The 2019-20 NBA season is officially underway, which means the race for the end of season awards has begun, even if it’s not on anyone’s mind yet. The exception to this is James Harden — the MVP award is probably the first thing he thinks about when he wakes up in the morning and the last thing he thinks about before he dozes off to sleep and dreams about winning the MVP again.
Luckily for Harden, he will be among the favorites to win MVP again this year, but the field is as wide-open as its ever been with the NBA being as balanced as its been in years. The same can be said of every award, which is why we here at Dime have compiled a list of dark horse candidates for every individual honor the league gives out.
These are the players that weren’t on any preseason lists or betting favorites going into the season, but could feasibly sneak into the race as the season progresses. All odds are via Bovada, with a h/t to Odds Shark.
Rookie of the Year: Coby White (+1800)
More often than not, the Rookie of the Year award goes to the highest-scoring rookie at the end of the regular season. While Zion Williamson could still be that at the end of this year, the 30-40 games he’s expected to miss because of the torn meniscus he suffered in the preseason could hurt him a lot if someone emerges.
Naturally, the expectation is that the No. 2 pick in the 2019 NBA Draft, Ja Morant, will put forth a year worthy of Rookie of the Year honors, but there’s another crafty rookie point guard that could enter the conversation: Coby White.
Unlike Morant, White won’t be the starting point guard for his team to start the regular season, but he’s expected to get starters minutes and — most importantly — the green light off of the bench. With White running the Bulls’ second unit, he’ll be able to play to his strengths which, as of now, are scoring and sharing the ball. If his offensive production is part of the reason Chicago makes the postseason in the wide-open Eastern Conference, his case becomes even stronger.
Coach of the Year: Alvin Gentry (+2000)
After trading away six-time All-Star Anthony Davis in July, the New Orleans Pelicans weren’t expected to make the playoffs with their young roster this season. Then, in the preseason, the Pelicans went unbeaten thanks to a string of historically dominant performances from Williamson and some stellar coaching from Alvin Gentry.