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[OC] If the regular season ended today, who would make your All-NBA 1st team? And 2nd team? And 3rd team? And 4th team? And 5th team? And 6th team? And 7th -- uh oh -- I think I lost my marbles... but let's keep going... 8th team? 9th team? 10th team?
Getting named as an NBA All-Star is a high honor, but being named to an All-NBA team is even rarer air. After all, only 15 players in the entire league earn that distinction. The fact that it's such an exclusive club makes it so important, so the idea of adding more players to the list would devalue it by nature. It'd be a silly, fruitless exercise, and a complete waste of time. That said... it sure beats "reality" right now. And in the interest of escapism, let's entertain that hypothetical. Who would make your 1st team All-NBA? Your 2nd? Your 3rd? Your 4th? The challenge is get all the way up to the 10th if you can handle that test of your sanity. For my own, I include a few caveats: --- The NBA breaks down All-NBA spots more traditionally with frontcourt and backcourt, but I find that outdated. For mine, I'm going to include 1 "lead guard," 2 "wings," 1 "big," and 1 "flex" that can be any position. To me, that's reflective of the modern game. Most teams play with 1 guard, 3 wings, and 1 big, but there are teams that use 2 lead guards, or 2 bigs, etc. --- The nature of basketball statistics tends to break down by game, or by minute, or even by play/possession. In the process, we tend to overlook players who are durable and add aggravate value over the course of a season. Personally, I'm going to factor in "games played" more than most would. --- The advanced stats I'm listing are true shooting percentage and ESPN's estimated "wins added" based on their real plus/minus metric. With all that said, let's get to the madness.
GUARD: James Harden (HOU). 34.4 points, 7.4 assists, 62 TS%, +10.4 wins added You can tell when a player has reached an historic level of greatness when no one seems to care when they're averaging over 34 points per game (on awesome efficiency.) Ho hum. WING: LeBron James (LAL). 25.7 points, 10.6 assists, 58 TS%, +11.0 wins added After last year's disappointment, LeBron James has come back leaner and meaner, with much better effort on D. He hasn't been attacking the paint and drawing fouls quite as well as he did in his youth, but he's adjusted his playing style and racked up a career high in assists. WING: Giannis Antetounkmpo (MIL). 29.6 points, 13.7 rebounds, 61 TS%, +11.2 wins added The Greek Freak's struggles at the free throw line (down to 63%) have lowered his efficiency from last year, but he's still clearly in contention for another MVP season. His point total nearly matches his minutes (30.9). BIG: Nikola Jokic (DEN). 20.2 points, 6.9 assists, 60 TS%, +6.0 wins added The Joker LOOKS like he should be a complete liability on defense, but the stats haven't born that out (he's +1.8 on that end in RPM.) And given that, his transcendent passing ability assists (get it???) his 1st team candidacy. FLEX: Anthony Davis (LAL). 26.7 points, 2.4 blocks, 61 TS%, +5.2 wins added The Lakers have vaulted into the top 3 in defense, largely due to Anthony Davis' ability to wreak havoc on that end. And keep in mind, he's leading his team in PPG as well.
GUARD: Damian Lillard (POR). 28.9 points, 7.8 assists, 62 TS%, +4.9 wins added If it wasn't for Steph Curry and James Harden, Dame would be looking at a lot more first-team All-NBA seasons. This hasn't been Portland's best by any stretch, but it's hard to fault him for that. WING: Luka Doncic (DAL). 28.7 points, 8.7 assists, 58 TS%, +5.9 wins added No doubt, Luka Doncic is our toughest exclusion from the 1st team and the one I figure will be the most unpopular pick (so far.) The reason he slipped off the 1st team for me is the injury; he's played 10 less games than Nikola Jokic. WING: Kawhi Leonard (LAC). 26.9 points, 5.0 assists, 59 TS%, +5.7 wins added Similarly, it's always going to be tough for me to justify Kawhi on a 1st team as long as he takes off games (he's missed 13/64 so far.) Still, he should be rested and ready to go for another title campaign. BIG: Rudy Gobert (UTA). 15.1 points, 13.7 rebounds, 70 TS%, +4.5 wins added I wonder if Rudy Gobert's coronavirus issues will hurt him in media votes in the future. Personally, I'm just going to keep rewarding him and recognizing him as one of the most impactful players in the league. FLEX: Jimmy Butler (MIA). 20.2 points, 6.1 assists, 58 TS%, +4.1 wins added Jimmy Butler's struggled to score from the field this year, but his ability to draw contact and get to the line (9.1 FTA) keeps his efficiency above average. And therein, his passing and defense help boost him into this range.
GUARD: Chris Paul (OKC). 17.7 points, 6.8 assists, 61 TS%, +5.5 wins added An incredible year all around for CP3, who has turned 35 years old this month. WING: Jayson Tatum (BOS). 23.6 points, 7.1 rebounds, 56 TS%, +4.6 wins added We all know him as a deadly scorer, but Jayson Tatum's added strength has helped him hang at the 4 spot on defense, which is a boon for the Celtics' small-ball/wing-ball approach. WING: Khris Middleton (MIL). 21.1 points, 6.2 rebounds, 62 TS%, +3.7 wins added Giannis is the engine that drives the Bucks, but having shooters like Middleton around him is key. BIG: Pascal Siakam (TOR). 23.6 points, 3.6 assists, 56 TS%, +4.8 wins added Without Kawhi Leonard soaking up attention, Pascal Siakam's not getting as many easy baskets (his 2-point FG% has dropped from 60.2% to 50.6%.) Still, he's a hugely valuable player on both ends of the floor. Is he a true “big?” No. But I think that term is broad enough to extend past centers and can include PFs as well for our purposes. FLEX: Russell Westbrook (HOU). 27.5 points, 8.0 rebounds, 54 TS%, +6.0 wins added I've never been a big Westbrook fan, but I give him credit for keeping his activity level and productivity up in a new role. He's gotten better and better as the season has gone on as well.
GUARD: Ben Simmons (PHI). 16.7 points, 8.2 assists, 61 TS%, +4.2 wins added Shooting? Still a problem. But fortunately, Ben Simmons does virtually everything else well. He can also step up his game when needed (like when Embiid is out.) WING: Donovan Mitchell (UTA). 24.2 points, 4.2 assists, 56 TS%, +2.1 wins added I don't know if Donovan Mitchell is truly any better than any high-scoring SGs like Devin Booker or Zach LaVine, but we have to reward him from being on a winner. WING: Brandon Ingram (NO). 24.3 points, 6.3 rebounds, 59 TS%, +2.4 wins added A candidate for Most Improved, Brandon Ingram helped carry his team early in the season. He'll still have to figure out his chemistry with Zion Williamson, but it's safe to say he made himself a lot of money this year. BIG: Bam Adebayo (MIA). 16.2 points, 10.5 rebounds, 61 TS%, +3.1 wins added Bam's ability to move the ball on offense (5+ assists) and move his feet on defense is key to the team. The scary part is: he may have another level to his game to reach. FLEX: Devin Booker (PHX). 26.1 points, 6.6 assists, 62 TS%, +3.5 wins added It's getting hard to blame Devin Booker for Phoenix's W-L record. He's just a flat-out stud scorer.
GUARD: Trae Young (ATL). 29.6 points, 9.3 assists, 60 TS%, +3.2 wins added Like Devin Booker, Trae Young is an offensive savant. Unfortunately, his defense is even more of an issue. He graded at -3.1 in RPM on that end, one of the worst in the entire NBA. WING: Bradley Beal (WAS). 30.5 points, 6.1 assists, 58 TS%, +1.8 wins added You expect Trae Young to be bad at defense, but Bradley Beal has graded surprisingly bad there as well (-2.8 RPM.) Of course, starting alongside Isaiah Thomas doesn't make that easy. Nevertheless, we had to downgrade him a few spots for the inconsistent effort there. WING: Jaylen Brown (BOS). 20.4 points, 6.4 rebounds, 59 TS%, +3.3 wins added Coming out of Cal, some scouts questions Jaylen Brown's feel for the game. Right now, it's hard to find many things that he doesn't do well. BIG: Joel Embiid (PHI). 23.4 points, 11.8 rebounds, 59 TS%, +2.8 wins added Embiid would rank higher at full strength, but he's missed about 1/3 of the season so far. FLEX: Kyle Lowry (TOR). 19.7 points, 7.7 assists, 59 TS%, +3.2 wins added Now age 34, Kyle Lowry continues to play very well on both ends. He's the little engine that could -- or perhaps more appropriately, the caboose.
GUARD: Eric Bledsoe (MIL). 15.4 points, 5.4 assists, 58 TS%, +2.9 wins added Eric Bledsoe gets more flak than credit, but he's still one of the best players on the best team in the league. WING: Zach LaVine (CHI). 25.5 points, 4.2 assists, 57 TS%, +4.3 wins added If the Bulls had a better record, Zach LaVine could have been a few spots higher. His defense isn't quite as bad as advertised either. WING: C.J. McCollum (POR). 22.5 points, 4.3 assists, 54 TS%, +3.7 wins added This must be the "all flak" team, because C.J. McCollum also gets blamed a lot for Portland's struggles to get over the hump. To me, Dame+CJ isn't the problem; the complete mess at the SF-PF position is to blame. BIG: Domatas Sabonis (IND). 18.5 points, 12.4 rebounds, 59 TS%, +1.5 wins added Arvydas' kid also has some baby Joker to his game, as his 5.0 assists are a huge part of Indiana's offense. FLEX: Paul George (LAC). 21.0 points, 3.9 assists, 58 TS%, +2.5 wins added Again, I'm factoring in games played more than most, and Paul George (42 GP) has missed quite a bit of time.
GUARD: Kemba Walker (BOS). 21.2 points, 4.9 assists, 57 TS%, +2.5 wins added Kemba Walker doesn't have the same workload in Boston as he did in Charlotte, and the stats reflect that. Still, he's safely one of the top 10 PGs in the league. WING: Bojan Bogdanovic (UTA). 20.2 points, 4.1 rebounds, 60 TS%, +2.6 wins added Here we're talking BOJAN (from Utah) and not BOGDAN (from Sacramento), although they're both good. Bogey's delivered on the three-point shooting for Utah, hitting 41.4% on 7+ attempts a game. WING: Danilo Gallinari (OKC). 19.2 points, 5.5 rebounds, 61 TS%, +2.8 wins added Perpetually underrated, it may be time we stop acting shocked when Gallo's teams (LAC last year, OKC this year) are better than people expect. BIG: Karl-Anthony Towns (MIN). 26.5 points, 10.8 rebounds, 64 TS%, +2.7 wins added KAT was among the hardest to rank for me. Offensively, he's historically great -- arguably the best shooting center of all time. The defense is an issue, of course, and the workload is what doomed him on my list. His 35 games played is our lowest total so far. FLEX: Jrue Holiday (NO). 19.6 points, 6.9 assists, 54 TS%, +3.5 wins added It's fitting that Jrue Holiday is listed at "flex," because he's gone from a pure point guard to a jack of all trades.
GUARD: Ja Morant (MEM). 17.6 points, 6.9 assists, 57 TS%, +1.6 wins added As the lead guard of a team, you expect Ja Morant to put up good raw stats. However, his efficiency and steadiness is remarkable for a rookie making the leap from Murray State. He also gets a boost for leading Memphis into playoff position (for now, until the NBA decides to snatch that away.) WING: Evan Fournier (ORL). 18.8 points, 3.2 assists, 60 TS%, +2.1 wins added Quietly, Evan Fournier is having a good season for Orlando. If you don't believe me, google it. WING: Robert Covington (HOU). 12.8 points, 1.5 steals, 57 TS%, +2.8 wins added Every team would love to have a low-usage 3+D forward like RoCo. Except for Philly and Minnesota, I guess. BIG: Hassan Whiteside (POR). 16.3 points, 14.2 rebounds, 64 TS%, +2.1 wins added This may be a controversial pick because Whiteside has become a punching bag for fans, but he may have made the rare transition from underrated to overrated (and overpaid) and back to underrated again. FLEX: Tobias Harris (PHI). 19.4 points, 6.8 rebounds, 56 TS%, +2.1 wins added Speaking of overpaid... Tobias Harris hasn't lived up to his giant contract yet, but he's undoubtedly a good starter to have on your team.
GUARD: Spencer Dinwiddie (TOR). 20.6 points, 6.8 assists, 54 TS%, +3.0 wins added Nothing raises your bitcoin valuation more than that sweet, sweet All-NBA 9th team trophy. WING: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (OKC). 19.3 points, 6.1 rebounds, 57 TS%, +2.1 wins added Like Jrue Holiday, SGA is a point who can play "up" a position. In fact, he’s been working effectively at both SG and SF this year, as illustrated by that nice rebounding rate. WING: Duncan Robinson (MIA). 13.3 points, 3.3 rebounds, 68 TS%, +3.0 wins added This may be high for a one-trick pony, but that trick happens to be quite a valuable one. The unknown Robinson is hitting 44.8% of his threes (at 8.4 attempts per game.) He's a huge part of Miami's offensive gameplan. BIG: Kristaps Porzingis (DAL). 19.2 points, 9.5 rebounds, 54 TS%, +3.9 wins added Too high? Too low? I can't figure out Porzingis' season in Dallas so far. Still, any big who can block shots and hit threes has an inherent value. FLEX: Dennis Schroder (OKC). 19.0 points, 4.1 assists, 57 TS%, +5.4 wins added Perhaps the biggest surprise to OKC's success this season has been a career year for Dennis Schroder off the bench. He's even played well when paired with CP3 and SGA in the same lineup. The stats suggest that Schroder should rank even higher than this, but I'm still trying to wrap my mind around him becoming such an efficient player all of a sudden.
GUARD: Lou Williams (LAC). 18.7 points, 5.7 assists, 55 TS%, +3.6 wins added Sweet Lou has a little less to do now that Kawhi Leonard and Paul George are in town, but he's still one of the best scorers off the bench. WING: Buddy Hield (SAC). 19.8 points, 4.8 rebounds, 57 TS%, +3.0 wins added A NEW addition to the "scorer off the bench club," Buddy Hield deserves kudos for accepting that role as the Kings try to find a spark. He hasn't been as red-hot as he had been last season, but he's still one of the best SGs in the league. WING: Gordon Hayward (BOS). 17.3 points, 4.1 assists, 59 TS%, +1.9 wins added Gordon Hayward has quietly been working his way back into top form, with his ball movement and BBIQ two real feathers in his cap. He's dinged a few spots here based on missed time (he's only played 45 games.) BIG: Montrezl Harrell (LAC). 18.6 points, 7.1 rebounds, 61 TS%, +3.6 wins added Fittingly, Montrezl Harrell will join Lou Williams' team here. It'll be interesting to see whether Doc Rivers rolls with the two of them in crunch time during the playoffs. FLEX: Nikola Vucevic (ORL): 19.5 points, 11.0 rebounds, 54 TS%, +2.0 wins added It's debatable how valuable Vucevic's 20-10 seasons are because he's not a good defender and he's not a terribly efficient scorer. That said, I'm giving him credit for a high degree of difficulty here as the go-to scorer on a team that doesn't have a lot of weapons offensively.
just missed the cut
If you'd like to sub in any other players, here are some notable names: PG FredVanVleet (TOR), PG Devonte' Graham (CHA), PG Malcolm Brogdon (IND), PG Jamal Murray, PG Lonzo Ball, PG De'Aaron Fox (SAC), PG/SG Marcus Smart (BOS), PG/SG Kendrick Nunn (MIA), SF Joe Ingles (UTA), SF Will Barton (DEN), SF DeMar DeRozan (SA), SF/PF Davis Bertans (WAS), SF/PF Aaron Gordon (ORL), PF LaMarcus Aldridge (SA), C Myles Turner (IND), C Steven Adams (OKC), C Andre Drummond (CLE), C Jarrett Allen (BKN), C Derrick Favors (NO), C Jonas Valanciunas (MEM), C Brook Lopez (MIL). And of course, we need an obligatory Zion Williamson (NO) mention, although his 19 games played is a tough hurdle to overcome.
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