Who Should Make the 2016-17 All-NBA Teams?
With the NBA regular season nearing an end, the debates for which players are deserving of awards has begun. The league’s new collective bargaining agreement has given players more motivation than ever to rack up individual accolades. With the new Designated Veteran Player Exception, if a player has 8 or 9 years of experience and is voted to the All-NBA Team, he would be able to sign with his current team for $75 million more than any other team could offer. If a player wins the MVP or Defensive Player of the Year award, they would also qualify. We’ve seen an immense amount of historically great individual seasons this year, and securing that bag of an extra $75 million has likely been one of the reasons why. Here are my picks for this year’s All-NBA Teams:
Center – Anthony Davis (New Orleans Pelicans)
After missing 21 games last season, Anthony Davis answered any lingering questions about his durability and the trajectory of his career this year. Davis has played in a career-high 75 games and 65% of his minutes have been at the center position. The All-Star Game MVP has also posted career-highs in points (28.0) and rebounds (11.8), along with 2.2 blocks per game. The Brow’s game continues to soar to new heights, and his production didn’t miss a beat after the addition of DeMarcus Cousins.
Forward – Kawhi Leonard (San Antonio Spurs)
With Tim Duncan retired, Kawhi has taken over as the face of the Spurs’ franchise, and not much has change in San Antonio. Kawhi has led the Spurs to over 60 wins and the #2 seed out West, while continuing to expand his game offensively. The two-time Defensive Player of the Year is averaging a career-high 25.3 points a night, and he’s enjoying career-highs in threes made as well as free throws made and attempted. His defense has remained elite despite the increased workload on offense, making The Klaw the unanimous choice for best two-way player in the league.
Forward – LeBron James (Cleveland Cavaliers)
Guard – James Harden (Houston Rockets)
Harden returns to the First-Team this season after being robbed of a selection on any of the three teams last year. The Beard has been unbelievable all year, leading the Rockets to a surprise #3 seed in the West. He’s made a seamless transition to point guard, leading the NBA in assists (11.3), and he’s averaging career-highs in points (29.3) and rebounds (8.1) as well. After an offseason of criticism regarding his inability to lead, Harden has responded with one of the greatest seasons in league history.
Guard – Russell Westbrook (Oklahoma City Thunder)
31.9, 10.7, 10.4…42 triple-doubles…M-V-P.
Center – Marc Gasol (Memphis Grizzlies)
At age 32, Marc Gasol has shown no signs of slowing down after having the best year of his career this season. Gasol helped the Grizzlies earn another trip to the playoffs and was selected to his third All-Star game. The former Defensive Player of the Year elevated his game offensively averaging a career-best 19.2 points per game, and he made over 100 threes.. Despite the increase in his offensive production, Gasol has continued to anchor the Grizzlies defense, which ranks third in the NBA in points allowed.
Forward – Kevin Durant (Golden State Warriors)
KD had a great case for First-Team honors until he went down with a knee injury. Before getting hurt, Durant was the Warriors’ best player and their second-best defender. The 2014 MVP has continued to score at an elite level (25 PPG on 53%) and he’s averaged a career-high in rebounds (8.3) and blocks (1.6).
Forward – Giannis Antetokounmpo (Milwaukee Bucks)
The Greek Freak has placed himself in the conversation for top-10 player in the league status after a monster season. Giannis leads the Bucks in points (23.1), rebounds (8.7), assists (5.4), blocks (1.9), and steals (1.7), making him just the 5th player in league history to accomplish that feat. The Bucks have played without Jabari Parker and Khris Middleton for extended periods of time and still made the playoffs, proving that at just 22 years old, the Greek Freak is more than equipped to carry a franchise.
Guard – Stephen Curry (Golden State Warriors)
Wardell Curry has had to deal with questions about the decline in his level of play, but he still turned in another great season. He took a backseat to KD until he went down with an injury, then Curry proceeded to remind us why he’s the reigning two-time MVP. Chef is averaging 25.3 points and has posted the second highest mark for threes made in a season with 313 and counting.
Guard – John Wall (Washington Wizards)
After years of proclaiming he was just as good as any point guard in the league, Wall finally backed it up with an MVP caliber season. Washington was an after-thought going into the season, but Wall has led the Wizards to a 4th seed and their highest win total in 38 seasons. The four-time All-Star is averaging career-highs in points (23.1), assists (10.7), and steals (2.0).
Center – Rudy Gobert (Utah Jazz)
The Stifle Tower has emerged as a leading candidate for Defensive Player of the Year as the leader of the Jazz’s stout defense, which ranks first in points allowed per game. Gobert is first in the NBA in blocks (2.7) and fourth in rebounding (12.8). Gobert has also won the individual matchup against some of the league’s best centers on several occasions this year and he’s averaging a career-high 14 points a night.
Forward – Gordon Hayward (Utah Jazz)
Hayward is one of the players whose All-NBA selection will determine if he’s eligible for the extra $75 million, and he’s played like it. Gordon earned his first All-Star selection this year and he’s led the Jazz to their first playoff appearance since 2012. Injuries have hampered Utah all year, but Hayward has stepped up averaging a career high 22 points per game. The former Butler Bulldog is also averaging a career-high in rebounds (5.3) and three-point shooting (139 makes on 39%).
Forward – Paul George (Indiana Pacers)
The future of the Indiana Pacers franchise is resting on the shoulders of the media members voting for the All-NBA teams. If Paul George is selected, it will be hard for him to turn down the $200 million the Pacers would be able to offer. George is more likely to demand a trade or walk in free agency if he is not eligible for the Designated Veteran Player Exception. PG-13 is having the best season of his career, averaging 23.5 points on nearly 46% shooting from the field. He has the Pacers fighting for one of the last two spots in the playoffs in the East, and he gets the slight edge over Chicago’s Jimmy Butler for a spot on the third team.
Guard – DeMar Derozan (Toronto Raptors)
The Raptors gave DeMar Derozan a new deal worth $139 million during the offseason, and he's proven to everyone around the league – and in “The Six” – that he was worth every penny. Derozan helped Toronto secure the 3rd seed in the East after many wrote them off when Kyle Lowry was forced to sit with a wrist injury. The Compton, CA native is fifth in the league in scoring (27.3) and is averaging a career-best 5.2 rebounds. After leading the Raptors to back to back 50-win seasons, Derozan is inching closer to surpassing Vince Carter as the greatest player in Raptors history.
Guard – Isaiah Thomas (Boston Celtics)
IT4 has been in the conversation for MVP and Most Improved this season; that's how good he's been. Thomas arrived as an All-Star during the 2016 season, but this year, he’s taken his game to another level. The Celtics are currently tied for first place in the East and have surpassed the 50-win mark for the first time since the KG, Paul Pierce, Ray Allen era. Thomas has led the way, averaging 29.2 points and 6 assist. In the fourth quarter, IT4 has been at his best, consistently leading the Celtics to victories with his late-game heroics.
DeMarcus Cousins (New Orleans Pelicans)
Jimmy Butler (Chicago Bulls)
Kyrie Irving (Cleveland Cavaliers)
Damian Lilliard (Portland Trailblazers)
Draymond Green (Golden State Warriors)