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Tuesday, August 13, 2019

NBA.com's All-2010s Teams Feature Some Odd Selections

NBA.com recently posted a list of the top 15 players from the decade 2009-10 through 2018-19, divided into three teams of five players each. The First Team is Stephen Curry, James Harden, LeBron James, Kevin Durant and Kawhi Leonard, the Second Team is Chris Paul, Russell Westbrook, Anthony Davis, Blake Griffin, Carmelo Anthony and the Third Team is Dwyane Wade, Kobe Bryant, Paul George, LaMarcus Aldridge and Giannis Antetopkounmpo. NBA.com emphasized that this is not an official NBA honor; the players were chosen by an unidentified panel of "NBA.com and NBA TV producers and analysts," with each of the three teams having two backcourt players and three frontcourt players.

One only has to glance at the list to understand why the voters preserved their anonymity. The criteria for the selections are not listed but next to each player are the following data: All-Star selections, All-NBA selections (total, with no distinction made between First, Second and Third Team), PPG, RPG and APG. The article also provides a link to an NBA.com article that lists the decade's top 10 leaders in total points (LeBron James--most assuredly not a "pass-first player"-- is first with 19,550), total rebounds (DeAndre Jordan is first with 8653), total assists (Russell Westbrook--often depicted in the media as a selfish gunner despite the fact that he attempts fewer shots and averages more assists than James--is first with 6462), total steals (Chris Paul is first with 1396), total blocked shots (Serge Ibaka is first with 1626), field goal percentage (DeAndre Jordan is first with .671), three point field goal percentage (Stephen Curry is first with .436), free throw percentage (Stephen Curry is first with .905), total minutes played (LeBron James is first with 27,093), total games played (DeAndre Jordan is first with 766) and total games started (DeMar DeRozan is first with 740). Presumably, the listed statistics and honors factored into the selections to a large extent.

Noticeably absent from the data provided are (1) championships won, (2) MVPs won, (3) All-NBA First Team selections and (4) Finals MVPs won. Regarding championships, for all-decade honors the emphasis should be on championships won as the team's first or second best player and/or as an All-NBA level performer.

For the 2010-19 time frame, the leaders in championships won as a prime-time player, MVPs, All-NBA First Team selections and Finals MVPs are as follows:

Championships, 2010-19

LeBron James, Three
Stephen Curry, Three
Kevin Durant, Two
Kawhi Leonard, Two
Dwyane Wade, Two
Kobe Bryant, One
Tim Duncan, One
Dirk Nowitzki, One

MVPs, 2010-19

LeBron James, Three
Stephen Curry, Two
Giannis Antetokounmpo, One
Kevin Durant, One
James Harden, One
Derrick Rose, One
Russell Westbrook, One

All-NBA First Team Selections, 2010-19 (three or more)

LeBron James, Nine
Kevin Durant, Six
James Harden, Five
Kobe Bryant, Four
Stephen Curry, Three
Anthony Davis, Three
Dwight Howard, Three

Finals MVPs, 2010-19

LeBron James, Three
Kevin Durant, Two
Kawhi Leonard, Two
Kobe Bryant, One
Dirk Nowitzki, One
Andre Iguodala, One

Only three players appear on all four lists: LeBron James, Kevin Durant and Kobe Bryant. James is clearly the best player of the decade, Durant is a solid second and Bryant should be a lock as a First Team selection, unless one makes the bizarre argument that the last four years of the decade matter more than the first four years of the decade. Bryant remained an elite player until he tore his Achilles (hold your breath, Kevin Durant fans), and he was an elite player for a longer stretch during the decade than anyone other than James and Durant.

Leonard comes up a bit short in terms of All-NBA First Team selections and regular season per game statistical averages but two Finals MVPs and his consistent two-way excellence earn him the third frontcourt First Team spot on my All-2010s squad.

The final First Team guard spot is a three man race between Stephen Curry, James Harden and Russell Westbrook. Curry wins based on championships and regular season MVPs.

Westbrook and Harden are easy choices for the Second Team guards. Both players have vocal critics--and my take on Harden is well known to anyone who has visited this site in the past several years--but based on sheer production they accomplished more than any guards in the decade other than Curry and Bryant. Choosing the frontcourt involves weighing team success and all-around play versus individual statistics. Anthony Davis has gaudy individual numbers and three All-NBA First Team selections but he is also injury prone and his playoff resume is thin. Other than the drama surrounding his departure from New Orleans and arrival in L.A., you could pretty easily write the story of the league during the past 10 years without mentioning him. On the other hand, no history of the 2010s can be written without detailing the impact of Dirk Nowitzki and Tim Duncan. Davis has never at any time had as much impact on the NBA as Nowitzki did during the 2011 playoffs and especially the 2011 NBA Finals; if Davis does something like that in the next 10 years then I will happily place him on my All-2020s squad. Duncan won his MVPs and Finals MVPs prior to the 2010s but he was no worse than the second best player on the 2014 championship team that shredded LeBron James' Heat, and Duncan had two-way impact for an elite team for a significant portion of he decade.

Speaking of impact on an elite team--or lack thereof--there is no way that Carmelo Anthony should have been considered for any of these teams. Last season, he could not beat out Danuel House for a roster spot on the Houston Rockets! Putting Anthony ahead of Duncan and Nowitzki is a joke. Anthony is a one dimensional scorer who never had as much of an impact on winning as he should have, and it has become glaringly apparent as his scoring skills eroded that he is unwilling or unable to contribute in any other way. His former teammate Chauncey Billups recently put it best: it always mattered too much to Anthony to score 30 points, win or lose. Anthony has just one top five MVP finish, no All-NBA First Team selections and no Finals appearances.

My third frontcourt player for the Second Team is Dwight Howard. Howard's career is not necessarily ending well but he made the All-NBA First Team three times during the 2010s--the same amount as Curry, and the same as Davis--and in his prime he was a top notch rebounder and defender who was also a high percentage scorer in the paint.

Giannis Antetokounmpo headlines my Third Team frontcourt. His 2010s resume is short but he has already been a regular season MVP as the best player on the team with the best record in the league. Barring injury, he is a good bet to emerge as the player of the decade for the 2020s, and he already has done enough to earn his way on to my All-2010s team.

By this point, we have run out of frontcourt players who were the first or second best player on a championship team in the 2010s, so individual statistics are the only way to separate the remaining candidates. In that milieu, it is acceptable to now select Davis, who is an impressive player on paper (at least when he is not missing games due to paper cuts).

LaMarcus Aldridge has never won anything, and on the surface his individual numbers may not seem as impressive as Anthony's--but if you look at those decade leader lists you see Aldridge all over the place. Aldridge has been consistent and productive, and you do not get the sense that scoring 30 points matters more to him than winning. He is my third frontcourt player on the Third Team.

Damian Lillard, Chris Paul, Klay Thompson and Dwyane Wade are the top candidates for the final two guard slots. For the time period in question, Lillard is the most explosive scorer, Paul is the best passer, Thompson is the best two-way player and Wade was the number two guy on two championship teams before his game fell off of a cliff as injuries and age caught up to him. Could Thompson be the best player on a championship team? I am not sure, but here that does not matter; Lillard and Paul have never been on a championship team period, and the only time Wade was the best player on a championship team was 2006. A team that had any of these guys from 2010-19 would likely need to also have one of the members of the First Team or the Second Team in order to win a title. Therefore, for the specified time period I would take Thompson's health (until the 2019 Finals), consistency, shooting, and two-way game over what the other guys provide. It is a close call among the other three, but I will take Wade's championship pedigree and size over Paul's undersized two-way feistiness.

Thus, my All-2010s Teams are:

First Team: LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Kawhi Leonard, Kobe Bryant, Stephen Curry

Second Team: Dirk Nowitzki, Tim Duncan, Dwight Howard, Russell Westbrook, James Harden

Third Team: Giannis Antetokounmpo, Anthony Davis, LaMarcus Aldridge, Klay Thompson, Dwyane Wade

In addition to shifting several players around compared to NBA.com's list, I also added Nowitzki, Duncan, Howard and Thompson while subtracting Chris Paul, Blake Griffin, Paul George and Carmelo Anthony.  

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posted by David Friedman @ 2:44 AM



At Thursday, August 15, 2019 10:28:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

why are your evaluations so heavily weighted on (1) a TEAM accomplishment dependent on other players and (2) a voted award (MVP) that you've often criticized (e.g., Nash's winning over Bryant)?

At Thursday, August 15, 2019 6:33:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...


In basketball, one great player has a much larger impact on team success than one great player has in baseball and football. Evaluating the players of the decade without considering championships won makes no sense. For the same reason, it makes sense to look at the Finals MVP winners as well.

Regarding regular season MVP voting, the voters do not always get it right, and in the past 20 years or so they have done worse than they did in previous eras--but even with that being said, if you look at the list of players who have won the most MVPs you are also looking at a list of the greatest players of all-time, with few exceptions. It appears that the NBA.com voters just considered stat totals, All-NBA selections and All-Star selections, and with those as the primary factors it is not surprising that they chose guys like Melo and Blake Griffin over players who had a much greater impact on winning.

I am not saying that my list is definitive, and I could accept arguments for certain other players--but I will say that my list is better and more well founded than NBA.com's list.

At Friday, August 16, 2019 5:26:00 PM, Blogger beep said...

well, imho whole point of such lists is to make hype around NBA... as people discuss, argue, live (and it seems some would even die ;-) ) because of them... the same deal as "advanced" stats, especially in time when nothing interesting happens between seasons


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