ESPN's senior writer Zach Lowe has picked his winners for the 2020 NBA Awards, with Giannis Antetokounmpo being the biggest winner on Lowe's lists. The league announced the winners will be considered based on the performances from October through March so we'll be seeing more of these lists in the next couple of days.
Lowe revealed his NBA awards ballot for the season, putting Giannis Antetokounmpo as the winner of the MVP and Defensive Player of the Year award, beating the Los Angeles Lakers duo LeBron James and Anthony Davis, respectively.
Most Valuable Player: 1. Giannis Antetokounmpo, 2. LeBron James, 3. James Harden, 4. Damian Lillard, 5. Kawhi Leonard
A few media members picking LeBron have invoked the MVP races in 1993 and 1997 -- when Charles Barkley and Karl Malone, respectively, unseated Michael Jordan. The implication is obvious: You are about to vote the inferior player just because his story is better.
The difference is that in 1993 and 1997, it was easy to make a statistical case for Jordan. He led Barkley in almost every category. The numbers were closer in 1997, but Jordan led several categories.
There is no statistical case for James. Pick whatever numbers you want: counting stats, rate stats, nerd stats with weird acronyms -- Antetokounmpo leads in everything but assists and 3-point shooting. Antetokounmpo is averaging 30 points per game in 31 minutes, one of the most efficient scoring seasons ever, and he might win Defensive Player of the Year. On the few occasions when anyone unfurled a two-way season even approaching that neighborhood, there has been little MVP debate.
He also made the case for Giannis as the rightful winner of the DPOY award.
Defensive Player of the Year: 1. Giannis Antetokounmpo, 2. Rudy Gobert, 3. Anthony Davis
The race for spots two and three is murkier than usual, but the winner was easy. We have so much information now -- including all that fancy tracking data -- you can almost always find one weak spot in a player's defensive dossier if you look hard enough. The Lakers gave up more points than you'd expect on pick-and-rolls when Davis switched onto guards, per Second Spectrum. On the paltry number of possessions when teams dared post up Leonard -- 34 in total -- they scorched the Clippers.
Antetokounmpo has no weak spot. He pops up toward the top of damn near every category. He can guard all five positions. He envelopes smaller players, and uses his ridiculous length to bother behemoths. He executes dropback coverages like a veteran center, feinting at drivers and baiting them into shooting before swallowing the ball.
The rest of the winners were:
Rookie of the Year: 1. Ja Morant, 2. Kendrick Nunn, 3. Brandon Clarke
Coach of the Year: 1. Nick Nurse, 2. Mike Budenholzer, 3. Billy Donovan
Sixth Man of the Year: 1. Montrezl Harrell, 2. Dennis Schroder, 3. Lou Williams
Most Improved Player: 1. Brandon Ingram, 2. Bam Adebayo, 3. Jayson Tatum
He elaborated why Giannis should win both prizes, regardless of people making the case for Bron as the MVP or Davis as the DPOY. The Greek Freak has had a terrific season with Milwaukee. He's been imposing on both ends of the floor, leading his team to have the best record in the league while resting 17 minutes per match.
It doesn't matter how old LeBron is, how many years he's been playing, Giannis is the rightful winner of this year's MVP, although he doesn't seem to be too interested in that.