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Friday, May 07, 2010

Analyzing the Votes for the All-Defensive Team and the All-NBA Team

Most of the NBA's annual awards are selected by a panel of media members but the All-Defensive Team is chosen by the league's head coaches, who are not permitted to vote for members of their own teams. For the third year in a row, I picked eight of the 10 All-Defensive Team players who were eventually honored by the NBA's head coaches; Jason Kidd and Ron Artest--the two players I chose who did not make the official teams--finished with 12 points and 11 points respectively, just behind Thabo Sefolosha, a Second Teamer who received 14 points. Kidd had four First Team votes and Artest had three First Team votes, so I came pretty close to perfectly mirroring the coaching consensus regarding individual defensive excellence at the NBA level. The only significant difference is that the coaches put Gerald Wallace on the First Team while I did not include him at all. I certainly would select Wallace for a hypothetical "All-Defensive Third Team" but if I needed a forward to provide lockdown defense in a playoff series I would still take LeBron James and Ron Artest over Wallace, while I also place a higher value on Anderson Varejao's overall defensive impact and Josh Smith's athletic range than I place on Wallace's grit, hustle and impressive athletic ability; Smith and Wallace have similar athletic prowess but Smith is bigger and this season he had more steals and blocked shots than Wallace. Perhaps the tiebreaker for the coaches is that Wallace averaged more defensive rebounds than Smith.

The 2010 All-NBA Team was selected by a panel of 122 media members. In theory, there should have been 244 First Team votes for forwards, 244 First Team votes for guards and 122 First Team votes for centers but here is how the voting actually broke down: 248 First Team votes split among forwards LeBron James (122), Kevin Durant (107), Dirk Nowitzki (10) and Carmelo Anthony (9), 124 First Team votes for centers Dwight Howard (122) and Amare Stoudemire (2) and 238 First Team votes for guards Kobe Bryant (119), Dwyane Wade (81), Steve Nash (24) and Deron Williams (14). None of the selected forwards can really be considered guards, so it makes no sense that there were four "extra" First Team votes for forwards and six "missing" votes for First Team guards. It is also odd that the center position received 124 First Team votes out of 122 ballots cast. 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.

Despite some of the strange positional designations, the media did a solid job overall; I agree with 13 of the 15 official honorees. Four of the five All-NBA First Team picks were "slam dunks": James and Howard were each unanimous selections, while Bryant and Wade easily finished ahead of all other guards (the listed point totals indicate that Bryant appeared on all 122 ballots, falling just three votes short of being a consensus First Team member). I said in my awards article that although I would take Nowitzki as a First Team forward I fully expected the media voters to pick Durant and that I do not have a serious objection to this choice--and the media did indeed predictably put Durant on the First Team even though Nowitzki had the best three point field goal percentage of his Hall of Fame career (.421) plus his best free throw percentage (.915, second in the NBA) and his second best field goal percentage (.481): Nowitzki outshot Durant from all three ranges. Durant is a marvelous player and he may soon clearly surpass Nowitzki but right now Nowitzki is still slightly better.

I agree with the media selections of Steve Nash, Deron Williams and Amare Stoudemire as Second Teamers but--as mentioned above--the official positional designations are strange. Even though Dwight Howard received all 122 First Team votes at center, Stoudemire is listed as a center who received two First Team votes. I chose Stoudemire as a Second Team forward and picked Andrew Bogut as a Second Team center; Bogut is a full-time center, while Stoudemire is a natural forward who spends some time at center. The media dropped Bogut to the Third Team and left David Lee (my Third Team center) out of the mix entirely; as a result of designating Stoudemire as a center the media elevated Carmelo Anthony to the Second Team (I put him on my Third Team). Snubbing Lee also enabled the media to find a spot for Gasol as a Third Team forward, beating out Chris Bosh 94 points to 80. Lee had 43 points, while Rajon Rondo had the most points (47) among guards who missed the cut. Gasol missed 17 games due to injury and posted lower scoring, rebounding and field goal percentage numbers than Lee, who appeared in 81 of 82 games; Lee had a more productive and durable season than Gasol this year.

The media chose Brandon Roy and Joe Johnson as Third Team guards, while I picked Roy and Chauncey Billups, who only received 24 points in the media voting despite averaging a career-high 19.5 ppg; I never bought the myth that Billups single-handedly "changed the culture" in Denver (the Nuggets were a 50 win team before he arrived and they benefited last year from the addition of some healthy bigs plus some down seasons by several Western teams) but I do think that he deserved All-NBA Third Team honors this season. That said, Johnson is a worthy choice as well, though some of the voters may want a recount in light of his lack of production in recent playoff games.


Here are some of my posts about All-Defensive and All-NBA Team voting in previous seasons:

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 @ 12:12 AM



At Tuesday, May 11, 2010 3:58:00 PM, Blogger Bhel Atlantic said...

After Joe Johnson's reputation took a significant hit with his playoff performance over the past few weeks, I don't think he'll be earning All-NBA honors again in the near future — particularly with guys like Rondo, Rose, Curry, and Westbrook coming on strong, and Chris Paul returning from injury. The next 10 years will be a golden age for guards (and, according to the scouts, John Wall may be added to that list).

At Wednesday, May 12, 2010 10:20:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...


The line of the night on Tuesday was when someone suggested that LeBron James should have worn a Joe Johnson jersey to the postgame press conference. I agree that JJ probably played himself out of All-NBA recognition for the foreseeable future. It would have been tough for him next year anyway assuming that Chris Paul is healthy and that Rondo continues to play like he has been playing, not to mention players like Rose, Curry and Westbrook. I doubt that Wall will be an All-NBA player as a rookie but Tyreke Evans may make it as a second year player.


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