiddie into the starting lineup, which is hurting his chances of winning the Sixth Man of the Year awards, so hurry back, Kyrie!
Nurse has done a good job once again with the Raptors. He's punching all the right buttons off the floor and making the right adjustments game-to-game keeping Toronto in the best positions to compete every night. What the Raptors have done without Kyle Lowry and Serge Ibaka for an extended period of time is in large part to Nurse putting his guys in great positions to succeed. I don't think Nick Nurse got enough credit last year for the way he coached Toronto to the championship - everyone is too busy making box-and-one jokes. But he's one of the best coaches in the league and in 2019-20 he should be rewarded as such.
|Preseason||Kawhi Leonard||Joel Embiid||Bogdan Bogdanović||Rui Hachimura||Spencer Dinwiddie||Nick Nurse||Elton Brand|
|Christmas||James Harden|| |
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