Halftime Sports

Halftime Experts’ NBA Award Predictions

October 22, 2019

President Barack Obama delivers remarks welcoming the 2014 NBA Champion San Antonio Spurs to honor the team during an event in the East Room of the White House, Jan. 12, 2015. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)

The NBA season is upon us. After months of speculating about how this offseason’s free agents will play with their new teams, what trades will have the biggest impact, and which rookies will impress us, the wait is finally over. Will Kawhi Leonard and Paul George lead the long-suffering Clippers to glory? Can Russell Westbrook and James Harden make it work in Houston? How good can the Lakers be with LeBron James now paired with Anthony Davis? And who will emerge as the new powerhouse in the Eastern Conference?

We don’t have the answers to those questions quite yet. Instead we’ve assembled a panel of experts to make their predictions of who will pick up the hardware at the end of the season. 

Halftime NBA Experts:

Nathan Chen – Halftime Sports Editor

Aaron Wolf – Sports Executive

Diego Ventero – Staff Writer

Eli Lefcowitz – Social Media Editor

Josh Klein – Assistant Design Editor

John Picker – Photo Editor

Jake Gilstrap – Assistant Sports Editor

Roman Peregrino – Assistant News Editor

Noah Telerski – Managing Editor

Without further ado, here are our experts’ picks for the 2019-2020 NBA Awards:

Rookie of the Year

Two of the top three candidates for Rookie of the Year are in this photo. Duke lost, somehow.

Nathan:  Zion Williamson, New Orleans Pelicans

Aaron: Ja Morant, Memphis Grizzlies

Diego: Ja Morant, Memphis Grizzlies

Eli: Zion Williamson, New Orleans Pelicans

Josh: R.J. Barrett, New York Knicks

John: R.J. Barrett, New York Knicks

Jake: Zion Williamson, New Orleans Pelicans

Roman: Ja Morant, Memphis Grizzlies

Noah: Zion Williamson, New Orleans Pelicans

Zion Williamson has gotten the most hype of any rookie this season, and possibly more than any other first-year player since LeBron James in 2003. But that doesn’t mean he has an easy road to being named Rookie of the Year. It remains to be seen how a 6-foot-6, 280-pound forward’s game will translate to the NBA level. Additionally, Williamson will have to compete for touches in an improved New Orleans Pelicans squad led by Jrue Holiday. And there are plenty of other talented rookies. Ja Morant, the second overall pick, led the nation in assists last year in college, while averaging 24.5 points per game, and will be handed the keys to the Memphis Grizzlies offense. Tyler Herro, the 14th pick, has lit up Summer League and preseason, showing off a silky smooth offensive game, and could put up big numbers for the Miami Heat. R.J. Barrett, Darius Garland, and Coby White are also in great spots to produce right away, so don’t go crowning Zion just yet.

Sixth Man of the Year

Nathan: Lou Williams, Los Angeles Clippers

Aaron: Lou Williams, Los Angeles Clippers

Diego: Derrick Rose, Detroit Pistons

Eli: Lou Williams, Los Angeles Clippers

Josh: Lou Williams, Los Angeles Clippers

John: Lou Williams, Los Angeles Clippers

Jake: Lou Williams, Los Angeles Clippers

Roman: Montrezl Harrell, Los Angeles Clippers

Noah: Serge Ibaka, Toronto Raptors

It may be time to rename this award after Lou Williams. Just a couple years ago, Jamal Crawford might have made a similar claim, having been the only player to win Sixth Man of the Year three times. But after finding the perfect role in the Los Angeles Clippers offense, Williams has experienced a late-career resurgence and now won the award back-to-back years, now three times total. Williams has been so dominant off the bench that he set the record for most career points as a substitute last season. Kawhi Leonard and Paul George will relieve Williams of some scoring pressure, but both additions can play well off the ball, while Williams runs the show. While it’s seemingly his award to lose, if he hits a snag, players who have been effective off the bench in recent years, such as Spencer Dinwiddie, Derrick Rose, and Domantas Sabonis will have their opportunity.

Most Improved Player

Nathan: John Collins, Atlanta Hawks

Aaron: Caris LeVert, Brooklyn Nets

Diego: Lonzo Ball, New Orleans Pelicans

Eli: Lauri Markkanen, Chicago Bulls

Josh: Jayson Tatum, Boston Celtics

John: Seth Curry, Dallas Mavericks

Jake: Ben Simmons, Philadelphia 76ers

Roman: Markelle Fultz, Orlando Magic

Noah: Gordon Hayward, Boston Celtics

Last season, Pascal Siakam took home this award after improving his scoring average from 7.3 to 16.9 points per game, while helping lead the Toronto Raptors to their first ever NBA title. Most Improved Player can often be the most difficult award to predict because outside of preseason action, we can’t know who has made the most enhancements to their game over the offseason. That said, several players are in optimal situations to see major improvements in their statistics. Jayson Tatum is player who could see a jump in scoring this season. After many expected him to break out last year, his numbers were underwhelming in an overall disappointing Boston Celtics offense, but this season, he will have a chance to bounce back, especially if he and Kemba Walker can share the ball effectively. Early last season, there was talk of a possible All Star selection for Caris LeVert, before a leg injury robbed him of most of his season. He returned in time for the Brooklyn Nets’ first round playoff series when he led all scorers with 21 points per game. If he can make it work with Kyrie Irving, he has a great chance to increase his scoring average exponentially. Ben Simmons and Lonzo Ball are two other names that have been floated around for this award. Both point guards have tremendous talent on both sides of the ball, but their overall improvements will depend squarely on how well they shoot the rock this year.  

Coach of the Year

How did we all forget this guy?

Nathan: Michael Malone, Denver Nuggets

Aaron: Nate McMillan, Indiana Pacers

Diego: Doc Rivers, Los Angeles Clippers

Eli: Terry Stotts, Portland Trail Blazers

Josh: Mike Budenholzer, Milwaukee Bucks

John: Steve Kerr, Golden State Warriors

Jake: Alvin Gentry, New Orleans Pelicans

Roman: Quin Snyder, Utah Jazz

Noah: Steve Kerr, Golden State Warriors

Because it is difficult to determine whose coaching has made the greatest impact on their team, the Coach of the Year winner is typically determined indirectly by analyzing which team has made the most improvements and which coach has accomplished the most with their team’s limited resources. Mike Budenholzer won this award last season after leading the Milwaukee Bucks from the seventh seed in 2018 to the best record in the NBA. This year, plenty of teams have a great chance to similarly improve their playoff seeding. Alvin Gentry’s Pelicans lost Anthony Davis, but received a slew of talented young players in return. Doc Rivers was in the running for Coach of the Year last year after leading the Clippers to the eighth seed. Now, with Leonard and George, he will be expected to lead them to one of the top seeds in the West. Terry Stotts has done a fantastic job with his Trail Blazers core over the last few seasons, and now will be able to add Hassan Whiteside to the mix in Portland. Coaches like Nate McMillan and Michael Malone always seem to be in the running as well, achieving solid team performances year after year, despite a lack of superstar talent. And don’t count out Gregg Popovich who will have Dejounte Murray back and will do everything in his power to keep San Antonio in the playoffs another year. 

Defensive Player of the Year

Nathan: Rudy Gobert, Utah Jazz

Aaron: Anthony Davis, Los Angeles Lakers

Diego: Paul George, Los Angeles Clippers

Eli: Joel Embiid, Philadelphia 76ers

Josh: Paul George, Los Angeles Clippers

John: Rudy Gobert, Utah Jazz

Jake: Anthony Davis, Los Angeles Lakers

Roman: Rudy Gobert, Utah Jazz

Noah: Al Horford, Philadelphia 76ers

Rudy Gobert has owned the Defensive Player of the Year award the past two seasons, anchoring a Utah Jazz defensive unit that has consistently ranked among the league’s best. That said, he’ll certainly have some stiff competition this season. Anthony Davis, who has long been considered one of the top defenders in the association, came out and stated this offseason that winning the award is a goal of his. On a stacked Lakers roster, Davis may be able to exert himself more on the defensive end of the floor and improve upon his already impressive steals and blocks numbers. The Staples Center’s other occupants have also put together an imposing lineup, with an all-time great defensive core consisting of Patrick Beverley, Paul George, and Kawhi Leonard. Leonard has already won the award twice and George has twice appeared on the All-Defensive First Team. If the Clippers live up to their enormous defensive potential, either one of them will have a strong case for this award. In the Eastern Conference, Giannis Antetokounmpo and Joel Embiid have both received DPOY consideration in the past and figure to be right up there again this season, as both continue to improve and aim to lead their teams on long playoff runs.

Giannis Antetokounmpo captured his first MVP last season. Can he do it again and lead the Bucks to the championship?

Most Valuable Player

Nathan: Anthony Davis, Los Angeles Lakers

Aaron: Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors

Diego: Kawhi Leonard, Los Angeles Clippers

Eli: James Harden, Houston Rockets

Josh: Anthony Davis, Los Angeles Lakers

John: Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors

Jake: Kawhi Leonard, Los Angeles Clippers

Roman: Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors

Noah: Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks

The MVP award has no clear frontrunner going into the season. The past four seasons have seen four different players take home the hardware. This year, all of those players have MVP aspirations, along with a host of other elite talents. Giannis Antetokounmpo won the award last season and figures to be in contention again, especially because he will be asked to take more ball-handling responsibilities after Malcolm Brogdon signed with the Pacers in the offseason. James Harden has expressed frustration that voter fatigue may have cost him the award last season, after averaging 36.1 points per game. If he hopes to take home his second MVP this year, it will depend on the rapport he develops with his new Rockets teammate, Russell Westbrook, as they are two of the most ball-dominant players in the league. The Lakers and Clippers could both potentially have two MVP candidates on their teams. We all know LeBron James and Kawhi Leonard are capable of winning this award, but load management with an eye towards the playoffs could be detrimental towards their respective MVP cases. Davis and George will both profit from their new LA teammates and could garner some consideration if James and Leonard miss significant time. After being virtually ignored in the MVP race the past three seasons due to the presence of Kevin Durant on his team, Steph Curry could be in a prime position for another huge season. The Warriors are finally underdogs again and Curry is the clear alpha dog of the team. Curry has won the award twice in the past in all-time great Golden State seasons, but might need to put on a similar performance this season just to keep the Warriors in contention.

NBA Champions

Nathan: Los Angeles Clippers

Aaron: Los Angeles Lakers

Diego: Los Angeles Clippers

Eli: Milwaukee Bucks

Josh: Milwaukee Bucks

John: Golden State Warriors

Jake: Los Angeles Lakers

Roman: Golden State Warriors

Noah: Boston Celtics

The balance of power in the NBA has shifted dramatically. This offseason, the Warriors surrendered their status as perennial favorites when they lost Durant to the Nets. We now live in the era of elite duos. Kawhi and PG, LeBron and AD, Harden and Russ, Kyrie and KD. For possibly the first time ever, the Clippers are among the most popular picks to win the title. But despite an imposing roster, some are hesitant to make any lofty predictions because after all, they still are the Clippers. The Lakers finally need to be taken seriously again with Davis and a fully rested LeBron after missing the playoffs last year. James now has a full roster of experienced veterans ready to support him on a championship run. The Warriors won’t go out quietly and depending on when Klay Thompson returns from injury, they have the same core as their first championship with key additions in D’Angelo Russell and Willie Caulie-Stein. In the Eastern Conference, there is no telling how much better Giannis and the Bucks can get. Despite losing Brogdon in free agency, the Greek Freak will have every opportunity to take Milwaukee to the next level. The 76ers, Rockets, Jazz, and Celtics are all also contenders in one of the most wide-open NBA seasons in recent memory.

Aaron Wolf
Former Sports Executive and 2020 Georgetown College graduate. Enjoyer of OPS.


Read More

Notify of

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments