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ESPN pegs Bam Adebayo, Anthony Davis as finalist for year-end awards

Per usual, several former Wildcats will be up for year-end award in the NBA.

New Orleans Pelicans v Los Angeles Lakers Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images

The Kentucky Wildcats have one of the most famed men’s basketball programs in the nation. With that title comes the expectation that their alumni will thrive in the NBA, the sport’s highest level.

In the 2019-2020 season, they did just that.

With the season suspended in the middle of March, the regular-season-based awards will only be judged from the beginning of the season to that point. With only 22 teams playing in the NBA’s restart, it’s unfair for some as the last 15-20 games were cut off for 8 teams.

That said, the awards haven’t been released, but ESPN’s Zach Lowe has named the players that he believes will be finalists for the awards. Two Wildcats were represented — Anthony Davis for Defensive Player of the Year and Bam Adebayo for Most Improved Player.

Davis comes in third with MVP-favorite Giannis Antetokounmpo and Jazz center Rudy Gobert ahead of him.

Davis started out smothering everything, and that image of him as implacable all-court destroyer stuck. In reality, his impact waned a bit.... Davis brings the league’s second-most-potent combination of rim protection and perimeter ubiquity. He is one of only two players (along with Jonathan Isaac, coming for one of these spots in his next healthy campaign) to average 1.5 steals and at least two blocks this season. He can switch in a pinch,” Lowe wrote.

On the season, Davis averaged 2.4 blocks and 1.5 steals en route to being the best defender on the Western Conference-leading Lakers team. And, if you ask some of the players that took the court against Davis, they’d vote for the seven-time All-Star.

As for Adebayo, he got love for Most Improved Player in his third season in the NBA. A tough award to win, Adebayo will go up against Jayson Tatum and Brandon Ingram with Ingram being the favorite. Lowe ranked Adebayo second.

“Adebayo projected as a fast, ultra-switchable center. He showed glimpses of advanced big man passing last season. But nothing portended his emergence in Year 3 as a legit offensive fulcrum and secondary scorer,” Lowe wrote.

A crucial piece of the puzzle for the Jimmy Butler-led Heat, Adebayo almost doubled his scoring, averaging 16.2 points per game, up from 8.9. He also increased his rebounding to 10.5 and his assists from 2.2 to 5.1. His defensive numbers also improved tremendously.

Adebayo’s real value came in the fact that he has become arguably the best small-ball five in the league. He can switch onto any guard while also being an elite rebounder. That gives Miami the ability to pick-and-plug any four players around him.

The Heat have become a title-hopeful team because of Adebayo’s development, and that’s all you really need to know about his value.