NBA playoffs: Post-season stars populate All-NBA first team
The usual suspects were named to the All-NBA teams Thursday. But there are some new faces who were picked for the league's select squads.
Brett Davis/USA Today
Awards season in any of the professional sports is a time to celebrate individual accomplishments over a long season.
However, in a team game like basketball one lead dog like a LeBron James or a Kobe Bryant can come to dominate on the floor and over-shadow the team element. Sometimes it makes it seem like they're playing a full-court game of one-on-one, rendering the other eight players on the court as statues for stretches.
Therefore, the teams with the stars generally get more attention than the other teams in the league, but one of the more interesting awards every year is the announcement of the All-NBA Teams to see where the stars stack up against each other. The first, second, and third best starting fives composed of the best stars, are slotted by position, from all over the league and voted on by a panel of sports writers and broadcasters, according to NBA.com.
This year, Mr. James of the Cleveland Cavaliers and point guard Stephen Curry of the Golden State Warriors were unanimous vote getters, capturing all 129 first-team votes. James was selected to the All-NBA first team for an eighth straight season and ninth time overall, according to NBA.com. He led Cleveland to a 53-29 record, good for the second seed in the Eastern Conference. As a sign of his importance, the Cavaliers went just 3-10 when James didn't play. The 11-time All-Star averaged 25.3 points to rank third in scoring and 7.4 assists per game, good for seventh, according to Basketball-Reference.com.
Mr. Curry was chosen as the league's Most Valuable Player (MVP) and led Golden State to the best record in the league, posting a 67-15 mark, and is making his first of many likely appearances on the First Team. His 286 made three-pointers broke his own NBA record of 272 makes during the 2012-2013 season. His average of 23.8 points and 7.7 assists per contest were both good for sixth in the league. He also set a career-high in steals per game with 2.04.
James and Curry were joined by Houston Rockets' shooting guard James Harden – making his second straight first team, power forward Anthony Davis of the New Orleans Pelicans, and center Marc Gasol of the Memphis Grizzles. For Mr. Davis and Mr. Gasol, this was also their first selection to the league's first team.
The All-NBA second team consists of Oklahoma City Thunder point guard Russell Westbrook, Portland Trail Blazers power forward LaMarcus Aldridge, Los Angeles Clippers point guard Chris Paul, Chicago Bulls center – and Marc's older brother – Pau Gasol, and Sacramento Kings center DeMarcus Cousins.
The third team was made of Clippers power forward Blake Griffin and center DeAndre Jordan, San Antonio Spurs center Tim Duncan, Warriors shooting guard Klay Thompson and Cavaliers point guard Kyrie Irving.
According to NBA.com, Mr. Harden was the second highest first place vote-getter, with 125 first votes, and he went neck and neck all season with Curry to see who would be crowned MVP. For his part, Harden finished second in the league in scoring average with 27.4 points per game and led Houston to 56 wins on the season. Harden filled it up this season, leading the league with ten 40-point games and 35 30-point games.
Davis helped the Pelicans make it back to the playoffs for the first time since 2011 when they were the Hornets. He anchored the paint for the Pelicans by leading the league in blocks, averaging 2.94 a game. He also averaged a double-double, finishing fourth in scoring by averaging 24.4 points a game and 10.2 rebounds per game, good for eighth in the league.
Marc Gasol, per Basketball-Reference.com, posted his best scoring line of his career and averaged 17.4 points a game to go along with 7.8 boards and 3.8 assists for a Grizzlies team that won 55 games. He added five 30-point games this season, after posting just one over six prior seasons. Gasol is the first Spanish-born player to make an All-NBA first team, according to ESPN.
All 15 of these players were very deserving of the honors they received, but the room for debate occurs more so on the second and third teams this year. Over the years as the game has sped up, traditional positions such as the point and shooting guards, the small and power forwards, and the center have eroded as hybrid players are becoming more of the norm. The front court on the second team is made of all power forwards and centers in Pau Gasol, Mr. Cousins, and Mr. Aldridge.
Mr. Thompson was nearly as big a threat as Curry on this year's Golden State team. He averaged over twenty points a game for the first time in his four-year career, shooting 46 percent from the floor, according to Basketball-Reference.com. Thompson also set an NBA record by dropping 37 points in one quarter on Jan. 24 of this year.
Paul could be demoted because Mr. Westbrook had an incredible season as the Thunder dealt with injuries all year, and Westbrook was the only reason why the team was in contention for a playoff berth at the end of the regular season. Cousins could have been demoted because the Kings lost 53 games this season. Though Cousins averaged a double-double with 24.1 points and 12.7 rebounds, he just did not carry his team the way Davis carried the Pelicans.
The case could also be made to promote Mr. Duncan or Mr. Jordan onto the second team over Cousins. Though Jordan is not as gifted an offense player, he averaged 15 boards a game and was viewed as the linchpin and rim protector on a very successful Clippers team that won 56 games during the regular season.
Duncan would be more of a sentimental choice and/or lifetime achievement selection on the second team. At 39 years old, he is the oldest player to be selected for an All-NBA team since Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, making a team at age 38 following the 1985-1986 season. Duncan's selection to an All-NBA squad is his fifteenth, which ties him with Mr. Abdul-Jabbar and Mr. Bryant for most all time, according to ESPN.
The top three players who just were players who missed out on the honors were Spurs small forward Kawhi Leonard (155 total votes) Atlanta Hawks power forward Paul Millsap (70), and Hawks center Al Horford (64, with 1 first-team vote).