Who’s shining brightest so far?
Because All-NBA Team selection qualifies as the games greatest mark of (team) distinction, making season long domination / excellence an Academy Award nomination-esque feat, it struck this blogger that it’s far more appropriate to highlight the respective standouts from each of basketball’s five definitive positions, rather than fatigue everyone with more laps around the “MVP Chase” track.
Why is All-NBA Team selection basketball’s most prestigious honor?
1. It’s a class above receiving an All Star nod (All Star = popularity contest, coupled with Head Coaches voting on athletes after just three months of hot play).
2. It’s a much more selective group (15 names selected vs. 24 for All-Star).
3. It’s league-wide.
4. It’s based on a longer/larger contribution.
5. Hall of Fame entry relies heavily on noteworthy honor, All-NBA Team selection is part of that mandatory criteria.
There you have it, five reasons for the five on court positions. (Sixth man. Basketball’s remains a team sport, right? We all agree? Good.)
While a handful of international leagues have been known to list starting five’s as two “interior” players and three “perimeter” players, this blurring of the traditional lines between accepted and customary starting positions (although an emerging danger) has yet to leak onto the NBA’s golden shores… but you’ve been warned. Appearing progressive, reflecting a truer state of pro hoop (thanks to the international trapezoid which is still in effect), these overseas leagues have a much tougher time of celebrating their (positional) top shelf talent. Of course in the NBA, where modern basketball convention is defined, conspicuously groomed talent allows the current stranglehold of positional clarity to remain… and thank goodness for that.
When it boils down to All-NBA Team selection, yes, ultimately someone (possibly your favorite player) is going to be left off the “Team,” especially given that there can only be three players represented by their listed starting position. Which brings up the most important point in all of this, if there are in fact clearly defined positions, why aren’t All-NBA Team honors more reflective of that?
In football and baseball there’s little argument about in game athlete location/roles. Coaches, fans, GMs, your Aunt, etc. — all know an athlete’s place. In fact, their positions are so recognizable that there’s little room for error or negotiation and thus stats are akin. In a freer flowing game like basketball where there’s an apparent but gradual change of positional standards (thanks Iverson, Dirk, Magic, etc.) the lines are now crossing streams (mandatory Ghostbusters reference). Well, this blogger has had enough and believes it’s time we all started setting the record straight.
This All-NBA/Rookie Tracker is all about representing the brightest at each and every respective position (the way it should be). So, without further ado, here are November’s All-NBA and All-Rookie Team selections. Think of this as the Petri dish, examining NBA athlete contributions.
Note 1 — The contributing factors include: Team record (if you’re not over .500, just don’t bother applying); Strength of schedule (if you’ve beaten up the New Jersey Nets twice but you’ve have only managed to drop double figure points on them once, don’t bother applying); Personal stats (ranking somewhere inside the top 30 is mandatory); Impact thus far (Look, if a rookie like Brandon Jennings can so dramatically shake things up, why can’t all you other, more experienced pros get the job done?); Contribution to team success (Are your numbers inflated simply because LBJ demands double teams on every possession and thus makes you look good or are you delivering in the clutch night in and night out?) and lastly, common sense (playmakers and go to guys with an established track record are obviously well established and thus have more room for miscalculation because team and TV cameras collapse on them). Also, deductions are given out for garbage minute stats, not being able to take advantage of beaten up / back to back road teams / injured rosters.
Note 2 — Yes, it’s a PG-heavy rookie class. Normally, exceptions to the now exclusive positional rulings should be made. Well guess what? Life is tough, suck it up. In the All-Rookie Team Tracker, unlike that of its All-NBA brethren, franchise record is automatically an after thought while statistical substance remains. Special consideration however is given to bench players over starters (contribution often depends largely on rotations, Head Coach’s, injured stars and what not). Lastly, NBA Draft board selection plays a significant part in rookie worthiness. Every GM had months to evaluate talent, so if you took Jordan Hill over Brandon Jennings, best believe you’ll be called out. Also worth noting (and this will become evident as the season progresses), once a spot is granted on the First Team, it’s there to be lost. So pay extra attention all you leap froggers, if you haven’t been crowned this month, you really have your work cut out for you. Or pray your positional competition is traded to New Jersey.
Note 3 — Here’s how it’s going to work… First Team recipients receive full analysis, complete with key individual averages, reason for their rank and standout stat. Second Team members receive a brief rationale while Third Team members receive an overview of their performance to date.
|ALL-NBA FIRST TEAM|
|Power Forward||DIRK NOWITZKI||Mavs|
|Small Forward||CARMELO ANTHONY||Nuggets|
|Shooting Guard||KOBE BRYANT||Lakers|
|Point Guard||STEVE NASH||Suns|
Why they’re here…
DWIGHT HOWARD | Orlando Magic | Center
The Orlando Magic simply shouldn’t be on top of the East. Vince Carter’s inconsistent play, Jameer Nelson’s injury, Rashard Lewis’ delay and Stan Van Gundy’s (new) disposition should’ve seen the Magic fall, hard, but their hot start (14 wins, four losses) is no surprise, given Howard’s in the middle. The L’s leader in glass cleaning is a lot like that establish popular prime time sit-com, even if you’re not a fan, or the series is in its sixth season and has become a little under whelming, it faces little competition, is well established (enough) and by now you’ve probably just come to accept its placement. That’s Howard. While he remains the best C in a field of lite candidates… ah, forget it… man, this position sucks nowadays.
Standout Stat: Four-straight games of 16-plus rebounds to close out the month including a 25-point/20-board showing in Milwaukee (way to beat up Dan Gadzuric) but seeing 20/20 (points/rebounds) is nothing new for son of Jor-El.
DIRK NOWITZKI | Dallas Mavericks | Power Forward
Forty-one points against the San Antonio Spurs is no easy feat, and along with his stellar performances against the sub .500 teams (rosters these Mavs should be beating up), Dirk has been huge thus far (and he’s shooting a lot less three’s). Josh Howard has been out, JKidd isn’t getting any younger, Eric Dampier has been missed and Shawn Marion has been slow to adjust and produce. All this has meant more pressure has fallen on Dirk’s shooting arm but so far, so good. Helping Mark Cuban’s men to a 13-win, 5-loss mark doesn’t hurt either.
Standout Stat: As Maurice Brooks pointed out on his ESPN dot com “Race To The MVP” column, Dirk is averaging a career high in blocks. Way to hold it down on D in the big D, Dirk. Does that make his new nickname 3-D? Sorry, lame joke, I know.
CARMELO ANTHONY | Denver Nuggets | Small Forward
As tough as it may be to accept, Melo has actually out played LBJ over the first month of the 2009/10 NBA season. There really isn’t much in it but Melo turned the ball over less, scored more (hanging 50 points on the new York Knicks didn’t hurt) and shot a better percentage all while leading his team to an equal 12 win, five loss record (including a dominate 7-1 home stand). Next month may be a little different but not many, if any, had a better than November than Melo.
Standout Stat: Yet to score less than 20 points in a game this season.
KOBE BRYANT | Los Angeles Lakers | Shooting Guard
Started off the month of November by scoring 41 points against Atlanta. He backed that up with a 31 point outing in Oklahoma City. Kobe then dropped back-to-back 41 point games in Houston, and at home against the Memphis Grizzlies, respectively. Not a bad run. It’s been well documented that Kobe held it down while Pau Gasol was out which became a (stat line) blessing as KB24 was afforded even more opportunity to get buckets, elevating him to second on the all time Los Angeles Lakers scoring list, surpassing legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.
Standout Stat: Scored only 19 and 18 points, respectively, shooting 12-37 from the floor, during the Lakers back to back losses in Denver and against Houston. Even Black Mamba’s can run out of poison (unlike Alice Cooper).
STEVE NASH | Phoenix Suns | Point Guard
No explanation needed but you’re going to get one anyway. No one, not even avid Phoenix Suns fans could have predicted their squad would’ve jump out of the gate like this. Ever played Super Mario Kart? Well, these Suns hit the control pad button at just the right time and received that starting grid boost. It’s not that these Suns have scored 100 plus points in every contest (which they have) but that the 35-year-old Nash has been running and running and gunning and dishing (and did I mention running) like it’s ‘05. The early MVP favorite, it’s not hard to see why Nash is the new black, again. It’s helped that Chris Paul’s New Orleans Hornets have under performed, not to mentioned that CP3 himself has been vacant from discussion due to his own injury but all that shouldn’t detract from Nash’s excellence. Already breaking the 20 assist total twice this season, including his 21-point, 20-dime outing against the Philadelphia 76ers, is just one more reminder that Nash is still the L’s definite playmaker. Strange that for such a landlocked state there appears to be something in the water in Phoenix?
Standout Stat: Perfect at home. More impressive is their eight win, three-loss road record. What more could Head Coach Alvin Gentry ask for? Oh yeah, six more months of this.
|ALL-NBA SECOND TEAM|
|Power Forward||JOSH SMITH||Hawks|
|Small Forward||LeBRON JAMES||Cavs|
|Shooting Guard||DWYANE WADE||Heat|
|Point Guard||BRANDON JENNINGS||Bucks|
Why they’re here…
ANDREW BYNUM | Los Angeles Lakers | Center
Eighteen points, 10 boards, 2 blocks. Yep, Bynum has been dropping above average averages. The kid is growing right in front of our collective eyes. Throughout November (and late October), Bynum owned the paint at the Staples Center. Above the numbers, Bynum’s here because he was as efficient as he was dominate while Pau Gasol rested. An early favorite to start at C for the Western Conference in the 2010 All Star game, Bynum’s mother has been sending Yao Ming’s family daily thank yous. If you haven’t already, Vote Bynum: All Star 2010. Who knew?
JOSH SMITH | Atlanta Hawks | Power Forward
During the NBA preseason, this blogger spoke with a trusted hoop junkie (shout out to Wayne Hunt) and we discussed the maturation of Josh Smith. It was decided that if his skill set was honed he could easily be the PF forward version of Dwight Howard, let alone an All Star and possible Olympian. That is, if he puts it together. Guess what? Our phone call was tapped by Smith’s people. After a month of play, the once knuckleheaded J-Smoove is averaging career highs in steals (1.6) and rebounds (9.2). More impressively through, he’s leading the League in blocked shots at 2.7 per and remains the stand alone (early) favorite to win the NBA’s Defensive Player of The Year. Plus, Smith has the Hawks winning. Don’t believe the Joe Johnson MVP hype or the Jamal Crawford Sixth Man Of The Year chatter (of course I don’t mean that) just know that Smith is the primary reason for the Hawks stand at 12 wins, five losses.
LeBRON JAMES | Cleveland Cavaliers | Small Forward
He averages 37.9 minutes, coupled with 29.2 points, 6.7 boards, 8 assists and 1.3 steals. Don’t hate. Does the King really deserve this (lowly) place on the All-NBA Second team? Probably not. Will he still be here by season’s end? Unlikely. Truth is, it’s just been Tonka tough to ignore Melo’s showing. Remember when King James led his squad to back-to-back losses to open the ’09-10 season? Don’t worry, neither does he (or the rest of the NBA). While he’s been consistently dropping solid numbers on everyone, he’s yet to catch wild fire like he did last season, or maybe he remains his own worst enemy… His majesty’s excellence has become his standard (and while his mediocrity is another man’s career night), it remains a little unfair to subject him to such lofty criticism. Don’t throw stones at the throne, right? Bright side, the Cavs are flying high but this (2nd Team) placement has more with Cavs failure to rise above the East than it does with LBJ’s play.
DWYANE WADE | Miami Heat | Shooting Guard
Wade is leading the Heat in Blocks. He’s still a two guard, right? And the Heat still have Jermaine O’Neal, right? Next to King James (and head of Kevin Durant), Wade is the single most important piece to his team’s success. Collecting 4.8 boards, dishing out 5.4 assists and swiping 2.1 possessions, while stopping 1.25 shots ain’t the half of it. This is happening nightly and all while Wade is hanging 27 points on opposing defenses. Continually (the only one) keeping the Heat competitive and interesting Wade is in All-NBA First Team form but he’s being held back by team record aka his supporting cast. Can Kobe just hurry up and retire already so Flash can become the premier shooting guard in the NBA.
BRANDON JENNINGS | Milwaukee Bucks | Point Guard
After 30-plus days of play, B-Jennings has quickly become for the Milwaukee Bucks what Chris Paul’s first campaign was to the New Orleans Hornets. This while simultaneously eradicating any dispersions that the Bucks should have taken Paul over Andrew Bogut back in ’05. Young Money has drawn comparisons to a young Allen Iverson with one significant difference, Jennings’ Bucks are winning NBA games. B-Jen finished November averaging 22.0 per game, joining the Memphis Grizzles’ OJ Mayo (23.1 points) and Michael Jordan (26.2 points) as the only rookies in the past 25 seasons to score at an All-Star clip. Oh and there as that quiet 55 point game. Did you manage to catch wind of that?
|ALL-NBA THIRD TEAM|
|Power Forward||CARLOS BOOZER||Jazz|
|Small Forward||KEVIN DURANT||Thunder|
|Shooting Guard||JOE JOHNSON||Hawks|
|Point Guard||DERON WILLIAMS||Jazz|
Why they’re here…
TIM DUNCAN | San Antonio Spurs | Center
While Chicago fans might want Joakim Noah’s name called out, the same could be said for Bucks fans in regards to Andrew Bogut (who has been just as valuable to Milwaukee’s success as Jennings) but it just wouldn’t feel right excluding Timmy D. Duncan has officially moved over to the C spot, and he’s held it down in San An leading the Spurs for five straight W’s to close out the month.
CARLOS BOOZER | Utah Jazz | Center
Third in the L with 11 double doubles, Booze has lifted the Jazz like few players have been able to raise their respective squads thus far. Despite the slow start, Boozer has been a force, boarding and scoring at an All-Star level.
KEVIN DURANT | Oklahoma City Thunder | Small Forward
Their respectable 10-win, eight-loss record, coupled with Durant’s 27.4 points, 7.2 boards, 3.4 assists (in 39.1 minutes) per stat line is a major reason why the young Thunder gunner appears on this list ahead of Paul Pierce and Trevor Ariza.
JOE JOHNSON | Atlanta Hawks | Shooting Guard
Narrowly beating out Brandon Roy for Third Team honors (which was helped by their head to head match up that saw JJ dropped 35 points on Roy in Atlanta’s win), Johnson’s been clutch, great at the foul line and a big reason Atlanta is turning heads.
DERON WILLIAMS | Utah Jazz | Point Guard
The Jazz’ snail slow start has been eradicated by their lava hot play of late and Williams’ ability to steer the Booze bus in the right direction is a big reason why. Utah now sits at a respectable 10 win, seven-loss mark. Williams has posted 19.7 points, 9.7 assists, 4.7 boards and 1.3 steals, plus he’s already handed out 15-plus assists three times this season and is shooting at an impressive .495 clip from the field. Name a better PG, aside from Young Money and Nasty Nash, in the NBA right now?
All-NBA Team Honorable Mentions: Brandon Roy (SG, Portland Trail Blazers), Rajon Rondo (PG, Boston Celtics), Paul Pierce (SF, Boston Celtics), Trevor Ariza (SF, Houston Rockets).
|ALL-ROOKIE FIRST TEAM|
|Power Forward||DeJUAN BLAIR||Spurs|
|Small Forward||OMAR CASSPI||Kings|
|Shooting Guard||JAMES HARDEN||Thunder|
|Point Guard||BRANDON JENNINGS||Bucks|
Why they’re here…
DAVID ANDERSEN | Houston Rockets | Center
Yes, yes, there such slim pickings at the C spot in this years draft class that Australian product David Andersen is the best of the pivot bunch. No one honestly expected him to replace Yao Ming in the middle but when he’s been given room to move (19 points in 25 minutes against the Los Angeles Lakers; 12 points, 8 boards against Oklahoma City, both wins for the Rockets), this Olympian has surprised defenders with his shooting and range and footwork.
DeJUAN BLAIR | San Antonio Spurs | Power Forward
The 6-7 PF jumped out of the gates and served as the perfect back up for the aging Spurs. While Blair wasn’t able to sustain his early season form throughout the month his impact has been felt and he finds himself being honored more so for what he has delivered in limited opportunity than for any numerical output.
OMRI CASSPI | Sacramento Kings | Small Forward
The fourth leading rookie point producer (10.3 points per), Casspi has become an early beacon for the once struggling Kings. Like fellow rookie Tyreke Evans (who unfortunately ranks behind Brandon Jennings and is thus relegated to the Second Team), OC has flourish of late dropping double figure points in his squads final five games for the month of November.
JAMES HARDEN | Oklahoma City Thunder | Shooting Guard
Dropping 25 points in a Thunder win against the Wizards is just one of why Harden makes the cut. Lucky No. 13 has been stellar on the NBA thus far, with mature decision-making, a flair for scoring when needed and operating as another dessert to the Durant entrée. Harden’s cool demeanor and effective play has seen him quickly adjust to life on the NBA timber.
BRANDON JENNINGS | Milwaukee Bucks | Point Guard
One of the greatest individual debuts in NBA History, Jennings’ 55-point explosion caught everyone’s attention, silenced doubters, forced ESPN to alter their broadcast schedule and had the NBA’s NYC Store quickly ordering in more Bucks jerseys. The Under Armour endorsee’s first 30 days as a regular season pro caught the attention of everyone and quickly drew comparisons to Allen Iverson. Even the usually sensible ESPN scribe JA Adande sounded the Jennings is the new AI horn.
|ALL-ROOKIE SECOND TEAM|
|Power Forward||TAJ GIBSON||Bulls|
|Small Forward||TERRENCE WILLIAMS||Nets|
|Shooting Guard||STEPHEN CURRY||Warriors|
|Point Guard||TYREKE EVANS||Kings|
Why they’re here…
HASHEEM THABEET | Memphis Grizzlies | Center
There’s basically no other C to include. Ah, this is why those Euro and international leagues start two forwards over a traditional C. One may believe this is a waste of time, list Thabeet, which is fair but given he was taken second overall, keeping an eye on him this season is both productive and pointless.
TAJ GIBSON | Chicago Bulls | Power Forward
When given an opportunity, Gibson has proven he can run with the Bulls. His numbers are often reflective of his minutes but he has clearly transitioned into the NBA with minimal fuss. Gibson has been solid (but unspectacular) which is actually more than can be said about the majority of the ’09 draft class thus far.
TERRENCE WILLIAMS | New Jersey Nets | Small Forward
Williams’ team is terrible but his play has been stellar… given the circumstances. In 29 mpg, he’s dropping 11 points, grabbing 6 boards and assisting 2 buckets. He may be one of the razor thin silver linings for this awful Nets squad.
STEPHEN CURRY | Golden State Warriors | Shooting Guard
The baby faced assassin is handing out 5.3 assists but more impressively, he has teamed with Monta Ellis to form one of the smallest, strangest and most dynamic backcourts in recent NBA memory.
TYREKE EVANS | Sacramento Kings | Point Guard
Twenty-plus points nine times this young season. The Kings are not walkovers and Evans’ play is a big reason why. He’s still raw but the talented kid is rising and shining like few others in this class.
Honorable Mentions: Darren Collison (PG, New Orleans Hornets), Ty Lawson (PG, Denver Nuggets), Jonny Flynn (PG, Minnesota Timberwolves), Toney Douglas (PG, New York Knicks), Eric Maynor (PG, Utah Jazz), DeMar DeRozen (SG, Toronto Raptors).
Brad Graham is a hoop culture aficionado attempting to flee the once proud Australian basketball scene. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.