The NBA’s Regular Season Awards Will Be Based On Play Up To March 11

The fallout from the NBA’s four-and-a-half month hiatus will have all sorts of long-term implications for the league and its future. For starters, it might permanently shift the regular-season calendar, as the 2020-2021 campaign will likely be delayed until late December or early January.

Crowning a champion this season will prove problematic to some, as the league is forced to adjust to unfamiliar conditions in the bubble location in Orlando where play will resume later this month. The lack of travel, lack of home-court advantage, empty arenas, the extended time off, and much more will all affect the on-court product in not-insignificant ways.

That is perhaps why the league has wisely decided, per Shams Charania of The Athletics, to base its regular season awards — MVP, DPOY, etc. — on performances up until the March 11 shutdown, excluding the eight-game slate that will kick off the restart in Orlando and determine the final playoff spots in each conference.

The only clear-cut winner here is James Harden, who was leading the league in scoring at 34.4 points per game prior to the hiatus. The MVP Award is likely a two-man race between Giannis Antetokounmpo and LeBron James, while Giannis also has a case for Defensive Player of the Year in a head-to-head matchup with LeBron’s teammate Anthony Davis.

Ja Morant had been the runaway favorite to win Rookie of the Year before Zion Williamson made his season debut for the Pelicans and threw some uncertainty in that debate with his stellar play. Sixth Man and Most Improved each have a trio of contenders, while Coach of the Year and Executive of the Year while likely come down to the teams that have accomplished the most despite their situations, i.e. Nick Nurse in the wake of Kawhi’s departure in Toronto and Sam Presti for his handling of the wild Russell Westbrook/Paul George/Chris Paul deal.