The 2020-21 NBA regular season is officially in the books, and while the league is primarily focused on moving on into the postseason, this is also the point on the schedule at which we begin to honor the league’s best individual achievements. While the NBA has not yet announced whether it plans to reveal awards during the postseason as it has for most of its history (a tactic it re-adopted last season during the COVID-19 pandemic) or if it will produce another awards show after the playoffs end as it did in a few recent seasons, we do at least have a sense of who will be winning each of the major awards. The league announced the three finalists for the six biggest awards on Thursday:
Most Valuable PlayerDefensive Player of the YearRookie of the YearSixth Man of the YearMost Improved PlayerCoach of the Year
- Tom Thibodeau
- Quin Snyder
- Monty Williams
The Utah Jazz lead the way with four total nominees. The Knicks have three, and the Nuggets and 76ers each have two of their own. Curry, Gobert, Green and Thibodeau are all possible repeat winners in their category, though only Gobert and Thibodeau are favored to win their respective awards. Another victory for Gobert would give him his third Defensive Player of the Year award, which would tie him with Dwight Howard for the third-most in NBA history behind Dikembe Mutombo and Ben Wallace, who each have four.
Jokic is the odds-on favorite to capture his first MVP award despite a late push from Curry. He was the only All-Star to play in all 72 of his team’s games, and on Sunday, he officially became the first player in league history to average 26 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists on better than 52 percent shooting (a mark he raced past by making 56.6 percent of his field goal attempts). If he prevails, he will become the first second-round pick in NBA history ever to win the award.
Clarkson and Ingles are in a somewhat unique position as teammates. They are simultaneously two of the NBA’s best sixth men, yet by definition, one of them has to be considered the seventh man on the Jazz to make way for the other. Clarkson has been the favorite for most of the season, but Ingles might have overtaken him down the stretch.
The Knicks are expected to walk away with two major trophies, Coach of the Year and Most Improved Player. They would be well-deserved after Randle and Thibodeau launched the Knicks into a surprising No. 4 seed, and neither vote is expected to be particularly dramatic. If there’s any suspense to be had here, it will come in the Rookie of the Year race. LaMelo Ball led for most of the season, but missed a significant chunk of time due to injury. Edwards and Haliburton may have gained ground on voters, and that race should be fairly tight.
Finalists for Executive of the Year were not named, as that award is voted on by executives. Otherwise, voting is conducted by the media, and now we know who their top choices were in each of the big six categories.