MFFL Round Table: NBA Awards and Mavs Predictions

We are a little late to the party but we wanted to round up some of the Mavs Fans For Life writers to give our predictions for the major 2020-2021 NBA awards and how the Mavs will fare in this new year. In this article we have predictions and commentary from four of our MFFLs on MVP, NBA Scoring Leader, Defensive Player of the Year, 6th Man of the Year, Rookie of the Year, Most Improved Player, Coach of the Year, and also Mavs record and seeding. We love to hear from our fellow MFFLs so if you think we missed anything feel free to reach out on twitter @mavsfansforlife.

Most Valuable Player

Reigning MVP: Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks

2020-2021 MVP odds from FanDuel Sportsbook

PlayerOdds
Luka Doncic+410
G. Antetokounmpo550
Kevin Durant750
Stephen Curry950
Anthony Davis1300
LeBron James 1300
Nikola Jokic1300

LT: Luka Dončić, Dallas Mavericks

With the team making offseason moves to be a more balanced on both sides of the court, I see the Mavs taking that next leap to contention. I’ve said previously I rather be a top 10 offense and top 10 defense any day over #1 offense and average defense. That very leap in contention will have Luka Dončić (4th In 2020 MVP voting) spring forward as the candidate to take away the MVP honor this season. It will be hard to top his stats last season averaging 28.8 PPG, 9.4 RPG, 8.8 APG, but more team success will catapult him in the eyes of voters. Will the NBA give it to Giannis Antetokounmpo three years in a row? I don’t see it but you can make a case for him every season.

Josh Hubman: Luka Dončić, Dallas Mavericks

Luka’s eye-popping numbers, continual triple doubles, star power, and national exposure this season will lead to his first of numerous NBA MVP trophies. Luka scores effortlessly, rebounds like a Center, and seems to be omniscient with the ball in his hands. This would be a historically fast rise to the pinnacle of the sport, LeBron James didn’t win his first MVP until his age 24, his 6th season in the NBA.

Taylor Hannah: Lebron James, Los Angeles Lakers

More than likely this will be the last season he is in the running for it, (although I feel like we all have been saying that for a few years now there really is a point when it has to be true, right?) and although I’m not sure he will have the best overall season, his team will be close, if not at, the top of the standings when the season closes and he will still be their best, most important player. The only thing that can get in the way is if he sits too much, but something tells me he will play enough time to qualify for it.

Isiah Nunez: Kevin Durant, Brooklyn Nets

Coming off winning the MVP award for the second season in a row for the Milwaukee Bucks, it will be hard to see Giannis Antetokounmpo winning it a third time. Mostly everyone is projecting this year’s MVP award will go to Luka Doncic given his talent. Kevin Durant of the Brooklyn Nets is also getting some serious consideration, if he can stay healthy. I do see the MVP race coming down to Durant, Doncic and LeBron James (who is still the best player in the NBA at age 36). My prediction for this year’s NBA MVP award will go to Kevin Durant. If Durant can make these Brooklyn Nets a serious title contender, given everything that he had to deal with while he was at Golden State then there’s no question that he takes the award all he has to do is stay healthy and be the Kevin Durant we all know.

Scoring Leader

Reigning Scoring Leader: James Harden, Houston Rockets

2020-2021 NBA Scoring Leader odds from FanDuel Sportsbook

PlayerTeamOdds
James HardenHouston Rockets+125
Luka DoncicDallas Mavericks 650
Damian LillardPortland Tral Blazers 650
Stephen CurryGolden State Warriors 800
Russell WestbrookWashington Wizards 900
G. AntetokounmpoMilwaukee Bucks1100
Devin BookerAtlanta Hawks1100

LT: James Harden, Houston Rockets

3x scoring champ, how can you bet against him? Only way I see him not being the reigning defending undisputed scoring champ (Paul Heyman reference), is if he gets traded this season. No matter how many strip clubs he visits, he has the chance to score 40 on any giving night.

Josh Hubman: Damian Lillard, Portlan Trail Blazers

James Harden is the obvious choice here but I have to think something is going to happen regarding him requesting a trade from the Houston Rockets. If he goes to a contending team with other stars which he wants, he will not be taking as many shots or scoring as high as his 34 ppg last season. Damian Lillard just keeps getting better and better each year. Maybe this year he wont even wait to cross half court to pull up his signature loooong range three. He is relentless and scores in bunches, I think he slightly increases his 30 ppg from last season and takes home the scoring title. He better enjoy it for now, Luka Doncic is coming.

Taylor Hannah: James Harden, Houston Rockets

I hate that it’s true, but I just don’t see anyone competing with him for the scoring title this year. With the loss of Russ, scoring will fall even more on Harden’s shoulders, and while a mid-season trade could shake up his season enough to knock him out of contention he will always be a scoring machine. If he isn’t moved then I don’t see a scenario where someone else walks away with the scoring title this year.

Isiah Nunez: James Harden, Houston Rockets

This is a category that has James Harden written all over it given that he has taken this title for the past three seasons, how can you even think of giving someone else this award. I know that Harden is facing a lot criticism in Houston about him wanting out but listen, Harden can be in another planet and he will still take this award regardless of wherever team he is on. My prediction for this award is none other than James Harden it’s as simple as that

Defensive Player of the Year

Reigning Defensive Player of the Year: Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks

2020-2021 Defensive Player of the Year odds from FanDuel Sportsbook

PlayerTeamOdds
Anthony DavisLos Angeles Lakers+240
Rudy GobertUtah Jazz 350
G. AntetokounmpoMilwaukee Bucks 480
Ben SimmonsPhiladelphia 76ers 700
Bam AdebayoMiami Heat 950

LT: Bam Adebayo, Miami Heat

I was very torn between Bam Adebayo and Anthony Davis, but I think the latter gets runner up yet another season. I didn’t really pay attention to the Miami Heat until the playoffs and I was enamored by Bam’s ability to defend any position and his leaping ability to give the back half of the defense a rim protector when the opportunity presents itself. We all remember the famous block against Jayson Tatum but there were many more plays that you just teach a defender in practice. I think he carries that over into this season helping the Heat continue the success.

Josh Hubman: Anthony Davis, Los Angeles Lakers

AD’s combination of shot blocking and creating turnovers is really unmatched in the NBA. Last season he swatted 2.3 shots per game (3rd in the NBA) and swiped 1.5 steals per game (14th in the NBA) which earned him runner-up DPOY honors to Giannis. AD has been All-Defense 4 times and let the NBA in blocks in a season 3 times but has yet to take home the Defensive Player of the Year Award. This is the year.

Taylor Hannah: Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks

The former MVP should have a similar season this year to the one he had last year and while he won’t win the MVP this year, I don’t think anyone will supplant him for his current status as the best defensive player in the league. 

Isiah Nunez: Anthony Davis, Los Angeles Lakers

This award went to Giannis Antetokounmpo last season and although he will remain in contention for the award again this season, I don’t have him winning it. I think it’s a two player race between Giannis and Anthony Davis. It’s time we give this award to Anthony Davis given that he got his ring and is only beginning to enter his prime and is only going to get better from here. This award is simply there for Anthony Davis to take and it just comes down to how bad he wants it. I do think he gets it in the end and it will add another piece of hardware to Davis’ legacy.

6th Man of the Year

Reigning 6th Man of the Year: Montrezl Harrell, LA Clippers (now with LA Lakers)

2020-2021 6th Man of the Year odds from FanDuel Sportsbook

PlayerTeamOdds
Jordan ClarksonUtah Jazz+440
Caris LeVertBrooklyn Nets 850
Goran DragicMiami Heat 850
Terrence RossOrlando Magic1000
Danilo GallinariAtlanta Hawks1200
Lou WilliamsLA Clippers1200
MontrezlHarrellLA Lakers1200

LT: Caris LeVert, Brooklyn Nets

I was going to choose another Brooklyn Net for this award (Spencer Dinwiddie) until I found out he was named the starter. Steve Nash is already making moves as the new Nets head coach by transitioning Caris LeVert into a super sub like Manu Ginobli, Lou Williams, Jamal Crawford, Jason Terry, etc. what that means is having a top 3 scorer on your team come off the bench and have majority of the minutes with the second unit being the featured offensive player. I think that will be a good fit for him because he is used to being a primary scorer the past few seasons and you want Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving to run the show with role players surrounding them who specializes in skills like shooting (Joe Harris), rebounding (DeAndre Jordan), and off the ball scorer (Spencer Dinwiddie).

Josh Hubman: Bogdan Bogdanovic, Atlanta Hawks

In a weird twist of fate, after being unhappy with his role in Sacramento and signing a 4yr/$72M deal with the Hawks in the offseason, it looks Bogdan will be coming off the bench this season. Things can change over the course of a long season but if he qualifies I think Bogdan has a good all-around game that can contend for the 6th man trophy. He scores, rebounds, and makes plays for teammates for what I think will be a pretty good Atlanta Hawks team.

Taylor Hannah: Jordan Clarkson, Utah Jazz

Clarkson knows how to score and Utah should be fighting for a prime playoff spot in the West. They’ll look to him to be a spark off the bench both because they know he can do it, but also because they will need it. Without any other options for bench points, they will lean on him, and if he’s able to come through on the opportunity, and Utah can have a successful season, the award will be Clarkson’s for the taking.

Isiah Nunez: Montrezl Harrell, Los Angeles Lakers

This award goes out to the best player coming off the bench as a substitute and last season it went to Montrezl Harrell when he was a Los Angeles Clipper. Harrell has good odds of repeating as the winner this season given that LeBron James will count on him to lead the second unit and will be a key factor into whether or not the Lakers repeat as NBA champions. My prediction doesn’t change the narrative as I have him repeating this award again this season, this time as a Los Angeles Laker.

Rookie Of the Year

Reigning Rookie of the Year: Ja Morant, Memphis Grizzlies

2020-2021 Rookie of the Year odds from FanDuel Sportsbook

PlayerTeamOdds
James WisemanGolden State Warriors+250
Anthony EdwardsMinnesota Timberwolves 500
LaMelo BallCharlotte Hornets 550
Tyrese HaliburtonSacramento Kings 700
Obi ToppinNew York Knicks 750

LT: Anthony Edwards, Minnesota Timberwolves

A few weeks ago I would have chose the sleeper pick, Isaac Okoro, but has been injured and I can’t help but be infatuated with Edwards’ game offensively and defensively. He has a level of maturity when he plays, some things you pick through years of experience. What I’m talking about is his timing, picking your spots, lateral quickness on defense, know when to attack or pass. I like his projection, even for a player chosen 1st overall.

Josh Hubman: James Wiseman, Golden State Warriors

James Wiseman may not be the best player in this draft class in a few years but I do think he will have the most productive rookie season. He is incredible long and athletic with great finishing ability which I think will add up to a whole mess of rebounds and easy baskets delivered from Steph Curry and an active Golden State Warriors offense.

Taylor Hannah: LaMelo Ball, Charlotte Hornets

He has all the tools to be a spark from the get-go and has been apart of the NBA family for years already. He’s not going to be dealing with getting acclimated as much as the other rookies as he already has relationships around the league and has a family that has introduced him to the NBA lifestyle years ago. If his stellar awareness translates to the NBA game, and he can capitalize on his above-average athleticism and quickness while continuing to improve his overall game as the season goes he will outpace the other rookies for the rookie of the year award.

Isiah Nunez: Anthony Edwards, Minnesota Timberwolves

This year I think the first overall pick in the NBA lives up to the hype. Surprisingly, we haven’t had a 1st overall pick to win this award since Ben Simmons won it in the 2017-2018 season and that wasn’t even his draft class. My pick to win this award goes to Anthony Edwards from the Minnesota Timberwolves. Edwards is an explosive player that can light up the scoreboard with his strength and shooting ability. He has the tools to be a lockdown defender in the NBA. He will also play a vital part of the Minnesota Timberwolves this season and will play a huge part in their future.

Most Improved Player

Reigning Most Improved Player: Brandon Ingram, New Orleans Pelicans

2020-2021 Most Improved Player odds from FanDuel Sportsbook

PlayerTeamOdds
Christian WoodHouston Rockets+260
Michael Porter, Jr.Denver Nuggets1100
Markelle FultzOrlando Magic1600
S. Gilgeous-AlexanderOKC Thunder1600
Ja MorantMemphis Grizzlies1800
Zion WilliamsonNew Orleans Pelicans1800

LT: Markelle Fultz, Orlando Magic

I think this is the break out season for Markelle Fultz. We saw flashes of spectacular plays from the former 2017 #1 pick last season with the Orlando Magic, but the staff were very cautious in implementing Fultz into the organization given his injury history with 76ers. I think this season he will begin to reach his initial upside on the basketball court. Coming off a freshly signed 3 year, $50M contract extension, it shows an investment in him and he can just focus on playing his game now.

Josh Hubman: Christian Wood, Houston Rockets

Wood broke out last season with the Pistons in a big way. He only averaged about 13 points and 6 rebounds on the season but if you look at just his stats after the All-Star break you can see why the Houston Rockets wanted him. In his 9 games after the All-Star break when he was given as many minutes as he could handle he produced 24 points and 9.6 rebounds while adding a block and a steal per game. In Houston, Wood will again get all the minutes he can handle given that I think they have like 8 players and 2 of them are big men.

Taylor Hannah: Michael Porter, Jr., Denver Nuggets

The favorite pick, if he can stay healthy and replicate or expand on what everyone saw in the bubble it’s an easy pick. The two stipulations can be a whole lot tougher for someone with Porter Jr.’s history, however.

Isiah Nunez: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Oklahoma City Thunder

I think this award will wind up in the hands of Shai Gilgeous-Alexander of the Oklahoma City Thunder. When you have Chris Paul, Danilo Gallinari, Dennis Schröder and Steven Adams all gone this season leaving you as the primary scorer for the team, how can you not win this award. This will give Gilgeous-Alexander a prime reason to make the leap and produce some pretty impressive numbers for the Thunder this season.

Coach of the Year

Reigning Coach of the Year: Nick Nurse, Toronto Raptors

2020-2021 Coach of the Year odds from vegasinsider.com

CoachTeamOdds
Steve NashBrooklyn Nets+900
Erik SpoelstraMiami Heat1200
Brad StevensBoston Celtics1200
Frank VogelLos Angeles Lakers1200
Rick CarlisleDallas Mavericks1400
Tyronn LueLos Angeles Clippers1400
Monty WilliamsPhoenix Suns1400

LT: Lloyd Pierce, Atlanta Hawks

The Hawks are my favorite non-Mavs team. If their fans can just stop bringing Luka Dončić up, I will show more affection to their ball club. The offseason additions of Bogdan Bogdanovic, Danilo Gallinari, Rajon Rondo, Onyeka Okongwu, and Kris Dunn were remarkable for what they are trying to accomplish (Playoffs). Trae Young will have a MVP like season with the talent he has around him now. He has changed his game a bit as well, getting his teammates involved at the beginning of games instead of scoring right away. Letting the game come to him will be a boost in maturity and provide success from his teammates during the longevity of the season as they push for Playoffs. I look for players like Cam Reddish, Deandre Hunter, Kevin Huerter to show growth in their games. It’s good to see Clint Capela back, which will provide defense, lob threat, and rebounding for the team. I mentioned all of these talented players and haven’t even brought up Mr. 20 and 10 John Collins. This team is loaded and will surprise the NBA, especially the Eastern conference.

Josh Hubman: Rick Carlisle, Dallas Mavericks

Call me a homer all you want but I think the Mavs are going to be really good. Luka is All-World, I expect Porzingis to be back and as good as ever, and the Mavs have a tough and talented supporting cast. Combined with Carlisle’s innovation and lineup wizardry I expect the Mavs to contend for the top of the Western Conference, a big leap from last year, putting Coach Carlisle in the driver’s seat for Coach of the Year which would be his 2nd time winning the award (2002 Pistons).

Taylor Hannah: Rick Carlisle, Dallas Mavericks

Rick is almost always my homer pick, but if the Mavs can have as good of a year as people are predicting and if Luka can have an MVP season as some are predicting, then it will be hard to believe Carlisle won’t at least be in the discussion for COY. If they can actually do better than people are predicting, then it will be even harder to believe if Carlisle doesn’t walk away with the award outright.

Isiah Nunez: Monty Williams, Phoenix Suns

I think this award will go out to Coach Monty Williams of the Phoenix Suns. Williams led the Suns to an 8-0 run in the bubble last season that nobody saw coming. With the addition of Chris Paul and Jae Crowder to go along with Devin Booker, these Suns have a good shot to be really good this season which is why I’m going with Williams as my pick for Coach of the Year award.

Mavs Record and Playoff Seeding

2020-2021 Western Conference Over/Under Win Totals from vegasinsider.com

TeamWins
Los Angeles Lakers46.5
Los Angeles Clippers45.5
DenverNuggets44.5
Dallas Mavericks42.5
Utah Jazz42.5
Portland Trail Blazers41.5
Phoenix Suns38.5
Golden State Warriors36.5
New Orleans Pelicans36.5

LT: 44-28, 4th in the West

This is under the assumption Kristaps Porziņģis stays healthy when he comes back. No matter how good Luka Dončić is, you need two stars in this league to win a championship. Kristaps Porziņģis is that guy, just has to stay healthy.  I really like the addition of Josh Richardson too. I think he will take pressure off Tim Hardaway Jr and provide the Mavericks a true 3rd option. His defensive ability to defend point guards every game is the unspoken gem for this team as Luka Dončić, Dorian Finney-Smith and Tim Hardaway Jr took turns last season having that assignment.

Josh Hubman: 48-24 2nd in the West

I think the Mavs are ready to contend in the West with this roster. Last season they were a historically efficient offense and this season they have added toughness and defense to complement that same core. I expect to see several long winning streaks once this teams gets some some time to mesh.

Taylor Hannah: 47-25, 4th in the West

The Mavs have gotten off to a rocky start, but that was a bit to be expected. The roller-coaster ride we have seen so far has been more discouraging than the record itself, though. And after all, a loss is still a loss when it comes to the record, no matter how much indescribable pain it caused you while watching it. I still feel confident that the Mavs will figure out some of their current woes and end the season with an improved overall team and in the running for some home playoff advantage in the playoffs. Their actual seeding obviously comes down to how some of the other teams in the West end up doing, but if the Mavs don’t end up with home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs this season I think many would agree that would be considered a failed regular season.

Isiah Nunez: 42-30 5th in the West

I have these Mavericks winning a possible 42 games this season to finish with a overall record of 42-30. With Kristaps Porzingis not being ready to start the season due to knee surgery, I do think that will ultimately cost the Mavericks a couple of wins. I have these Mavericks finishing 5th in the tough western conference. This will come down to Kristaps Porzingis staying healthy throughout the season and being able to beat teams with poor records on a consistent basis. I do think these Mavericks can win a series in the playoffs season for a Semifinals berth but it will all come down to the health of Kristaps Porzingis.

Finish this sentence. In order for this season to be a success for the Mavs…

LT: Kristaps Porziņģis needs to play 85% of regular season games and 100% of the games in the Playoffs.

I think the success of this season comes down to the health of Kristaps Porzingis, plain and simple. As constructed, this roster is not set up to compete for a Championship if KP is not on the floor. But him him and Luka running the show I think we have a chance to compete with anybody.

Josh Hubman: They have to win a Playoff series.

No matter what their regular season record is and no matter what seeding they get, I expect the Mavs to take another step forward and win a Playoff series. Being in the final 4 of the West is no small feat but I believe this group is capable. I don’t think it is necessary to expect them to make the West Finals or beyond since their two stars are so young and have little NBA Playoff experience, winning a series would be enough for me. With that said, I put No Ceilings on Luka Doncic. He continues to exceed expectations at every turn and I will no longer be surprised by anything he accomplishes.

Taylor Hannah: They need to greatly improve their defense and rebounding from last year.

They have the scoring power and depth of talent to keep up offensively, even after the loss of Curry. If the additions from the off-season can add some defensive toughness and consistent rebounding on both ends of the floor then the Mavs should have a huge increase of overall efficiency that will move them forward from last season to this one and put them in contention for the Western Conference crown.

Isiah Nunez: They have to be better in the clutch.

In order for the Mavericks to have a successful season the Mavericks will need to be able to finish and close out games something they dramatically struggled last season. Also, keep Kristaps Porzingis healthy for a postseason run as we all saw what the team looked like without Porzingis in the playoffs, having him healthy will be the deciding factor into how much of a run these Mavericks can make.

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