Predicting the 2012 All-NBA Teams
As the NBA season winds down, it becomes clearer as to which players have truly been dominant. Now it is time to start predicting which players will be rewarded by being placed on an All-NBA team.
Players are selected according to a number of factors. This is not the MVP. These guys are awarded on their individual performance. So while having a winning record is a factor because it shows how valuable the player is to his team, it doesn't tell the whole story.
Here are the predictions and reasoning for each All-NBA team.
1st Team Guard: Derrick Rose
Although Rose has had some nagging injuries, he still deserves to be the first team guard. Rose is the whole reason that the Bulls are in first place in the east, and the reigning MVP is absolutely dominant over other point guards the league has to offer. Rose almost matches Chris Paul's assist total, and in their match up back in December, Rose asserted his dominance by putting up 29 points, eight rebounds and 16 assists on 8-14 shooting.
Rose has had to deal with some injuries this season, but because of his talent and leadership, the Bulls have taken first in the east and could make some noise in the playoffs. There is a very significant chance that they get to the NBA finals or even win it all. It is all because of Rose, and that has to be accounted for.
1st Team Guard: Kobe Bryant
At age 33, the Black Mamba is not ready to give up his superstar status. You might even say he has had a resurgent season. Bryant leads the league in points per game for the first time since 2007, and he is playing 39 minutes a game (up from 34 last year) despite having a condensed schedule. His three-point shooting has dipped below 30 percent for just the second time in his career, but other than that, Kobe is showing no signs of slowing down and should continue to be a star in this league for at least a few more seasons.
On top of all that, Kobe continues to lead the Lakers to success. The team is getting older but have still managed to keep the third seed in the West and lead the pacific division despite the rise of the Clippers. The Thunder could pose a threat to the Lakers in the playoffs, as well as the Heat and Bulls if they were to reach the finals, but one more ring for Kobe isn't too far fetched. The Lakers could still potentially defeat almost any NBA team in a playoff series.
1st Team Forward: LeBron James
LeBron James continues to be a phenomena and versatile player and also leads one of the greatest teams in the league. LeBron is locked in a tight race with Kevin Durant for the MVP, and if he takes home the award, it is well deserved. LeBron is putting up 25+ points a game for the eighth straight season, is rebounding at a career high, and has also found an even more consistent jump shot. LeBron is putting up a career high 54 percent from the field and 36 percent from behind the arc.
Could this year be the season that LeBron gets a ring? I can only imagine how many boos I'll get for that comment alone, but if Derrick Rose is not 100 percent for the playoffs, the Heat have a pretty clear shot at getting to the finals. A Thunder vs. Heat final is likely, and we would get to see if LeBron can lead the Heat to victory in a rematch against Kevin Durant.
1st Team Forward: Kevin Durant
Durant has been the main factor in the Thunder's success this season, and he is another likely candidate for the MVP. Durant is managing a career high in rebounds, assists and steals a game, and the small forward has also developed a much more consistent jump shot, shooting a career high from the field and a dangerous 38 percent from behind the arc.
Durant has had help with Westbrook, Harden and Ibaka no doubt, but he is the real motor of the Thunder. Because of him, they are by far the best team in the Western Conference, and he deserves recognition for that.
1st Team Center: Dwight Howard
Now that all the Dwight Howard trade drama is over and he is with Orlando for another season, we can go back to appreciating how dominant he is on the court. Howard still struggles with his free throws, shooting just 49 percent from the line, but is no doubt the best center in the league. Dwight leads the league in rebounds for the fourth time in his career and has one of the highest field goal percentages in the league. He is also among just three big men who average 20 points and 10 rebounds a game.
Despite lack of star power around him, Howard has led the Magic to the third seed in the east and has put them in a good position for the playoffs. Although a championship ring is unlikely, it isn't out of the question for Howard and the Magic. In addition to being the most dominant center in the league, Howard is also the front runner to win yet another Defensive Player of the Year award, which would be the fourth consecutive year that he wins the award.
2nd Team Guard: Chris Paul
Paul is still among the league's elite point guards and has not suffered the bumps and bruises that Derrick Rose has over the course of the season, but he cannot be called the league's best point guard.
Don't get me wrong, Paul is still a very talented player. Yet, he just doesn't look like the player he was three or four years ago on the Hornets, when he was putting up almost 22 points, 11 assists and three steals a game.
The term "lob city" that was given to the Clippers after the trade is fitting, but Paul's assist total has not exactly shot through the roof like most thought it would. In fact, Paul is averaging almost a career low in assists, beating only his rookie season. He still plays the same amount of minutes, but he hasn't been good enough to deserve a first team slot.
However, Paul is still good enough to get somewhere on this list. After all, he has turned the Clippers into the fourth seed in the West, and while they aren't exactly contenders, the fact that they are now among the NBA's elite teams must be credited to Paul.
2nd Team Guard: Dwyane Wade
Wade hasn't been as great as he usually is, but he has been good enough to deserve a second team spot. This year, Wade is struggling with his three-point shot and is grabbing less rebounds and scoring much less. However, he is taking less shots, and the decrease in points can be expected from sharing the ball with LeBron and Bosh.
Wade is a pretty good defender. Despite being 6'4", the shooting guard somehow manages almost 1.5 blocks a game and also gets almost a couple steals a game. He may not be as dominant as he usually is, but he is helping the Heat win and is a very valuable piece to their team, and that is what matters the most.
2nd Team Forward: LaMarcus Aldridge
Aldridge is one of the most underrated forwards in the league but is starting to get some recognition. He was awarded with an all-star appearance this year after being snubbed from last season's game.
Aldridge doesn't have eye-popping stats, but he plays both sides of the floor equally and is a good defensive player, something you can't say about Blake Griffin or Kevin Love. Aldridge is also clearly the franchise player for the Trailblazers. With all the Blazer fans have been put through in the past couple seasons, such as Greg Oden's injuries and Brandon Roy's retirement, Aldridge gives fans some hope that the team is on the right track and will be in contention in a few seasons.
2nd Team Forward: Kevin Love
Kevin Love has established himself as the greatest power forward in the league, and if the T-Wolves had a better record, he would definitely be in the discussion for the MVP award. He would also be a first team forward if there wasn't so much competition at the forward spot with Durant and James.
Love is an astounding rebounder, grabbing 13.6 rebounds a game. That is even after Nikola Pekovic has asserted himself as a breakout player at C for the T-Wolves. Love is also a great three-point shooter, as he proved in the all-star weekend three-point contest. He currently shoots 39 percent from behind the arc.
Unfortunately, Ricky Rubio's injury came at the wrong time. The T-Wolves now look unlikely to make the playoffs, and without Rubio, even a 51-point performance from Love cannot lead the team past the Thunder. If the T-Wolves add a couple more pieces to complement Love and Rubio, then Minnesota could be a title contender.
2nd Team Center: Andrew Bynum
Lets face it; Andrew Bynum has been in the league for seven seasons, but he is still immature and is a huge pain for coach Mike Brown to deal with. He does not listen to his coach, participate in huddles during timeouts and does what he pleases on the court (pictured is him taking a three-point shot).
However, Bynum has proven this year that he is a dangerous player when healthy. In his first full season, Bynum has been a great option in the post, has shot a high percentage and is a good defensive player. He isn't as good as Howard, but no other center can rival him for the second team. Now if only he would focus on not being such a headcase.
3rd Team Guard: Deron Williams
Deron Williams has had a pretty great season. If only he could lead the Nets to some wins, he could be on the second team. But that really can't be blamed on him. After all, look at what he has worked with this season. He has worked with newly acquired Gerald Wallace, rookie Marshon Brooks and Brook Lopez, but only for a few games. That is not a playoff team.
Williams likely won't be on the Nets next season either as he is a free agent this summer, but for now, he should be recognized for his play, even if his team hasn't been winning. He is arguably having a better season than Chris Paul but just doesn't have the right pieces around him.
3rd Team Guard: Russell Westbrook
Kevin Durant may be the motor that makes the Thunder run, but the Thunder wouldn't find much success without Westbrook. Whether Westbrook is really a point guard or a shooting guard is still hard to tell, but as the second fiddle to Durant, Westbrook is putting up a career high in points per game and field goals attempted a game. He is taking more shots and is trusted more, and he has become an integral part of the Thunder offense, becoming one of their go-to scorers.
Westbrook is also one of the fastest players in the league, a good defender and an absolutely amazing dunker who has made a poster of a few different players this season. Much of the Thunder's success is because of him, and he deserves recognition for it.
3rd Team Forward: Josh Smith
This is a pretty bold pick considering Smith didn't even make the All-Star Team, but he deserves some recognition for his play. He is seventh among all forwards in point per game and sixth in rebounds despite being just 6'9". On the defensive side, the only forward with more blocks is Serge Ibaka, and he is also in the top five in steals. Smith almost definitely won't win, but he is an amazing defensive player and is a candidate for Defensive Player of the Year award.
Smith isn't limited to just defense though. Although he scores more than overrated forwards such as Bosh, Gasol and Stoudemire, he is not given credit for his 19 points a game. Also, he has led the Hawks to the playoffs even though they have been without Al Horford for almost the entire season. And all that still isn't mentioning his amazing athleticism and dunking ability. Smith can match Blake Griffin's dunks, and unlike Griffin, he doesn't have an elite point guard and he can hit shots outside of five feet.
3rd Team Forward: Blake Griffin
Clipper fans may get mad at how far Griffin has slipped down this list, but Griffin is nothing more than a highlight reel fabricated by ESPN and other media outlets. Sure he is a good rebounder, as he is only one of three players to average more than 20 points and 10 rebounds. But unlike LaMarcus Aldridge or Josh Smith, he is paired with an elite point guard, suddenly making him much less special. His dunks are great, but they are overrated. His field goal percentage is good, but almost all of his shots are dunks and layups, and he doesn't have much range. I could accept all that, but what gives Aldridge and Smith an edge is the fact that they play defense. Defense is half the game, and Griffin is no where near those two defensively. That is why he is where he is. The Clippers may have a nice record, but that is a team effort. Griffin isn't the sole reason for that, so he shouldn't be given credit.
3rd Team Center: Marcin Gortat
Several weeks ago, I would've put Marc Gasol in this spot, since he made the all-star game. But now, Gortat keeps looking better and better, and Gasol is fading a little. Since the all-star game, Gasol has dipped down to averaging just nine rebounds and one block a game, and is shooting 47 percent. Gortat, however, is pretty much the only respectable player on the Suns not named Steve Nash, but those two have been enough to lead the team to a .500 record and try to chase down a playoff spot.
As for the centers in the eastern conference, Gortat gets the nod over Hibbert and Chandler simply because he has been more productive on the court. Without Gortat, the Suns would have maybe 15 wins right now. Without Chandler, the Knicks would survive if healthy. Gortat may not be the greatest defensive player, but is good enough to compete for a top 10 or top 15 spot in that category. And as for guys like Cousins and Monroe, they really haven't been able to impact their team's performance at all. Basing rankings off of team record is a silly and ridiculous procedure, but if Monroe or Cousins can't even give their team a few wins, then maybe they shouldn't be considered.
Overall, the polish hammer has had a great breakout season. Perhaps he benefits from Steve Nash, but we'll see if he can continue to develop and possibly be an all-star next season.