Biggest Snubs and Surprises of 2013-14 All-NBA Teams
All-NBA teams are some of the more important honors handed out during the league's award season, even if they recognize 14 more players than the most notable individual trophies, like MVP and Defensive Player of the Year.
Not only do they provide historical context when trying to remember which players stood out during any given campaign, but they typically do a great job of recognizing individual excellence during the present day. If you make an All-NBA team, whether it's on the First or the Third Team, chances are you had a great season.
Such is the case for the 15 players selected to this year's squads, as reported by Bleacher Report's Howard Beck:
- First Team: Chris Paul, James Harden, Kevin Durant, LeBron James, Joakim Noah
- Second Team: Stephen Curry, Tony Parker, Blake Griffin, Kevin Love, Dwight Howard
- Third Team: Goran Dragic, Damian Lillard, Paul George, LaMarcus Aldridge, Al Jefferson
Whenever an award like this is handed out, there are plenty of snubs and surprises. We see the topic come up when the All-Defensive teams are announced, as well as when the All-Star reserves are made public.
Not everyone is going to agree on the voting. Not for any team. Not for any position. Not for any year.
So, what are you most shocked about? Who didn't get as much credit as he deserved?
Surprise: James Harden over Stephen Curry
James Harden and Stephen Curry both managed to make the All-NBA teams, but it was the bearded shooting guard who earned top honors at the expense of the Golden State Warriors sharpshooter.
I'm sure Curry won't do too much complaining about earning such a lofty honor, but he deserved more. Maybe he didn't break his own record for most three-pointers made in a season; nevertheless, the strides he made as a distributor and defender were quite impressive.
Let's run a blind comparison, using both per-36-minute stats and a number of advanced metrics:
They're fairly comparable, but Player A has a clear advantage both as a facilitator and a defender while posting nearly identical scoring stats. A minutes discrepancy of 1.5 per game also helps out Player B for both offensive and defensive win shares.
You can probably guess that Player A is Curry, who actually received more votes than any other player on the Second Team and had more First Team nominations than anything else.
There's not a huge disparity between these two players, at least given the chart above, but Harden's defensive incompetence is also understated. His competitor from Golden State doesn't exactly have a shining reputation on the less glamorous end either, but he was no longer a liability during the 2013-14 season.
Sure, Mark Jackson still hid him. But that's only because he could, given the defensive excellence of Klay Thompson and Andre Iguodala.
Curry, given the time Chris Paul missed, should've been the top guard in the NBA. And he's trailing two players, one of whom is too bad on defense to even justifiably sniff a First Team selection? In case you've forgotten, this exists.
Snub: Dirk Nowitzki
The tail end of these teams is ridiculously hard to sneak into, given the sheer quantity of deserving players, but Dirk Nowitzki still stands out as a notable omission.
Not only did he guide the Dallas Mavericks into the playoffs despite a relative dearth of talent, but he performed quite admirably as an individual. He has all the parts of the puzzle that usually earns such lofty honors, and the product apparently still wasn't enough for him to get his due credit.
Nowitzki averaged 21.7 points, 6.2 rebounds and 2.7 dimes per game throughout the 2013-14 campaign, which is already impressive enough. But let's not forget about the manner in which he accumulated those points.
The German 7-footer shot 49.7 percent from the field, drilled 39.8 percent of his shots from beyond the three-point arc and connected on 89.9 percent of his looks at the charity stripe.
Yes, he missed the 50/40/90 club—despite averaging well over 20 points per contest—by a combined 0.6 percent.
Had he gotten a shooter's roll on four more field-goal attempts, he'd have been over 50 percent. If he'd straightened out just one more of his three-point tries, he'd have hit over 40 percent of those. And if he'd gone 339-of-376 at the free-throw line rather than 338-of-376, he would've checked in at over 90 percent.
Think about that.
Chances are, Nowitzki intentionally missed a free throw at some point during the season (though you're welcome to correct me if I'm wrong, since I admittedly haven't watched every Dallas game from the 2013-14 campaign). If he hadn't done that and had avoided taking desperation heaves at the end of quarters—he shot six triples from at least 29 feet—he would've made the club.
And would he have been kept out then? Absolutely not.
Funny how the little things can change so much.
Surprise: Kevin Love over LaMarcus Aldridge
Out of curiosity, how does winning factor so much into MVP voting but doesn't seem to matter all that much when determining the All-NBA teams?
Kevin Love, despite failing to make the playoffs yet again with the Minnesota Timberwolves, made the Second Team. LaMarcus Aldridge, who teamed up with Damian Lillard to lead the Portland Trail Blazers past Game 82, was on the Third Team.
Frankly, I typically try to avoid using team success to determine individual awards, but it's necessary when two players are so close to one another in terms of individual prowess. I mean, they ranked No. 10 (Love) and No. 11 (Aldridge) during my team success-independent NBA 200 rankings.
So now that success is factored in, it's inconceivable that Aldridge failed to earn a higher honor than his fellow power forward.
"It’ll be fun to watch," Lillard said, via OregonLive.com's Joe Freeman before the two met in a late January matchup. "People talk about who is the better power forward out of those two all the time. I’m sure L.A. wants to be that guy and it’s another opportunity for him to show why he is."
There's still a debate. But this year, there was an answer.
Though Love was ever so slightly better as an individual, his team came nowhere near the type of success achieved by Rip City. And Aldridge was a central part of that success.
Given the nod to winning always employed by these voters, it's shocking that the Portland standout didn't receive the higher honor.
Snub: Carmelo Anthony
Carmelo Anthony was one of the 10 best players in basketball during the 2013-14 season.
There are 15 spots on the All-NBA teams.
You do the math.
The New York Knicks struggled mightily throughout the year, failing to make the playoffs even though the Eastern Conference was historically awful. They couldn't even close the gap on a middling Atlanta Hawks team that wasn't all that dead set on advancing to the postseason festivities.
But was that Melo's fault? Absolutely not.
The combo forward submitted the best campaign of his impressive career, averaging 27.4 points, 8.1 rebounds, 3.1 assists and 1.2 steals per game while shooting 45.2 percent from the field and 40.2 percent beyond the arc.
He was an incredible scorer—as always—but he contributed so much more than points to the New York effort from start to finish. Not only was he more committed to crashing the boards than ever before, but he also showed of a new type of defensive intensity while remaining willing to spread the ball around to his teammates.
It wasn't Anthony's fault that the Knicks were awful at defensive rotations and switches, often looking like they were controlled by a five-year-old playing NBA 2K14 with a blindfold on. Nor was it on him that his teammates couldn't shoot to save their lives, even when he set them up perfectly.
Here's Ian Thomsen, writing for Sports Illustrated at the end of November:
The Knicks look like they have no spirit right now, but is that Anthony's fault? While Tyson Chandler recovers from a broken leg and Amar'e Stoudemire provides 3.6 points per game, Anthony is left to lead a hopeless roster of Andrea Bargnani, J.R. Smith, Felton and Metta World Peace -- all reclaimed by the Knicks after being dumped by their former teams. And we're supposed to believe their losing record is the fault of the star who is averaging 26.1 points and 9.5 rebounds? Forgive me if I fail to understand the logic.
A lot changed between November and the end of the season. There were new injuries and different players failing to make any sort of contributions. And Anthony's stats actually got better.
But the logic still remains inexplicable.
Anthony did everything he could, and he would have been a strong MVP candidate had he received even a modicum of support throughout the year.
Surprise: A Charlotte Bobcat/Hornet
The Charlotte Hornets, who were called the Bobcats this past year, haven't had an All-NBA player since they were reintroduced to the league in 2004.
Granted, the Hornets of the 1990s had more than a few selections, but that was kind of a different franchise. Technically, this incarnation of the Charlotte organization didn't come into existence until the last decade, even though it's subsuming the history of the old one now that it's changing nicknames.
So forgive me if I'm surprised that a member of the team is actually getting respect.
Al Jefferson deserves to be here. No disrespect to Roy Hibbert, DeMarcus Cousins, DeAndre Jordan and all of the other centers in the NBA, but Big Al was absolutely dominant during his first season in Charlotte. He was just as unstoppable from the left block as always, and Steve Clifford actually got him playing defense.
Nonetheless, it's shocking to be perusing the All-NBA teams and come across a member of this beleaguered organization.
It's a pleasant surprise, but it's a surprise nonetheless.
Jefferson is ushering in a new era of Hornets basketball, one that's filled with far more promise than the downtrodden fans of this franchise have experienced over the last few years.
This is only the beginning.
A Handful More Snubs
There's such a cluster of talent in the NBA that the Third Team was nearly impossible to predict.
Per the official release by the Association, 25 players received votes and ultimately didn't end up making it onto any of the five-player collections. More than a few were deserving, and we'll call them snubs even though there are only so many spots to go around.
Dirk Nowitzki and Carmelo Anthony are the truly egregious omissions, but there are two more players who had serious cases to earn a bid: John Wall and Anthony Davis.
The latter played for an injury-decimated squad (which, again, means winning factored into the voting rather heavily, thus rendering the Kevin Love/LaMarcus Aldridge order rather strange) and absolutely dominated as an individual. All while proudly boasting the infamous unibrow, Davis averaged an insane 20.8 points, 10.0 rebounds, 1.6 assists, 1.3 steals and 2.8 blocks per game, which led the league.
How is that not worthy of a selection?
Oh, and he shot 51.9 percent from the field while playing some of the best big-man defense in basketball.
As for Wall, he led the Washington Wizards into the playoffs while showcasing an improved shooting stroke and the same dynamic athleticism that has always made him such a dangerous rim-attacking presence. On top of that, he became one of the better defenders at his position.
These two join Dirk and Melo as truly noteworthy omissions, but let's also give shoutouts to DeMar DeRozan, Kyle Lowry and Tim Duncan. Given the number of injured stars, they all played well enough to earn serious consideration for these vaunted spots, even if they ultimately fell short.
Fortunately, you can think about the age of some of these standouts.
Duncan (38) might not have another chance to add to his 14 selections, but Davis (21), Wall (23) and DeRozan (24) are only going to keep getting better. They may have been snubbed this year, but they won't be kept off the teams for much longer.