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The 2020-21 NBA Season: The Good, Bad, and Everything in Between

(Graphic by Andrew Yang)


Welcome to the 2020-21 NBA Season Awards, presented by The Intermission Sports’ very own, Andrew “Drew” Yang. We’ll be presenting awards to teams and players that have impressed us with their performance in the regular season, as well as those whose performances didn’t quite live up to our expectations. Without further ado, let’s take a look at the winners (and losers) of the 2020-21 NBA Season.


Most Valuable Team: The Utah Jazz

(Photo via SLC Dunk)

In the past few years, the Utah Jazz have established themselves as strong competitors in the Western Conference. After finishing as the 6th seed last year, and losing a hard-fought battle against the Denver Nuggets. The Jazz came back in 2020 stronger than ever, finishing first in the Western Conference, being only one of two teams in the league who finished above .700 in win percentage. Donovan Mitchell has brought nothing short of his A-game this season, Rudy Gobert has continued to assert his dominance on the defensive side of things, and their supporting cast has really stepped up, especially players like Jordan Clarkson and Joe Ingles. The Jazz finish the season as not only one of the most accomplished teams but also one of the most well-rounded and complete teams in terms of team depth. This will be an exciting team to watch in the playoffs.


Runner-Ups: Phoenix Suns, Philadelphia 76ers, New York Knicks


Most Disappointing Team: Los Angeles Lakers

(Photo via Lake Show Life)

Now you would expect a team of defending champions, led by a high-caliber duo like LeBron James and Anthony Davis, to continue their winning habits in the following season. But this time around, that hasn’t been the case. Despite a hot start to their season, everyone expected the Lake Show to continue their winning stretch all the way to the end of the season, but after a few hiccups and a high-ankle sprain suffered by King James, we can really see that the Lakers are only a shell of their 2019-20 selves. At the time of this writing, the Lakers defeated the Golden State Warriors in the Play-In Tournament to secure the 7 seed in the West, facing off against the 2-seeded Phoenix Suns in the first round. Only time will tell the success of this Lakers roster, and if they can prove that they can run it back and go back to back.


Runner-Ups: Washington Wizards, Toronto Raptors, Chicago Bulls


Most Surprising Team: New York Knicks

(Photo via NBA.com)

For the first time in 8 years, the Knicks are in the Playoffs. Not as a bottom seed, but as the 4 seed in the East. With the Knicks being the biggest laughing stock of the NBA in the last 8 years, one can only have their jaws dropped seeing the Knicks’ success this season. With a roster of players who have elevated their games to new heights, such as Julius Randle, R.J. Barrett, Reggie Bullock, Nerlens Noel, and so many more, this Knicks team should not be taken lightly going into the Playoffs. Tom Thibodeau’s defensive strategies have been proven to stop the top offences of the league, while their offence is just as spectacular. I’m sure that we can all agree that it will bring a happy tear to our eyes seeing Madison Square Gardens in the Playoffs for the first time in (what feels like) forever.


Runner-Ups: Phoenix Suns, Atlanta Hawks, Charlotte Hornets


Underdog Award: The Phoenix Suns

(Photo via CBS Sports)

HOW ABOUT THEM VALLEY BOYS!?

After finishing 8-0 in the NBA Bubble, we were all excited to see what the Suns could do this season, especially with notable additions like Chris Paul and Jae Crowder. The Suns are just one of the many teams that we’ve seen grow to new heights, especially in terms of individual success. Devin Booker and Deandre Ayton are continuing to flourish as the young stars they are, we’ve seen growth in players like Mikal Bridges and Cameron Johnson, Jae Crowder has proved once again that he can be a great additional boost, and Chris Paul is continuing to certify himself as one of the greatest guards to ever play the game. Although this season was a Cinderella story in itself for the Suns, they’ll be put to the test against LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers in the first round of the Playoffs.


Runner-Ups: New York Knicks, Memphis Grizzlies, Golden State Warriors


Most Valuable Player: Nikola Jokić

(Photo via USA Today's FTW)

This award should come to nobody’s surprise. Sure, Stephen Curry has been playing out of his mind this season, averaging 32 PPG on 48/42/92 splits, Joel Embiid has been nothing but dominant, and Chris Paul keeps on proving that he can impact a franchise as the premier true point guard he is. But when you have a player like Jokic, who mans the centre position, while having the shooting touch, passing ability, and IQ of a guard, you have yourself a perfect concoction for the best centre in the league and a potential top 5 player in the league. With Jamal Murray out with a season-ending injury, Jokic put Denver on his back and showed everyone that he and Denver were a force in the league to be reckoned with. With a stat line of 26 PPG, 10.8 RPG, and 8.3 APG, while also chipping in 1.3 SPG, what isn’t there to be impressed about? Not to mention that he’s doing this on near 57/39/87 per cent shooting. The Joker is the perfect fit for this year’s MVP award, and it’s not hard to see why.


Runner-Ups: Stephen Curry, Joel Embiid, Chris Paul


Most Disappointing Player: Trae Young

(Photo via SLAM)

Now you may be asking yourself, “Hawks finished as the 5th seed, Trae is averaging 25 and 9 this season, what’s there that’s disappointing?” Trae’s nickname will explain the reason why he takes the cake for the most disappointing player. He’s been shooting ice cold, but not in a good way. Young’s game has seen little to no change from his last season. In fact, he’s actually underperformed in points per game, steals per game, efficient field goal percentage, 3 point percentage (despite attempting fewer 3-pointers), all of this while playing more games than last season. Now, these numbers don’t tell us that he’s disappointing to the point where he should be considered to be widely overrated, but he has certainly underperformed in terms of expectations and stats. The Hawks' success this season shouldn’t be credited to Young at all, but rather how Nate McMillian was able to utilize his young squad and exceed everyone’s expectations for the Hawks.


Runner-Ups: Donte DiVincenzo, Lonzo Ball, Anthony Davis


Most Surprising Player: Julius Randle

(Photo via New York Post)

For the first time in forever, the Knicks are no longer the laughing stock of the NBA. This season, New York has been the home of some of the fastest-growing talents in the league. R.J. Barrett took great strides in his early career, Alec Burks and Reggie Bullock finding themselves as key scoring pieces, and Nerlens Noel stepping up as a defensive force nobody expected him to be. But among all these pieces that make up Knicks basketball, one can’t dismiss the leap Julius Randle has taken this season. Averaging a double-double with 24 PPG and 10 RPG, while serving up 6 assists and nearly a steal a game, New York has themselves one of the premier all-around players in the league. The future is indeed bright in New York.


Runner-Ups: Jerami Grant, Michael Porter Jr., Zion Williamson


Rookie of the Year: LaMelo Ball

(Photo via Hoops Habit)

When Ball came into the league, the comparisons couldn’t come quicker. Jason Williams, Mike Bibby, and even his own brother Lonzo. But it’s not a far stretch to say that not only has Ball met our expectations but has exceeded them, earning his title as Rookie of the Year. Averaging nearly 16 PPG, 6 RPG, and 6 APG, he’s been the driving force in Charlotte’s offence this season. When someone can impact a team like LaMelo impacts Charlotte Basketball, especially in his rookie year, you are witnessing something special.


Runner-Ups: Anthony Edwards, Immanuel Quickley, Jae'Sean Tate, Tyrese Haliburton


Most Disappointing Rookie: James Wiseman

(Photo via NBC Sports)

Ahead of the draft, many had Wiseman in their top 3 prospects, with many having him going to Golden State, which played out well. Heading into the season, Wiseman was thought to be that missing piece to help Golden State get out of that 2019 slump. But that didn’t play out too well. Wiseman finished his season averaging 11.5 PPG, 5.8 RPG, and 0.7 APG while averaging 21.4 minutes a game. It’s difficult to judge a player after their rookie season, but only time will tell if Wiseman can get his act together and be the frontcourt boost the Warriors desperately need.


Runner-Ups: Obi Toppin, Markus Howard, Jalen Smith


Steal of the Draft: Saddiq Bey

(Photo via Detroit Jock City)

The Villanova product has certified himself as one of the premier sleeper-pick rookies in the league. But Bey should not be slept on, not one bit. 12.2 PPG, 4.5 RPG, and 1.4 APG aren’t rookie numbers to overlook. Not to mention that in his final 5 games of the season, Bey was averaging roughly 18 PPG, 5 RPG, and 2 APG. Despite being stranded in Motor City, Detroit should be jumping for joy knowing that they just pulled one of the biggest (if not the biggest) steals of the draft. The ceiling is high for Bey, and it looks like it’s only good things to come from here. Keeping him in Detroit might not be the best decision for the foreseeable future, but it certainly hasn’t seemed like the worst for Bey’s individual success.


Runner-Ups: Jae’Sean Tate, Malachi Flynn, Immanuel Quickley










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