Building the First, Second and Third All-NBA 2013 Playoff Teams

Bryan Toporek@@btoporekFeatured ColumnistJune 4, 2013

Building the First, Second and Third All-NBA 2013 Playoff Teams

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    The 2013 All-NBA teams, by and large, didn't contain very many surprises.

    Sure, you can argue that Dwight Howard and David Lee didn't deserve their spots on the All-NBA third team. And given his breakout performance in the 2013 playoffs, Stephen Curry's exclusion from the All-NBA teams looks remarkably foolish in retrospect.

    But the truly ridiculous—like Rudy Gay earning more All-NBA votes than Dirk Nowitzki, or J.J. Hickson earning an All-NBA vote at all—was largely limited to the periphery.

    The 2013 All-NBA playoff teams presented here, on the other hand, would make casual NBA fans roll their eyes in disgust. Stars like Dwyane Wade and Chris Paul are nowhere to be found, while just about every San Antonio Spurs starter earns a spot on one of the three All-NBA postseason teams.

    Here, I've handsomely rewarded players whose teams advanced deep into the postseason. Defense also plays a large factor in these rankings, even though a player's defensive impact is significantly less quantifiable than his offensive contributions.

    With the quest for the 2013 NBA championship down to only the Miami Heat and San Antonio Spurs, check out who would qualify for the All-NBA playoff teams if such a thing actually existed.

    Note: All statistics are current through games played on Monday, June 3. Advanced statistics come from either Basketball-Reference or, unless otherwise noted. Players are classified as "guard," "forward" and "center," as they are on the regular-season All-NBA teams.

Third-Team Guard: Stephen Curry

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    Playoff averages: 23.4 PPG, 3.8 RPG, 8.1 APG, 1.7 SPG, 0.2 BPG, 43.4 FG%, 39.6 3FG%

    Stephen Curry emerged as the major breakout star in the opening round of the 2013 playoffs.

    Before the start of the postseason, few gave Curry's Golden State Warriors a chance to upset the higher-seeded Denver Nuggets. Fueled by Curry's other-worldly shooting, the Warriors did exactly that.

    He shot 44.2 percent from long range over the six-game series, draining nearly four three-pointers per game. By the end of the first round, Curry all but seized the title of deadliest shooter in the NBA.

    In the conference semifinals, however, the San Antonio Spurs proved to be a bit too much for Curry and the Warriors. He exploded for 44 points and 11 assists in Game 1, but wouldn't score more than 22 points during any of the final five games in the series.

    For keying the Warriors' first-round upset over the Nuggets, Curry earns his place on the third All-NBA 2013 playoff team. Had he figured out a way to topple San Antonio, he'd be a lock for a first- or second-team spot.

Third-Team Guard: James Harden

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    Playoff averages: 26.3 PPG, 6.7 RPG, 4.5 APG, 2.0 SPG, 1.0 BPG, 39.1 FG%, 34.1 3FG%

    Despite struggling with his shot in the 2013 playoffs, James Harden still found ways to make an impact.

    The Beard shot under 40 percent from the field during the Houston Rockets' opening-round series against the Oklahoma City Thunder, yet he still averaged over 26 points per game. He can thank his unmatched ability to draw free throws for that.

    After leading the league in free-throw attempts per game during the regular season, Harden carried that strategy right into the playoffs. He shot 66 free throws during the six-game series, including a 17-of-20 performance from the charity stripe in Game 2.

    Flu-like symptoms threatened to keep Harden out of Game 5, but he instead toughed it out and finished 7-of-9 from three-point range that night. Those flu-like symptoms ended up being a case of strep throat, yet Harden refused to let the illness make him miss any court time.

    If not for his ability to draw free throws, Harden's spot on the third All-NBA 2013 playoff team would likely be occupied by Klay Thompson or Nate Robinson. The Rockets' first-round knockout doesn't detract from Harden's heroic effort, though.

Third-Team Forward: Kawhi Leonard

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    Playoff averages: 13.0 PPG, 8.0 RPG, 1.1 APG, 1.6 SPG, 0.6 BPG, 56.5 FG%, 41.7 3FG%

    Heading into the 2013 playoffs, Kawhi Leonard was bound to be the San Antonio Spurs' X-factor.

    No matter how well the Spurs' Big Three played, they could only carry the team so far on their own. Their younger players made the difference between a potential knockout in the conference semifinals and the NBA Finals berth they ended up earning.

    Leonard hasn't been a main offensive option by any means, but he's done exactly what the Spurs have asked of him. He's one of the team's main threats on the fast break, and his consistency from the three-point line is helping space the floor for Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili.  

    Defensively, he's been an absolute menace. His versatility allows him to guard virtually every position on the floor, from players like Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson to Harrison Barnes and Tayshaun Prince.

    Before the start of the 2012-13 season, Spurs coach Gregg Popovich sang Leonard's praises as the future face of the franchise. While it may have sounded like heresy then, Leonard's performance throughout the 2013 postseason helps explain Pop's confidence in his young star-in-the-making.

Third-Team Forward: David West

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    Playoff averages: 15.9 PPG, 7.6 RPG, 2.1 APG, 0.8 BPG, 0.6 SPG, 46.2 FG%

    David West earned himself quite the payday based on what he accomplished during the 2013 playoffs.

    The 32-year-old West might not be a top-two option on a championship team, but he proved throughout the postseason that he's still got plenty left in the tank.

    Offensively, West's post game served as a weapon that no opponent could truly solve. His prowess on pick-and-pops also continued to befuddle the Miami Heat through the first six games of the conference finals.

    The Indiana Pacers' big man made his impact felt most on the boards, however. His aggressiveness crashing the glass, mixed with his ability to box out opponents, almost proved too much to overcome for the Heat, who lacked the size to battle him in the post.

    With West set to reach unrestricted free agency on July 1, his postseason performance leaves the Pacers in a sticky situation.

    They can't afford to let him go, considering how important he was to their conference finals run, but they also can't afford to re-sign him to a hefty long-term deal with Paul George soon becoming eligible for a contract extension, too. 

Third-Team Center: Marc Gasol

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    Playoff averages: 17.2 PPG, 8.5 RPG, 3.2 APG, 2.2 BPG, 0.9 SPG, 45.4 FG%

    Throughout the 2013 playoffs, Marc Gasol made NBA fans rethink the concept of a "star" player.

    Typically, stars tend to earn their keep on the offensive side of the ball. While the league's true superstars (like LeBron James) make a difference on both ends of the court, others (like Carmelo Anthony) still receive the "star" label despite being somewhat mediocre on defense.

    Gasol, on the other hand, is one of the league's few star players on defense. After earning the 2013 Defensive Player of the Year award for his regular-season accomplishments, the big man led his Memphis Grizzlies to the conference finals with pure defensive might.

    But there's plenty offense for Marc too: his dominating performance in the conference semifinals renewed questions about whether the Oklahoma City Thunder would use their amnesty on Kendrick Perkins. Gasol's 23-point, 11-rebound, six-block tour de force in Game 4 against the Thunder all but sealed the series for Memphis.

    Gasol and his frontcourt teammate Zach Randolph struggled against the San Antonio Spurs in the conference finals, however. The rotating pressure from Tim Duncan, Tiago Splitter, Boris Diaw and Matt Bonner proved too much to overcome for the Grizzlies' big-man duo, spelling the end for Memphis' surprising playoff run.

Second-Team Guard: Mike Conley

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    Playoff averages: 17.0 PPG, 4.7 RPG, 7.1 APG, 1.7 SPG, 0.3 BPG, 38.4 FG%, 28.1 3FG%

    You might not realize it by looking at his shooting percentages, but Mike Conley was one of the breakout stars in the 2013 playoffs.

    In the conference quarterfinals, Conley managed to hold his own against Chris Paul of the Los Angeles Clippers, who's largely revered as the best point guard in the NBA. By breaking even against Paul, he allowed the Memphis Grizzlies to exploit their advantages elsewhere, particularly in the frontcourt.

    Conley and the Grizzlies then caught a massive break in the conference semifinals, running into an opponent down one starting point guard. Russell Westbrook tore his meniscus in Game 2 of the Oklahoma City Thunder's opening-round playoff series, putting OKC at a distinct disadvantage against Memphis.

    Reggie Jackson is no schlub, but he's also not an All-NBA point guard like Westbrook. Conley took advantage of Westbrook's absence by averaging 18 points, 6.8 assists, 6.6 rebounds and 2.2 steals per game in Memphis' five-game upset over the top-seeded Thunder.

    Tony Parker and the San Antonio Spurs proved to be too much in the conference finals, though. All of the "Is Conley a top-five point guard?" talk proved to be a bit premature, but Conley's 2013 playoff run suggests that he's at least one of the league's top 10 floor generals.

Second-Team Guard: Lance Stephenson

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    Playoff averages: 9.4 PPG, 7.6 RPG, 3.3 APG, 1.2 SPG, 0.1 BPG, 40.8 FG%, 28.1 3FG%

    Lance Stephenson may end up being the biggest bellwether of the 2013 playoffs.

    On the nights he played well, the Indiana Pacers were more likely than not to emerge victorious. The Pacers could expect solid contributions from Paul George, Roy Hibbert and David West on a nightly basis, but an offensive explosion for Stephenson basically turned out to be found money.

    On the nights when Stephenson imploded, however, the Pacers also tended to struggle. His shot selection often took a turn for the worse after a few misses, which spelled doom for the offensively challenged Indiana squad.

    His 25-point, 10-rebound night in Game 6 of the conference semifinals stands out as his signature 2013 playoff performance. He scored nine points during the final five minutes of the game, turning a two-point New York Knicks lead into a seven-point deficit in three minutes flat.

    The man once known as "Born Ready" delivered some significantly clutch plays in the conference finals against the Miami Heat, too. The 20 points he dropped in Game 4 helped his Pacers even the series at two games each, but the fact that he goaded LeBron James into fouling out is what truly stood out.

Second-Team Forward: Kevin Durant

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    Playoff averages: 30.8 PPG, 9.0 RPG, 6.3 APG, 1.3 SPG, 1.1 BPG, 45.5 FG%, 31.4 3FG%

    The second Russell Westbrook went down with a torn meniscus, the Oklahoma City Thunder's chances of returning to the NBA Finals went up in flames.

    It didn't mean that Kevin Durant would go down without a fight, though.

    With Westbrook out, Durant assumed more of the team's offensive responsibility, from ball-handling to shot creation. He finished with an insane 41 points and 14 rebounds in his first game after Westbrook's injury, then followed up in Game 4 with 38 points (on only 16 shots!), eight rebounds and six assists.

    Essentially, Durant turned into Cleveland-era LeBron James, recognizing that his team would only go as far as he could take them. His supernova explosion helped the Thunder squeeze past the Houston Rockets in the conference quarterfinals, but Westbrook's absence proved too much to overcome in the next round.

    K.D. helped the Thunder steal Game 1 against the Memphis Grizzlies with a last-second jumper, but couldn't will his team to any more victories in the conference semifinals. The Grizzlies threw double- and triple-teams Durant's way as each game wound down, daring his teammates to beat them.    

Second-Team Forward: Carmelo Anthony

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    Playoff averages: 28.8 PPG, 6.6 RPG, 1.6 APG, 1.1 SPG, 0.2 BPG, 40.6 FG%, 29.8 3FG%

    Considering that Carmelo Anthony was reportedly dealing with a small, left shoulder tear throughout the postseason, his playoff performance becomes that much more impressive.

    A rough-and-tumble first-round series against the Boston Celtics was exactly what the doctor didn't order for Anthony. After the Knicks closed out the Celtics in Game 6, Anthony told reporters that his left arm "popped in and out" of his left shoulder during the game, according to

    Despite the injury, the NBA's leading scorer managed to drop nearly 30 points per game against Boston. His shooting took a turn for the worse as the series progressed, however, punctuated by a 10-of-35 shooting night in Game 4.  

    The highly physical Indiana Pacers also showed no mercy to Anthony in the conference semifinals. Knicks point guard Raymond Felton even accused the Pacers of targeting Melo's shoulder after Indiana's Game 1 upset victory in New York.

    With J.R. Smith and Tyson Chandler playing like shells of their former selves, the Knicks needed Anthony to take over on both sides of the ball if standing a chance against the unselfish Pacers. Instead, he used their struggles as a license to revert more into "hero ball" mode, which spelled doom against Indiana.

Second-Team Center: Tim Duncan

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    Playoff averages: 17.8 PPG, 9.2 RPG, 2.1 APG, 1.7 BPG, 0.9 SPG, 46.1 FG%

    Believe it or not, Tim Duncan turned 37 years old two games into the 2013 playoffs.

    The way he's played throughout this postseason, he's looking closer to 27 than 37.

    Duncan's turn-back-the-clock regular season carried right over to the playoffs, where he helped lead the San Antonio Spurs back to the NBA Finals for the fifth time since 1999. The Kobe Bryant-less Los Angeles Lakers proved no match for San Antonio in the opening round of the playoffs, with Duncan and his teammates orchestrating a clean sweep.

    The Golden State Warriors posed a problem for the Spurs in the conference semifinals, however, as they knotted the series at 2-2 heading into Game 5. The duo of Duncan and Tony Parker then proved too much for the young Warriors to overcome, leading San Antonio to victories in both Games 5 and 6.

    The Big Fundamental waited until the conference finals to bust out his most impressive performance of the postseason, much to the Memphis Grizzlies' chagrin. Duncan scored seven points during overtime of the Spurs' spirit-crushing Game 3 win, finishing with 24 points, 10 rebounds, five assists and two blocks.

First-Team Guard: Tony Parker

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    Playoff averages: 23.0 PPG, 3.9 RPG, 7.2 APG, 1.2 SPG, 0.1 BPG, 47.5 FG%, 37.5 3FG%

    Is Tony Parker the NBA's best point guard? Given his performance in the 2013 playoffs, it's not such a ridiculous question.

    Parker hosted a clinic in point-guard play during the San Antonio Spurs' run through the Western Conference playoff bracket. He thwarted any hope the Los Angeles Lakers had of a first-round playoff upset by ritualistically abusing whoever they threw his way.

    His first true challenge came during the conference semifinals in the form of Stephen Curry and his transcendent shooting. The Golden State Warriors' point guard had just fueled a first-round upset over the Denver Nuggets, and threatened to do the same against San Antonio after dropping 44 points and 11 assists in the Warriors' Game 1 double-overtime loss.

    The Spurs, led by Parker, instead met Curry's fire with some of their own. They began limiting Curry's damage after the Game 1 eruption and eventually closed the Warriors out in six games.

    In the conference finals, Parker ran circles around Mike Conley, one of the breakout stars from the second round. Parker's 15-point, 18-assist performance in Game 2 looked like it would be his playoff gold standard, but his 37-point night on 15-of-21 shooting in the closeout Game 4 takes the cake (for now).

First-Team Guard: Danny Green

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    Playoff averages: 9.6 PPG, 4.1 RPG, 1.9 APG, 1.1 SPG, 0.9 BPG, 44.7 FG%, 43.1 3FG%

    How can a guy who's averaging fewer than 10 points per game be considered for the All-NBA first playoff team?

    Danny Green is one of those cases where the box score can't begin to quantify his on-court contributions.

    He's been nothing short of a defensive pest throughout the playoffs. After Stephen Curry erupted for 44 points in the opening game of the conference semifinals, Green became the de facto Curry stopper from that point forward.

    While Green didn't shut Curry down completely, he did mitigate the damage done by the Golden State Warriors' point guard. His defensive ability spared Tony Parker from running around a bevy of screens to chase Curry, which gave Parker the energy to stay aggressive on offense.

    In the conference finals, Green and the San Antonio Spurs didn't have nearly as much to worry about from behind the three-point line. As a result, Green began cheating off Tony Allen to pack the paint and double-team Zach Randolph or Marc Gasol, a defensive adjustment that the Memphis Grizzlies couldn't solve.

First-Team Forward: Paul George

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    Playoff averages: 19.2 PPG, 7.4 RPG, 5.1 APG, 1.3 SPG, 0.5 BPG, 43.0 FG%, 33.7 3FG%

    Anyone doubting Paul George's superstar credentials clearly hasn't been paying close enough attention to the 2013 playoffs.

    His per-game playoff averages of roughly 20 points, seven rebounds and five assists say it all: At only 23 years old, he's already one of the most versatile forwards in the NBA.

    George goaded Carmelo Anthony into a number of inefficient shooting performances during the conference semifinals, knowing that he had Roy Hibbert to back him up at the rim. His defense against Anthony foreshadowed what he'd have to do against LeBron James in the conference finals to give the Indiana Pacers a chance of stealing the series.

    After getting torched by James for the game-winning layup in Game 1, George began building his own highlight reel. His poster dunk against Chris "Birdman" Andersen in Game 2 might be the highlight of the playoffs through three rounds, and his 27-point, 11-rebound, five-assist performance in Game 5 was one of the most impressive single-game performances posted by any player this postseason.

    Following Game 6 of the conference finals, Roy Hibbert said George had "a chance to be MVP of this league" in 2013-14, according to USA Today. Despite struggling in Game 7 and fouling out early in the fourth quarter, George emerged this postseason as a bona fide superstar for Indiana.

First-Team Forward: LeBron James

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    Playoff averages: 26.2 PPG, 7.3 RPG, 6.4 APG, 1.6 SPG, 0.8 BPG, 51.4 FG%, 38.7 3FG%

    At this point, words can hardly do justice to LeBron James' greatness.

    Now that he's developed a post game, LeBron has evolved into a nearly unstoppable force of nature on the basketball court. As soon as you throw a double-team his way in the paint, he's passing the ball to an open shooter on the wing.

    He averaged roughly 25 points, eight rebounds and seven assists per game during the four-game sweep of the Milwaukee Bucks in the conference quarterfinals and hardly broke a sweat. The Chicago Bulls proved more feisty, limiting James to 43.8 percent shooting overall, but he still managed to average almost 24 points per game on only 16 shot attempts.

    LeBron truly hit his stride in the conference finals, though. He capped off his Game 1 triple-double (30 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists) with the game-winning, last-second layup, then followed up with 36 points on 14-of-20 shooting the next game.

    He pounded Paul George in the post in Game 3, then single-handedly keyed the Miami Heat's rally in Game 5, scoring or assisting on 25 of the team's 30 points in the third quarter. The reigning MVP saved his best for last, though, dominating Game 7 on both ends of the court to seal Miami's third trip to the NBA Finals in the past three years.

First-Team Center: Roy Hibbert

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    Playoff averages: 17.0 PPG, 9.9 RPG, 1.4 APG, 1.9 BPG, 0.2 SPG, 51.1 FG%

    Based on how he played against the Miami Heat in the conference finals, Roy Hibbert may have made back-to-the-basket big men fashionable again.

    The 7'2" giant averaged over 20 points and 10 rebounds per game against LeBron James and Co., proving time and time again to be a major thorn in Miami's side. Virtually every time LeBron, Dwyane Wade or another Miami player drove to the rim, they found Hibbert lurking, ready to challenge his shot.

    Even on nights where he recorded only one or two blocks, he affected countless more simply by standing near the paint. The Heat (and LeBron in particular) altered their plan of attack, knowing that there would be no such thing as an easy foray into the paint with Hibbert on the court.

    His breakout performance actually began a round earlier, against the New York Knicks in the conference semifinals. Hibbert so thoroughly outplayed Tyson Chandler, the 2012 Defensive Player of the Year, that he put to rest any questions about his four-year, $58 million contract before the conference finals even started.

    Without Hibbert, the Indiana Pacers wouldn't have been able to thwart Miami's high-octane offense and push them to seven games. His presence in the paint fundamentally altered the course of the Eastern Conference playoff bracket, and that's enough to earn him the All-NBA first playoff team bid.