Community Shootaround

Community Shootaround: Hypothetical Sixth Man Ballot

Last week, we discussed hypothetical 2019/20 ballots for the MVP, Rookie of the Year, Defensive Player of the Year, and Most Improved Player awards. We’re finishing up our look at the NBA’s major awards this week, starting with Sixth Man of the Year.

Any discussion for this award generally has to start with Clippers guard Lou Williams, who has been named the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year twice in a row and three times in the last five years. In 2019/20, the 33-year-old was once again one of the league’s leading scorers off the bench, with 18.7 PPG and a career-high 5.7 APG.

However, with Kawhi Leonard and Paul George in the picture, Williams wasn’t leaned on quite as heavily this season, and his .416 FG% was his lowest mark since 2015/16. Mark Murphy of The Boston Herald still had Williams atop his hypothetical Sixth Man of the Year ballot, but neither Dan Devine of The Ringer nor Zach Harper of The Athletic even had him in the top three.

Devine’s Sixth Man pick was one of Williams’ teammates: Montrezl Harrell. As Devine points out, a handful of advanced stats favor Harrell, who led all reserves in value over replacement player and total win shares in 2019/20. The big man’s traditional stats, including 18.6 PPG and 7.1 RPG, were pretty impressive too, earning him a runner-up spot on Harper’s and Murphy’s ballots.

Harper, however, went in another direction with his choice, opting for Thunder guard Dennis Schroder. Chris Paul‘s return to All-Star status and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander‘s breakout sophomore season may have earned more headlines, but Schroder played a major role this year in Oklahoma City’s unexpected success. His 19.0 PPG ranked first among reserves, and he has scored those points efficiently (.468/.381/.839) while chipping in 4.1 APG and 3.7 RPG as well.

Heat guard Goran Dragic, who accepted a backup role and enjoyed a nice bounceback season, with 16.1 PPG and 5.1 APG, earned the third spot on Harper’s and Murphy’s ballots. Bucks guards George Hill and Donte DiVincenzo, who provided key depth for the NBA’s best team, tied for third place on Devine’s list. Pistons point guard Derrick Rose (18.1 PPG, 5.6 APG) earned an honorable mention from Harper.

Wizards sharpshooter Davis Bertans, Jazz sparkplug Jordan Clarkson, Kings wing Bogdan Bogdanovic, and big men like Dwight Howard (Lakers) and Christian Wood (Pistons) are some of the other players who deserve consideration, though Bogdanovic and Wood were among those who had become starters by the time the season was suspended.

What do you think? Who is your pick for Sixth Man of the Year in 2019/20 (assuming the regular season is over or close to it)? How would you fill out your top three if you had a ballot?

Head below to the comment section to share your thoughts!

Community Shootaround: Most Improved Player

Over the course of this week, we’ve discussed a handful of awards for the 2019/20 NBA season, exploring what your ballots might look like if the regular season ends up being over. After tackling MVP, Rookie of the Year, and Defensive Player of the Year, we’re moving on today to Most Improved Player.

As Dan Devine of The Ringer notes, there was no shortage this season of candidates for the MIP award. Thunder guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Hornets guard Devonte’ Graham, and Heat sharpshooter Duncan Robinson were among the many second-year players who made substantial improvements in year two.

For those who prefer to shy away from second-year players – who are, after all, expected to improve – Pistons big man Christian Wood could be a strong candidate. So could Celtics wing Jaylen Brown or Magic point guard Markelle Fultz, former top picks who had breakout seasons in 2019/20 — both earned honorable mentions from Zach Harper of The Athletic.

Many of the names that ultimately landed on Devine’s and Harper’s hypothetical ballots overlap. Heat big man Bam Adebayo, who was Devine’s runner-up, was Harper’s top choice. Celtics forward Jayson Tatum and Pelicans forward Brandon Ingram rounded out Harper’s top three, and also tied for third place on Devine’s list.

Devine’s choice for the award was a second-year player: Mavericks star Luka Doncic, who evolved from the league’s top rookie into a legit MVP candidate.

Mark Murphy of The Boston Herald, meanwhile, picked Tatum as this year’s Most Improved Player and gave honorable mention to Kings sharpshooter Buddy Hield and Pacers big man Domantas Sabonis. I’m not sure I’m on board with the Hield pick – many of his numbers were better a year ago and he was removed from Sacramento’s starting lineup in January – but Sabonis is a strong candidate after emerging as one of the top centers in the conference.

The names provided by Devine, Harper, and Murphy don’t form an exhaustive list of candidates — you could identify at least one player who made major strides on just about every NBA team. Hawks star Trae Young, Wizards marksman Davis Bertans, Grizzlies forward Dillon Brooks, and Raptors point guard Fred VanVleet are among the others I’d look at if I were considering my own ballot.

But we want to know what you think. If you were putting together a three-man ballot for Most Improved Player in 2019/20, who would be on it?

Head to the comment section below to weigh in with your thoughts!

Community Shootaround: Defensive Player Of The Year

After exploring hypothetical ballots for 2019/20’s Most Valuable Player and Rookie of the Year earlier this week, we’re moving on today to a third award, Defensive Player of the Year.

Unlike the MVP or Rookie of the Year races, where one or two obvious frontrunners have emerged over the course of the season, the Defensive Player of the Year race is a little more wide open. There are certainly basic and advanced defensive statistics we can use to assess a player’s impact on that end of the court, but the eye test plays a significant role in evaluating a player’s defensive ability, so the award is more subjective.

One player most analysts agree deserves to be in consideration for this year’s Defensive Player of the Year award? Lakers big man Anthony Davis. Although teammate LeBron James looks like the stronger MVP candidate, Davis has often been the club’s last line of defense, protecting the rim and helping turn L.A. into one of the NBA’s stingiest teams — the Lakers rank third in defensive rating.

Mark Murphy of The Boston Herald and Zach Harper of The Athletic both had Davis atop their hypothetical Defensive Player of the Year ballots, while Dan Devine of The Ringer placed him second.

Devine’s top choice is Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo, whose elite defense is a major factor in his case for a second consecutive MVP award. Devine argues that Milwaukee’s top-ranked defense is as good as it is because Antetokonmpo can “essentially erase half the floor,” roaming around the court like an NFL free safety. Among high-volume defenders, Giannis ranked first in opponents’ field goal percentage, at 36.1%. He was on Harper’s and Murphy’s ballots as well.

Ben Simmons (Sixers), Bam Adebayo (Heat), Marcus Smart (Celtics), Brook Lopez (Bucks), and P.J. Tucker (Rockets) were among the other players to earn Defensive Player of the Year consideration from at least one of Devine, Murphy, and Harper. Interestingly, none of their three ballots included reigning DPOY Rudy Gobert, though Harper did give the Jazz center an honorable mention.

What do you think? Would you pick Davis, Antetokounmpo, or someone else as this year’s Defensive Player of the Year, assuming the season is over or close to it? What would your top three look like if you were submitting an official ballot?

Head to the comment section below to share your thoughts!

Community Shootaround: Rookie Of The Year Ballot

Earlier this week, we asked you for your hypothetical 2019/20 NBA ballot, based on the possibility that the regular season is essentially over. Today, we’re shifting our focus to another one of the NBA’s major end-of-season awards: Rookie of the Year.

Entering the season, No. 1 pick Zion Williamson was viewed as the overwhelming favorite for the Rookie of the Year award. However, health issues delayed Williamson’s NBA regular-season debut until January 22, and the Pelicans forward ultimately only appeared in 19 games.

Williamson was as good as advertised in those games, averaging 23.6 PPG, 6.8 RPG, and 2.2 APG on 58.9% shooting in just under 30 MPG. However, it’s tough to put the former Duke star atop any Rookie of the Year ballot, considering he didn’t even reach the 20-game threshold. Joel Embiid, who appeared in 31 games in 2016/17, didn’t earn ROY honors either, and he wasn’t up against a competitor like Ja Morant, who looks like the overwhelming favorite to take home the award in 2020.

Morant, the No. 2 overall pick in last year’s draft, filled up the box score by recording 17.6 PPG, 6.9 APG, and 3.5 RPG on .491/.367/.770 shooting in 30.0 minutes per contest. He put up those numbers while starting 59 games for the Grizzlies and leading the overachieving squad to a No. 8 seed in the Western Conference.

Zach Harper of The Athletic writes that “it feels impossible” to give this year’s Rookie of the Year award to anyone besides Morant, while Dan Devine of The Ringer refers to the former Murray State standout as “the no-doubt-about-it pick” for the trophy. ESPN’s analysts agreed — all 70 straw poll respondents placed Morant atop their ballots.

Although Morant seems like a lock for the actual award, it’s still worth exploring how you’d fill out the rest of your three-man ballot.

Despite his small sample, Williamson earned 51 second-place votes from ESPN’s panel, and placed second on Harper’s list too. However, Devine left Zion off his ballot entirely, opting for Grizzlies forward Brandon Clarke and Raptors guard Terence Davis instead, pointing to a series of impressive advanced stats to make his case for the two less heralded rookies.

Heat guard Kendrick Nunn deserves consideration as well — he placed third on ESPN’s list and on Harper’s ballot. Warriors big man Eric Paschall and Knicks forward RJ Barrett earned honorable mentions from Harper and at least one second-place vote apiece from ESPN’s voters. Bulls guard Coby White, Hornets forward PJ Washington, Wizards forward Rui Hachimura, and Heat sharpshooter Tyler Herro were among the players receiving third-place votes from ESPN’s panel.

What do you think? Can you make a case for anyone besides Morant as this season’s Rookie of the Year? Were Williamson’s 19 games enough to earn him a spot on your ballot? Who would your top three picks be for the 2020 Rookie of the Year award?

Head to the comment section below to share your thoughts!

Community Shootaround: Hypothetical MVP Ballot

Before the 2019/20 NBA season was postponed, LeBron James seemed to be building some momentum in an MVP race that Giannis Antetokounmpo had dominated for much of the year.

James had just led the Lakers to signature wins over the Bucks and Clippers, the two top threats to the Lakers’ title hopes. At the same time, a knee injury sustained in that Bucks/Lakers showdown had sidelined Antetokounmpo for the two games leading up to the stoppage.

With the NBA now in an indefinite hiatus, the MVP race has been put on hold. In fact, it’s possible it might be over altogether. While team owners and players alike want to resume the season, it’s not clear if or when that will happen. And if it does resume, the rest of regular season figures to be significantly reduced or perhaps even excised entirely in order to quickly advance to the playoffs.

With that in mind, we want to get your hypothetical MVP ballot for the 2019/20 NBA season. Do you have Giannis or LeBron in the top spot? How would you fill out the rest of your top five?

Dan Devine of The Ringer tried his hand at putting together a ballot, picking Antetokounmpo as his MVP, followed by James, Rockets star James Harden, LeBron’s teammate Anthony Davis, and reigning Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard. Mark Murphy of The Boston Herald had the same top three (Giannis, LeBron, and Harden) on his unofficial MVP ballot, as did ESPN’s panel of voters.

ESPN’s straw poll respondents had Leonard and Davis in their top six as well, but were more bullish than Devine on Mavericks star Luka Doncic, who finished fourth. Thunder guard Chris Paul, Nuggets center Nikola Jokic, Raptors forward Pascal Siakam, and Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard rounded out ESPN’s top 10, with Jayson Tatum (Celtics) and Bradley Beal (Wizards) each receiving a lone down-ballot vote as well.

What do you think? How would you fill out your five-man MVP ballot based on what we’ve seen so far?

Head to the comment section below to share your list and your reasoning!

Community Shootaround: NBA Games To Rewatch

With no new games to watch as the NBA continues its coronavirus-related suspension, the league announced this week that it’s making League Pass available for a free trial through at least April 22.

That means that NBA fans will have the opportunity to rewatch any games from the 2018/19 or 2019/20 seasons, along with a few dozen games from previous seasons deemed to be classics.

With that in mind, a panel of ESPN writers picked out 30 games – one for each team – worth rewatching from the last two seasons, including the Celtics‘ double-overtime win over the Clippers last month, the Rockets‘ 159-158 win over the Wizards earlier in the season, Kawhi Leonard‘s first return to San Antonio last season, and several memorable playoff games from the 2019 postseason.

ESPN’s list is a good start, but it’s hardly exhaustive. So we want to open up the conversation to you.

Are you taking advantage of the free League Pass preview? If so, which games from the last two seasons are you watching first? Which of the league’s classic games are you curious to rewatch or perhaps check out for the first time? And which games would be your all-time top picks for rewatching, regardless of NBA League Pass availability?

Community Shootaround: Monumental Star Movement

Earlier today, we saw NFL legend Tom Brady change teams, opting to take his talents to Tampa Bay (be sure to check out our sister site Pro Football Rumors for the latest during NFL free agency).

The NBA has seen many great star players change teams in recent years. LeBron James did it three times, leaving the Cavaliers for the Heat, the Heat for the Cavs, and then the Cavs for the Lakers.

Some have compared the Brady signing to LeBron’s move, while others have matched it up with Michael Jordan joining the Wizards in the early 2000s. Brady is the greatest QB to play football and many consider Jordan the best to ever play basketball. Yet, the comparison of the two moves doesn’t go much further than that. Jordan came out of retirement to play for Washington while Brady just came off a season where he led his team to a division title and a playoff berth.

That leads us to tonight’s question: Where does Brady moving to Tampa Bay rank in terms of monumental moves among star players and what NBA move would you compare it to? Is it bigger than LeBron going to Miami or – with the 43-year-old quarterback on the last leg of his career – is the signing not as colossal?

Take to the comment section below to share your thoughts and opinions. We look forward to what you have to say!

Community Shootaround: Best Available Coaches This Summer

Now that the Nets have abruptly parted ways with highly-respected head coach Kenny Atkinson, there is one more big-ticket name available for this summer’s intriguing coaching carousel. With several other teams potentially looking to make coaching changes in the offseason, we at Hoops Rumors felt it was high time to speculate wildly about summer 2020 coaching hires.

There may be coaching vacancies among several glamor NBA franchises, including the Knicks, Nets (Atkinson’s Nets replacement, Jacque Vaughn, will be merely an interim coach this season), Bulls, Rockets and Sixers.

Atkinson served as an assistant coach in New York and Atlanta before finally getting a crack at the lead job in Brooklyn. He coached the rebuilding Nets, without a single All-Star, to an impressive 42-40 record and a playoff berth last season. At 28-34, the team is currently the No. 7 seed in the East, despite All-Stars Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant appearing in a combined 20 games this year.

Mike D’Antoni is a coaching free agent this summer, and even if Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta may be wary of bringing him back, he will not be hurting for work. A great 212-95 regular season record, a Coach of the Year Award in 2016/17, and one Western Conference Finals appearance should ensure that.

Though interim Knicks head coach Mike Miller has coached a hapless New York squad to a competent 15-26 record, his job security has been openly challenged by Knicks brand manager Steve Stoute. Miller may have done enough in a tough environment to warrant a look from another franchise.

Top assistant coaches like Becky Hammon with the Spurs, Tyronn Lue with the ClippersAdrian Griffin with the Raptors and Nate Tibbetts with the Trail Blazers could all get a head coaching opportunity this summer.

We want to know what you think. Who are the best available coaches on the market this summer? Which teams would match best with which available or potentially-available coaches?

Head to the comment section below to weigh in with your thoughts!

Community Shootaround: 2020 NBA MVP Race

After winning the NBA’s Most Valuable Player award in 2019, Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo looks like the overwhelming favorite to do so again in 2020.

Antetokounmpo is averaging 29.6 PPG and 13.8 RPG, both improvements on last season’s numbers, while playing just 30.8 minutes per contest, his lowest mark since he was a rookie in 2013/14. In addition to his outstanding per-36 numbers, the reigning MVP is a candidate for Defensive Player of the Year, and his team holds the NBA’s best record by a comfortable margin, at 53-9. Milwaukee also has an eye-popping +16.7 net rating when Antetokounmpo is on the floor, tops in the league.

Antetokounmpo’s case for a second consecutive MVP award is obvious, and makes him the clear frontrunner. However, not everyone is prepared to hand him the trophy quite yet.

With the Lakers poised to take on Milwaukee on Friday night in a battle of the NBA’s No. 1 seeds, head coach Frank Vogel argued that LeBron James should be considered a frontrunner for the 2020 MVP award, as Dave McMenamin of ESPN writes. Vogel pointed to the intangibles James brings, including his leadership ability, as a factor for why the four-time MVP should receive serious consideration this spring.

“The body of work he’s put forth for our team I don’t really think it compares to anybody else,” Vogel said. “A lot of great performances throughout the year with other players, so I don’t want to take anything away from anyone else, but it’s pretty unbelievable what he does. What he means to us on both sides of the ball, defensive IQ and the way he impacts the game with his strength, athleticism, scoring the way he does, but also leading the league in assists. And the most important stat is how much we’re winning. So, to me, it’s his.”

In laying out James’ case for MVP, Eric Pincus of Bleacher Report highlights the extent to which LeBron drives the team’s entire offense with his scoring and play-making. As Pincus points out, the Lakers’ offense falls off a cliff when James sits and the defense gets a little worse too — the club has a +10.4 rating with the 35-year-old on the court, compared to -1.0 when he’s on the bench.

One advance scout who spoke to Mark Medina of USA Today said his vote would go to Giannis, but admitted that the race is close enough for him to be convinced either way. One NBA executive speculated to Medina that voters may not be inclined to choose a back-to-back winner: “My gut would be since Giannis won it last year, people would give it to LeBron.”

We want to know what you think. Does LeBron have a legit NBA shot, or is Giannis running away with the award? If you think the race is still up in the air, what would have to happen in the season’s final five or six weeks to seal the deal one way or the other? Are there any other candidates you think could emerge as realistic alternatives?

Head to the comment section below to weigh in with your thoughts!

Community Shootaround: Best Second-Half FA Signing

Players available on the buyout market typically don’t become difference-makers for their new teams. Occasionally, productive players will join a playoff team late in the season and help buoy that club heading into the postseason, like Ersan Ilyasova and Marco Belinelli did for the Sixers in 2018 or Enes Kanter did for the Trail Blazers in 2019.

More often than not though, buyout-market additions don’t significantly move the needle. A year ago, the late-season signees who saw the most playing time down the stretch were Wayne Ellington (Pistons) and Wesley Matthews (Pacers), whose teams didn’t make it out of the first round of the playoffs. The eventual-champion Raptors signed a player off the buyout market, but that player – Jeremy Lin – barely saw any action during the team’s title run.

With that in mind, we don’t want to overstate the impact that this year’s post-trade-deadline acquisitions will have the rest of the way. Still, it’s possible one of those players could be this year’s Ilyasova, Belinelli, or Kanter, playing an important role for a team that wins a playoff series or two — or even makes a Finals run.

As our roundup of the 2020 buyout market shows, there are a few candidates who could potentially fit that bill. One is new Clippers guard Reggie Jackson, who was bought out by Detroit last month. While some league observers viewed the signing of Jackson as unnecessary for a team that already featured a fairly strong, versatile backcourt, the ex-Piston has looked great in his first six games in Los Angeles, averaging 9.2 PPG, 4.0 APG, and 3.5 RPG on .500/.409/1.000 shooting in a part-time role.

Although he was technically waived in December rather than bought out in February, Rockets forward Jeff Green also signed after the trade deadline and has excelled with his new team. Serving as a de facto center in Houston’s microball lineup, Green has posted 7.7 PPG and 2.5 RPG with an impressive .593/.500/.833 shooting line in six games (17.5 MPG).

In Milwaukee, new Bucks forward Marvin Williams hasn’t put up eye-popping numbers, but he has been a steady, reliable presence on the wing, providing solid defense against opposing scoring threats. His best game so far came against the rival Raptors, when he recorded nine points, five rebounds, and a pair of steals in just 16 minutes of action while frequently guarding All-Star forward Pascal Siakam.

Rockets forward DeMarre Carroll and Lakers forward Markieff Morris are among the other recent additions who are seeing part-time minutes for their new teams. It’s even worth mentioning Anthony Tolliver, who signed a 10-day contract with the Grizzlies on Monday and promptly knocked down 4-of-5 three-pointers in a blowout win over Atlanta. If he sticks with the team beyond his 10-day deal, maybe he could help Memphis hang onto the No. 8 seed in the West.

A handful of somewhat intriguing players are still on the free agent market, including J.R. Smith, Dion Waiters, Tyler Johnson, Isaiah Thomas, and Allen Crabbe. It’s possible one or more of those players will sign with a contender soon and play a key role in the coming weeks.

What do you think? Will any of these players really make a difference for their new clubs down the stretch and in the postseason? If so, which one do you think is the best bet to make an impact?

Head to the comment section below to weigh in with your thoughts!