MFFL Round Table: 2020 NBA Awards Predictions

The 2019-2020 NBA season tips-off next week when the New Orleans Pelicans visit the Toronto Raptors on Tuesday, October 22nd. With a wild offseason of player movement seemingly balancing the power in the NBA, this is setting up to be the most fun and interesting NBA season in recent memory. Before the season starts, the Staff compiled our picks for each major NBA awards category for this upcoming season. We will also give the betting favorites and commentary on which Dallas Mavericks players have a chance to take home some hardware of their own.

Coach of the Year

Reigning Champ: Mike Budenholzer, Milwaukee Bucks 2020 favorites from Bovada:
Coach Team COY Odds
Doc Rivers LA Clippers +300
Quinn Snyder Utah Jazz 600
Brad Stevens Boston Celtics 700
Frank Vogel Los Angeles Lakers 850
Mike Malone Denver Nuggets 1,200
Mike D’Antoni Houston Rockets 1,200
17. Rick Carlisle Dallas Mavericks 4,500
Coach of the Year is a tough award to predict, there has never been a back-to-back winner in the history of the award since 1963. There have been coaches to win it multiple times including the reigning Champ Mike Budenholzer. Then there is Greg Popovich, Pat Riley, and Don Nelson who are the only Coaches to take home the award 3 times. For Rick Carlisle to win the 2020 Coach of the Year I think the Mavericks would need to be a top 3 team in the West. Historically this award goes to the Coach of the team that won one of the Conferences. There are cases when a team drastically outplays their projections, achieve home-court advantage in the Playoffs and the Coach is granted COY, but these cases are rare. Give Rick another year or two with this young Mavericks core and I expect him to be at the very top of this list. Staff Picks – Coach of the Year: Josh Hubman – Mike Malone, Denver Nuggets. Plain and simple, I expect the Denver Nuggets to among the top of the Western Conference just like last season when they finished 2nd with a record of 54-28. I still maintain that they have an unfair competitive advantage playing in elevation, which helped them to a 34-7 home record. The team is led by a young core of Nikola Jokic (24), Jamal Murray (22), Gary Harris (25), Monte Morris (23), and Malik Beasley (22) that already have quality Playoff experience. Micah Stewart – Quinn Snyder, Utah Jazz. In recent years, the NBA’s Coach of the Year award has gone to the coach of a team that made the jump from middling playoff team to an upper echelon playoff team. The Jazz figure to be that team in 2019-20 after adding Mike Conley and Bojan Bogdanovic. This is partially dependent on the Clippers and Lakers not pushing for the top seed in the Western Conference and resting guys like Kawhi Leonard and LeBron James sporadically throughout the regular season. LT – Nick Nurse, Toronto Raptors. The defending NBA champions Toronto Raptors have been a top 3 seed in the Eastern Conference the past 4 years and I don’t see that ending now. The team has a great foundation that I believe will continue beyond Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard leaving to sign with the LA Clippers. Kyle Lowry will continue to be the team leader and this will be the first season we truly admire the name Pascal Siakam. Siakam will be an all-star this season and have the opportunity of being a #1 option on the team. I also like the return of OG Anunoby and free agent signings of Stanley Johnson and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson. Taylor Hannah – Rick Carlisle. Yes, I understand this is a homer call. I also understand that it’s a long shot, but I think Rick is in the best position he’s been in a long time to receive COY this year. Not only did the Mavs add an All-Star big that can stretch the floor and protect the rim, but being able to keep hold of the main nucleus that already knows and understands Rick system should pay dividends. The Mavs are in a position to play a dark-horse role this year and if they can over-achieve predictions to a first-round home playoff series (again, a long-shot), it would be hard to overlook Rick and his leadership across the league. Josh Mazur – Dwane Casey. The Pistons look like they could be a much improved team this year with Casey at the helm in year 2. Dwane had a big part in forming the Raptors  team that won the championship last year. I’m also a little biased because he spent some time under Carlisle a few years back. D Rose helps Casey grab his second Coach of the Year trophy. 

6th Man of the Year

Reigning Champ: Lou Williams, LA Clippers (won in 2018 and 109) 2020 Favorites from Fanduel Sportsbook:
Player Team 6th Man Odds
Lou Williams LA Clippers +170
Spencer Dinwiddie Brooklyn Nets 700
Montrezl Harrell LA Clippers 950
Terrance Ross Orlando Magic 950
Eric Gordon Houston Rockets 1,400
Jerami Grant Denver Nuggets 1,400
19. Seth Curry Dallas Mavericks 5,000
Lou Williams has dominated the 6th Man of the Year award for the past two seasons with scoring averages of 22.6 in 2018 and 20.0 in 2019. Williams is the first player to win 6th Man with a scoring average of 20+ since 1990 (Jason Terry was so close with 19.6 in 2009). Lou Williams and Jamal Crawford are the only players to ever win the award 3 times (I would love to see that 1-on-1 game) followed by Kevin McHale, Ricky Pierce, and Detlef Schrempf who have won it twice. As of late, the 6th Man of the Year award goes to a high volume scorer off the bench, since 2007 only once has the 6th Man winner scored less than 15 PPG and that was Lamar Odom in 2011. Staff Picks – 6th Man of the Year: Hubman – Lou Williams. Chalk up a 3-Peat for Lou Williams of the LA Clippers. Sweet Lou Williams dominates this award, as shown by being the huge betting favorite. Despite bringing in big talent in Kawhi Leonard and Paul George, there is still plenty of minutes and scoring to go around on the Clippers roster. I think the Clippers would prefer to keep Leonard and George fresh for a big Playoff push so Williams is going to have to be his normal bucket-getting self to pick up some of the slack when these other guys rest. Micah – Lou Williams. Williams has won the award two years in a row and is a heavy favorite to three-peat. Domantas Sabonis was his primary competition last season, but there’s talk of him starting in Indiana this season. Spencer Dinwiddie’s chances may have taken a slight hit when the Nets signed the ball-dominant Kyrie Irving over the summer. William’s teammate Montrezl Harrell was a finalist for the award last year, but a win seems unlikely as long as he’s playing with Williams. LT – Spencer Dinwiddie. Such an underrated player who does everything good, without having one stellar strength. Coming off a season where the 26 year old averaged 17 PPG, and 5 APG on 44% shooting, he looks to ensure the Nets keep pushing forward in the Eastern Conference. The Nets are trying to make the push for a top 4 seed this upcoming season with an injury-prone Kyrie Irving leading the way and Kevin Durant missing the entire season due to injury. I expect Spencer Dinwiddie to have an excellent season leading the second unit and filling in a few games with the starting line up, Brooklyn will need him to. Taylor – Lou Williams. Lou Williams may be the best 6th man of all time and his team only got better this off-season, which should take some of the pressure off of him to produce. Defenses won’t be able to key on him as much as they were last year and if that results in more open looks, it’s hard to imagine him not winning back-to-back-to-back awards in this category. You can’t give the MVP to Jordan each year, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t deserve it. Mazur – Lou Williams. The clippers got infinitely better in the offseason and Lou Williams will do what he does again this year. He’ll come in with the second unit and score in bursts just like we are used to. 

Defensive Player of the Year

Reigning Champ: Rudy Gobert, Utah Jazz (won in 2018 and 2019) 2020 Favorites from Fanduel Sportsbook:
Player Team DPOY Odds
Rudy Gobert Utah Jazz +160
Giannis Anteotkounmpo Milwaukee Bucks 420
Paul George LA Clippers 550
Anthony Davis Los Angeles Lakers 950
Joel Embiid Philadelphia 76ers 950
27. Kristaps Porzingis Dallas Mavericks 20,000
Rudy Gobert has dominated Defensive Player of the Year voting the last two years, receiving 89 of the 100 first place votes in 2018 and 65 in 2019. Gobert is one of only 10 players in NBA history to win the award at least two time joining Hakeem Olajuwon, Dennis Rodman, Sydney Moncrief, Kawhi Leonard, and Mark Eaton who each won it twice. Then you have Dwight Howard with 3 wins and Dikembe Mutombo and Ben Wallace with 4 DPOY trophies. I was a little surprised to see Porzingis all the way down at 27th on the list of best odds to win the DPOY trophy. In the 2017-2018 season, before KP got hurt, he was leading the NBA in blocks per 36 minutes with 2.7. Was limits his chance to win DPOY is his lackluster rebounding numbers, 6.6 RPG in that same 2018 season. If KP can maintain his shot blocking prowess while using his new found strength to rip down closer to 10 boards, I think he has a realistic shot to be in the running in this category for years to come. Staff Picks – Defensive Player of the Year: Hubman – Rudy Gobert. I am rolling with the favorite on this one. Gobert is so long, so agile, and so focused on the defensive end that he stands out as the premier rim defender in the League. I expect the Jazz defense to be even better this year with the addition of on-ball pest Mike Conley. Gobert will join rare air being only the 4th player to ever win at least 3 DPOY awards and it is well deserved. Plenty of other great candidates but non quite as formidable as the Stifle Tower. Micah – Joel Embiid. Rudy Gobert has won this award each of the previous two seasons. It may be foolish to not pick him at this point, but the Jazz brought in Mike Conley and Bojan Bogdanovic this off-season. They project to be a better offensive team, but their defense should get worse. If it doesn’t, Gobert will deserve this award. The 76ers took the opposite approach and brought in defensive minded players in Josh Richardson and Al Horford. Every player in their starting lineup will be at least 6’6″. They could have the best defensive starting and closing lineup in the NBA. Embiid is a massive human being and will anchor that unit. LT – Anthony Davis. We finally get a full season of a focused and motivated Anthony Davis with no distractions. That’s a scary thought to the rest of the NBA. He averaged 2.4 blocks and 1.6 steals across 33 minutes per game last season, the highest combination of blocks and steals in the League. I also have Davis finishing 3rd in MVP voting behind Damian Lillard and Giannis Antetokounmpo. Taylor – Kawhi Leonard. The perimeter defense for the Clippers is going to be tough to match-up against this year. With defensive stalwarts like P. Beverly and Paul George playing along-side Kawhi he will have more freedom to be more aggressive this year, which should result in a nice increase in his defensive numbers overall. Mazur – Kawhi Leonard. Being paired with another elite defensive stopper in Paul Geoge and an elite defensive nuisance in Patrick Beverley may hurt his chances of taking the trophy home but the Clippers will be one of the best defensive teams, especially around the perimeter. Being the best defensive player on a team full of defensive players has to count for something, right? 

Most Improved Player

Reigning Champ: Paskal Siakam, Toronto Raptors 2020 Favorites from
Player Team Odds
Jayson Tatum Boston Celtics +900
Dejounte Murray San Antonio Spurs 1,100
John Collins Atlanta Hawks 1,100
Malcolm Brogdon Indiana Pacers 1,100
Terry Rozier Charlotte Hornets 1,400
Bam Adebayo Miami Heat 1,600
Domantas Sabonis Indiana Pacers 1,600
Luka Doncic Dallas Mavericks 1,700
Like Coach of the Year, the NBA Most Improved Player Award is extremely difficult to predict, there has never even been a two-time winner of the award. Regardless, MIP winner is a great group of players to join over the pas several year with past winners being Siakam, Victor Oladipo, Giannis Antetokoinmpo, CJ McCollum, Jimmy Butler, Goran Dragic, and Paul George. It is interesting to see Luka Doncic listed as the 8th best odds to win Most Improved Player. After averaging 21.2 PPG, 7.8 RPG, and 6 APG in his Rookie season it would seem that if Luka got much better to be in the MIP conversation, this would also put him among MVP candidates. There are a couple other Mavericks I could see making a run at this award if they can get enough minutes on a crowded roster. This is guys like Dwight Powell, Jalen Brunson, Seth Curry, and Justin Jackson. The problem is, I see most of these guys getting enough minutes to show they have improved, but not enough minutes to make the big enough numbers jump to be serious candidates. Staff Picks – Most Improved Player: Hubman – Caris LeVert, Brooklyn Nets. LeVert was off to a hot start to the season in 2017 before dislocating his foot in November and missing 42 games. The Nets are going to need someone to step up and be a secondary scrorer and playmaker alongside Kyrie Irving, and I think that person is LeVert. He averaged 13.7 PPG, 3.8 RPG, and 3.9 APG last year in 26.6 minutes per game. With similar or even higher minutes per game, these numbers will jump as LeVert enters his 4th year in the NBA. Micah – Lonzo Ball, New Orleans Pelicans. Ball is a risky pick. He’s not one of the favorites for the award, but he’s in a clearly defined, starting role. Playing alongside Jrue Holiday will help him on both ends, and Zion Williamson will help immensely in transition, which is where Ball excels. Ball spent part of the summer changing the form on his jump shot. It remains to be seen whether it works or not, but that, along with injuries, have been the reason for the disappointing start to his career. LT – Domantas Sabonis. I’m a huge fan of the young Lithuanian big man. I have been waiting for this moment for a few years now, Sabonis becoming the Pacers starting power forward. With Thaddeus Young now in Chicago, Indiana will hand the keys over. I think he will thrive in the role and mixes well with the rest of the Pacers’ starters. The Pacers will need him to have a great year if they want to be successful, especially early on with the absence of Victor Oladipo. Taylor – Dejounte Murray. As long as old injuries don’t resurface, Dejounte should be in a prime spot to take a leap in his third year in the league. His shooting numbers are better than he showed us two years ago (he missed all of last season with a torn ACL) and his defense-first mind-set should play perfectly in the Spurs system. They will look to him to be a play-maker and if he can increase his shooting efficiency on more minutes played, as well as not show any signs of lingering issues with his ACL,  he will quickly evolve into one of the better two-way players in the league. Mazur – Jalen Brunson. This is definitely the most biased pick I’m making. You can tell by the way he’s been playing in the preseason that he put in work in the offseason this year. He put in work on a NBA player type of budget. The only thing that will hold him back from being most improved is if he gets less time on the court than he should with the addition of Delon Wright and a potentially crowded back court.

Scoring Title

Reigning Champ: James Harden, Houston Rockets 2020 Favorites from Fanduel Sportsbook:
Player Team Scoring Title Odds
James Harden Houston Rockets -105
Steph Curry Golden State Warriors +250
Giannis Antetokounmpo Milwaukee Bucks 850
Anthony Davis Los Angeles Lakers 950
Bradley Beal Washington Wizards 1,600
Devin Booker Phoenix Suns 1,600
Joel Embiid Philadelphia 76ers 1,600
26. Luka Doncic Dallas Mavericks 10,000
After winning the last two scoring titles with 30.4 PPG in 2018 and 36.1 PPG in 2019, James Harden is a heavy favorite to once again be the top scorer in the NBA in 2020. There have only been two other players in NBA history to average at least 36 PPG like Harden did last year, and they are names Michael Jordan and Wilt Chamberlain. Jordan won the scoring title an unbelievable 10 times, Chamberlain won it 7 times, and Allen Iverson, George Gervin, and Kevin Durant have each been the League’s top scorer 4 times. Luka clocks in at the 26th best odds to win the 2020 scoring title. It seems like a long shot for Luka to jump up to 30 PPG this season but I have no doubt he is capable at some point in his career. Given his historic Rookie season , diverse scoring skill-set, and ability to get his own shot at anytime I refuse to put a ceiling on what Luka can do offensively. Staff Picks – Scoring Title: Hubman – James Harden. James Harden is the best scorer in the NBA and I also thinks he cares more about being the highest scorer in the league than anyone else. He is the type of guy I could see being upset in the locker room after a win if he only had 19 points. Last year Harden became the 2nd player to average at least 35 points per game in a season since the year 2000 (along with Kobe Bryant) with his 36.1 PPG. Russell Westbrook’s presence may cut into a few of Harden’s shots but remember, Kevin Durant was able to win a scoring title playing alongside Westbrook, scoring 32 PPG in 2014. Harden’s biggest strength is his ball-handling. You can’t speed him up, he can get wherever he wants on the floor, and he has all the skills to finish from anywhere. Micah – Steph Curry. When healthy over the past three seasons, the Warriors trotted out arguably the greatest team in NBA history. That is no longer the case. Curry now finds himself without much offensive help around him, at least until Klay Thompson returns from a torn ACL. He could be asked to take on an even larger role than he did during his two MVP campaigns. LT – Giannis Antetokounmpo. Would you believe me if I told you he averaged 28 PPG on .578 FG% last season? No need to check, he did. He finds ways to get better every season and no one has found an answer to stop him. Giannis was spending the offseason working relentlessly at his jump shot. If that improves this season, I expect him to break the 30+ PPG threshold. The most common answer would be James Harden, but with the addition of Russell Westbrook on the team, I expect his scoring output to decrease. Taylor – James Harden. The addition of Russell Westbrook will have an interesting affect to Harden and I’m not sold that it will be entirely positive. Still, adding an MVP candidate point guard who can average double digit assists and speed up the tempo of the game should only open up Harden’s game and allow him to score more. It could also implode in his face. Only time will tell, but for the record I’m hoping its the latter and that I’m wrong on this one. Mazur – James Harden. Even with Russ coming to town I think Harden will dominate the ball. I may end up eating some crow on this one but I think Westbrook and Harden will work well together in D’Antoni’s scheme. 

Rookie of the Year

Reigning Champ: Luka Doncic, Dallas Mavericks 2020 Favorites from Fanduel Sportsbook:
Player Team ROY Odds
Zion Williamson New Orleans Pelicans -150
Ja Morant Memphis Grizzlies +400
RJ Barrett New York Knicks 450
Darius Garland Cleveland Cavaliers 1,400
Michael Porter Jr. Denver Nuggets 1,400
Zion Williamson is the biggest favorite to win any of the major NBA Award categories with his -150 odds to win Rookie of the Year. Given what we have seen in the preseason, it is easy to understand why. His athleticism and skill around the basket combined with the fast paced, open floor NBA game seem to match perfectly. The Luka Doncic Rookie of the Year campaign is a tough act to follow but it looks like Zion may have what it takes. Staff Picks – Rookie of the Year: Hubman – Zion Williamson. It’s Zion all the way for Rookie of the Year. That is not to say there aren’t going to be other quality Rookie campaigns. Ja Morant should have a ton of opportunity to showcase his playmaking and athleticism in Memphis. Zion, however, is a beast and I expect him to threaten for an All-Star spot in just his first season. Micah – Zion Williamson. No surprise here. Williamson is the most hyped prospect to enter the league since LeBron James. The Pelicans project to be a solid team and Jrue Holiday and Lonzo Ball should help get Williamson easy looks around the basket early on in his career. Most rookies are inefficient and that is the easy case to make against #2 and #3 overall picks Ja Morant and RJ Barrett. LT – Zion Williamson. We all know the hype, and we have all seen him back up the hype at Duke. Will he do the same again at the NBA level? I think so. I really had a hard time not picking Ja Morant because he will have the ball in his hands more and he will have more of an opportunity of being the immediate focal point of his franchise than ZionWilliamson. The 2019 #1 draft pick will share that responsibility with Jrue Holiday, you also can’t forget about Lonzo Ball and Brandon Ingram who are trying to make a name for themselves In this league as well. With all this in mind you can’t doubt the ability of Zion, New Orleans will do all they can to put him in the best position of succeeding. Taylor – Zion Williamson. I would like to get a little more creative on this award as well, but I just don’t see another player from this year’s draft that can compare to Zion. If he can stay healthy, he should win in a land-slide. Mazur – Zion Williamson. Zion. The answer is Zion.

Most Valuable Player

Reigning Champ: Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks 2020 Favorites from Fanduel Sportsbook:
Player Team MVP Odds
Giannis Antetokounmpo Milwaukee Bucks +270
Steph Curry Golden State Warriors 500
James Harden Houston Rockets 750
Anthony Davis Los Angeles Lakers 750
LeBron James Los Angeles Lakers 850
Kawhi Leonard LA Clippers 950
15. Luka Doncic Dallas Mavericks 5,000
28. Kristaps Porzingis Dallas Mavericks 10,000
Naturally, having the 3rd best odds to win the Scoring Title and the 2nd best odds to win Defensive Player of the Year make reigning Most Valuable Player Giannis Antetokounmpo the favorite to take home the award again in 2020. There have been 15 players to win MVP multiple times including Kareem Abdul-Jabbar with 6, Jordan with 5, Bill Russel with 5, and Wilt Chamberlain and LeBron James each with 4. Luka is rising up this list fast, already 15th in MVP odds coming into just his 2nd NBA season. There is no doubt in my mind that Luka will soon be near the top of this list in future years. His ability to score, rebound, and assist at elite levels allow him to threaten a triple double every single night. As he gains more experience, and the Mavs start racking up more wins, Luka’s MVP candidacy will become much more serious. Staff Picks – Most Valuable Player: Josh – Nikola Jokic, Denver Nuggets. The Nuggets finished 2nd in the West last year with a record of 54-28 and they have only grown more experienced and deep while still maintain one of the best young cores in the League. Jokic, at age 23, finished last season with averages of 20.1 points, 10.8 rebounds, 7.3 assists, 1.4 steals, and .7 blocks per game. People are catching on to the impact that Jokic has on every phase of the game and with the Nuggets being among the top of a loaded Western Conference and Jokic being the sole superstar on the roster, I expect him to demand a ton of 2020 MVP votes. Micah – Giannis Antetokounmpo. Antetokounmpo spent the better part of last season battling James Harden for MVP honors. The latter’s numbers could take a slight dip in 2019-20 with his new backcourt mate Russell Westbrook now in the fold. Anthony Davis and LeBron James are perennial MVP contenders, but they could cancel each other out now that they’re on the same team. Stephen Curry will be a popular pick with Klay Thompson injured and Kevin Durant in Brooklyn, but his health will be a concern with a much larger workload. LT – Damian Lillard, Portland Trailblazers. He has been the player I’ve always wanted to become a Dallas Maverick. The fact is he never will be because he is the definition of a ‘team first’ player, even while being a superstar in this league. I admire that quality and think he will take the next step in his career by achieving the MVP. He is coming off the best season he has had as a Portland Trailblazer, reaching the Western Conference Finals and averaging 26 PPG, 7 APG, 5 RPG on 44% shooting. This is his time and it seems like no one is mentioning his name for this award. Taylor – Giannis Antetokounmpo. No real need to explain here, I’m taking the easy route on this one. Giannis is the best overall player in the league. Mazur – Giannis Antetokounmpo. I saw the Greek Freak live and in person from about 4 feet away a few days ago. It’s going to be hard for me to imagine anyone taking MVP from him. The man is a monster. Honorable mention: Steph Curry. His number one running mate is gone with injury so he may have to take it up a notch this year. There are less names on the team to fear this year so Steph may draw doubles more often and we could see a drop in production rather than an increase.  Staff Picks Summary for All Awards:
Award Hubman Micah LT Taylor Mazur
MVP Jokic Giannis Lillard Giannis Giannis
Scoring Title Harden Curry Giannis Harden Harden
DPOY Gobert Embiid Davis Kawhi Kawhi
ROY Zion Zion Zion Zion Zion
6th Man Williams Williams Dinwiddie Williams Williams
MIP Levert Ball Sabonis D. Murray Brunson
COY Malone Snyder Nurse Carlisle Casey
Rookie of the Year and 6th Man of the Year are the only categories that have 4 of our 5 writers in agreement. With every other award having several worthy suitors, this is set up to be an incredible 2019-2020 NBA Season. The Dallas Mavericks were only represented twice in all of these awards with a single Coach of the Year and Most Improved Player prediction for Carlisle and Brunson respectively. However, with a great Coach like Rick Carlisle, Superstars like Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis, and a bunch of young talent like Jalen Brunson, Delon Wright, and Justin Jackson, the chances of the Dallas Mavericks taking home some of these awards over the next 5 years seems very high. Do you think any Mavericks can take home an NBA Award this season? Think we missed something with our predictions? Feel free to join the discussion below or interact with any of us on Twitter @mavsfansforlife, @joshhubman, @micahstewart70, @LT_MFFL, @taylorhannah11, @joshmazur.

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