The NBA will hand its regular season awards out much later than usual this season, and it’s not just because of the wholly unnecessary awards show they’ve been holding since 2017. The players’ body of work will also be smaller than ever before.
According to a report by Shams Charania of The Athletic on Friday, the NBA’s regular season awards will be based upon games played through March 11, which means, as far as voters are concerned, the regular season is over.
While Lakers head coach Frank Vogel doesn’t get a say in the media-voted awards, he believes LeBron James and Anthony Davis should be recipients of two of the league’s highest honors: Most Valuable Player and Defensive Player of the Year.
“I do believe that he should be the MVP this year,” Vogel said after practice on Saturday. “I believe he should be the MVP, and I believe Anthony Davis should be the Defensive Player of the Year. I hope those awards go to our two players. That’s not to take anything away from some of the other candidate, but what LeBron means to our team — even before the season season begins, when the roster is being put together, with a number of guys that are on the Lakers because LeBron James is here and want to play with him ... I think it starts there.
“Then obviously, you know what he’s able to do on the basketball court: orchestrating the offense, leading the league in assists, and really setting the tone on the defensive end. We’re the third-best defense in the NBA, best in the West, and a lot of that comes from his commitment this season, which has been been greater than the last few years, from what I’m told. That has really set us apart in terms of being the best record currently in the Western Conference. And like I said, I’m hopeful those two awards go to those two players.”
James’ case for MVP is clearer than Davis’ case for Defensive Player of the Year, and that was true even before James’ statement games against the Milwaukee Bucks and LA Clippers in March. However, there’s no denying that those performances breathed new life into the MVP debate between James and Giannis Antetokounmpo.
Leading up to that weekend, Antetokounmpo seemed like the runaway favorite for MVP because his team had the best record in the NBA, and his numbers were better than the season before, when he won his first MVP. Both of those things are still true, but in that game against the Bucks on March 6, James showed he can still be the best player on the court when he wants to be.
“LeBron took the toughest assignment in both games: he guarded Kawhi in the Clipper game and did a great job of them there, and then he guarded Giannis in the Bucks game when AD was in foul trouble, and did a great job in those two situations,” Vogel said. “So if you’re looking at what he was able to do on the defensive end, combined with the dominance he gives us with not just scoring the ball, assisting the ball, but orchestrating our offense, leading us on the break. I think that weekend was probably a great indicator or a great measuring stick to those.”
James still might not be the favorite, but voters will have a tough choice when the time comes, and it won’t be because of an overreaction to two games, or James’ age; it will be because James was one of the two best players in the regular season. Now’ it’s up to the votes to decide if he was the best.