B/R's All-Playoff Team Ahead of NBA Finals
At long last, the All-NBA Playoff Teams you didn't know were coming are finally here.
Never mind the NBA Finals. Enough games have been played for us to etch the postseason's greatest standouts in stone. The fast-approaching battle between the Cleveland Cavaliers and Golden State Warriors will be but a crash course in what we already know.
So why wait?
These squads come with a twist, one the NBA should be quick to adopt: Positions do not matter. Nine of Bleacher Report's round-ball scribes were asked to rank this postseason's five best players irrespective of these increasingly outdated designations, because we're avocado-toast hip.
First-place votes were worth five points, second-place votes four points, third-place votes three points and so on. These totals were then added together, and the players with the five best scores were permitted entry into this esteemed (albeit completely imaginary) club.
The question is: Did anyone who doesn't play for the Warriors make the cut?
Honorable Mentions Also Receiving Votes
Al Horford, Boston Celtics
Voting Score: 1
For all of Isaiah Thomas' offensive feats prior to his hip injury, Al Horford proved to be the Boston Celtics' most reliable contributor during the postseason, dabbling in a little bit of everything. His efforts would be remembered more fondly, though, if Tristan Thompson wasn't still his Kryptonite.
Chris Paul, Los Angeles Clippers
Voting Score: 1
Every now and then, seven games is all it takes. Chris Paul didn't make it out of the first round, but he left his mark on the playoffs, putting up 25.3 points and 9.9 assists against a Utah Jazz defense that spent a majority of the series pestering his supporting cast into submission.
Kyrie Irving, Cleveland Cavaliers
Voting Score: 4
Kyrie Irving is shooting 42-of-79 in isolation (53.2 percent) for the playoffs. He can still be tough to watch on defense, specifically when trying to dart around or through off-ball screens, but there may not be a more gutsy tough-shot-maker in the NBA right now.
John Wall, Washington Wizards
Voting Score: 4
The Washington Wizards' lack of depth took its toll on all of their starters, but John Wall was the one often left to lug around bench-heavy units. Entering the NBA Finals, one round removed from action, he still leads all postseason entrants in shot attempts. It's no wonder his efficiency plummeted by the end of the second-round series against Boston. Still, he wrapped the playoffs averaging 27.2 points and 10.3 assists while shooting a respectable percentage from three (34.4 percent). #Respek.
Kevin Durant, Golden State Warriors
Voting Score: 11
Sometimes, we're just sitting around, minding our own business, and it hits us: The Golden State Warriors effectively swapped Harrison Barnes for Kevin Durant. This is real life. It shouldn't be, but somehow, it is.
Durant's addition to the Warriors is more noticeable now than ever before. Defenses cannot guard them the same way, as if scheming around them wasn't difficult enough in the first place.
Leave someone unattended above the break to collapse on a driver, trap a ball-handler or help out the pick-and-roll defense, and there's Durant, who is draining 44.1 percent of his spot-up threes. Smother Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson into off-ball idleness, and you still have to contend with Durant, who is shooting 47.4 percent in one-on-one situations.
Get the Warriors to slow things down and operate in the half court, and they can just dump the ball down to Durant and his 68.4 percent conversion rate on post-ups—the highest mark of anyone to fire up 10 or more shots in those situations.
It doesn't matter how much time there is between games, or that defenses are only planning for one team in the playoffs. Durant is averaging 25.2 points on 55.6 percent shooting while playing top-notch defense, and he might not even be his team's second-best playoff performer to date.
These are scary times, indeed.
Draymond Green, Golden State Warriors
Voting Score: 15
To call Draymond Green's postseason a masterpiece would be an insult. The work he's doing is something more, oftentimes beyond description.
At any given moment, he could be any given thing to the Warriors. Screener, driver, pick-and-roll jump-starter, free safety, rim protector, defensive glass-crasher, fast-break facilitator, loose-ball collector—the list goes on and on.
No player has ever finished the postseason averaging at least 8.0 assists, 7.0 rebounds, 2.0 blocks and 1.5 steals per game through five or more appearances. Green is on track to do just that, with room to spare. His scoring has fluctuated, but the Warriors don't need him to get buckets. He just needs to make defenses pay for leaving him wide-open from behind the rainbow—and he is.
Fifty of his 53 three-point attempts have come with a defender four or more feet away from him. He's buried 48 percent of those looks. You're not going to beat Golden State by neglecting him.
Even if he does go cold, he remains a defensive nuisance and an emotional barometer that has yet to break.
"As ever, he's taken Golden State's defense from sturdy to suffocating; the Warriors have allowed nearly five fewer points per 100 possessions with Green on the floor than when he's been off it this postseason," Yahoo Sports' Dan Devine wrote. "Perhaps most importantly, he enters the Finals having been (mostly) on his best behavior, accumulating just one technical foul and zero flagrant foul points through 12 playoff games.
Last year, Green's temper helped cost the Warriors a title, as he got suspended for Game 5 of the Finals. This year, you'd be hard-pressed to find a player outside of Cleveland with a better understanding of how much he needs to be on the court.
Kawhi Leonard, San Antonio Spurs
Voting Score: 24
It's hard to tell what played a bigger part in Kawhi Leonard earning this nod: The 429 minutes he logged on the court, or the 349 minutes he spent off it.
Through 12 appearances, Leonard averaged 27.7 points, 7.8 rebounds, 4.6 assists and 1.7 steals. He shot 67.4 percent at the rim, 45.5 percent from deep and 52.5 percent overall. He routinely guarded the other team's best player, even if it was James Harden. His workload was that of a one-man show, and yet, the San Antonio Spurs' Game 6 victory over the Houston Rockets without him brought his value into question.
The skepticism was faint and, more importantly, brief.
As soon as Leonard aggravated his ankle injury during Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals, the Spurs' chance to pull off the upset disappeared with him. In the 168 minutes he wasn't available for that series, Golden State outscored the Spurs by 85 points. During the 21 minutes he played, they were a plus-21.
In many ways, then, Leonard's injury became a catalyst for his importance—the latest in a long line of evidence proving the Spurs way can no longer exist without him.
Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors
Voting Score: 30
How does one respond to a crushing NBA Finals defeat after his team registered the best regular-season record in league history?
In Stephen Curry's case, he turns in the best postseason display of his career one year later.
The two-time reigning MVP is averaging 28.6 points per game on 50.2 percent shooting, including a 43.1 percent clip from beyond the arc—all personal highs. Where he never fully recaptured his freewheeling magic from 2015-16 during the regular season, "Unguardable, and I know it" is once again his default setting. He's canning 45.5 percent of his pull-up jumpers, up from 38.7 earlier in the year, and he continues to mystify defenses as a screener.
"If there is a debate about my value in this league, on my team, then that's an issue to begin with," Curry told the Bay Area News Group's Marcus Thompson. "When you talk about a certain amount of guys in the league every year, I'm going to be one of them."
Curry's value within Golden State's star-stuffed dynamic isn't up for debate. He has ceded nothing to Durant—not status, not on-court importance, nothing.
This is the most efficient basketball he's ever played in the postseason, and the Warriors feel it. Their net rating swings 28.2 points in the wrong direction whenever he takes a seat—the largest downturn of any notable NBA Finals participant, per Hoop Magazine's Josh Eberley.
LeBron James, Cleveland Cavaliers
Voting Score: 45
LeBron James has never earned a unanimous MVP award, but he swept the first-place vote here, which is pretty much the same thing.
There are first-graders who have yet to be alive for an NBA Finals in which James hasn't played. For nearly a decade, parity in the Eastern Conference has been limited to roster turnover on the team he calls his own. That's impossibly absurd.
Even more absurd: his performance in the playoffs. James enters the NBA Finals averaging 32.5 points, 8.0 rebounds, 7.0 assists, 2.2 steals and 1.4 blocks per game while shooting 62.3 percent on two-pointers and 42.1 percent from downtown.
Production this indomitable should come with a warning label, or at least a parting consolation prize for the poor souls forced to defend him. James is reaching the rim on command, and attempts to coax him into jumpers are more outdated than the suit he wore to the 2003 NBA draft.
Nothing is more impressive—or alarming, depending on how you view it—than the workload James continues to carry. The Cleveland Cavaliers know they cannot survive long stretches with him on the bench, so they don't even try. He's averaging nearly 41 minutes per game, an astounding number for someone whose team is outscoring opponents by 16.1 points per 100 possessions.
Most 32-year-olds grinding through their 12th consecutive playoff push spanning more than 10 games might need a breather. But not James. All these years later, the NBA remains his own personal playground.