The NBA recently announced that the eight seeding games taking place at Disney World would not be taken into consideration for any NBA awards or honors. The battle for an elusive spot on the All-NBA teams is officially over.
Earning an All-NBA nod typically entails that you are a top-15 player in the league. If you are ever curious about which players dominated in a particular season, simply see if they made the All-NBA teams. However, with the emergence of positionless basketball and the damaging effect it’s had on the center position, it’s not quite the case in this era.
Eligible voters must choose two guards, two forwards and a center – likely leaving off a deserving guard, seeing as the league is inundated with them. Nonetheless, being selected is a testament to that player’s value and work ethic.
Let’s take a look at who deserves to make this year’s All-NBA teams.
Stats courtesy of Basketball-Reference.com
Guard: Luka Dončić
Doncic is averaging 28.7 points, 9.3 rebounds, and 8.7 assists. The Slovenian wunderkind is also the orchestrator for the Mavericks’ potent offense – which statistically has the highest offensive rating of all-time.
Although you could make a case for other guards such as Chris Paul or Damian Lillard, their numbers and team records hinder them. Lillard’s Blazers are currently 3.5 games back of the Grizzlies for the eighth seed – winning does matter. The Thunder and Mavericks have a similar record, but Doncic’s numbers are simply too daunting compared to Pauls’s.
Guard: James Harden
The former league MVP is adding to his Hall of Fame resume. He’s leading the league in scoring and doing so by nearly four points per game – averaging 34.4 points. With little to no contention for his first-team spot, Harden will finish top-five in MVP voting.
Forward: LeBron James
These next two names are unanimous first-team selections. King James is averaging 25.7 points, 10.6 assists, and 7.9 rebounds per game. He’s the driving force behind the Lakers’ offense and has them seeded at the top of the Western Conference. James is leading the league in assist and is forecasted to finish second in MVP voting.
Forward: Giannis Antetokounmpo
The Greek Freak is the frontrunner for league MVP. He’s leading his team to the best record in the league and dominates in a myriad of statistical categories. Antetokounmpo is also a favorite to win Defensive Player of the Year.
Center: Nikola Jokic
The Joker gets the edge over Joel Embiid for this spot. His overall team record and ability to stay on the floor ultimately separated himself. The Nuggets are third in a loaded Western Conference, which is largely because of Jokic. When he’s on the floor, Denver has an offensive rating of 112.9, but without him, it drops to 106; he’s their primary playmaker.
Albeit, Embiid is by far the better defender between the two – but he’s missed 21 games. That’s well over a quarter of games played.
Guard: Damian Lillard
His team’s record precluded him from earning a spot on the first team, but Lillard is a surefire second-team player. He’s setting career highs in points (28.9), assists (7.8), effective field goal percentage (55.4), and true shooting percentage (61.9). Also, when he’s on the bench, Portland has a net rating of a 20 win team.
Guard: Chris Paul
In the last 39 games, Paul has led the Thunder to a 29-10 record – which is second-best in the NBA and first in the West. His basic stats may not be eye-opening, but he’s statistically the most clutch player in the league.
Ben Simmons is a player competing for this spot, but his limited offensive repertoire makes him a liability in clutch situations. Paul is consistent on both ends of the floor and is universally recognized as his team’s best player – whereas Simmons has Embiid.
Forward: Kawhi Leonard
Last year’s finals MVP is quietly having an outstanding season; he’s averaging career highs in points (26.9) and assists (5.0). The Klaw is a first-team All-NBA caliber player, but his infamous load management impedes his chances.
Forward: Anthony Davis
Davis has two prior first-team All-NBA selections as a center, but this year he’s started zero games at that position. The Brow leads the Lakers in points, rebounds, steals, and blocks. However, since he’s played 62% of his minutes at power forward, the defensive player of the year candidate is going to have to settle for the second-team.
Center: Joel Embiid
Despite missing out on All-NBA first-team due to injuries and load management, Embiid still had an impressive season. He’s third in the league in FTA per 100 possessions – behind only Harden and Antetokounmpo. His elite offensive production separates himself from other centers, such as Gobert and Adebayo.
Guard: Ben Simmons
Although the Australian guard refuses to take a three-pointer, he’s still a tireless defender. He guards literally all five positions and is one of the favorites for Defensive Player of the Year. Simmons leads the league in steals (2.1) and is 13th (3.2) in defensive win shares. The all-star guard is also averaging a near triple-double, with 16.7 points, 7.8 rebounds, and 8.2 assists.
Guard: Russell Westbrook
Possibly one of the toughest decisions, but the mere fact that Westbrook defends opposing centers adds to his case. His constant fervor on the defensive end propelled him past Kemba Walker, and his overall numbers eclipse Kyle Lowry on almost every level.
On the surface, it’s challenging to place the former MVP above Donovan Mitchell – considering Utah’s impressive record. However, after analyzing Mitchell’s advanced stats, it was fair to repudiate him from the top-15 conversation. He ranks 240th in RPM (-0.70); among players with a similar time of possession, he’s last in assists.
Forward: Pascal Siakam
Spicy P proved some time ago that he deserves to be amongst the NBA’s upper echelon – and this is merely icing on the cake. He’s averaging 23.6 points and 7.5 rebounds. Siakam is also the number one option for the Raptors – a team that posts the third-best record in the entire league.
There is a fair argument for Boston’s Jason Tatum – he’s recently burst onto the scene as one of the league’s next superstars. However, his emergence as the Celtic’s go-to guy has only manifested itself in the past six weeks. Tatum’s year-long resume isn’t as impressive as Siakam’s, nor is his team’s record.
Forward: Khris Middleton
Middleton is having a quasi 50/40/90 season – his 3P% currently stands at 49.9% – while averaging 21.1 points. For context, only four players in league history have accomplished this feat.
When Antetokounmpo is on the bench, he ups his scoring to 29.2 points, per 75 possessions. Moreover, Middleton can sustain the Bucks with a net rating of +8.8 – which would still rank them second in the league.
Center: Rudy Gobert
The Stifle Tower is among the favorites to win DPOY. He is pertinent to the Jazz’s smothering defensive identity, as he ranks in the 90th percentile in isolation defense. The French big man is also a menacing lob threat and is shooting an astounding 69.8% from the field.
Gobert earns the spot over Bam Adebayo due to him having a more profound impact on winning. Their points per game are similar, but Gobert surpasses Adebayo in rebounds, field goal percentage, PER, and win shares. Not to mention, the Jazz have a better record.
Eligible voters have to submit their votes for the All-NBA teams before the NBA restart on July 30th. It will be exciting to see which players are awarded a coveted spot on the All-NBA teams, and which are ultimately snubbed.