Fifteen names that defined the ’09-10 regular season.
|ALL-NBA THIRD TEAM|
|Power Forward||JOSH SMITH||Hawks|
|Small Forward||CARMELO ANTHONY||Nuggets|
|Shooting Guard||JOE JOHNSON||Hawks|
|Point Guard||RAJON RONDO||Celtics|
Why they’re here…
TIM DUNCAN | San Antonio Spurs | Center
Look at it like this, Duncan had to hold down San An along fellow front courters DeJuan Blair, Matt Bonner, a broken Richard Jefferson, and a dulled Antonio McDyess, that’s it, the Spurs don’t have anything else up front. It’s guards and those guys. Duncan moved over to the C spot (although certain ballots still hold him up as a PF). Look at what he did this season when matched up against an elite rebounding unit like the Hawks, TD averaged 25 points and 20 rebounds in their two meetings. He was better on the road than at home and although he peaked in December and January, he played consistently, like always does despite his dysfunctional roster and injuries to both Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker at various stages.
Duncan was a rock in ‘09-10, some missing piece of Stonehenge. He was eighth in boards (10.1), 12 in Double doubles (38), 15th in block (1.5) and 30th in points (17.9). He carried the Spurs to 50 wins, yet another post-season berth and did so finished fifth in PER.
If you were fortunate enough to watch as many Spurs games as I did this season (wait, is that a blessing or curse?) you’ll also conclude that Tim Duncan had a more valuable, influential, important and surprising this season than Brook “I don’t count because my team couldn’t even win a half eaten packet of chips” Lopez; Al “Remember me? I’m still in the NBA” Jefferson; David “why am I still listed/playing at C” Lee; Al “Please don’t remember my All-Star berth like you do Tyrone Hill’s” Horford; Chris “It’s great when you’re on the map but awful because you’re know as the best of the Clippers” Kaman; Jermaine “Airport security still has my knees” O’Neal; Andrea “I was a first overall pick, think of me like you do Richard Dreyfuss” Bargnani and Nene “Give me a break, I play with JR Smith, Melo and Kenyon Martin” Hilario.
It’s true Amar’e played some time at the C spot, just check my previous Tracker’s for evidence. Difference, TD dragged through his Spurs through the warfare and crossfire in a heated Conference while Stoudemire skipped and dance his way to praise because everything was handed to him on a massive Nash shaped silver spoon.
Think about it, even if he was considered, which he wasn’t, Amar’e spent all season being possible shopped and has three fantastic months while Duncan was legit throughout, swallowed rebounds, held his team together and recorded 154 minor panic attacks every time he was whistled for a foul he knows he didn’t commit. That’s what these All-NBA Teams are about, preserving history, so that fans can check the almanac and see that, in ‘09-10, Duncan was still one of the elite players despite not posting the flashing his platinum card or ostentatious numbers.
JOSH SMITH | Atlanta Hawks | Power Forward
Know this, J-Smoove’s selection over a host of players was razor thin. It was the toughest and longest pondered of all the picks. This selection qualified for “most researched argument following a heated debate on Skype”. I’ve long held the belief that Amar’e is a top 20 NBA talent. He’s even capable of being inside the top 10 but his play, especially at the end his team needs it most, is Swiss cheese at best.
I’m going with Josh Smith here, as the third best PF of the season because he’s become more Dwight Howard than Amar’e Stoudemire. He played exceptional hoop at both ends, maturing and into a mythical highlight machine and showed the world what can happen when puts it together. That’s a Third Team guy. Sure, stats tell a half-truth here but unlike Carlos Boozer, Chris Bosh and Stoudemire, Smith was his team’s MVP this season and mainly because he figured out the key to success – You’re bigger and more athletic than everyone, go out there and do what you do best. His two game winning tip-dunks stand as testament.
Despite Joe Johnson, Al Horford and Jamal Crawford all impressing in their own way, it felt to me like Smith was the one made this Hawks team go, who helped them become a powerhouse, who showed them the way to the land of the elite. Think of it like this, His adjustments are what led them to leapfrogged Boston. It was like Smith became the GZA/Genius for this group, the head of Voltron, the one who meant more to the members.
Just know, Josh Smith might have been 50th in the L in scoring (11th among Puff’s) with 15.7 ppg; 18th in rebounds (seventh among PFs) with 8.7rpg; 33rd in assists (first among PFs) with 4.2apg; 11th in steals (again, first among PFs) with 1.6spg; third in blocks (yet again, first among PFs) with 2.14bpg; and 24th in Double doubles (eighth among PFs) with 27. That’s three first place finishes in six major categories (when compared to his positional peers). Smith brought it this season, it’s that simple, respect due.
His numbers don’t lie even though they’re not the complete truth. What’s interesting is the fact that Smith averaged more assists than point guard teammate Mike Bibby while helping the usually hapless Hawks notch 50 wins for the first time in 12 seasons. They were better than a season ago and aside from the dubious All-Star selection of Al Horford coupled with Jamal Crawford’s immaculate sense of timing/luck, there’s no singular reason, outside of Smith’s play, for the Hawks’ improvement.
I’m well aware that placing Josh Smith here declares him a top 15 talent (in the NBA). Given the way he played, wouldn’t you place him ahead of Zach Randolph, Carlos Boozer, Amar’e Stoudemire, David West, Louis Scola and Kevin Garnett? Swap him for anyone of those players, he’d make an immediate impact. He was just that switched on this season. This isn’t like Tayshaun Prince in ’07 or Andrei Kirilenko during ‘06, instead, it’s much more like Shawn Marion with Phoenix throughout ’05. Some times you just have to admire the all-court play while having the ability to make a stance for the good of basketball.
CARMELO ANTHONY | Denver Nuggets | Small Forward
The biggest victim of my ‘player specific’ All NBA selections, Melo was an offensive beast throughout ‘09-10 and would have actually placed ahead of Durant if he had of been able to guide his team to the Western Conference’s second seed. Melo only appeared in 69 games this season, posting 28.2 points, 6.6 boards, 3.2 assists and 1.3 steals to go along with 458 shooting from the field, .316 from deep and a career high .830 from the stripe. There’s not much to it than that, dude fell to Third Team because the MVP (James) and the Scoring Champ (Durant) also lace up in the same position. I’m sure Melo will make me eat my words once the post-season commences.
JOE JOHNSON | Atlanta Hawks | Shooting Guard
In a season where Stephen Jackson, Andre Iguodala, OJ Mayo, Vince Carter, John Salmons, Manu Ginobili, Ray Allen, Monta Ellis and Brandon Roy all stated pretty compelling cases before the jury, before all being thrown out, there was really only one right choice. Here’s why Joe Johnson is here…
Monta Ellis’ team stunk, despite his individual productivity. Vince Carter came and went but never really gave Dwight Howard the bolognaise his pasta needed. Manu was Samson strong but only for the final two months of play. John Salmon’s didn’t get going until he landed in Milwaukee. OJ Mayo grew up, big time but not enough to place him on an All-NBA Team ahead of fellow Grizz-star Zach Randolph. Stephen Jackson was considered but featuring a Bobcat, especially one not named Gerald Wallace, just didn’t sit right (plus, like most of you, I only caught a few Bobcats games and never liked what I saw). Which bring me to curious cases of Ray Allen, Andre Iguodala and Brandon Roy. All three were very valuable pieces, for various reason but all three when compared to Joe Johnson.
The exclusion of Roy will ruffles feathers but when you consider that LaMarcus Aldridge and Andre Miller, respectively, both contributed as much to Portland’s surprising success as Roy did, it made more sense to spend time working on who else falls into the same boat, rather than how to best squeeze Roy in here now that he’s the golden child of he NBA. When you’re standing back and thinking about the respective Conference’s, only Wade ranks higher in the East. Roy needed to register more GPs and less DNPs. What’s interesting is that this was a contract year, of sorts, for Joe and yet he didn’t play out of his shoes like Amar’e tried to when the season was winding down.
As separation from the crowded field, here’s what a Third Team SG’s numbers now look like: 76 games, 21.3ppg, 4.9apg, 4.7rpg, 1.1spg, 46 FG%, 37 3PT%, 82 FT%.
RAJON RONDO | Boston Celtics | Point Guard
See what happens when Chris Paul is injured? It appeared like every PG was trying not to make this space. The No. 2 seed was Denver’s to loose (and they did); Jason Kidd’s roster got better; the Bulls and Derrick Rose almost didn’t sneak into the post-season; Baron Davis and the Clippers couldn’t get it together; Russell Westbrook just isn’t there, yet; Houston couldn’t keep pace, despite Aaron Brooks playing top shelf hoops; the three headed rookie monster names Curry/Evans/Jennings were all considered but all three fell short and will most likely feature in this space with three years. On that note, remember the 1998 Draft when Vince Carter, Jason Williams and Paul Pierce all stamped their names on the season? Remember how Vince tore it up, Williams dished it up and Pierce filled it up? That’s what this season was for Evans, Jennings and Curry, respectively. They each deserve their share of the spotlight. Each is unique and offers something the other doesn’t. Each has made a case for Rookie Of The Year. First Jennings, then Evans and more recently Curry. All three have been given room to grow, move and play. Each is a product of their system and all three are exactly the kind of talent you hope for every time your team is in the Draft. Everyone talks about the 20-5-5 numbers Evans posted and how he joined LeBron James, Michael Jordan and Oscar Robertson. Does that automatically make Evans your 2010 Rookie of the Year? I don’t know, his case is strong like the Force in Luke but like the trio of ’98, each is deserving of the hardware. It’s also worth noting that Evans, Jennings and Steph Curry became the reason to get League Pass. Now that’s how you make a first year impact.
So, with all that taken care of, I’m going all in on Rajon Rondo who narrowly beat out Chauncey Billups. Aaron Brooks, Jason Kidd, Derrick Rose and even Andre Miller were all carefully considered and feature as honorable mentions. As crazy as it sounds, Rondo found a way, someway, somehow to play at the level of Paul Pierce, Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett, which should never be undersold. In fact, this season, you can safely argue he was Doc Rivers’ best (or should we make that most important? Or is that consistent?) player, all season long, by a long way.
Weighty statement when you think back to all those quarters/games when Rondo goes missing or isn’t able to leave his fingerprints on the contest. At his best, Rondo, is an all court player who reminds me in some ways of Gary Payton, Antonio Daniels, Mookie Blaylock and Brevin Knight, among others. He’s a menace. He’s the kind of PG you love, so long as he’s on your roster. The thinking here, Rondo’s entire season was stellar and the Celts, despite only winning 50 games (with KG/Rasheed Wallace becoming hollow shells of their former selves) do deserve a player on the All NBA Team. Rondo was the third best PG this season, it’s that simple.
Quick All-NBA Team Tracker recap, the Lakers, Mavericks, Suns, Nuggets and Jazz, teams who respectively posted the best five records out West are all represented here. Likewise, the Cavaliers, Magic, Hawks, Celts and Heat, franchises who rolled off the best five records in the East, are also all accounted for… so, according to my grade school math skills, all 10 teams (who toped their Conference) are represented. More so, seven of the eight Western Conference Playoff teams are included, which, when you stand back from it all, seems to be a fair encapsulation of the ‘09-10 season and isn’t that the point? The best talent, from the best teams, who matter the most because their value results in wins? See, stand back from it all, it does make sense in the end. Now excuse me while I go and break a porcelain mug.
All NBA Honorable Mentions: Zach Randolph, Gerald Wallace, Carlos Boozer, Chris Bosh, Amar’e Stoudemire, Chauncey Billups, Brandon Roy, Paul Pierce, Jason Kidd, Stephen Jackson, Manu Ginobili, Greg Oden’s rehab team.
Stat stuffers who couldn’t lift their teams, but people will argue should be Honorable Mentions: David Lee, Monta Ellis, Tyreke Evans, Aaron Brooks, Danny Granger
Despite keeping track of the NBA’s All-Rookie Team’s this season, I’ve decided to pull a last minute Pulitzer and simple not award the top (Team) honors, mainly because there isn’t a team worth honoring. There really isn’t much point just listing five key rookies who’ve stood out in season ‘09-10. The funny thing it, having completed the write ups for all 10 Rookies who I felt were deserving, I stood back and realized it was a futile exercise, one that would bore and one that isn’t fitting given the 8,000 words that it would have followed. Yes, this class, a Draft crop that was once dubbed the weakest since Kenyon Martin’s named was called out in 2000, deserves their time in the sun, that time isn’t here, at least not right now. Stay tuned through, I may just take these 10 rookie season recaps and add to them for a full down Draft review that looks at what we thought then (June – September) and what we know now (October – April).
Brad Graham is a hoop culture aficionado currently attempting to flee the desolate wastelands of the once proud Australian basketball scene. He can be reached via email at email@example.com.