NBA Honors: All-NBA Teams
You’ve already seen my picks for the NBA’s hardware recipients, now it’s time to break down the best of the best in my picks for All-NBA Teams.
Most predictions are as easy and as enjoyable to make as walking on glass with Anthony Mason on your back. Calling MVPs, ROYs, and DPOYs is one thing, that task involves designating one player per honor and even picking all major player awards you’re still only dealing a total of five players. Sure, that means there’s a lot of players and fans bitching like someone stole their Kelly Clarkson CD, but at least we sportswriters can hide behind the excuse of having so few slots to fill. Now imagine trying to fill 15 slots with the NBA’s best, roughly sorting by position. That’s just too many opportunities to piss people off. Alas, no matter how much I try telling myself this, ego, speculative nature, and the challenge of it all force my digits to keyboard in hopes of compiling a list I can be proud of. On that note, let me take some time to expain what gets you on my teams and what doesn’t. To be clear, these are the players I feel are worthy of the honors, not predictions. That said, most of my criteria rests on the individual season of the player. It essentially comes down to how much a guy is doing for his team. If a team’s best player is underachieving and his team is losing as a result, he’ll likely not be on any of my teams. Nevertheless, if a player is balling out of his mind and his team struggles in spite of that due to a lack of support, he won’t be penalized for mistakes by management, coaching, and teammates. With that said, I invite you to continue on and check out my picks for All-NBA First, Second, and Third Teams.
All-NBA First Team
Steve Nash, Phoenix Suns
Nash is right now hands down the best playmaker in the league. He single handedly runs the best offense in basketball and he does it without the cast of big names. Nash is practically handing out career years to his teammates. He does lead the league in assists(10.5) and free-throw percentage(.921), but numbers aren’t what’s most amazing about Nash. What’s truly amazing is that an entire offense runs off of one man’s decision making and intuition and not only does it suceed, but it flourishes, more so than any other offense in the NBA. has been well documented, and with good reason, he does the most with the least and does it with a savvy and pace that is unmatched.
Kobe Bryant, Los Angeles Lakers
Sure to be a unanimous First-Team selection once the officials are announced, Kobe Bryant has been off the charts all season long. At random, pick a spot on his game-by-game totals, almost anywhere you stop you’ll see a sequence of numbers like these: 43… 43… 42… 51… 38… 31… 50… 43… 35. And in those numbers you still won’t even find Bryant’s highest point total of the season, for that matter, not even his second highest. What Kobe has done is damn near unprecedented and certainly worth of First-Team honors.
LeBron James, Cleveland Cavaliers
LeBron makes people feel good about themselves. He may be the only instance where people’s ridiculous expectations and lofty prediction have actually been realized. We went nuts on the hype with LBJ and he lived up to it, now he’s quickly moving in on surpassing it. LeBron is developing faster than the gap between Tom Cruise and reality. In just three seasons James is putting up numbers of 31, 7, and 6. And now he’s made his playoff debut in impressive fashion. What’s more scary? Next year he’ll be even better.
Elton Brand, Los Angeles Clippers
Another Hollywood resident makes his debut on my First Team and thankfully it isn’t Lamar Odom. Instead you get Elton Brand, 25 and 10 man who is an intimidating force defensively and the cornerstone of the Clippers franchise. But of course he’s been these things for some time now, what’s special about this season is that EB has led the Clippers back the playoffs for the first time in nine years. With Duncan, Garnett, and Jermaine O’Neal all hampered with injury this season, Brand and the guy you’ll see below have risen to the top of the forward ranks. Dirk
Nowitzki, Dallas Mavericks
No other player on the planet possesses the skills Nowitzki does, the handle, the size, the stroke, the maneuverability, and the inate ability to put the ball in the basket. The whole package only seems to have gotten better this season as Dirk has averaged a career high in points(26.6) and shooting percentages across the board. This coupled with a improved defense and toughness have lead to Dirk having an MVP type season and making himself a lock for First Team.
All-NBA Second Team
Chauncey Billups, Detroit Pistons
Before the complaints launch against me for not including Billups on the First-Team, let me say if there were a sixth spot Billups would have it. In fact I debated heavily whether to include both Billups and Nash, and then place Bryant and LeBron out of position. Chauncey, like he’s done throughout his career, is forcing people to take notice like that. One year removed from winning the Finals MVP, Chauncey has put together his best season as a professional. Points and assists are a career best for CB, as is his three-point percentage. Additionally Billups lead the league in assist-to-turnover ratio, which some call the true measure of a point guard. And yeah, his team is the favorite to win it all.
Allen Iverson, Philadelphia 76ers
In his tenth season Iverson had one of his best years yet. Despite his team missing the playoffs, AI couldn’t be more deserving of this spot. Iverson averaged a career best in points at 33.0 a game, better than the 31.4 he averaged in his 2001-2002 MVP season. AI remains one the elite guards in the game, ranking top ten in the league in points(2nd), assists(8th), steals(7th), minutes(1th), field-goals made(3rd), and free-throws attempted(1st) and made(2nd). His team may not have won anything, but that certainly is not Allen Iverson’s fault.
Carmelo Anthony, Denver Nuggets
One of my favorite players to watch this season has been Carmelo Anthony. ‘Melo has proven himself one of the best pure scorers the game has to offer this season averaging a career high 26.5 points per game on the best shooting percentage of his career. His improved toughness, leadership, and poise have truly made him one of the league’s best. He may have been snubbed for an All-Star bid, but he makes my team any day.
Shawn Marion, Phoenix Suns
I think it’s safe to say Shawn Marion is the best player in the league no one talks about. Whatever love is thrown Marion’s way it isn’t enough. I’ve always thought of Marion as the easiest player to coach; you don’t have to tell him what to do, you don’t have to call any plays for him, just stick him out there and BOOM, he makes things happen. Running the break, playing defense, rebounding, making the open three, and yeah, taking it to his man one-on-one if need be. As for the particulars on this season, only career highs in points, rebounds, blocks, and field-goal percentage. If that isn’t enough to get you talking, you may want to have those vocals checked.
Shaquille O’Neal, Miami Heat
What can I say? I’m a sucker for the big fella. Shaq hasn’t been his usual dominant self, and he may never be again. That said, Shaq is still the preeminent center in the NBA. Yao Ming is still not on Shaq’s level of dominance. Ask any NBA team or player who they’d rather face, anybody not wearing a Detroit Pistons jersey with "Wallace" on the back will choose Ming in an instant. And until Yao learns some sort of deadly basketball kung-foo that isn’t going to change. No one wants a piece of Shaq and with good reason. Shaq’s presence in the paint is an immeasurable advantage for Miami and for that reason O’Neal takes this spot.
Gilbert Arenas, Washington Wizards
GA made third team last season and despite statistical improvements he doesn’t get a bump up to B team. The Wizards have struggled just to stay hovering around .500 and while Arenas has certainly scored in bunches, it can be argued that his leading the league in turnovers and his excessive three-point shot attempts(2nd in the league) have contributed to the Wizards’ struggles. His scoring average is fourth best in the league at 29.3 and he’s certainly one of the more explosive guards in the league, but pulling in the reins a little may be the key to his, and the Wizards’, improvement.
Dwyane Wade, Miami Heat
Unfortunately the nature of these things forces me to feel guilty about letting Wade drop all the way to third team. As much as I’d like to use this space to say some nice things about Wade, you don’t want to hear that, you want an explanation. The best one I can offer is that the league is stacked with guards. CB was a lock for second team since I nearly included him in my first squad, and AI, well he doesn’t have the help of certain seven footer that resides in South Beach. I’m a big Dwyane Wade guy, I really am, and I’m as impressed as anyone at what he’s done this season, but I can’t find it in me to place him any higher.
Paul Pierce, Boston Celtics
I’m fully aware of how little the Celtics accomplished this season, I’m also aware of how ill Pierce’s game is and how much he means to his team. Pierce was the only player in the league this season to lead his team in points, rebounds, assists, steals, and minutes. I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that without Pierce the Celtics may not have won 15 games this season. You can blame Boston’s problems on whatever you want, except Pierce — he’s done everything imaginable to help his team win.
Kevin Garnett, Minnesota Timberwolves
If seeing AI and Pierce on my teams surprised you, then seeing KG has probably made you go a little soggy in the pants right about now. Of course there is no reason to be surprised. For all the talk of Garnett slumping this year, his season numbers — 21.8 ppg, 12.4 rpg, 4.1 apg — are right on pace with his career numbers. He may not be repeating his MVP season from a couple of years ago, but even through some injuries he’s still managed to lead the league in rebounding and efficiency rating. The Wolves are bad, but with the exception of a few years, they’ve always been bad. Statistically Garnett is still one of the best players in the league and Minnesota’s struggles haven’t been due to a lack of effort on his part.
Yao Ming, Houston Rockets
I’d like to say I don’t have any beef with Yao. I only have a problem when people make the assumption he is better than Shaquille O’Neal. In truth I’m impressed with how Yao responded to the Rockets losing McGrady. The Big East actually showed some toughness and put the team on his back. And like it or not what really keeps Yao off second, or even first team is not Shaq. We can’t forget Yao missed 25 games this season and wasn’t as aggressive as he was after T-Mac went down. Had Yao played more than 70 games and performed like he did in March all the way through, there’s a good chance he could have made my first squad, as it is, he takes his spot here.
And there you have it, all three All-NBA Teams in one piece. Stay tuned for my All-Defense and All-Rookie teams that are soon to follow, as well as my bonus All-Interview team. Until next time, peace.