All-Star Games in any league are really easy targets for in-season buzz. Right in the middle of a long haul of 82 or 162 games, any All-Star contest is usually the most obvious metric for any fan to point to as an indicator of a man’s success on the field, ice or the court. Right after the MVPs, championships and Hall of Fame accolades, your favorite star athlete is going be be qualified by how many All-Star Games he’s been selected to.
To me, this always seemed like such a strange measurement of success. Why is it that we’re using an award that’s given to a player for only a half-season of work to determine how successful they’ve been their entire careers? Sure, Kareem made 19 All-Star teams not because he was only a 1st half performer, but because he’s one of the greatest of all-time. But then you have a guy like Rajon Rondo having a stellar first half last year and making the All-Star team, watching his FG% drop 7 points and his assists go from 12 a game to 9 in the 2nd half. So at the end of the day, did Rondo have an All-Star year? No. So that’s why we have All-NBA teams.
All-Star selections are nice, but 1st, 2nd or 3rd team All-NBA is where the real prestige is at. We here at MAMBINO HQ polled our distinctive panel of NBA hoop-nerds and came up with our team selections. If you disagree, please leave a comment and tell us how dumb we are. I guarantee a shot back by BockerKnocker, and where he’ll undoubtedly and inappropriately attack your family or something.
G-Chris Paul, Los Angeles Clippers (unanimous)
G-Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City Thunder
F-LeBron James, Miami Heat (unanimous)
F-Kevin Durant, Oklahoma City Thunder (unanimous)
C-Andrew Bynum, Los Angeles Lakers
KOBEsh: While I’m utterly disgusted that my colleagues would befoul our All-NBA teams by not putting Kobe on the 1st team, I’ll be the first to admit that the time is approaching rapidly, if it’s not here already. The two young twenty-somethings, Durant and Westbrook, crack the All-NBA 1st Team in tandem for the first time, and deservedly so.
I’ve watched every team in the league this year, multiple times thanks to NBA League pass, which has not only taken money out of my wallet, but spare time out of my nights and faith from my girl that I can ever be a good boyfriend. There is no team that has two offensive threats that put more pressure on a defense than Westbrook and Durant. Wade/LeBron, Pau/Kobe, Randolph/Gay, CP3/Blake, Melo/Amar’e and yes, even Biyombo/Kemba don’t raise the same type of discomfort in my heart when they’re on the court opposing another team. Though different type of players, both men are deadly with the ball in their hands, whether it’s putting up an extremely difficult jump shot you know they’ll make or driving to the hoop and weaving around defenders no matter how much guile and strength they play with. On top of everything else, Durant has turned himself into a solid rebounder (8.0 per game), and both are very good, athletic defenders that rarely lose their assignments or make silly mistakes.
Other than LeBron, there’s no other guy in the league that change the game more on both ends of the floor per 48 minutes more than Durant and Westbrook. They’re that good.
If you watched the 1st round playoff match-up between the Lakers and the Hornets last year, you could have seen this coming; Chris Paul is back to where he was before his knee injury a few years ago, and showing everyone why he’s the best point guard in the league. More than that, he’s taken a Clippers squad with overrated parts on every level (Blake, DeAndre, Caron, Foye and Kenyon have performed below expectations), and muscled them to a 4-seed (their highest ever!) with home court advantage in the Western Conference. Most importantly, he’s been the league’s BEST fourth quarter performer:
According to 82games.com, when in the 4th quarter or overtime, less than 5 minutes left, neither team ahead by more than 5 points, Chris Paul is 5th in points produced (including assists), but is 3rd in field goal percentage (at 42.5% behind Westbrook’s 49% and Kyrie Irving’s surprising 54.4%). However, he’s also shooting 95% from the free throw stripe and has played the 6th most minutes in crunch time. It’s safe to say that with the game on the line, CP3’s team has leaned on him the most (as Charles said last week, who else on the Clippers can you go to for a bucket in the clutch?) and he’s produced the best for a squad that’s needed his leadership. While not a career-year, it’s probably one of his most challenging, as underperforming teammates and an inept coaching staff haven’t been able to hold his brilliance back.
We’ve covered Andrew Bynum and LeBron James extensively on this blog (or at least in Bron’s case, we will). Andrew might not be the most complete center in the league because of his defensive lapses, but you could make the same case for Dwight Howard on the offensive end. I could see a case for either being on the first team, but the truth is that Bynum’s offenses this year have been far less egregious than Dwight’s have. Drew has worked extremely hard to reach the standing he’s at right now, and a 1st Team All-NBA nod is indicative of that.
I don’t want to spoil it, but LeBron is the best player in the league. 1st teamer? They could make a team for Bron by himself.
G-Kobe Bryant, Los Angeles Lakers
G-Dwyane Wade, Miami Heat
F-Kevin Love, Minnesota Timberwolves
F-Al Jefferson, Utah Jazz
C-Dwight Howard, Orlando Magic
BockerKnocker: Kobe and Dwight have been featured on Mambino before, and I have a distaste for Dwyane Wade’s life choices. So I’ll use this opportunity to wax poetic on Love and Jefferson.
It doesn’t take that much NBA fandom/insanity to appreciate the talents of Kevin Love. Upon leaving YOUR UCLA Bruins after just one year, Love was a lottery pick. But not all scouts predicted that he would develop this quickly, if at all; Love was actually omitted from the NBA’s Rookie Game. But he is “hard work” personified. Only three players in the entire league have a better Win Share than Love, and guess what: they were the only 3 players to receive a unanimous first team All-NBA selection from KOBEsh, The CDP, El Miz, and myself. Charles Barkley has even called Love the best power forward on the planet, and who’s gonna argue against 26 points and 13 rebounds per game? Try to do so, and I’ll counter with the fact that the 6’10” Love won the 3-point shootout this year as well:
Love is one of the most consistent players the Association has to offer. Since the NBA-ABA merger, he holds the longest streak of consecutive games in which a player has recorded double figure points and rebounds. This year, he grabbed almost 30% of all available rebounds when Minnesota was on defense, and that was a DOWN year, considering he snared 34% of them last season. He’s never the most athletic player on the floor, but he does one thing better than anyone else in the world: boxing out. The guy makes it look like an art form; it hurts that there isn’t a YouTube wizard out there who has put together a compilation of Kevin Love box-outs.
On the other hand, it takes a special kind of fan to know that Al Jefferson has quietly become one of the best inside players in the NBA. Jefferson plays in Utah. I’m sure Utah is great, but the state and its basketball franchise aren’t exactly making David Stern salivate over television money. Combine that with the fact that the Jazz’ two biggest names in recent years, Jerry Sloan and Deron Williams, have left, and Jefferson is left to play with guys whose names the average fan does not know.
Not like it matters to Big Al. He doesn’t have the flash or social media awareness that most of his peers ooze on the daily, but Jefferson is a bonafide 20-10 guy, a rarity in a league where more and more guards are contributing on the glass. Jefferson boasts a wide array of post moves that makes Walt Frazier giddily repeat the word “repertoire” whenever the Jazz are in town:
A dominant post player will require his team to run a fair amount of ball-stopping plays. This usually leads to a decent amount of turnovers. But for a guy with an above-average usage rate, Jefferson commits an eye-opening 1.1 turnovers per game. Surrounded by a team that is usually less talented than its opposition, Jefferson does his part to make the most of every possession. If Utah can surround him with a couple of quality shooters, he will become even more dangerous. For now, he’ll have to settle with making 2nd team All-NBA on the fastest-rising blog in the world.
G-Steve Nash, Phoenix Suns
G-Tony Parker, San Antonio Spurs
F-Blake Griffin, Los Angeles Clippers
F-Dirk Nowitzki, Dallas Mavericks
C-Tyson Chandler, New York Knicks
CDP: A 23-year old Blake Griffin is on the 3rd team with a lot of NBA grey, none more distinguished than the ageless Steve Nash and resurgent Dirk Nowitzki. As Western Conference rivals to the Lakers over the years, I’ve begrudgingly acknowledged their accomplishments while celebrating the Lakers triumphs of Nash and Dirk with an extra serving of relish.
Honestly, I’d love for Steve Nash to sign with the Lake Show as a free agent, but, like my tortured relationship with Karl Malone years ago, I’m not sure I can ever forgive him for his more egregious flops or somehow getting back-to-back MVP’s in Kobe’s prime. It’s mind-boggling to me that Steve Nash was cut loose at the peak of Cuban’s reckless spending in 2004 because of concerns about his health during a long-term contract and he’s doing what he’s doing today. Dude is the best bet in the NBA to still be playing at 40 and he’s playing the PG position just about as well as anyone these days. He’s a deadly shooter and constant threat to be in the 50-40-90 shooting club. Yes, Nash still belongs on this list because he sports a sexy PER and is second in the league in assists, but numbers understate his impact on the Suns franchise. One of the best things about Steve Nash as a floor general and leader is that his teams adopt his personality in all the right ways. The gods have never favored Steve Nash, with a spendthrift owner limiting talent retention and freak occurrences like Joe Johnson’s facial injury or the Diaw/Stoudemire suspension ending key playoff runs. Still, his Suns teams have consistently overachieved under his tutelage and leadership, with the 2011-2012 edition being no exception. He may still only really play on one side of the ball, but the man is an offensive savant deserving of our respect and recognition.
|Dirk, what are you wearing?|
I’m honestly amazed that Dirk deserved to be on the list here after he showed up terribly out of shape and out of practice to start the season. He had to miss games for conditioning for Pete’s sake. His inclusion on the All-Star team was perhaps the diciest selection this year, but to his credit he’s rebounded in a big way and he’s earned his spot on the 3rd Team. He’s led a Mavericks team on the verge of collapse back into the playoffs where they have a chance to be dangerous once again. Dirk has remained one of the premier threats in the clutch with his unstoppable fadeaway and ability to draw free throws, but a guy who averages 6 FT’s a game for his career was barely over 3 in January and his scoring dropped to 15.1 PPG. Although his rebounding has dropped off a little bit and his shooting has fallen back to earth after last year’s career high, over the course of the year he’s averaging nearly 22 points per game and is more or less in line with his career averages across the board. At the end of the day, Dirk is a ruthlessly efficient scorer who makes great decisions and doesn’t turn the ball over. I suspect Dirk will continue to age well and it would not surprise me at all to see him on this list for a few more years.