The NBA regular season has not come to an official end just yet, with eight ‘seeding games’ set to begin for 22 teams in Orlando on Thursday. However, with eight teams sitting at home for the NBA restart, the NBA made a curious decision official this week: Awards for this season would be based on play only through March 11th and not on any play set to resume.
Given that these eight seeding games will have a direct impact on regular season standings, this decision seems somewhat ill-advised. Most of the players in contention for any of the regular season honors play for the 22 best teams in the league anyway. However, that disadvantage, combined with a number of players opting out of play due to injury, illness or personal reasons in Orlando was enough for the NBA to decide to level the playing field for everyone.
“The decision to exclude seeding games from awards voting ensures a fair process in which players and coaches from all 30 NBA teams will have the same opportunity to be honored as top performers for the 2019-20 regular season,” said NBA President, League Operations Byron Spruell.
So what players will bring home hardware based on the shortened regular season? And what Celtics have a legitimate shot of being in the mix? Here’s one man’s ballot for the 2019-20 season.
1. Giannis Antetokounmpo
2. LeBron James
3. James Harden
4. Kawhi Leonard
5. Luka Doncic
Analysis: The best player in the NBA regularly comes from the NBA’s best team when it comes to MVP — and it lines up quite nicely this season. While it remains to be seen whether Giannis can make the leap during the postseason, there is no questioning his regular-season domination of the NBA. The 25-year-old averaged 29.6 points per game despite playing a mere 30 minutes per game. He was top-4 in the league in both scoring and rebounds despite those limited minutes. He got to the free throw line more than any player in the league except for James Harden and also became a far better passer (5.8 assists per game) while leading the Bucks to an NBA-best 53-12 record.
LeBron James led an impressive turnaround out West but he also had the help of one of the best players in the league in Anthony Davis. Antetokounmpo has a strong supporting cast but Khris Middleton makes nowhere close to the same impact as Davis, so this is an easy choice to keep James at No. 2.
Harden and Leonard slot in easily at 3 and 4, making the only real surprise on this list Doncic. He only played 54 games, but he was in the midst of leading what some thought was a borderline playoff team heading into the season to a 40-27 record. His leap in his second NBA season into a top-5 offensive weapon in the league despite a pedestrian supporting cast earned him the top-5 consideration here.
Celtics under consideration?
Nowhere near the top. Jayson Tatum would be the first name to come up here and probably would have landed in the 10-15 range on my ballot for MVP.
Rookie of the Year
1. Ja Morant
2. Brandon Clarke
3. Kendrick Nunn
Analysis: Zion Williamson played 19 impressive games, but that’s still not enough to earn him consideration here in an impressive crop of names. Morant was a runaway here, emerging as an above-average point guard at age 20 likely destined for a long career with plenty of All-Star appearances after averaging 18 points and 7 assists per game in year one. Not only is he a dynamic shot creator, but he’s efficient as well (49 percent from field), which is a huge deal based on his 6-foot-3 frame.
The Grizzlies also hit a home run in the 2020 NBA Draft in nabbing Clarke at No. 21 overall. He averaged 12 points off the bench in just 21 minutes per game, giving the Grizzlies great energy on the glass and efficient scoring thanks to his 62 percent shooting. The C’s had multiple chances at him at No. 14 and No. 20 and passing over the 23-year-old not only hurt C’s bench this year but also their draft prospects — as the Grizzlies used Clarke to turn into a surprising playoff team.
The undrafted Nunn was another diamond in the rough plucked by the Heat for the second straight year (along with Duncan Robinson). He won a starting job in camp and averaged 15.6 ppg on a playoff team, but didn’t quite do it as efficiently as Clarke.
Celtics under consideration
Despite having more rookies than anyone in the league, no C’s will get any serious consideration for even one of the All-Rookie teams. Grant Williams would be the best of the bunch but that isn’t saying much with his 3.5 ppg.
Coach of the Year
1. Billy Donovan
2. Nick Nurse
3. Brad Stevens
Analysis: The Thunder were quickly deconstructed this past offseason, with their two franchise cornerstones sent