Alright while we are all bored out of our minds during quarantine so let’s talk some basketball.
I have no clue whether the NBA season is going to be cancelled and neither do you.
Let’s operate under the assumption that there will be no more regular season games played.
Even if the NBA returns with something like 5 regular season games before starting the playoffs, those 5 games aren’t going to sway voting for any major awards.
Now is a great time to discuss my picks for the 2020 All-NBA teams.
A couple initial thoughts before we get started
- Since 1956 the NBA has mandated that each of the 3 All-NBA teams consist of 2 guards, 2 forwards, and 1 center
- That format is dumb and annoying and I will not be using it
- My All-NBA team(s) will consist of 5 players on each team regardless of position
- Nobody cares who the 6th best forward is or who the 3rd best center is. We care about who the Top 15 players are
- If the 5 best players in the NBA in a certain season are all forwards why shouldn’t the All-NBA teams reflect that rather than relegating some of those players to the 2nd and 3rd teams just because of the position they play?
- Injuries and games played matter for my All-NBA selections, but less so than with my MVP ballot. Games played will be used in extreme circumstances (a player who had an amazing season but only played 30 games would not be eligible) or as a tiebreaker (2 players who are too close to call, but one has played 10 more games so they get the nod)
Without further ado let’s get to the teams.
We will start with the 3rd team, then 2nd team, and then the 1st team.
It’s called building suspense.
3rd Team All-NBA
Chris Paul, Jayson Tatum, Ben Simmons, Rudy Gobert, Kyle Lowry
Chris Paul was a lock for me here. Even as an avowed stan of the Point God I did not see this season coming from CP3.
Last year with the Rockets was the worst of CP3’s career.
16/8/5 on 42/36/86 is nothing to write home about and at age 33 it seemed like his days of being an all-star caliber player were over.
Watching him move, it was clear he had lost a step and for a player of his size that is concerning.
This year with the Thunder has been an unexpected return to form.
18/7/5 on 49/36/90 with his usual solid defense. The Thunder are?/were? the 5th seed in the West when people, including myself, thought they would have to fight just to make the playoffs.
CP3 made his 10th all-star game this season, his first since 2015-2016, and he’s earned a spot on my All-NBA 3rd team.
Next up we have Ruby Gobert. I feel sort of blah about Rudy at this point but he put together another good season.
15/14 with 2 blocks and almost 1 steal per game. He is still one of a handful of the best defensive players in basketball even though this year will be the first since 2017 that he doesn’t win Defensive Player of the Year.
It’s not a sexy pick but shots at the rim are still the most efficient in basketball and having someone like Gobert to protect the paint is valuable. Whether he’s valuable enough to pay 25 million a year is another story.
With the recent report that there is still bad blood between Donovan Mitchell and Gobert over the Big ‘Rona controversy it will be interesting to see if the Jazz look to trade Gobert and what kind of value he has with one year left on his deal.
Jayson Tatum was the last pick for this 3rd team that I was sure about. As recently as a couple months ago I was in the camp that thought Jaylen Brown would be the better player between him and Tatum.
I was wrong.
Tatum made the proverbial Leap this year after a slight regression last season. Over the course of 59 games Tatum averaged 24/7/3 on 45/40/81 shooting splits.
Tatum turned 22 last month and is showing signs of a possible offensive peak around 30/8/5 on above average efficiency. He is a career 40% 3-point shooter, with a lot of those makes, especially this season, coming on the all-important pull-up 3-pointer.
When you throw in his really good play on the defensive end you start to wonder if Tatum can be a top 5 player in the future. For now he will have to settle for a spot on my 3rd team All-NBA.
The final 2 spots came down to Kyle Lowry, Ben Simmons, and Pascal Siakam.
Let’s talk about Ben first, and then we’ll get to why I (*spoiler alert*) chose Lowry over Siakam.
The much-maligned Simmons gets a spot on my 3rd team All-NBA.
I am sure he is honored beyond words.
At this point talking about Simmons’ lack of a jumper has become so tiresome.
He will never have a consistent jumpshot.
Let’s all just move on with our lives.
What he does have is All-Defense level performance, with the capability of guarding multiple positions. How many centers in the NBA would truly be a problem for Simmons if he got switched onto them?
He was leading the league in steals before the season was vaporized by the rampaging ‘Rona. How many people even knew that?
A line of 17/8/8 at age 23 is impressive and he made his 2nd straight all-star game.
The Sixers were a disappointment this year but it is hard to point to Simmons (had a hard time deciding between referring to him as Ben or Simmons but here we are) as the culprit.
He is an athletic marvel at 6’10’’ with a 7’0’’ wingspan and could be one of the half dozen best defensive players in the league at his peak.
Nerve impingement in his lower back had him on the sidelines for the last couple of weeks before the season was postponed and while any back issue is very worrisome, the hope is that all this time off will allow him to fully heal without any long-term concerns.
So my final decision came down to Lowry vs. Siakam.
I went with Lowry by a hair.
2 years ago Siakam put up 7/5/2 on 51/22/62 shooting splits and this year he averaged 24/8/4 on 46/36/80.
That doesn’t even seem real and has to be up there for most significant 2 year improvement in NBA history.
His efficiency suffered this year in comparison to last season, but with the huge jump in volume, it was still perfectly acceptable with a true shooting % of 56.
On top of it all Siakam is a positive on the defensive end.
Lowry just feels more important to the Raptors. He seems like the heart and soul of the team.
Maybe that’s not a fair way to decide these things but what’s done is done.
Lowry’s season of 20/8/5 on 42/35/86 with solid point guard defense at age 33 was enough to get the nod.
Lowry has had one of the weirder careers in NBA history.
How many players have ever made their first all-star game in their age-28 season or later and gone on to make at least 6 all-star games?
That’s what Lowry has done making his sixth straight all-star appearance this season.
The Raptors were one of the surprise teams of the season and Lowry, though he missed some games this year due to injury, played 37 minutes a night, with his usual max effort (and constant flopping and ref baiting but that’s neither here nor there).
Is Lowry going to make the Hall of Fame? Sounds crazy but if he makes one or two more all-star games it’s going to be tough to keep him out.
Not my rules, almost everyone gets into the Basketball Hall of Fame.
Regardless he’ll get his jersey retired in Toronto and makes the final spot of my 3rd team All-NBA ballot.
2nd Team All-NBA
Anthony Davis, Dame Lillard, Nikola Jokic, Kris Middleton, and Jimmy Butler
Let’s talk about Kris Middleton first because he’s the only player on this list that I didn’t discuss at length in my article(s) last month.
This season and last season the Bucks have taken the mantle of “amazing team that can’t quite capture the public’s imagination” from the Spurs.
That doesn’t make what they’ve done any less impressive.
Middleton was a huge part of both the Bucks’ 7th ranked offense and 1st ranked defense.
He is clearly the team’s 2nd best player behind Giannis.
Before this year it was a question of whether or not Middleton was good enough to be the 2nd best player on a title team.
Well 2019-2020 Middleton left no doubt that the answer to that question is yes.
He put up 21/6/4 on 50!!/42!!/91!! In only 30 minutes a game while playing great on defense.
Per 36 minutes that comes out to 25/7/5. That will get the job done as the 2nd banana on a title team.
He has this weird reputation as a playoff underperformer even though he has put up 18/5/4 on 45/45/85 over the course of 34 career playoff games.
He didn’t play amazing in the 2019 playoffs but it’s not like he was a trainwreck.
As for the rest of the team they were discussed last month in my article on the Top 10 NBA Players but I’ll still touch on each of them briefly.
Anthony Davis– just below DPOY-level defense paired with 27/9/3 on 51/34/85 is going to comfortably get AD on the 2nd team.
The nitpicks I have with his game are still there.
He could go up half a level on defense. As a career 80% shooter from the line it seems that he has the potential be around 35-36% from 3. His on-the-fly decision making/passing in the half-court could use some work. And he needs to play with more force in general. Throw an elbow every once in a while Anthony!
Dame Lillard – Still holder of the BestPointGuardAliveBelt* (*aslongaswerenotconsideringHardenorLukaasPGsandrulingStephoutoftheconversationduetoinjury)
Dame was having the best season of his career on offense and probably overall.
29/8/4 on 46/39/89 is incredible production and efficiency.
Here’s hoping that Dame will get his 2011 Dirk moment at some point in his career.
Nikola Jokic – The Big Joker putting up 20/10/7 on 53/31/81 shooting this year and having the Nuggets at the 3 seed in the West gets him a spot on my 2nd team All-NBA.
Couple of points I want to get to here.
When is Jokic going to take his scoring up a notch?
In 2018 he put up 19 on 60% true shooting and 14 field goal attempts.
In 2019, 20 on 59% and 15 field goal attempts.
This year, 2020, he put up 20 on 60% and 15 field goal attempts.
It’s not like the Nuggets have added a high-volume scorer onto their roster in the last couple of years.
His free throw attempts have stagnated as well, sitting at 4 attempts per game for the last 3 seasons.
Jokic needs to increase his aggressiveness on the offensive end of the floor.
I want to see 17-18 shots per game with 6-7 free throws.
If that means he needs to improve his conditioning and drop some weight than so be it.
His prime should look like 25/11/7 on 50/33/83.
Jimmy Butler – Not much to add here with Jimmy that I didn’t already touch on with my previous article.
Jimmy has found his forever home in Miami with the Heat and their hardo culture.
20/7/6 on 45/25???/83.
Love the career highs in both assists and rebounds.
Jimmy may be an agent of chaos and love the drama and attention but nobody can question his work ethic.
Still haven’t really gotten an explanation for why he’s shooting 25% from 3. Free throw percentage is sitting at 83%.
Weird. He’s 33% from deep for his career.
Just a down year or mayyybeee the yips?
Something to monitor.
1st Team All-NBA
James Harden, Luka Doncic, LeBron James, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Kawhi Leonard
Nothing too revolutionary to say about these guys but as of right now they would be close to a consensus top 5 players.
Each of them had different chances to add to, or start to build, their legacies before the season was postponed.
James Harden –
Obviously another run to the Conference Finals would have given a nice boost to Harden’s legacy but even a 2nd round loss where he played amazing would have been a small boost to his playoff resume.
And if the PocketRockets got ousted in the 1st round … conversations would have started …
Luka Doncic –
Luka’s first chance to dip his toes into the playoff waters would have been special.
It will be special. Let’s stay positive!
I’m not really sure how much more Luka can improve from where he is currently at in his development.
29/9/9 on 46/32/75 is at age 21 is just laughable.
If he can get his 3-point percentage up to around 35-36% and push his free throw percentage up to the high 70’s it’s game over.
As long as he avoids major injuries Luka is going to go down as one of the greatest players of all time.
Let’s hope that we can see how his magic translates into the playoffs sooner rather than later.
LeBron James –
You know the stats by now. You know the story.
I maintain that LeBron is the best player ever.
I don’t think he has a legitimate claim to being the GOAT unless he wins a 4th title with the Lakers.
Winning another Finals MVP would be nice too but not a 100% requirement.
I never bought into the idea that LeBron could catch Giannis for MVP unless Giannis missed a bunch of games coming down the stretch.
I still think the Lakers are going to lose to the Clippers but I would love to be proved wrong.
This whole season has been building towards Lakers-Clippers in the Conference Finals and it would have been an epic series.
I wonder how the time off will impact LeBron.
Will it throw off his rhythm, as he has mentioned that he was just starting to “peak” his body with the playoffs right around the corner?
Or will the rest give us an even fresher LeBron, given time to shake the rust off during the first couple rounds of the playoffs.
LeBron may have only 1 or 2 more PlayoffLeBron runs left in him.
The Basketball Gods are not going to let us lose out on the one this year.
Basketball Gods > Bat Flu.
Kawhi Leonard –
Kawhi is another one with a lot on the line this year.
If the Clippers win and Kawhi wins Finals MVP, he would become the 1st player in NBA history to win Finals MVP with 3 different teams (I didn’t bother to research and verify this but it has to be true).
LeBron is in the same position.
Getting traded to the Raptors, winning the title, leaving, and immediately winning another title with the Clippers would give Kawhi one of the more badass 2 year runs ever.
His defense was starting to round back into Spurs Kawhi form, showing me that his body was/is feeling better than it did last year.
All the handwringing about load-management will go out the window with another title for Kawhi.
He may even be able to skip regular seasons entirely going forward!
Just show up for the playoffs, collect his trophies, and go home.
Not a bad gig if you can get it.
The more I think about it the more I wonder how Lou Williams, Pat Beverly, and Montrez Harrell will hold up in the playoffs.
Am I the only one just now realizing that Montrezl has an “l” at the end?
When did this happen?!
Whatever, the world needs Lakers-Clippers!!!
Give it to us!!!!!!
Giannis Antetokounmpo –
I am not even going to reprint Giannis’ stat line here.
Research at your own risk.
Put a HAZMAT suit on before opening up his Basketball Reference page.
Contents within are liable to cause a nuclear holocaust.
Doesn’t it feel like there’s a little too much pressure on Giannis this season?
He’s only 25.
Is it really the end of the world if the Bucks don’t make the Finals this year?
Then again LeBron made his first Finals at 22.
KD was in the Finals at 23.
This is the rarified air that Giannis has ascended to.
With great power comes … a quote from Spiderman.
To whom much is given much is tested.
Beyond the NBA commentariat and the twitterati (google this … apparently a real word?) take-masters circling like vultures around Giannis in case he once again finds himself in the middle of the Playoffs Sahara with no water left in his canteen, there is another issue at hand.
The will-he-stay-or-will-he-go chatter, which is currently at an annoying whisper, will become an unending, blaring drone if Giannis doesn’t sign an extension this summer.
You figure a Bucks championship seals the deal.
What about a loss in the Finals?
A loss before the Finals?
The next 10 years of the NBA hinges on Giannis’ decision.
Stakes are high. No pressure.