Sam Smith's 2020-21 NBA Awards Projections

There are many NBA awards that could be handed out these days. Like the James
Harden Ego award to represent someone like Harden who is making $41 million this basketball season and who feels the
most unappreciated. There's the Kyrie Irving award for those spending time in their alternative universe. And the
Russell Westbrook award for someone landing in Washington, D.C. who prefers not to speak. Alas, it's time to dispense
with those and offer some sure to be in error predictions about the NBA's award winners for the 2020-21 season
starting Tuesday.

Most Valuable Player: LeBron James, Los Angeles Lakers.

LeBron at the UC to play the Bulls

We always fall victim to this one in the NBA Finals, like last season when the
Bucks and winner Giannis Antetokounmpo were eliminated early again and LeBron as the game's best player grabbed
another championship. But it's not the best player in the game award. Then Michael Jordan would have about a dozen.
It's most valuable to your team in that season. Plus, there is a justifiable voter fatigue, which is why even if the
Bucks go 72-0, Giannis won't win. Two's the current limit, and it's an award that's not exactly scientific. So it
should be shared. I didn't vote for Jordan every season. I'm sure I voted for Charles Barkley in 1993 for what he
meant to the Suns even if there wasn't a day in his career he was better than Jordan. As good as Anthony Davis is,
LeBron makes everything go. And he's due again. The next four are Joel Embiid, Kevin Durant, Nikola Jokic and Damian
Lillard. Giannis has enough trophies.

Rookie of the Year: LaMelo Ball, Charlotte Hornets.

LaMelo Ball in the Pre Season for Charlotte

He's probably not going to start with all those guards on the team. But he's
going to play a lot and miss a lot of shots. But he will make the most highlight videos because TV likes fancy passes
and should lead rookies in at least assists, if not shooting percentage. The Bulls Patrick Williams could get second
assuming he gets enough starts and then Washington's Deni Avdija third. Golden State's James Wiseman will make a case,
though he won't get to shoot much on that team.

Sixth Man: Caris LeVert, Brooklyn Nets.

Caris LaVert in a Nets photoshoot

Unless it's Spencer Dinwiddie. The Nets suddenly got very deep with Durant and
Irving moving into the starting lineup depending, of course, on their load management injury days. Coach Steve Nash
has hinted about LeVert in a Ginobili type role. Which Dinwiddie could have if LeVert starts. Derrick Rose second and
Carmelo Anthony third as he finally accepted a reserve role five years after he effectively was playing one.

Defensive Player of the Year: Marcus Smart, Boston Celtics.

Marcus Smart diving onto the floor for a loose ball

This award keeps going to centers and shot blockers, but if you want someone to
demonstrate defense it's a guard like Smart. He's a relentless competitor you hate playing against. No Rudy or AD for
me, though they often win. Giannis doesn't lock down often enough like your Patrick Beverley types, though he's now
overrated after being underrated. Probably Jrue Holiday second and Ben Simmons third.

Most Improved Player: Michael Porter Jr., Denver Nuggets

Michael Porter Jr Smiling

This is another with varied criteria. There'll be votes this season for Zion
Williamson, but it doesn't seem you should be improved as the No. 1 pick. Though maybe if you are Markelle Fultz.
Jamal Murray also will be a favorite this season, though he's been good for awhile, if not as good as he was in
Orlando this summer. Porter was a risky draft pick with severe health problems and sat out almost two years. He had
good moments in Orlando and if he puts together a full season it could be excellent. I can make the case for Coby
White second and now Portland's Harry Giles third after injuries.

Coach of the Year: Stan Van Gundy, New Orleans Pelicans

Stan Van Gundy and Zion Williamson in Preseason

This award generally goes to the coach of the team the media most misjudges.
Which is why several tend to get fired a year or two after winning. Stan's an excellent coach who's had success in
Miami and Orlando and now without the executive part can get back to what he does well and with a lot of scoring
talent and Zion. Tom Thibodeau second as he'll get more from the league's worst roster than most could and Denver's
Mike Malone third for his team's relentless nature and always knowing to give Nikola Jokic the ball when they need

All-NBA First Team

  • Damian Lillard
  • Stephen Curry
  • Kevin Durant
  • LeBron James
  • Joel Embiid

Second Team:

  • Giannis Antetokounmpo
  • Luka Doncic
  • Anthony Davis
  • Jayson Tatum
  • Nikola Jokic

Third team:

  • Jimmy Butler
  • Kawhi Leonard
  • Zach LaVine
  • Zion Williamson
  • Karl-Anthony Towns