The official NBA ballots with the big awards such as MVP or All-NBA teams arrived in my email bin on April 2. But there aren’t enough actual trophies to celebrate all the players who stepped up this season.
Here are the first-, second- and third-team winners of unofficial All-Overachiever honors for doing so much more than was expected of them entering the 2012-13 NBA season. (For the All-Underachiever dishonors, click here.)
Center: Nikola Vucevic, Orlando. If I’m Magic General Manager Rob Hennigan, I'm leery of doing any scouting in Philadelphia lest I meet up with some unhappy Broad Street Bullies.
Forward: Tim Duncan, San Antonio. Speaking of the MVP award that Tony Parker was such a strong candidate for earlier this season, let’s note that the resurgent Duncan’s 17.7-point average is higher than Chris Paul’s 17.0.
Forward: David West, Indiana. Paul George provides more excitement, but West’s dependability as a post presence to run offense through is an underrated element in the Pacers’ strong season.
Guard: James Harden, Houston. He might be better in a 1-on-5 pickup game than playing 1-on-1, because more defenders seem just to mean more guys he can get to foul him.
Guard: Damian Lillard, Portland. Twitter newbie Kobe Bryant tweeted respect for Russell Westbrook earlier this season, and after the Blazers’ Rookie of the Year-to-be joined Harden and Bryant as this season’s only players with at least 25 points and seven assists in a half Wednesday night, Bryant tweeted: “Lillard is the real deal. #mambasalute”
Center: Brook Lopez, Brooklyn. There’s a great center in Brooklyn, and he’s the only player in the NBA averaging 19 points, seven rebounds and two blocks. Sorry, Dwight.
Forward: Chandler Parsons, Houston. He’s 6'9" and can shoot and defend. He’s only in his second season, but he’s going to be around for a long time.
Forward: Matt Barnes, LA Clippers. After basically wasting away the past two seasons with the underachieving post-title Lakers, Barnes proved he still knows how to turn his considerable negative energy into some positive results.
Guard: Stephen Curry, Golden State. Going from good to great is very difficult to do. He actually is shooting only 45 percent, but don’t you expect it to go in every time?
Guard: Kemba Walker, Charlotte. Still not a dependable shooter from distance, Walker improved a lot, especially on defense. Good pick, Michael. Maybe you really can do it.
Center: Larry Sanders, Milwaukee. In keeping with our theme of centers who broke out while the spotlight was on Dwight Howard in Los Angeles, Sanders’ line of 21 points, 13 rebounds and two blocks on March 28 (when Howard had finally found his physical and mental form) was the first time any center had ever hit those plateaus in a game against Howard.
Forward: Paul George, Indiana. The only player in the NBA averaging at least 17.5 points, 7.5 rebounds, 4.0 assists and 1.75 steals.
Forward: Kobe Bryant, LA Lakers. He did actually start some games at small forward for the Lakers this season, when he basically did some of everything and at an insanely high level despite being 34.
Guard: Isaiah Thomas, Sacramento. Much respect for the 5'9" kid with no place in the Kings’ rotation early in the season turning himself in a 20-point guy here late in the season.
Guard: Jeff Teague, Atlanta. Maybe could’ve gone with Denver’s Ty Lawson here, because the Nuggets turned into real winners when Lawson put it all together, but their numbers are almost identical for the season and no one in his right mind would’ve drafted Teague ahead of Lawson in any fantasy draft.
Kevin Ding has been a sportswriter covering the NBA and Los Angeles Lakers for OCRegister.com since 1999. His column on Kobe Bryant and LeBron James was judged the No. 1 column of 2011 by the Pro Basketball Writers Association; his column on Jeremy Lin won second place in 2012. Unless otherwise noted, all quotes were obtained firsthand.
Follow Kevin on Twitter: @KevinDing