NBA fans continue holding out hope that the 2019-20 season will return sometime over the summer. However, if the league does decide to cancel the season without crowning a champion, the least the NBA can do is announce this season’s accolade winners.
I already predicted the award winners in a previous article, so this piece will focus on predicting the All-NBA teams. In comparison to past seasons, there should be very little contention about the first two teams. The player pool is obvious, but I threw a few wrenches in the works by messing around with the traditional position assignments.
All-NBA 1st Team
G- James Harden, Houston Rockets
G- Luka Doncic, Dallas Mavericks
F- LeBron James, Los Angeles Lakers
F- Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks
C- Anthony Davis, Los Angeles Lakers
Antetokounmpo and James are locks for the first team since they’ll finish first and second in the MVP race. Harden should also easily make the first team because he’ll likely finish third in MVP voting. That leaves the second guard position and the center spot as the two controversial selections.
After the season he had, it might seem obvious that Doncic deserves a place on the first team. However, Damian Lillard appeared in more games and set single-season career-highs with 28.9 points and 7.8 assists per game. While the Portland Trailblazers underachieved after making the conference final last year, Doncic elevated the Mavericks into a playoff spot. That thin line sets the two guards apart.
Technically, Davis is a power forward, but I don’t believe either of the traditional centers vying for this position truly deserved it. Davis has played as a center in the past, so I feel comfortable giving him the spot. If I had a real spine, I would’ve just booted the center position out entirely and kept Lillard on as a third guard.
All-NBA 2nd Team
G- Damian Lillard, Portland Trail Blazers
G- Russell Westbrook, Houston Rockets
F- Jimmy Butler, Miami Heat
F- Kawhi Leonard, Los Angeles Clippers
C- Nikola Jokic, Denver Nuggets
Since Lillard narrowly missed making the first team, he’s a lock for the second unit. Westbrook should also be a lock considering the dramatic boost in his field goal percentage and total scoring from last season to 2019. The former MVP proved capable of thriving alongside Harden in Houston.
Despite adjusting to a new team for the second year in a row, Leonard led the Clippers to the fourth-best record in the NBA. He also set or tied his single-season career-highs in points, assists, and rebounds per game while playing fewer minutes per game than last season. Leonard should easily make the second team for the second year in a row.
The final forward spot and the center position represent the most controversial selections for the second team. Butler played well, but there’s a talent gap between the three already selected players and Miami’s alpha dog. However, Butler did earn 8.5 win shares this season, and he served as the central piece of Miami’s surprising 41-24 run. Butler’s All-Defensive talent also helps him secure a spot on the second team.
The center position came down to Jokic and Joel Embiid. While Embiid continued dealing with injuries in 2019, Jokic didn’t miss a game. He might not score at as high of a clip as Embiid and sometimes struggles on the defensive end, but Jokic facilitates better than any other big man in the league. He also led the Nuggets to a 43-22 record while the 76ers underachieved at 39-26.
All-NBA 3rd Team
G- Trae Young, Atlanta Hawks
G- Chris Paul, Oklahoma City Thunder
F- Jayson Tatum, Boston Celtics,
F- Bam Adebayo, Miami Heat
C- Joel Embiid, Philadelphia 76ers
Embiid represents the only lock for the third team. Considering how I messed with the center position for the first team, Embiid could easily find himself on the second team this year. However, the other four slots on the third team could get divided among roughly eleven or twelve qualified candidates in several ways.
Young somewhat questionably received a starting spot at the All-Star game. His 29.6 points and 9.3 assists per game make a strong case for an All-NBA selection. However, Young isn’t useful on defense, and the Hawks finished with an abysmal 20-47 record. Nevertheless, this wouldn’t be the first time a high-scoring player on a bad team snuck onto an All-NBA squad.
Paul deserves a spot on the third team more than Young or the other possible guard candidates. He appeared in 63 of OKC’s 64 games, leading the team to a surprising 40-24 record. Behind Paul’s immense court presence and clutch-time performances, the Thunder emerged as the best over-achieving team this season.
Tatum could challenge Butler for a spot on the second team. After turning in a disappointing sophomore campaign, Tatum made the leap in his third NBA season. He arguably became the best player on the 43-21 Celtics and took his overall game to another level. This season, Tatum surpassed his 2018 scoring total by over 100 points, despite playing in 20 fewer games.
That leaves the final forward spot. Yeah, I messed with the position again. If you think about it, at 6-9 Adebayo is closer to the size of a power forward anyway. Besides, he saw some time at the four spot this season. While his scoring numbers aren’t through the roof, Adebayo played serious defense and posted satisfying VORP and win share totals this season.
The best remaining players include Bradley Beal, Devin Booker, Rudy Gobert, Kyle Lowry, Khris Middleton, Pascal Siakam, Ben Simmons, and Kemba Walker.
All-Defensive 1st Team
G- Ben Simmons, Philadelphia 76ers
G- Marcus Smart, Boston Celtics
F- Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks
F- Anthony Davis, Los Angeles Lakers
C- Rudy Gobert, Utah Jazz
The explanation for this team is relatively clear cut. The four players besides Smart are the frontrunners for the Defensive Player of the Year award. Antetokounmpo will probably win it, although Simmons perhaps put on a more dynamic performance this season. Davis and Gobert fill the roles of the traditional shot blockers and defensive anchors who usually claim this award.
Only Smart could lose his spot on this team. However, considering he earned All-Defensive First Team honors last season as well, that seems unlikely.