With the NBA set to announce its plan to return to play on Thursday, it’s time to revisit the races for the league’s major awards. The MVP race appeared to be defending champion Giannis Antetokounmpo’s for the taking until LeBron James started to pour it on just before the coronavirus pandemic suspended the season. That’s not the only race that could be interesting.
He won it last year and his numbers are even better in 2019-20. Antetokounmpo is third in the league in scoring averaging 29.6 points per game. He’s also among the leaders in rebounds (13.7 per game) and dishes out 5.8 assists per game. The Bucks star is the only player that qualifies who has a Player Efficiency Rating over 30 (31.71).
If there is a challenger, it is James whose Los Angeles Lakers have the best record in the West. At 35, James is still MVP material. He is leading the league in assists (10.6) and averages 25.7 points and 7.9 rebounds per game. The problem for James is the number of games he’ll have left in which to catch Antetokounmpo.
It appears that 22 teams will be chosen to continue the season. That will include regular season and play-in games to decide who competes in the playoffs. What is not clear is how many games teams will play. The Lakers would need to gain some ground on the Bucks with James continuing his MVP-like play just before the COVID-19 break.
Rookie of the Year
When Zion Williamson went down with a knee injury in the preseason, it opened the door for Memphis point guard Ja Morant to win the Rookie of the Year award. Morant is an electrifying player who leads the Grizzlies in scoring averaging 17.6 points per game and assists with 6.9 a game.
It helps that the Grizzlies are currently eighth in the Western Conference playoff race. Morant’s season will continue when the league returns to play. The question in the ROTY race is if Williamson can catch Morant.
Williamson has only played 19 games this season. He didn’t return until Jan. 22 and has been nothing but exciting to watch since. Williamson is averaging 23.6 points and 6.8 rebounds per game. He is one of the big reasons why New Orleans is just 3.5 games behind Memphis in the West.
It is likely the Pelicans along with Portland, Sacramento, and San Antonio will be among the 22 teams picked to continue the 2019-20 season. How Memphis and New Orleans finish could go a long way in determining who wins the Rookie of the Year award.