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Thursday, May 24, 2012

All-NBA Selections Mostly Make Sense Despite not Quite Adding Up

Three-time MVP LeBron James and three-time defending scoring champion Kevin Durant headline the 2012 All-NBA First Team; the only surprise regarding those selections is that neither player was a unanimous selection (James received 118 of 120 First Team votes and two Second Team votes, while Durant received 117 First Team votes and two Second Team votes but was inexplicably--and inexcusably--completely left off of one voter's ballot). Dwight Howard easily earned his fifth straight selection as the All-NBA First Team center and Chris Paul notched the second All-NBA First Team nod of his career. Kobe Bryant made the First Team for the seventh straight time and 10th time overall; he is the active leader in that category and only Karl Malone (11) ranks ahead of him on the all-time list (Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Elgin Baylor, Bob Cousy, Micheal Jordan, Bob Pettit and Jerry West also made the First Team 10 times). Bryant's 14 total All-NBA selections are tied with Karl Malone and Shaquille O'Neal for second all-time behind Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (15), though it should be noted that Abdul-Jabbar accrued his honors during an era when only two All-NBA squads were selected instead of three.

Andrew Bynum, Kevin Love, Blake Griffin, Tony Parker and Russell Westbrook comprise the All-NBA Second Team; except for Parker (who just turned 30), these players are all younger than 25. Tyson Chandler, Carmelo Anthony, Dirk Nowitzki, Dwyane Wade and Rajon Rondo received All-NBA Third Team honors.

The official media selections largely mirror my choices but the three differences are significant:

(1) I placed Westbrook on the First Team and Paul on the Second Team but Westbrook only received five First Team votes from the media (compared to 74 for Paul).

2) I selected Marc Gasol as the Third Team center instead of Chandler, who received four First Team votes from the media (those ridiculous First Team votes elevated him above Gasol by 60 points to 52 because First Team votes are worth five points, Second Team votes are worth three points and Third Team votes are worth one point). Gasol is an all-around player while Chandler is an excellent defender whose offensive game is limited to setting screens and scoring within dunking range of the hoop.

3) I chose LaMarcus Aldridge as a Third Team forward instead of Anthony, who beat out Aldridge 154 points to 55 (Aldridge received more points than any player who did not make the All-NBA Third Team).

Media members have been slow to recognize Westbrook's emergence as a legit top five player, the best point guard in the league and the heir apparent to Kobe Bryant as the best guard in the league. Westbrook is just as quick as the other top point guards but he is bigger and taller; now that he has improved his perimeter shot and defense he has no skill set weaknesses.

It is amazing that the mediocre New York Knicks not only landed two players on the All-NBA Team but that both of those players stole First Team votes from legit franchise players LeBron James, Kevin Durant and Dwight Howard. You cannot build a championship contender around Carmelo Anthony and Tyson Chandler together with Amare Stoudemire so how can those two players be ranked alongside MVP caliber performers? I am not convinced that LaMarcus Aldridge is a franchise player, either, but I would take his consistency, post game and professionalism over the inconsistency of Anthony, who essentially made the All-NBA Team based on playing well for the last month of the season after shooting poorly for the first three months of the season.

The All-NBA First, Second and Third Teams are supposed to be selected by position but even a superficial analysis of the voting totals shows that this is not the case and has not been the case for several years. According to the figures provided in the official NBA press release, the 120 media voters cast 112 First Team votes for centers, 252 for forwards and 229 for guards. The obvious problems with those totals are (1) they do not add up to 600 (120 voters multiplied by five First Team positions should equal 600) and (2) the proper distribution would be 120 votes for centers and 240 votes each for forwards and guards.

The center position has almost become extinct but there is a surplus of great power forwards and point guards. As a result, many of the All-NBA voters clearly disregard the positional designations and simply vote for whoever they consider to be the 15 best players in the league; the media members generally make solid choices overall despite not strictly following the rules and--other than the three complaints listed above--they once again made solid choices this season--but my take on this issue has been consistent; here is what I wrote about the All-NBA Teams in 2010:

If the media is trying to create some kind of "higher justice" by voting for the best players without regard to position then the league should either eliminate positional designations on the All-NBA Team or else insist that the voters stick to the official guidelines and vote for players at the positions that they actually play; unless the NBA officially gets rid of positional designations on the All-NBA Team I think that the squad should include the top three centers, even if this means that some forwards or guards who are "better" players are left off of the team.

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Here are some of my previous articles about All-Defensive Team and All-NBA Team voting:

Interesting Contrasts Between All-Defensive Team Voting and Defensive Player of the Year Voting (2012)

Analysis of the All-NBA Team Voting (2011)

Analyzing the Votes for the All-Defensive Team and the All-NBA Team (2010)

Howard, Bryant Lead All-Defensive Team Voting (2009)

James, Bryant Top All-NBA Voting (2009)

The Best Player is Finally Recognized as the "Most Valuable" (2008)

Choosing This Season's NBA Awards Winners (2008)

Inside the NBA Crew Hands Out Some Hardware (2007)

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posted by David Friedman @ 2:41 PM

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