With the 2019-20 NBA season halfway done, The McGill Tribune presents its midseason awards, highlighting some of the most notable individual and team performances so far.
Unexpected Breakout Team: The Miami Heat
Since the end of the reign of the “Three Kings” in 2014, the Miami Heat have endured a run of mediocre seasons, never managing to scrape their way past the first round of the playoffs. Remarkably, it was the off-season $142 million acquisition of Jimmy Butler that’s turned the team around, clinching the second seed in the Eastern Conference. Many pundits doubted this move at the time, questioning Butler’s ability to lead a franchise after his flame-outs in Minnesota and Philadelphia. This has made the emergence and success of Miami’s positionless, unselfish style of play all the more surprising and exhilarating. We’re excited to see if the Heat can keep this up, and whether an offence without a point guard holds up under the strains of the playoffs.
Best Individual Player: Luka Dončić
Following an already historic rookie of the year campaign, Luka Dončić has put on a brain-melting masterstroke of a season. As a 20-year-old sophmore, he’s managed to put up an incredible average of 29.4 points, 9.7 rebounds, and 8.9 assists without sacrificing the team’s success. Dončić has led the Dallas Mavericks to a 23–15 record without a clear number two player or all-star on his team. If he manages to keep up this performance, he could be the youngest MVP of all time. His dominance from such a young age has other franchises worried about their own prospects, and Mark Cuban basking in the success of yet another European superstar.
Worst Franchise: The New York Knicks
Although the New York Knicks bungling the off-season once again is not surprising, how they did it this year was certainly creative. With the prospects of signing Kevin Durant and Kemba Walker and drafting Zion Williamson, the team somehow wound up with a starting lineup of no-names playing in what has become a veritable dumpster-fire of a season. At this rate, the Knicks will most likely finish as the worst team in the league.
Unexpected Breakout Player: Dwight Howard
In anticipation of Dwight Howard’s return to the Los Angeles Lakers, basketball media outlets had a field day poking fun at Howard’s reinvention of his game and body. Having spent the last decade as a basketball nomad on five different teams, Howard was all but written off as a relic from the 2000s: Outdated in today’s faster, spaced out game. Nobody expected Howard to turn his career around, but here he is, 40 pounds lighter, draining threes and actually contributing to a winning team for the first time in nearly a decade. Howard’s transformation is reflective of a changing NBA and has fans waiting to see if he can continue to contribute to a team that has the potential to be the NBA champion.
Best Team: The Los Angeles Lakers
Halfway through the season, the Lakers have resoundingly established themselves as the best team in the West, a full five games ahead of the number two seed Denver Nuggets. The re-emergence of the purple and gold can be attributed to the dominating performances of Anthony Davis and LeBron James, with a fantastic accompanying cast of Kyle Kuzma, Danny Green, Alex Caruso, and Dwight Howard. Even at 35, James has managed to extend his reign as King of the NBA. He leads the league in assists and has accompanied Davis’s dominant season with his own flurry of triple-doubles. After last season, many had written James off as a no-longer-dominant force in the NBA, but he’s proved them wrong and could even add a ring to his collection come June.