A common debate when the NBA awards are announced, especially in the era of social media, tends to miss what those awards really represent. As the awards are released, the memories and emotions can lead to thinking about that very moment and not what those awards really represent - the regular season.
The clearest example came most recently: Giannis Antetokounmpo was named 2019-2020 MVP just after being eliminated by the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference Semifinals. An early exit might lead some to think that the Greek Freak wasn't deserving, but looking back we will remember that his regular season was truly historic, with an individual dominance we've rarely seen on a team that held the best regular-season record in the league.
The NBA.com Global Staff presents the "solution" to the dilemma with the 2020 NBA Playoffs awards. The proposal is simple: choose the best of the best for what they did during this postseason, which ended with the Los Angeles Lakers being crowned NBA champions.
The categories are almost all the same, except instead of "Most Improved," we opted for the "Breakout Player" of the Playoffs. Additionally, we selected two All-NBA Playoffs Teams instead of three.
What was the process to define the winners? The NBA.com Global Staff chose three candidates for each award, awarding five points for 1st, three for 2nd and one for 3rd. In the case of the All-NBA Playoffs teams, it was five points for those chosen to the First Team and three for those picked for the Second Team.
With that in mind, let's get to it!
Best coach | Breakout Player | 6th man | Best Rookie | Best Defensive Player | MVP | All-NBA Teams | All Votes
Best Coach: Erik Spoelstra
This was a close battle between the head coaches of the two NBA Finalists.
It's not that Frank Vogel was not impressive - after all, he's the head coach of the title-winning squad and he knew how to respond to the challenges presented his way on the road to the title. In addition, he was responsible for the team's great roster chemistry, a big reason why they were as successful as they were this season.
The thing is, Spo was just phenomenal. He made the Miami Heat a championship contender when not many expected them to be and knew how to make his team a chameleon, one that adapted to the opponents it was set to face. He reduced the impact of Giannis Antetokounmpo in the Conference Semifinals to an extent nobody had witnessed before and took the Lakers to the limit despite the loss of two of his three most important players to injuries (Bam Adebayo, despite his return, was limited by his injury).
The 2019-20 season just proved what was already known - Spoelstra is one of the best coaches in the NBA.
Top 3: 1) Erik Spoelstra - 32 points | 2) Frank Vogel - 26 points | 3) Michael Malone - 9 points.
Breakout Player: Jamal Murray
Not that Murray wasn't viewed as an impactful player, especially offensively, but the problem leading into the 2020 playoffs was his inconsistency. He could drop 50 and then score 10 in the next game.
Well, with his performance this past postseason, he certainly put those doubts to rest.
The Canadian had the third-most points (504) in the playoffs, only trailing LeBron James and Anthony Davis, both of whom played two more games. He scored 50 or more twice (both against the Utah Jazz in the first round) and scored over 40 four times.
That's not all. He ranked second in clutch points with 39 on 55.6% shooting from the field and 8-of-11 on 3-pointers, which is a testament to his impact and personality in key situations. Basically, he was a crucial part of Denver's two 3-1 comebacks.
His jump from the regular season to the playoffs is clear. Also, as his coach Michael Malone appreciated, he also contributed a lot on defence. He truly stood up as the second star that the Nuggets needed alongside Nikola Jokic.
- 2019-2020 regular season: 18.5 points (45.6% FG%, 34.6% 3P%), 4.0 rebounds, 4.8 assists and 1.1 steals (32.3 minutes)
- 2020 NBA Playoffs: 26.5 points (50.5% FG%, 45.3% 3P%), 4.8 rebounds, 6.6 assists and 0.9 steals (39.6 minutes)
Top 3: 1) Jamal Murray - 35 points | 2) Tyler Herro - 16 points | 3) Bam Adebayo - 9 points.
6th Man: Tyler Herro
A unanimous winner.
The Heat rookie was, by far, the most impactful bench player. Only in the Finals due to Dragic's injury was he forced to change his role and join the starting five, but until then he was an instant spark off the bench.
As a reserve, Herro averaged 16.3 points (45.2% field, 36.8% triples), 5.4 rebounds and 3.9 assists in 33.1 minutes.
His 261 total points are the 10th best mark in history in the playoffs for a bench player, according to the StatHead database, but the nine players above Herro had played more games and he was the only rookie in the top 10.
Top 3: 1) Tyler Herro - 38 points | 2) Rajon Rondo - 20 points | 3) Dennis Schroder and Serge Ibaka - 5 points
Best Rookie: Tyler Herro
Herro had no competition when looking for the postseason's best rookie.
The Kentucky alum averaged 16.0 points (37.5% triples on 6.1 attempts), 5.1 rebounds and 3.7 assists in 33.6 minutes, but the most important thing was that he was a key piece of a team that was two wins away from being crowned champions. Plus, Herro was...
- The rookie with the most points off the bench in NBA playoff history (261)
- The rookie with the most triples in playoff history (48)
- The rookie with the most games in a row scoring in double digits in the playoffs (20). It was only Game 6 of the Finals that he failed to register more than 10 points
Herro also scored the fourth-most points by a rookie in a postseason (335), behind only Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (352 in 1970), Jayson Tatum (351 in 2018) and Alvin Adams (341 in 1976)
Top 3: 1) Tyler Herro - 40 points | 2) Lu Dort - 16 points and Michael Porter Jr. - 16 points
Best Defensive Player: Anthony Davis
Another award with a unanimous winner.
Davis was monstrous on defence. He averaged 1.4 blocks and 1.2 steals in the postseason and defended the most field goals (308) while ranking third in deflections (48). He helped the Lakers slow down Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum in the first round, Russell Westbrook and James Harden in the second round and helped them contain Nikola Jokic in the Conference Finals followed by Jimmy Butler in the Finals.
Davis has long been regarded as one of the best defenders in the league. With that he did in the playoffs, he made the case for being the best defender in the league.
Top 3: 1) Anthony Davis - 40 points | 2) Bam Adebayo - 22 points | 3) Lu Dort - 5 points
Playoffs MVP: LeBron James
35 years, 17th season as a professional, almost 60,000 minutes accumulated throughout his career ... nothing, absolutely nothing, could minimize his control.
James averaged 27.6 points (56% FG, 37% 3P on 5.7 attempts), 10.8 rebounds, 8.8 assists and 1.2 steals in 36.3 minutes throughout the postseason. In the Finals? He rose to 29.8 points (59.1% FG, 41.7% 3P in 6.0 attempts), 11.8 rebounds, 8.5 assists and 1.2 steals in 39.4 minutes.
For the fourth time in his career, James finished a postseason with at least 500 points, 200 rebounds and 150 total assists. The previous times he achieved this feat was in 2015, 2016 and 2018. How many times has this happened in the entire history of the NBA? Five, and four of those times were recorded by the King. The other player was Larry Bird in 1987.
LeBron remains one of a kind. The King of the Playoffs, once again.
Top 3: 1) LeBron James - 35 points | 2) Anthony Davis - 20 points | 3) Jimmy Butler - 16 points
- Jamal Murray: 26.5 points (50.5% FG), 4.8 rebounds, 6.6 assists (19 games)
- Jimmy Butler: 22.2 points (48.8% FG), 6.5 rebounds, 6.0 assists, 2.0 steals (21 games)
- LeBron James: 27.6 points (56% FG), 10.8 rebounds, 8.8 assists, 1.2 steals (21 games)
- Anthony Davis: 27.7 points (57.1% FG), 9.7 rebounds, 3.5 assists, 1.2 steals, 1.4 blocks (21 games)
- Nikola Jokic: 24.4 points (51.9% FG), 9.8 rebounds, 5.7 assists, 1.1 steals (19 games)
Four of the five players were unanimously chosen for the First Team: Murray, Butler, LeBron and AD. Jokic beat Jayson Tatum out for the final spot.
- Luka Doncic: 31.0 points (50% FG), 9.8 rebounds, 8.7 assists, 1.2 steals (6 games)
- Donovan Mitchell: 36.3 points (52.9% FG), 5.0 rebounds, 4.9 assists, 1.0 steals (7 games)
- Kawhi Leonard: 28.2 points (48.9% FG), 9.3 rebounds, 5.5 assists, 2.3 steals (13 games)
- Jayson Tatum: 25.7 points (43.4% FG), 10.0 rebounds, 5.0 assists, 1.0 steals, 1.2 blocks (17 games)
- Bam Adebayo: 17.8 points (56.4% FG), 10.3 rebounds, 4.4 assists, 1.0 steals (19 games)
Yes, there are two notable players missing: James Harden and Giannis Antetokounmpo, the latter being the MVP of the regular season. In both cases, we are talking about players eliminated in the Conference Semifinals who did not have the same impact and dominance as the regular season.
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