Although 22 teams are set to begin the bubble environment restart of the 2019-20 NBA season in a matter of days, it has been deemed by the league that those games won't factor in determining who will capture year-end awards. To that end, Los Angeles Lakers coach Frank Vogel has an idea about who should win two of the honors -- Most Valuable Player and Defensive Player of the Year -- based on games that have already been played: fellow Lakers LeBron James and Anthony Davis.
As shared by ESPN, Vogel made the proclamation during a media conference call on Saturday.
The Lakers coach, who had directed his squad to a 49-14 record and the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference before the league suspended play in March amid the COVID-19 pandemic, didn't mince words in his endorsement of Lakers All-Star duo.
"Nobody impacts winning more than LeBron James. I do believe that he should be the MVP this year," he 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."
Vogel pointed to two games that occurred just before the suspension of play -- a 10-point win over reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks on March 6 and a nine-point victory ousting of Kawhi Leonard and the L.A. Clippers on March 8 -- as prime examples of why James and Davis deserve to be honored.
On the whole, both players have presented strong cases for year-end hardware throughout the season.
Through the suspension of play, James had averaged 25.7 points, a league-leading 10.6 assists, nearly eight rebounds and 1.2 steals per contest. He also continues to be one of the league's most efficient point producers, boasting an effective field goal percentage over 55. Los Angeles has been nearly 12 points per 100 possessions better when James is on the floor this season compared to when he sits.
For a player well north of age 30 and in his 17th go-round in the league, James is competing at a previously unforeseen level.
Davis, meanwhile, continues to be a menace to the opposition in the paint, averaging 2.4 blocks per contest and also currently ranks second in the league in defensive win shares at 4.1. Within six feet of the basket, opponents have connected on shot attempts at a rate nearly 11 percentage points lower than their norms when Davis was the nearest defender.
While Vogel has been effusive in his praise and endorsement of his own players, Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer believes that his cornerstone, Antetokounmpo, should capture MVP honors for the second straight season.