Predicting NBA MVP, ROY, DPOY and the major awards

Who are the favorites for MVP, Rookie of the Year, Defensive Player of the Year and the other major NBA awards for the 2019-20 season?

The league is expected to approve a return-to-play plan on Thursday, with growing support for a 22-team field that likely will play regular-season and play-in games to compete for playoff berths in both conferences.

It’s unclear how much those pre-playoff games could factor into the awards races. But which races are the closest, and which players had taken a commanding lead before the season was suspended in March? Who will and should win?

We polled the ESPN Forecast panel of experts for their picks and predictions.

Note: Voters ranked their top three picks for each award. The point totals included weighted scores for each pick.

MORE: NBA awards debate and big questions

Most Valuable Player

All signs point to Giannis Antetokounmpo winning his second straight MVP award.

LeBron James had a chance to make this a real race in March, but will he have enough time to close the gap in some sort of regular-season ramp-up before the playoffs begin?

Who should win?

Who will win?

Others receiving votes: Kawhi Leonard, Anthony Davis, Jimmy Butler, Pascal Siakam, Damian Lillard, Nikola Jokic

MORE: Biggest winners and losers in a 22-team return

Rookie of the Year

The ROY race likely would be the most interesting to watch if the NBA approves a plan featuring a brief regular season with a play-in tournament.

Ja Morant had a hold of this award until Zion Williamson‘s debut in January. Even though Morant has played in 40 more games, could Zion take this one if he pushes the New Orleans Pelicans into the postseason?

Who should win?

Who will win?

  • Ja Morant: 91%

  • Zion Williamson: 9%

Others receiving votes: RJ Barrett, Coby White, Matisse Thybulle, Eric Paschall, PJ Washington, Rui Hachimura

MORE: How high is Zion Williamson’s NBA superstar ceiling?

Coach of the Year

This field is deep, but our panel is favoring Nick Nurse and his ability to lead the Toronto Raptors to the second-best record in the East after losing NBA Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard in the offseason.

Who should win?

  • Nick Nurse | TOR (59% first-place votes): 124 points

  • Billy Donovan | OKC (24%): 70 points

  • Mike Budenholzer | MIL (6%): 33 points

  • Taylor Jenkins | MEM (3%): 19 points

  • Erik Spoelstra (3%) | MIA: 18 points

Who will win?

  • Nick Nurse: 53%

  • Billy Donovan: 18%

  • Mike Budenholzer: 18%

  • Frank Vogel: 6%

Others receiving votes: Doc Rivers, Brad Stevens, Michael Malone, Nate McMillan

MORE: How Frank Vogel won over the Lakers and their superstars

Sixth Man of the Year

Yet again, this is looking like a race between LA Clippers teammates Montrezl Harrell and Lou Williams. Williams grabbed the award last year, with Harrell finishing second. This season, our panel thinks Harrell is more deserving.

Who should win?

Who will win?

  • Montrezl Harrell: 35%

  • Lou Williams: 29%

  • Dennis Schroder: 26%

Others receiving votes: Dwight Howard, Davis Bertans, Bogdan Bogdanovic

MORE: Inside the magic of Lou and Trez, LA’s freestyling bench stars

Most Improved Player

In another deep field, breakout Miami Heat star Bam Adebayo grabbed enough first-place votes to earn the pick from our panel. But Adebayo will have real competition for this one — especially from Brandon Ingram, who would be a big part of a Pelicans playoff push.

Who should win?

Who will win?

  • Bam Adebayo: 35%

  • Brandon Ingram: 35%

  • Devonte’ Graham: 12%

  • Luka Doncic: 9%

Others receiving votes: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Jayson Tatum, Markelle Fultz, Jaylen Brown, Trae Young

MORE: Bam Adebayo is the best NBA player you don’t know

Defensive Player of the Year

Only Michael Jordan (1988) and Hakeem Olajuwon (1994) have won MVP and DPOY in the same season. Our panel is predicting that Antetokounmpo will join that group, though the race between Giannis, Rudy Gobert and Anthony Davis will be tight.

Who should win?

  • Giannis Antetokounmpo | MIL (56% first-place votes): 123 points

  • Rudy Gobert | UTA (12%): 64 points

  • Anthony Davis | LAL (21%): 54 points

  • Patrick Beverley | LAC (9%): 20 points

  • Bam Adebayo | MIA (3%): 15 points

Who will win?

Others receiving votes: Ben Simmons, Kawhi Leonard, Marcus Smart

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