The All-NBA teams matter for players who stand to earn money in their contracts for selections, but they also reward players for terrific season and serve as a historical record of the best players in any given year.
G: James Harden, Houston Rockets
G: Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors
F: Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks
F: Kevin Durant, Golden State Warriors
C: Joel Embiid, Philadelphia 76ers
Antetokounmpo and Harden are the leading MVP candidates and third place isn’t even close. Embiid missed a lot of time, but his 27.5 points per game dominated the center position. Throw in 13.6 rebounds and nearly two blocks per game, and Embiid has locked down this spot. Paul George is having his best season as a pro by far and could easily bounce Durant from his spot as the second forward on this team, but I think, with LeBron James dealing with injuries, Durant was the best player in the league this year. Friendly reminder, the best player in the league isn’t always the MVP. Curry had perhaps his best season since 2015-16 and he should easily make the first team.
G: Damian Lillard, Portland Trailblazers
G: Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City Thunder
F: Paul George, Oklahoma City Thunder
F: Kawhi Leonard, Toronto Raptors
C: Nikola Jokic, Denver Nuggets
People love to write Westbrook off as a stat hunter. I don’t believe he was a top two guard this year, but he still averaged a triple-double and that should be enough to get him on the second team. Lillard won’t make the first team in consecutive seasons, but he’s done just enough to stay ahead of Kyrie Irving for this spot. Jokic is one of the most versatile big men in the game today, despite not being super athletic. He only put up 20.1 points per game, his largest statistical weakness, but he also averaged 10.8 rebounds and 7.3 assists. He gets an extra boost from his team’s success this year.
As mentioned, George could easily be a first teamer and is having the best year of his career, averaging 28 points, 8.2 rebounds, 4.1 assists, and a league-leading 2.2 steals per game. Leonard barely edged out LeBron James for his spot, and it mostly came down to the fact that Leonard plays more defense. You could point out that James has only played in 55 games, but Leonard has only played in 60 and James averaged more points, assists, rebounds, and blocks per game, all on a higher field goal percentage that Leonard while taking more three pointers. Just looking at the statistics and not taking into account the Lakers second half of the season train wreck, James would take this spot. Leonard gets it for playing more defense and being on a winning team.
G: Kyrie Irving, Boston Celtics
G: Kemba Walker, Charlotte Hornets
F: LeBron James, Los Angeles Lakers
F: Blake Griffin, Detroit Pistons
C: Anthony Davis, New Orleans Pelicans
Irving and the Celtics have been disappointing, but he’s still one of the most dominant players in the game today. Irving beats out Bradley Beal and Devin Booker because he’s actually on a competitive team and doesn’t get to take a million shots a game. You could argue that Beal deserves Walker’s spot because he played the most minutes of any player this year. You could also say that Booker is clearly the better player and has better per game averages. However, Walker dragged that miserable Hornets team to a 39-43 record. That’s significantly better than where the Suns and Wizards finished.
I already ran through the whole James thing back second team paragraph. He could still make the second team, and no one should complain if he does. There’s no chance James isn’t on an All-NBA team this year. Griffin has been building up toward his return to stardom, and his efforts should be rewarded with his first All-NBA selection since 2014-15. Davis at center could be controversial considering he only played in 56 games and on limited minutes, but that’s his team’s fault. I won’t fault Davis, especially since he’s one of the ten best players in the league. Gobert doesn’t have a shot at this spot because Davis is also a top-tier defender and has an offensive game that dwarfs Gobert’s. Towns has the best shot to unseat Davis, but he’s lost some popularity with fans and the media since the Jimmy Butler fiasco.
G: Devin Booker, Phoenix Suns
G: Bradley Beal, Washington Wizards
C: Karl-Anthony Towns, Minnesota Timberwolves
C: Rudy Gobert, Utah Jazz
Beal and Booker suffer from playing on horrible teams and putting up good numbers by being the only high caliber scorers on their teams, and yes, I know Deandre Ayton exists. The Wizards went 32-50 this year and the Suns went 19-63. I expect we’ll see just how capable the two guards are over the next three seasons as their situations evolve.
Leaving Towns off of the All-NBA teams was hard. I almost shifted Davis to a forward spot, took Griffin out, and put Towns in at the last center spot. However, Towns just seems streaky and his defense continues to hamper his play. He has the gifts to be on the same level as Davis, but he has refused to push himself to that next level. Gobert is extremely limited on offense. If it wasn’t for his defense he’d never even be in contention for an All-NBA team. I love rewarding defensive players, but I just can’t put Gobert ahead of Davis.
Dealing with Injuries
G: John Wall, Washington Wizards
F: Kevin Love, Cleveland Cavaliers
F: Kristaps Porzingis, Dallas Mavericks
C: DeMarcus Cousins, Golden State Warriors
Injuries have sabotaged Wall’s career, which was blossoming with five All-Star selections and an All-NBA selection in 2016-17. Love shouldered a lot of criticism when James was on the Cavs, but now Love is Cleveland’s only superstar. He made two All-NBA teams in the past and as the only All-Star in Cleveland, he will have a shot to show off next year. Porzingis was an All-Star last year, but even then, he never looked like an All-NBA caliber player. I included him with the hope that he will continue developing, but I don’t see him reaching that point.
Cousins has suffered yet another injury, a torn quad, that will cost him millions in free agency. Yet, we know he can average 25 points, 12 rebounds, and five assists when he’s healthy. That kind of talent is what led to him making two All-NBA teams so far. Hopefully he can return to that level of play.