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    Early-Season NBA Award Predictions

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    Giannis Antetokounmpo after winning the 2019 NBA Most Valuable Player award.

    After a month of the NBA season, it is time to talk award predictions. Numerous standouts have emerged for each award, with many questions being raised: Will Giannis Antetokounmpo win MVP once more, or will James Harden reclaim the MVP title, or will someone else rise and win? Which breakout star is most deserving of Most Improved Player? Will the Rookie of the Year be a top pick, or will they be an unknown gem?

    COACH OF THE YEAR

    Rick Carlisle, Dallas Mavericks. Dallas was counted out of contention early in the season by many, claiming this was a year that would strengthen their young superstars, such as Luka Doncic and newly acquired Kristaps Porzingis. Dallas has done the opposite. Through their first fourteen games, the Mavericks are in fifth place with a 9-5 record and are just three games out of first place in the loaded Western Conference. Luka Doncic is currently among the few considered in MVP talks, nearly averaging a triple-double with a 29.9 PPG/10.6 RPG/9/4 APG stat-line. Dallas’s balanced offensive attack and depth are the main reasons for their success. After a rough 33-49 record last year, Carlisle looks to lead the Mavericks to a potentially deep postseason run.

    MOST IMPROVED PLAYER

    Brandon Ingram, New Orleans Pelicans. Brandon Ingram was the second overall pick in the 2016 NBA Draft, and for three years Ingram proved the doubters correct. He was full of potential but could not use it on the Los Angeles Lakers. This past offseason, he was part of the package the Pelicans received in exchange for Anthony Davis. This season Ingram has played at an all-star level, increasing his PPG to 25.6 and shooting 45% from beyond the arc. Ingram has had numerous clutch performances, most notably in a loss versus the Nets on November 4th, scoring 40 points. Ingram entered Thursday night’s 124-121 win over the Phoenix Suns ranked 10th in the NBA in scoring and his PER (Player Efficiency Rating) of 23.87 ranked 13th. His previous career-best PER was 13.90 during the 2017-18 season. Although his team has not risen to the large expectations their young team had, Ingram has been a bright spot on the roster and will be for the rest of the year.

    SIXTH MAN OF THE YEAR

    Spencer Dinwiddie, Brooklyn Nets. Spencer Dinwiddie has truly emerged as a solid player after a shaky beginning to his NBA career. After being plagued with torn thumb ligaments last season, Dinwiddie has been able to remain healthy. Now the backup for Kyrie Irving, Dinwiddie has improved his stats in many categories, most notably to 18.6 PPG, 2.5 RPG, and 5.1 APG. Dinwiddie’s play over the last three games has been stellar, most notably his 24 point game in a win versus the Bulls this past Saturday. While the duo of Lou Williams and Montrezl Harrell seem formidable in the fight for this award, Dinwiddie will consistently play at a borderline all-star level.

    ROOKIE OF THE YEAR

    Ja Morant, Memphis Grizzlies. Ja Morant was selected second in the 2019 NBA Draft, behind the next LeBron James of the NBA in Zion Williamson. Zion was deemed the frontrunner for this award until he was sidelined with a knee injury. Morant’s rookie campaign could not have gone better, already establishing himself as a dangerous offensive threat with 18.5 PPG, 6.0 APG, and above 40% shooting and shooting beyond the ark; while also being able to maintain solid defensive stats, averaging 0.8 SPG and 3.2 RPG. Morant’s work ethic has allowed him to become a leader on a young, developing Grizzlies team. Do not be surprised if Morant’s name is called in June at the NBA Awards.

    DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR

    Anthony Davis, Los Angeles Lakers. While the Lakers lost out on a potential all-star in Brandon Ingram, young Lonzo Ball, and shooter Josh Hart, they did receive this year’s Defensive Player of the Year. Davis has been an unstoppable force on the glass, grabbing 9 RPG, and an elite rim protector with 3.1 BPG, ranked first in the NBA, and 1.4 SPG. Davis is currently proving why Lakers sold so much to pair Davis with James. Because of Anthony Davis’ defensive play, they are the first seed in the Western Conference. Get ready to see Davis and James dominate the league for the rest of the year.

    MOST VALUABLE PLAYER

    James Harden, Houston Rockets. After winning the honors of MVP in 2017, Harden accumulated one of the best shooting seasons of all-time, garnering 36.1 PPG even with 7.5 APG. But, he lost to Giannis Antetokounmpo, due to his dominant defensive play and consistent scoring and clutch play. This offseason, Harden reunited with former Thunder teammate Russell Westbrook, a triple-double machine. Harden’s scoring was destined to go down, but Harden has surprised all with a whopping 38.4 PPG, with his consistent 7.5 APG. Harden’s efficiency is at an all-time high with his 30.81 PER, currently the third-best in the league. Harden has led his team to an 11-4 start, just 1.5 games out of first place. Although Harden’s numbers are likely to decrease, Harden may continue to surprise and stay consistent, and potentially even reach 40 PPG.

    ***

    Jack Zeidel is a writer for Field2Court.

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