The season that almost wasn’t more than made up for the pandemic disruption. The playoff ‘play-in’ games, to the multiple game 7s, we’ve been gifted an off-season, overtime treat.
In the Los Angeles Lakers, lead by LeBron James, defeated the Miami Heat in 6 games to win the franchise’s 17th banner, while James lifted his 4th Finals and Finals MVP trophies. This means LeBron has played and won in three of the four major US regions; the midwest (Cleveland), the south (Miami) and the west coast (LA). After his current 4 year term is over in LA, he can head to New York, snag a couple of All-Star Olympians and complete his title tour.
In this Award tour we aim to recognize the several categories and individuals in the league that deserve the accolades. From first year heroes, and perennial TAPS performers (see Elite 16 articles), to coaches and front office leadership. This is about recognizing the standouts of the year. Here is The Beat Sports Report 2020 NBA Award Tour.
Coach of the Year
The first award is Coach of the Year. It is given to the general that leads a team to a winning percentage, without a spectacular squad, or superstar to lean on. Among the top coaches with these traits in mind lead the Oklahoma City and the Indiana Pacers. It is easy to focus on what Billy Donovan and OKC did during the regular season with a 44-28 record. Thy almost got past the Houston Rockets. even after Russell Westbrook returned in the second round. A season after losing a solid offense/defense small forward, Paul George and guard Russell Westbrook, the team was able to rally around the veteran Chris Paul.
There was another to the east, that was equally as impressive. The Indiana Pacers with All-Star Domantas Sabonis went 45-28 with several newly acquired role players, who flourished under the wings of coach Nate McMillan. Victor Oladipo, who only played 16 games fell short of his second attempt at a breakout season after playing in 36 games during the 2018-19 year. Without him, and other injuries, they lacked the star power and leadership necessary to compete and were exposed. But don’t blame it on the coach. The Pacers ranked 7th in defense for the regular season but couldn’t get enough offense to beat proven teams. The year was a success,, even if his playoff resume is not. Though the former Seattle Supersonic was released from Indiana, the 2020 Coach of the Year is Nate McMillan.
Rookie of the Year
This one was pretty easy with Zion Williamson only playing 24 games in a fractured season. Ja Morant lead his squad to a 9th place finish, just behind Portland. Ja showed in key games that he has the leadership, skills, and fire to take his team higher. He will need time and help but with a line of 17.9 points, 3.9 rebounds and 7.3 Assists per game, he has shown in year one, that he plans to be a contender or years to come. The 2020 Rookie of the Year is Ja Morant.
Total Average Point Score (TAPS) Player of the Year
The TAPS Player of the Year was close as Giannis Antetokounmpo and James Harden were shoulder to shoulder, like box-out close. Before league play was suspended Giannis lead with a TAPS score of 51.1, while James Harden had a 50.8 score. At the end, the scores were flipped with James Harden the winner, and the TAPS Player of the Year. However, if you wanted to give it to Giannis due to the irregularity of the season, it would be hard to disagree. But, officially, the TAPS Player of the Year, with a score of 51.1, is James Harden.
Executive of the Year
Pat Riley anyone? The Basketball Boss has done it again. He has been a part of a NBA finals as player or coach for 6 decades, going back to the 1971-72 season with the Los Angeles Lakers. As the Miami Heat prepare for a storyline showdown with the LA, Pat Riley is garnering praise for his one season rebuild that has Jimmy Butler and company ready to for a 2004 Piston-like upset. He brought in Butler, while drafting Bam Adebayo and Tyler Herro. Andre Iguadala is a veteran with championship experience. A small 7-man rotation, grit, coach Erik Spoelstra, and Udonis Haslem as the patriarch has the Heat, close to home and ready to take the title. It was put together by Mr. Riley.
Most Valuable Player
The MVP is between Giannis and Luka Doncic.
Not LeBron James.
Not James Harden.
Not Anthony Davis.
Not Kawhi Leonard
The liberty will be taken to define the MVP as the leader of a playoff team, among the league’s best players. This includes top 10 regular season TAPS score of 40 or more. That player must also be a leader in the spirit of competitiveness. This would eliminate the franchise tandems of Lebron/Davis, Russell/Harden, Leonard/George. That leaves Luka Doncic and Giannis.
Among the two, Giannis has had a steady climb to the top, and has had back to back all-time great seasons. Luka has made everyone better without taking any statistical productivity from other players. He has all the tools; skills, clutch shooting, passing, rebounding – and hunger. Which hopefully can translate into a more of an attitude on defense. So, not only is Luka the this year’s MVP, but he is also the next dominant winner in the NBA.
These are the winners. The stellar, decorated players that shaped an unpredictable year of basketball.