ON Saturday I projected how the guard spots on the All-NBA teams should look at seasons end. Today, I’m focusing on the forwards/big men to try and determine who is worth one of the nine spots and who isn’t. Similarly to the guard spots, there are some clear locks, but there is still debate over the final few places.
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Outside Looking In
BELIEVE it or not, I have Dwight Howard on the verge of making an All-NBA team. The Charlotte big man is averaging 16.6 points, 12.4 rebounds (third most in the league) and over a block and a half per game, so he deserves to be mentioned here. Centers DeMarcus Cousins and Rudy Gobert miss out on truly pushing for a spot because of injury woes while Nikola Jokic, Clint Capela and Pistons bigs Blake Griffin and Andre Drummond are the other unlucky ones.
THE biggest name missing from my list is Jimmy Butler, with the Timberwolves guard/forward missing too many games to qualify IMO. He has played 56 games to date and while he remains adamant he will be back before the playoffs the clock is ticking with no clear date set for his return yet. Some may say the impact he had in just 56 games is profound enough to get him a place on the team, but I think playing fewer than 75% of games sees him left off the team sheets.
JUST like the guards, a handful of players can’t be left off the list no matter what. In no particular order LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Anthony Davis, Joel Embiid and LaMarcus Aldridge are the six locks I have, leaving just three spots to fight for. The only one on that list that might be questionable for some is Aldridge, but given the way he has kept San Antonio afloat without Kawhi Leonard is nothing short of remarkable.
I have five players in the mix for the final three roster spots, some more mainstream and popular than others. It’s incredibly hard to project these teams and see some of the names that miss out, but that’s what happens on a yearly basis.
Paul George, Oklahoma City Thunder
FOR a large part of the year Paul George was one of the favourites for the Defensive Player of the Year award. While his numbers have taken a hit since Andre Roberson went down, George has shown that he can play the perfect sidekick role to Russell Westbrook. Because of his sacrifice and ability to adapt without the ball in his hands as much, the Thunder find themselves are on the verge of earning homecourt advantage in the first round fo the playoffs. That would be a big tick for George’s All-NBA case.
Draymond Green, Golden State Warriors
EVEN though Golden State is dealing with a huge slate of injuries right now, that doesn’t take away what they accomplished in the rest of the season. Yes, I understand that Green’s numbers are slightly worse than seasons past, but Golden State is still the biggest threat to win it all and Dray is a huge reason why. While I’m not his biggest fan, he is about to become the 6th player ever to average 10 points, seven rebound and seven assists for three straight years, joining the likes of Oscar Robertson, LeBron James, Jason Kidd, Russell Westbrook and Magic Johnson. Say what you want about him, his play speaks for itself.
Image from goldenstateofmind.com
Karl-Anthony Towns, Minnesota Timberwolves
THIS was by far my hardest omission. I debated putting KAT into a team for a good 15-20 minutes, but I just can’t do it. Since Butler has gone down Minnesota has lumbered their way to a 6-6 record with losses to playoff teams that they should have beaten. His defense still concerns me as well (see cover photo) with Towns surrendering some big games to opposing bigs during that stretch. For that reason, the Timberwolves find themselves in the 7th seed still fighting for their playoff lives and Towns finds himself off the All-NBA list.
Ben Simmons, Philadelphia 76ers
THIS is another tough omission, it’s just too much too soon for Simmons. That shouldn’t be the reason this rookie sensation is going to be left off these rosters, especially if the Sixers hold onto a top-4 seed in the East. A few inconsistencies and struggles with his jumper see him dethroned by some bigger fish. He could be in the mix for a guard spot too, given the fact that he playsa as the Sixers primary ball-handler, but I can’t see him making the rosters just yet. Watch out though world, Simmons is coming.
Al Horford, Boston Celtics
PLAYING on one of the best teams in the league is usually good for your resume when it comes to naming the end of season awards. While Horford’s averages aren’t eye-popping they don’t tell the whole story. Earning his fifth All-Star berth this year, Horford remains the perfect do-it-all big man for the Celtics with his passing and versatile skill-set making them a dangerous team, even with Irving sidelined. When it comes to handing out awards, I tend to take winning and the team’s record into account when splitting two players. Therefore Horford edges out the likes of Towns and Simmons for the final spot.
ALL of my locks make up the first and second team, but here’s who makes the final cut for the third team.
All-NBA 1st Team: LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Anthony Davis
All-NBA 2nd Team: Giannis Antetokounmpo, LaMarcus Aldridge, Joel Embiid
All-NBA 3rd Team: Paul George, Draymond Green, Al Horford
Image from celticsblog.com
TOUGH competition for the first team sees Aldridge, Embiid and Giannis dethroned by James, Durant and Davis, but to be honest the top six could pan out a lot of different ways. The final two weeks of the season probably won’t change a ton for my All-NBA picks, unless someone does something pretty historic. There is still a ton of seeding and playoff ramifications on the line over the final stretch of games, so anything could happen. However, I’m pretty happy with how my teams are looking right now and at seasons end I’ll make the final cut as well as naming my other award recipients.
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