If the NBA is going to determine its awards for the 2019-20 season based on games played up to when it went on hiatus March 11, Los Angeles Lakers coach Frank Vogel thinks L.A.’s final weekend before the break should be seriously considered.
The Lakers beat Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks, 113-103, on March 6 and then downed Kawhi Leonard and the L.A. Clippers, 112-103, two days later.
Vogel says that LeBron James’ performance in those two games exemplified his case for MVP, while Anthony Davis’ work in the two wins showed why he should be Defensive Player of the Year.
“In that weekend, LeBron took the toughest assignment in both games. He guarded Kawhi in the Clippers game and did a great job with him there. And then he guarded Giannis in the Bucks game when AD was in foul trouble and did a great job in those two situations,” Vogel said on a video conference call with reporters Saturday. “I think that weekend was probably a great indicator or a great measuring stick.”
James, 35, has won four MVP awards but his last came in 2012-13. Since then, he’s had two second-place and two third-place finishes for the honor.
“Nobody impacts winning more than LeBron James. I do believe that he should be the MVP this year,” Vogel said. “I believe he should be the MVP and I believe Anthony Davis should be the Defensive Player of the Year. I hope those awards go to our two players.”
Davis, 27, has never finished higher than third place for the defensive distinction.
Vogel said that the pair’s leadership on defense was paramount to the Lakers’ success.
“We’re the third best defense in the NBA, best in the West and a lot of that comes from [James’] commitment this season, which has been greater than the last few years from what I’m told, has really set us apart,” Vogel said. “Like I said, I’m hopeful that those two awards go to those two players.”
James averaged 25.7 points, 7.9 rebounds and a league-best 10.6 assists per game prior to the season being suspended.
Vogel said James’ intangible contributions to the team should also be remembered by voters.
“Not to take anything away from some of the other candidates, but what LeBron means to our team, even before the season begins when the roster is being put together, with the number of guys that are on the Lakers because LeBron James is here and want to play with him,” Vogel said. “I think it starts there.
“And then obviously what he’s able to do on the basketball court, orchestrating the offense, leading the league in assists and really setting the tone on the defensive end.”
The NBA issued a memo Friday that announced the eight seeding games played by the 22 teams invited to Orlando, Florida for the season’s restart would not be included in awards consideration. The decision was made in order to ensure, “a fair process in which players and coaches from all 30 teams will have the same opportunity to be honored as top performers for the regular season,” the memo read, according to The Associated Press.
Vogel was also asked who he would vote for Coach of the Year, if he couldn’t vote for himself, and crossed lines on the Lakers-Boston Celtics rivalry to cast his ballot.
“I think so many people have done great jobs,” he said. “Obviously coach Bud (Mike Budenholzer) and coach (Nick) Nurse out east, doing what they’ve done has been very impressive,” Vogel said. “‘Billy the Kid’ (Billy Donovan) in OKC — with a team that didn’t necessarily have high expectations — has done a great job. Taylor Jenkins has done a great job in Memphis.
But why don’t I give it to my former Indiana buddy Brad Stevens for doing a great job losing Kyrie Irving and a few others? Al Horford changing the whole identity of their team and having a great season. I would probably vote for Brad.”