Who’s shining brightest after 60+ days of play?
This All-NBA / All-Rookie Team Tracker is all about representing the brightest at each and every respective position (the way it should be). So, without further ado, here are December’s All-NBA and All-Rookie Team selections. (Full explanation of the guidelines to determining this blogger’s All-NBA / Rookie Team selections can be found here.)
|ALL-NBA FIRST TEAM|
|Power Forward||DIRK NOWITZKI||Mavs|
|Small Forward||LeBRON JAMES||Cavs|
|Shooting Guard||KOBE BRYANT||Lakers|
|Point Guard||STEVE NASH||Suns|
Why they’re here…
DWIGHT HOWARD | Orlando Magic | Center
Howard has guided his ‘Magic act’ to third in the East. His Magicians are dominate at home, strong in their division and appear to have established their place among the elite – even with Stan Van Gundy’s somewhat sunnier disposition. Despite Howard being scrooged by the Celtics D on Christmas day, he remains the L’s standout pivot force. He’s averaging 3.5 blocks per for the month of December and is once again leading the Association in glass cleaning (Does that mean his nickname should be Windex?). Howard’s scoring dipped in December to 16.3, down from 17.8 in November but his rebounding, assists, blocks, steals and foul shooting all improved. Worth noting, Howard is 0-3 from downtown thus far. No wonder he’s only shooting a league leading .621 from the field. Fittingly, Howard closes out the year / decade with a match up against Andrew Bogut, in a battle of number one overall draft picks from ’04 and ’05, respectively.
Standout Stat: D-Ho collected his fourth 20 rebound game in December, including a monster 21-point, 23-board showing in Indiana. This despite shooting 4-10 from the field and 13-22 from the line… yes, Howard could have easily posted a 30-20 game.
DIRK NOWITZKI | Dallas Mavericks | Power Forward
Mr. Diggler slipped to seventh in the L in scoring per game (25.5ppg) but given he had to endure Carl Landry trying to bite his shooting style, we can forgive the big German. Before that incident, Dirk dropped 35 points on the Oklahoma City Thunder frontcourt and collected 11 boards to help his Dallas Cuban’s (if the Washington Redskins can retain their racist name, why can’t Dallas owner Mark Cuban get away with naming the franchise is his honor despite it’s off nature?) Anyways and glaringly, Dirk collected more fouls, turned the ball over more, played less minutes, boarded less, helped out less team mates for scores and didn’t score as often himself throughout the Festive month, yet Dallas keep rolling. So why does Dirk retain his first team spot ahead of other PFs? Simple. Because Dallas doesn’t chalk up close too (their) nine wins without him while Duncan has become a C; Bosh’s team isn’t there yet, Gasol still isn’t as important as Kobe and Kevin Garnett is operating at just 63.8 percent for now (scientific fact).
Standout Stat: Dirk has been called “a (tooth) fairy” a record 1,232 times in four days. As for the whole Dirk/Landry episode, parents, this has been just another reminder that basketball is a contact sport.
LeBRON JAMES | Cleveland Cavaliers | Small Forward
Don’t push the panic button, the universe has regained balance and James has taken back his place on the First Team. I standby the selection of Carmelo Anthony for last months First Team honor but during December, LBJ has shown himself pretty valuable, guiding the Cavaliers to 13 wins. Lets take a snapshot of James’ productivity from December compared to November. Points are down but rebounds per are up; personal fouls are down; turnovers have slightly dipped; he’s swiping more possessions and blocking twice as many field goal attempts. In his shamelessly over hyped Christmas day showing which was more about the Muppets taking over LA than it was about basketball, James was somewhat pedestrian (by his standards) with a 26-point, 9-assist, 4-board, 2-steal stat line… but the Cavs collected the blow out victory and robbed the LA faithful of their Christmas gift and/or Lakers W, depending on your religious denomination.
Standout Stat: LeBron took a page out of Ice Cube’s book and had himself a Good Day when he fooled around and notched an impressive 34-point, 16-board, 10-assist triple double against the rising Sacramento Kings in December. The T-D was LBJ’s second this NBA season. Abbreviations rule.
KOBE BRYANT | Los Angeles Lakers | Shooting Guard
Like his placements needs to be justified. Well, here it is: Kobe helped his Lake show tally up 12 wins in December, with their three losses coming against the Jazz in Utah, on Christmas day against the King (not the Christian kind) and in Phoenix, where the Suns have been punishing visitors. All respectable losses, if there is such a thing. Kobe, well, he’s been in typical MVP form, once again leading the L in scoring at 30.4 points per game.
Standout Stat: His final five NBA games of the calendar year sum up his decade accurately – Kobe finishes 2009 with 40 points; 35 points; 38 points; 34 points and 44 points, respectively, as his team won more games than they lost. Kobe both dominated and ball hogged. Ladies and gentlemen, Kobe in a nutshell… Kobe fans can rejoice that he closes out 2009 as the leading per game scorer but they can also stick it to detractors that his ten year point total is unmatched.
STEVE NASH | Phoenix Suns | Point Guard
While his Super Mario Kart boosters have eased off (the Suns have only six wins to go with their nine defeats in December), Nash is still riding around with his flashing star in full effect, deflecting all defenders (Yes, I’m a huge Nintendo geek, so what?) While visiting teams are starting to wear their sunglasses (lame joke, I know) Nash remains menacing. Shooting .941 from the charity stripe, good enough for first in the L (and a full 4 percentage points ahead of Ray Allen), Nasty’s also shooting an impressive .541 from the field and a deadly .440 from three (try and do that without defender lurking let alone in game). Despite his teams record, Stevie Wonder’s scoring has jumped from 15.8 points (in November) up to 21.1 points per game (December). Noticeably, he still leading the L in passes others players wish they’d made, and his 35 year old legs have twittered, informing Steve that they’re good for increased minutes (he’s up 2.9 minutes per game from November). All in all, Nash retains in the top dog spot because he’s playing better and more efficient now than he did as an MVP.
Standout Stat: Nash has six blocks, only 70 blocks behind fellow First Teamer Dwight Howard for best in the league. While it’s highly unlikely he’ll catch Dwight, he’s already shamed just as many players (because you know fans / players / coaches / GM’s and Owners all remember when Nash swats a shot, any shot).
|ALL-NBA SECOND TEAM|
|Power Forward||PAU GASOL||Lakers|
|Small Forward||CARMELO ANTHONY||Nuggets|
|Shooting Guard||DWYANE WADE||Heat|
|Point Guard||RAJON RONDO||Celtics|
Why they’re here…
TIM DUNCAN | San Antonio Spurs | Center
It never helps to start any month 0-3 but Duncan has led the Spurs to a nine win, two loss mark ever since. Richard Jefferson has done little to remove the scoring burden from Duncan broad shoulders but luckily he knows it and is made sure he isn’t preventing Timmy from doing what he does best, ensure the Spurs win more than they loose. Duncan’s 19.8 points, 10.3 boards, 3.1 assists and two blocks per outing aren’t MVP numbers but Tim has been there, done that (with the t-shirt to prove it). Despite the loss to Phoenix, Duncan owned the Suns frontcourt to the tune of 34 points and 15 boards. What hasn’t helped Duncan’s personal stat lines is the fact that Coach Gregg Popovich is extensively resting his star whenever the Spurs blow someone out… can’t hate on.
PAU GASOL | Los Angeles Lakers | Power Forward
Since his return Gasol’s impact on the Lakers has been as obvious as a nipple on a cold day. Josh Smith held this spot down last month but it’s been obvious through L.A.’s record and Gasol’s numbers that he’s the more suitable choice. Gasol’s 17.4 points, 11.8 boards and 1.8 blocks per will ensure he’s an All Star reserve, while his intangible play coupled with the Lakers win/loss record will ensure he retains his place as one of the 15 best players in the NBA. Gasol has racked up three 20 plus rebound games in December including the 26-point, 22-board stat line in Milwaukee (a game made famous by Kobe’s OT buzzer beater over Bucks guard Charlie Bell and the terrible no-call that obviously was a charge, that could have swung the game in Milwaukee’s favor). In fact, in the three games leading up to the Bucks contest, Gasol collected 16 boards (Chicago), 20 boards (Utah) and 20 boards (Minnesota), respectively against dominate big men. So that’s what he offers Phil Jackson nightly, oh, now I get it.
CARMELO ANTHONY | Denver Nuggets | Small Forward
Apparently a few readers were a little pissed that Melo was ranked ahead of LBJ in last month’s installment. Well, it wasn’t like placing Cobie Smulders ahead of Beyonce in the hottest ladies on Earth list. Melo earned his place. Of course a lot can and does happen in 30 days on the timber. The Nuggets have lost five of the last six, automatically dropping Melo to the Second Team. Looking at the whole month, Melo didn’t score nearly as many points, 14 points against Philadelphia on 5-21 shooting; 17 pts against New Orleans on 5-16 shooting and only 16 on Dallas, going 5-19 from the field. What’s interesting is Melo’s minutes and rebounding numbers are up while his scoring and steals are down. Both of his 40-point games in December (40 at Detroit and 41 Memphis) both came against sub .500 teams, both were road losses. Yes, Melo has returned to earth.
DWYANE WADE | Miami Heat | Shooting Guard
Given their respective team records (and my own All-NBA Team principles), one could argue that Brandon Roy is more deserving of this spot than Dwyane Wade. Wrong. Wade improved over his November play and seeing as this spot is his to loose, he retains his Second Team billing. His assists have jumped from 5.5 per to 7 per game. His field goal shooting is up and he’s playing less minutes. His 34-point, 10-assist performance in Sacramento showed rookie Tyreke Evans that he still has a ways to go before he’s at Wade’s level. Wade only scored less than 22 points in one contest, a 19 point (29 minute) game the Heat won against Toronto.
RAJON RONDO | Boston Celtics | Point Guard
The L’s leading thief, Rondo has been impressive as the first stopper in Boston’s smothering (and NBA leading) D. Much like L.A.’s Gasol, Rondo is capable of affecting the outcome of an NBA game without standout stats. His Christmas Day game was a huge statement. With Paul Pierce out, Rondo was the primary playmaker, dually dishing and scoring whenever needed. He finished that game with 17 key points, 13 boards and 8 assists. More so, he’s owned elite guards Derrick Rose (16 points, 14 assists) and Gilbert Arenas (21 points, 11 assists), and while no one’s calling either a defensive maestro, Rondo’s elevated play against the top tier is testament to his worth and capability. He’s taken over both Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett as most productive Celtics’ and may very well be the best player right now on one of the best teams in basketball.
|ALL-NBA THIRD TEAM|
|Power Forward||CHRIS BOSH||Raptors|
|Small Forward||KEVIN DURANT||Thunder|
|Shooting Guard||BRANDON ROY||Blazers|
|Point Guard||AARON BROOKS||Rockets|
Why they’re here…
AMAR’E STOUDEMIRE | Phoenix Suns | Center
Arguments for Joakim Noah, Chris Kaman, Andrew Bynum and couple of other Cs are apt but given that Amar’e is playing interior basketball and Channing Frye is more of a pick and pop big man, rather an finisher (and given Amar’e is listed as a C on the All Star ballot) I’m going with Amar’e here. Why? For the month of December he’s dropping an easy 20.9 points and he’s collecting an eye popping (for Amar’e standards) 10.4 boards per NBA contest. His 18-point, 21-board showing against Sacramento is reflective of his ceiling while his 28 points and 14 Rodman’s against San Antonio takes us back to that memorable playoff series when we knew Amar’e could… that is, if he wanted to be.
CHRIS BOSH | Toronto Raptors | Power Forward
Despite being first in the L with 23 double doubles, it’s the Raptors’ winning percent for the month that has helped Bosh leap frog Carlos Boozer for Third Team honors. Bosh is clearly boarding and scoring at an All Star level (he appears to be a lock to play in Dallas) but it’s the efficiency that’s most impressive. Hitting 55 percent of his shots for the month, Bosh is also knocking down 80 percent from the charity line. His 31-point, 16-board outing in the Nation’s Capital early on, coupled with his 25-point, 16-board, 3-block stat line to close out 2009, acts as a fitting set of book ends for Bosh’s December. He’s already grabbed 15 or more boards seven times this season and he’s scored 20 or more 25 times. Hang on, guess who’s looking to make the most on the free agent market in the summer of 2010? Coincidence? Hardly but respect of play is due.
KEVIN DURANT | Oklahoma City Thunder | Small Forward
As long as the young Thunder gunner keeps his team above .500, they finish 2009 with a 17-14 record, he’ll hold his Third Team stop down over Paul Pierce (narrowly), Trevor Ariza (still rising) and Gerald Wallace (surprising, right?), all of whom are shaping up as worthy All Stars. Durant, or as he’s now affectionately know, Durantula (nasty and long limbed, get it?), dropped 29.6 points for the month while improving his shooting percentages. Most importantly, he gave Phoenix fits with his 38 points, handing the Suns a rare home loss.
BRANDON ROY | Portland Trail Blazers | Shooting Guard
Roy can be thankful for three things. 1) He survived the Trail Blazers latest trend (injuries), 2) Playing more time at SF has meant that he can’t be roped into the Miller / Blake / Bayless backcourt battle (note: Roy’s scoring has jumped 10 points per from 17.7 in November to 27.4 in December), leading to… 3) He’s officially leap frogged Atlanta’s Joe Johnson for Third Team honors. Roy’s Christmas present, a 41-point outing against Divisional rival Denver on December 25th capped off his outstanding month. All of his shooting percentages have improved even though he’s clocking more minutes but most important of all: Portland is beating good teams. Like JJ last month, December has seen Roy turn his fair share of heads.
AARON BROOKS | Houston Rockets | Point Guard
Hear me out… Someone deserves to take the credit for the Rockets’ winning ways, right? While Rick Adelman is clearly an early favorite to win NBA Coach Of The Year honors, someone has to show up on court… well, having watched over a dozen Rockets’ games it’s been the stellar (and timely) play of Brooks that has most help fuel their success. Not to take anything away from Luis Scola, Shane Battier, Ariza, Carl Landry and Kyle Lowry but Brooks has dropped 20 point in nine games ()this month), including a 23 point, 10 assist outing against the Pistons and a 27-point showing against Chris Paul. His deadeye shooting and speed is causing problems while his statistical output is continually improving. His scoring is up, as is his rebounding and shooting percentages. More so, Chris Paul’s Hornets haven’t won half their games; Derrick Rose has fallen off the map; Monta Ellis is more style than substance; Rodney Stuckey is more of a two guard; Gilbert Arenas hasn’t been convincing; Young Money’s Bucks are sliding in the wrong direction and until Deron Williams can stop the Jazz from dropping games everyone knows they’re more than capable of winning, Brooks is our Third Team winner. If you’re leading your team in scoring and assists and that team is winning, surely you deserve your shine. Plus, someone has to finally give these Rockets mainstream credit, right?
All-NBA Team Honorable Mentions: Joe Johnson (SG, Hawks). Paul Pierce (SF, Celtics). Trevor Ariza (SF, Rockets). Deron Williams (PG, Jazz). Carlos Boozer (PF, Jazz). Gerald Wallace (SF, Bobcats). Tyreke Evans (SG, Kings). Zach Randolph (PF, Grizzlies).
|ALL-ROOKIE FIRST TEAM|
|Power Forward||DeJUAN BLAIR||Spurs|
|Small Forward||OMRI CASSPI||Kings|
|Shooting Guard||TYREKE EVANS||Kings|
|Point Guard||BRANDON JENNINGS||Bucks|
Why they’re here…
DAVID ANDERSEN | Houston Rockets | Center
The slim pickings haven’t improved. David Andersen remains the best of the bad bunch. His 17-point, 9-board showing in 21 minutes against Denver was positive, as was his 16 points in 25 minutes in Dallas. Having seen an excessive amount of Rockets game’s, I can safely state that Andersen is more than survivable for Houston and offers them much needed pivot size / versatility. His shooting range means he’s always a threat and he never clogs Ariza’s or Brooks’ lane, so you know the stars and coach are on side.
DeJUAN BLAIR | San Antonio Spurs | Power Forward
The 6-7 PF has regained his early season form. A regular fixture in the Spurs’ starting unit, Blair has been strong of late, nabbing double figure rebounds in two of the years last three games. His 14 point, nine rebound effort against the Los Angeles Clippers, (in only 17 minutes) helped Blair’s cause.
OMRI CASSPI | Sacramento Kings | Small Forward
Being impressed by Casspi’s play has become old hat. Despite only being a third of the way through his first NBA season, he looks and is playing like a vet and has Sacramento looking like the ’09 Draft winners. Imagine Minnesota took Casspi instead of Rubio, maybe they’d be where Sacramento is, in the playoff hunt.
TYREKE EVANS | Sacramento Kings | Shooting Guard
If you paid attention to Evans during his single season at the University of Memphis, you already know his basketball potency. As if he’s a Derrick Rose clone, Evans is lifting his team to surprising heights. His 20-point, 5-board and 5-dime average has seen him join elite rookie company. His role in that epic 35-point comeback has supplanted Evans as the clear front-runner for Rookie of the Year. Who thought we’d all care about the Sac-Town Kings again?
BRANDON JENNINGS | Milwaukee Bucks | Point Guard
Did Young Money’s Under Armour kicks and 55-point explosion happen this season? What a turnaround. Jennings’ poor shooting and the Bucks inability to close out games (they’ve dropped more close games than Jay-Z does quotables) has seen them fall off the hype radar. Still averaging 19.5 points, 6.1 assists and 35 minutes, BJen remains stellar, it’s just his form or late and the teams deflation suggest otherwise, resulting in Jennings being removed from the once sure fire ROY chatter.
|ALL-ROOKIE SECOND TEAM|
|Power Forward||JONAS JEREBKO||Pistons|
|Small Forward||TERRENCE WILLIAMS||Nets|
|Shooting Guard||STEPHEN CURRY||Warriors|
|Point Guard||JONNY FLYNN||Wolves|
Why they’re here…
HASHEEM THABEET | Memphis Grizzlies | Center
The less written about this, the better. The second overall picks is logging limited minutes appears to be struggling with NBA play and has recorded an early career-defining game with totals of 6 points and 6 boards. Memphis really is the biggest losers of the ’09 Draft. Hopefully Zach Randolph is helping big Thabeet’s transition. Yep, in this instance, that’s actually an upside.
JONAS JEREBKO | Detroit Pistons | Power Forward
The big Swedish forward has been very impressive throughout December. While he Pistons aren’t exactly motoring through the NBA’s Eastern Conference (nine straight losses is inexcusable), Jerebko has been a gem for Joe Dumars’ team, nabbing double figure points nine times including a 17-point (and 10-board) night in Philadelphia. He’s logging major minutes so don’t be surprised if Jerebko ranks on the All-Rookie First Team following January’s action. You’ve all been warned.
TERRENCE WILLIAMS | New Jersey Nets | Small Forward
See Thabeet, Hasheem. Replace “personal stat lines” with the “Nets’ win/loss record”; replace “draft” with “season” and replace “Randolph, Zach” with “Yi, Jianlian”… yep, William’s team is like Thabeet’s play, best to look the other way. Williams’ personal productivity has dipped but he team did finally notch a win, or two, so we can let everything else slide.
STEPHEN CURRY | Golden State Warriors | Shooting Guard
With Monta Ellis playing well, Curry has a lot more freedom on the court, funny how that works (when your team’s star shines, you benefit. Basketball’s a crazy game) and he has responded with two great games: 27 points on the underachieving Wizards and a cool 17-points, 10-board, 8-assist near T-D against New Orleans. Curry is averaging 32 minutes, 12 points, 3.5 boards, 4.5 assists and almost two steals (good enough for top five in the L). Dell must be so proud.
JONNY FLYNN | Minnesota Timberwolves | Point Guard
With Kevin Martin out, Evans has become the Kings’ two guard, which has opened up the room for a true PG to land on the All-Rookie Second Team. I’m going with Flynn because he’s making the most of his terrible situation. Out of sight and almost out of mind, Flynn has been collecting 14 points, 2 boards, 4 dimes and a steal in 29 minutes per in the frozen North. A solid rookie PG, if ever there was one.
Honorable Mentions: Darren Collison (PG, Hornets). Ty Lawson (PG, Nuggets). James Harden (SG, Thunder). Wesley Matthews (SG, Jazz). DeMar DeRozen (SG, Raptors).
Brad Graham’s a hoop culture aficionado attempting to flee the once proud Australian basketball scene. He can be reached via email on firstname.lastname@example.org.