Predicting the All-NBA First, Second, and Third Teams for the 2012-2013 Season
With the 2012-2013 NBA season just a few months away, it is time to start looking at what players will have standout seasons next year.
Making an All-NBA squad is not only a great piece of hardware to put on a trophy case, but it also encompasses a player's individual hard work and success for that particular season.
With several young players beginning to break out as stars in the NBA, and plenty of cagey veterans still playing at the top of their game, the All-NBA race is wide open, and the 15 players who make the cut will have to earn it against top-notch competition.
Here is a look at my predictions for the All-NBA first, second and third teams for next season.
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Not every great player will have the privilege of making an All-NBA team next year. In fact, there will be several players who you could probably make an argument for that will miss out.
Here are three players earning Honorable Mention's who just miss the All-NBA Third Team.
D-Wade is without a doubt still one of the league's top players, and was a major factor for the Heat capturing the championship last year.
However, in the regular season, Wade may miss some time due to injuries, or just plain resting as LeBron keeps the pace for the Heat until the postseason rolls around.
The Heat have so many weapons that Dwyane Wade doesn't need to be as big of a scorer as he used to be, and as long as the Heat are winning, I'm sure he is fine with that.
DeMarcus Cousins is one of the best young players in the league that no one outside of Sacramento seems to be talking about. Every time Cousins is in the news it is because of some sort of misbehavior or immaturity that he displays. Regardless of that, Cousins can flat-out bring it on the court.
Last season he averaged 18 points and eleven rebounds for the Kings, and with another year under his belt, expect those numbers to only go up this year.
With Joe Johnson gone to Brooklyn, the Hawks are firmly Josh Smith's team, and the 26 year-old may finally be ready to really break out next season and have a career year as he heads into free agency in the offseason.
Smith averaged a career high 18.8 points and 9.6 rebounds a year ago, so naturally with more shots and opportunities, expect Smith to be in the 20-10 range this year.
All-NBA Third Team: Kyrie Irving
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In just his rookie season, Kyrie Irving has already proven to the Cleveland Cavaliers organization that he was the right pick for them going first overall in the 2011 draft.
Irving won the Rookie of the Year last year for Cleveland averaging 18.5 points and 5.7 assists. This year, expect Irving to continue to grow into one of the league's top guards and help lead the Cavs into the playoff mix.
It may be difficult for Irving to separate himself from some of the league's top guards that are already established as perennial All-NBA caliber players, but Irving has the skill-set and motivation to hone his talent even more next season and make an All-NBA team in only his second full season in the league.
All-NBA Third Team: Deron Williams
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Other than Dwight Howard, there was arguably no player more sought after this offseason then Deron Williams.
Williams had to make a choice between his hometown team in the Dallas Mavericks or building something for the future in Brooklyn, and in the end he decided to stay with the Nets after they acquired Joe Johnson.
Sometimes, Williams can be overlooked when talking about the best point guards in the league, but in my opinion he has to be in the conversation with Chris Paul, Rajon Rondo, Derrick Rose and Russell Westbrook when determining the league's top lead guard.
Williams had another great season last year for Brooklyn pacing the team with an even 21 PPG and 8.7 APG.
Williams, with a new-and-improved roster around him, should be even more refreshed next season and have another outstanding year.
All-NBA Third Team: Blake Griffin
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It certainly seems that Blake Griffin has been in the NBA for much longer than two years, and that is just a testament to the impact Griffin has made since being the No. 1 overall draft pick in 2009.
Griffin followed up his Rookie of the Year season in 2010-2011 by making All-NBA Second Team last year, averaging 20.7 PPG and 10.9 RPG while helping lead the Clippers into the second round of the playoffs.
Although I see him dropping off a little bit from second to third team, Griffin should continue to be amongst the best big men in the game next season.
In his second full season playing along side Chris Paul, Griffin and the Clippers should be a serious threat to the Thunder and Lakers in the Western Conference.
All-NBA Third Team: LaMarcus Aldridge
The Portland Trail Blazers may be in a rebuilding mode, but LaMarcus Aldridge is continuing to shine and become one of the most under-appreciated stars in the NBA.
Aldridge was seventh in the NBA in scoring last season with an average of 21.7 PPG to go along with eight rebounds.
Aldridge's numbers go right along with the numbers he put up two seasons ago, proving he can be a go-to scorer consistently in this league. However, he did not get his spot back on the All-NBA Third Team that he earned in 2011.
Aldridge's team didn't make much of an impact last season, which is a heavy reason he was left off the ballot. However, I believe next year, despite the Blazers potential futility, Aldridge's performance will continue to improve and land him back on the All-NBA Third Team for the second time.
All-NBA Third Team: Dirk Nowitzki
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Dirk Nowitzki has been a staple of the All-NBA squad over the last decade.
In fact, Nowitzki has been on the All-NBA first, second or third teams each of the last 11 seasons, including making the third team last year.
For the Mavs to struggle as much as they did, and Dirk to still be able to land a spot on the All-NBA roster is another feather in Dirk's cap.
Nowitzki and the Mavs should be reloaded next year with the additions of Chris Kaman, O.J. Mayo, Darren Collison and Elton Brand, and should be better off then they were a year ago.
If they are going to get deep into the playoffs though, it will be Dirk carrying the load once again like he has for the entirety of his storied career with the Dallas Mavericks.
All-NBA Second Team: Chris Paul
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Chris Paul has been an All-NBA performer for the last four seasons including picking up his second All-NBA First Team honors in 2012, his first year with the Clippers.
Paul is consistently in the discussion for top point guard in the league, and for good reason.
Paul single-handedly turned the Clippers from a mediocre team into a team who made it to the second round of the NBA playoffs, and beat a battle-tested Memphis team in the first round.
Paul's numbers are always consistent, and next year he and the Clippers should be right back near the top of the west.
Although many may be surprised to see him drop from first to second team in these predictions, the selection is less about his struggles then it is about the success I predict for those who finish ahead of him.
Either way, there is no denying CP3 is one of the best players in the NBA right now, and he isn't going anywhere anytime soon.
All-NBA Second Team: Russell Westbrook
Few expected this out of Russell Westbrook coming out of UCLA, but he has turned himself into one of the top players in the NBA by age 23.
Westbrook gets criticized at times for his shoot-first playing style, but without Westbrook, the Thunder would have been nowhere near the NBA Finals last season.
Westbrook has made back-to-back All-NBA Second Teams, and I see 2012-2013 being no different.
Last year, Westbrook averaged 23.6 PPG, putting him fifth in the league. As he continues to mature both on and off the court, there is no reason why Russell Westbrook can't become one of the most consistently dominant players in the NBA.
Next season, the Thunder will have high motivation to avenge its finals loss, and expect Westbrook to be a big part of the Thunder's Western Conference dominance (along with the Lakers) in the regular season.
All-NBA Second Team: Carmelo Anthony
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During the London Olympics this summer, there were times where Carmelo looked like the best player on Team USA, reaffirming that he has the capability of being one of the league's best players when he is healthy and motivated.
Last year was among Carmelo's worst since becoming a pro, but he still managed to finish sixth in the NBA in scoring and was an All-NBA Third Team selection.
I expect Carmelo to be dynamic next season as the Knicks try to prove to their fans that they are the best team in New York.
With the East seeming to be wide open once you get passed the Heat, the Knicks have the potential to make the conference finals if they are getting Carmelo at his best, which I believe they will be next season.
All-NBA Second Team: Kevin Love
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If Kevin Love was playing on a contender with the numbers he put up last year, there is a legitimate chance he would have walked home with the NBA MVP instead of LeBron James.
Love still managed to finish sixth in the voting and racked up All-NBA Second Team honors thanks to his 26 and 13 average for the T-Wolves.
Love is now a bona fide NBA superstar at age 23, and with Love joining up with a healthy Ricky Rubio, an improving Nikola Pekovic and returning former stars Andrei Kirilenko and Brandon Roy, the Timberwolves have the makings of a playoff team.
If Love can repeat his performance from last year, he may be knocking on the door of the NBA's first team, but for now we will slot him to earn his second straight All-NBA Second Team honors.
All-NBA Second Team: Andrew Bynum
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Now that the Lakers have shipped Andrew Bynum to Philadelphia in the Dwight Howard deal, Bynum will be out to prove that he, not Howard, is the best center in the game.
Whether or not he will be able to do that is debatable, but Bynum will assuredly have a dynamic first season with the Sixers.
Bynum didn't always receive the touches he deserved while playing with Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol with the Lakers. But now that he is with Philadelphia, Bynum will be the No. 1 option offensively, and will be far and away the best big man in the Eastern Conference.
With Bynum, the 76ers have serious potential to go deep in the playoffs if players such as Jrue Holliday, Nick Young, and Evan Turner can continue to develop.
Bynum picked up All-NBA Second Team honors last season while putting up a career-best 18.7 PPG and 11.8 RPG. Bynum should only improve on his stats in Philadelphia, and if he does, he will find himself earning All-NBA honors for the second-straight season.
All-NBA First Team: Rajon Rondo
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Making the jump from All-NBA Third Team to All-NBA First Team, and in the process passing point guards such as Deron Williams, Russell Westbrook and Chris Paul, may seem like a stretch to some for Rajon Rondo.
However, after watching his playoff performance last season, it is my belief that Rajon Rondo is right now the best point guard in the NBA, and he will prove it by going out and making the All-NBA First team next season.
Rondo has never been a big scorer, evidenced by his 11.9 PPG average last season, but he showed in the playoff series against the Heat that he can take on that role when needed.
Rondo is at his best, however, when he is dishing the ball around. Rondo led the league in assists last year with a remarkable 11.7 APG and led the Celtics to the Eastern Conference Finals.
He also is a triple-double machine, consistently pulling off the feat that most NBA players never accomplish once in their careers.
With Ray Allen gone to Miami, and Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce aging yet another year, the Celtics are firmly Rajon Rondo's team. Expect him to go out and have a career season in 2012-2013.
All NBA First Team: Kobe Bryant
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For most teams, making it to the Western Conference Semifinals two years in a row would be something to be proud of, but for the Los Angeles Lakers who are used to winning championships, that was simply not good enough.
To help, the Lakers scooped up Steve Nash and Dwight Howard in the offseason to rival the Heat for the title of the Yankees of the NBA.
The player most aided by these acquisitions is the Black Mamba, Kobe Bryant, who now has his greatest opportunity to win his sixth NBA championship.
Even with all the help surrounding him, don't expect Kobe's numbers to falter next season. Kobe wants that sixth ring to be even with Michael Jordan and I fully expect him to take next season by storm.
Kobe may not have a plethora of great years remaining, but at age 34 he still has plenty of gas left in the tank.
Only once in the last ten years has Kobe not made the All-NBA First Team (2005 in which he made the third team) and that streak will more than likely continue next season.
With Kobe leading the way—and Nash, Howard, and Pau Gasol following—the Lakers may just have what it takes to unseat the Heat as NBA champions.
All-NBA First Team: Kevin Durant
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Make no mistake about it, Kevin Durant is hungry for an NBA championship.
Helping Team USA win a gold medal was a nice consolation, but Durant will likely not be able to get past the image of the Heat holding up the Larry O'Brien Trophy until he gets one himself.
As great of a player as Kevin Durant is, in order to be on the same level with Kobe Bryant and LeBron James, he must do what they have already done: win a championship.
Durant has plenty of time left to do so at age 23, but who knows how long the Thunder will be able to keep the core of Durant, Russell Westbrook, James Harden and Serge Ibaka together.
Durant will have plenty of competition from the Heat and Lakers, but he realizes this is his best chance yet to land a title.
Durant has led the league in scoring for three straight seasons, and a fourth seems to be in his future.
In fact, Durant is my pick right now for league MVP in the 2012-2013 season.
A First Team All-NBA selection seems all but assured for Durant next year, barring injury. If he pulls it off, it would be his fourth straight All-NBA First Team appearance.
All-NBA First Team: LeBron James
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For LeBron James, it is all over.
No longer can anyone say he is ring-less. No longer can anyone say he doesn't step it up in the fourth quarter. No longer can anyone say he hasn't won the big one. All they can say about him now is that he is a three-time MVP and NBA champion.
But like all the other greats, one title will never satisfy LeBron James. In order to be considered one of the greatest to ever play the game, LeBron must continue to prove all the doubters wrong by winning more championships.
There are legitimate threats standing in his way, but LeBron has proven that he is the best basketball player on the planet, and someone will have to take it away from him if they are going to claim otherwise.
Like many of the other first-teamers, I can't see anything other than an injury preventing LeBron from taking his rightful place on the NBA's First Team in the 2012-2013 season. For LeBron, it isn't really about making the first team, but winning the NBA championship again.
The real questions for LeBron in the regular season: Can he win another MVP? Can he secure the top spot in the east for the Heat? Can he win the NBA scoring title from Kevin Durant and Kobe Bryant?
All-NBA First Team: Dwight Howard
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No player has attracted more attention this offseason then Dwight Howard. However, it has largely been for the wrong reasons.
I'll spare regurgitating the details of Howard's ugly trade situation with the Orlando Magic because all that's important now is that Dwight Howard is a Laker, at least for the time being.
Now that he is in Tinseltown, Howard will have his best chance ever to earn a ring, as he gets to play alongside three future NBA Hall of Famers.
Howard seemed uninterested and distracted at times last year, but still managed to once again be the best center in the league with an average of 20.6 PPG and 14.5 RPG.
In fact, Howard has not averaged less than 20 points since 2007, and he hasn't averaged less than 9.7 rebounds in that stretch as well.
While his shots will assuredly go down now that he is no longer the No. 1 option on offense, Howard will still change the game on defense and help the Lakers win games, which is enough for him to earn his sixth consecutive All-NBA First Team honors.