Complete 2015 All-NBA First Team and Second Team Predictions

Grant Hughes@@gt_hughesNational NBA Featured ColumnistApril 27, 2015

Complete 2015 All-NBA First Team and Second Team Predictions

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    Layne Murdoch/Getty Images

    Stephen Curry and Anthony Davis just spent the first round of the NBA playoffs trying to knock each other out, but they're about to wind up on the same team, which can mean only one thing.

    NBA awards season is upon us.

    Now's the perfect time to take stock of the 2014-15 regular season and lay out predictions for which players will be taking home hardware for their efforts.

    We've already seen Coach of the Year, Defensive Player of the Year and Sixth Man of the Year handed out. Congrats to Mike Budenholzer, Kawhi Leonard and Lou Williams on those respective honors.

    Some big awards are still out there, though, including the ridiculously difficult All-NBA First and Second Team selections.

    Here, we'll do our best to guess which 10 players the voters will select to populate those squads.

    As a refresher, each team has two spots for guards, two for forwards and one for centers. And though it feels like there are tough calls every year, some of the selections this time around are practically impossible.

    Too many of the league's top talents performed spectacularly—which, if you think about it, is a pretty good problem to have.

Apologies, Explanations and Important Asides

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    Harry How/Getty Images

    Predictions Aren't Always Endorsements

    These are predictions, which means they're designed to highlight the players we think voters (made up of media members) will pick. As such, they don't necessarily represent the guys we believe to be most deserving.

    The All-NBA First Team is problem-free in that regard. Voters will get all five spots right.

    As for the second team, Kawhi Leonard and Tim Duncan have extremely strong cases to be included over Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan. Timmy was arguably a better defender and certainly a more useful offensive player than Jordan.

    Leonard played just three fewer games than Griffin and was the league's scariest stopper. You get the sense that when we get the statistics that will allow us to more intelligently value and discuss all the things Leonard does, we'll feel a little silly for not building statues of him.

    They'd narrowly get our votes over the Los Angeles Clippers duo.

    The Cousins Problem

    There will likely be an outcry against DeMarcus Cousins' exclusion from either team after he averaged 24.1 points, 12.7 rebounds, 3.6 assists, 1.5 steals and 1.7 blocks. There's no getting around it; his numbers were ridiculous.

    And he improved his defensive play substantially in stretches.

    But Cousins played just 59 games for a Sacramento Kings team that went 29-53 (they were 23-36 with him in the lineup), and he didn't maintain the kind of behavioral growth we saw early in the year.

    Give him a stable environment and a sensible supporting cast, and he'll threaten first-team status in the future. The overall credentials just aren't enough for now.

    I'm So, So Sorry

    In addition to Leonard, Duncan and Cousins, apologies are in order for Jimmy Butler and Al Horford.

    You guys are great, and you were good enough to warrant spots, but lines had to be drawn somewhere. Don't take it personally.

First Team Guard: Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors

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    Stacy Revere/Getty Images

    2014-15 Regular-Season Statistics: 23.8 points, 4.3 rebounds, 7.7 assists, 2.0 steals, 0.2 blocks, 28.0 PER

    Stephen Curry tested defenses like no one else this season, leading the league in attempts and makes from beyond the arc for the third consecutive year. His 286 connections from deep broke the single-season record he set in 2012-13.

    It didn't matter how Curry got his looks from deep—standing still, off the dribble, one-footed, blindfolded, locked in a steamer trunk at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean—he still terrified opponents and forced widespread abandonment of normal defensive rules.

    Not only that, but he made strides as a defender, finished better at the rim than ever before and led the league (unofficially) in "did you see that?" moments.

    Oh, and he did it all while leading the 67-win Golden State Warriors to the best overall season any NBA team has logged since Michael Jordan's Chicago Bulls were around (though the Mavericks won 67 games in 2006-07).

    Per David Fleming of ESPN The Magazine:

    Curry is standing at the forefront of a new era of playmaker. For the first time since Magic Johnson took an evolutionary leap for the position, we're witnessing the ultimate embodiment of the point guard. Not a shooter like Steve Nash, a passer like John Stockton, a defender like Gary Payton or a floor general like Isiah Thomas. Someone with the ability to do it all, excelling in each category while elevating everyone around him and then topping it the very next night: basketball's new 6-foot-3, 190-pound unstoppable force.

    Curry will easily make the first team, which means he'll technically share the honor with four other players. But really, he's in a class by himself.

First Team Guard: James Harden, Houston Rockets

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    Harden, drawing a foul on himself. He's that good.
    Harden, drawing a foul on himself. He's that good.Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

    2014-15 Regular-Season Statistics: 27.4 points, 5.7 rebounds, 7.0 assists, 1.9 steals, 0.7 blocks, 26.7 PER 

    While Stephen Curry sniped defenses with long-distance dynamism, James Harden beat them into submission with relentless close-range attacks.

    "The Beard" made 715 free throws this season, 61 more than Russell Westbrook, the second-most frequent visitor to the foul line, attempted.

    The Houston Rockets' supporting cast has performed well during the early portion of the playoffs, raising a question as to just how heroic Harden's propping up of a purportedly weak team really was. Still, there's little question that Harden was the league's toughest one-on-one matchup this season.

    Though Westbrook edged him out in the scoring race this year, Harden's points came far more efficiently. Thanks to plenty of threes and all those free throws, he posted a true shooting percentage of 60.5 percent that ranked ninth in the league and fourth among guards.

    Considering the ridiculous amount of defensive attention he drew on a nightly basis, that kind of efficiency seems almost impossible.

    Harden was fantastic this season.

First Team Forward: LeBron James, Cleveland Cavaliers

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    Brian Babineau/Getty Images

    2014-15 Regular-Season Statistics: 25.3 points, 6.0 rebounds, 7.4 assists, 1.6 steals, 0.7 blocks, 25.9 PER

    This is one of those "perpetually included until further notice" situations.

    Yes, LeBron James posted his lowest player efficiency rating since 2006-07.

    Yes, he played defense even less frequently than usual this season.

    And yes, James' total win shares, 10.4, were his fewest since his rookie year.

    All true, and all irrelevant because we're not measuring James against himself. We're measuring him against the rest of the NBA's forwards. And when you consider that he was the only one to average at least 25 points, 6.0 rebounds and 7.0 assists, per Basketball-Reference.com, it's pretty clear he belongs here.

    James also undertook the difficult task of leading a freshly constructed team to major in-season improvements. Remember, there was a time when the Cleveland Cavaliers were just 19-20 on the year. Though their defense never looked great, James was instrumental in cranking up the offense to near league-best levels after the All-Star break.

    There are plenty of good forwards in the league. But there's only one LeBron, and this spot belongs to him.

First Team Forward: Anthony Davis, New Orleans Pelicans

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    Noah Graham/Getty Images

    2014-15 Regular-Season Statistics: 24.4 points, 10.2 rebounds, 2.2 assists, 1.5 steals, 2.9 blocks, 30.8 PER 

    Until we someday make contact with advanced civilizations in galaxies located millions of light years from our own, we'll just have to go with the story that Anthony Davis is from Illinois.

    But let's all agree that his 2014-15 campaign makes the possibility that he's from Zortron-15, located just outside the Framulax Nebular Cluster, slightly more plausible.

    Davis was otherworldly this year, leading the NBA in PER and posting the highest such figure for a player his age (22) in league history. He also blocked more shots per game than anyone this season while expanding his offensive range, taking on a leadership role and hauling his banged-up New Orleans Pelicans to an unlikely playoff berth.

    This is just the beginning for Davis, whose potential remains incalculably vast.

    Forget All-NBA; look forward to many subsequent seasons of All-Galaxy First Team nods for this guy.

First Team Center: Marc Gasol, Memphis Grizzlies

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    Frederick Breedon/Getty Images

    2014-15 Regular-Season Statistics: 17.4 points, 7.8 rebounds, 3.8 assists, 0.9 steals, 1.6 blocks, 21.7 PER

    It's actually kind of surprising that Marc Gasol has earned recognition as the league's best center—even if he fully deserves it, as this prediction of his first-team status indicates.

    Because while Gasol's greatness is subtle—a perfectly timed defensive repositioning here, a textbook handoff there—it's much easier to notice DeAndre Jordan's 20-rebound games and DeMarcus Cousins' stat-stuffing exploits.

    I guess the widespread love of Gasol's game is a notch in the win column for lovers of team basketball and appreciators of all-around play.

    Perhaps it also helps that while enjoying his best-ever offensive season, he continued to serve as the fulcrum of an excellent defense.

    Grizzlies head coach Dave Joerger told B/R's Josh Martin: "Certainly, he's the leader of our defense. We have some terrific defensive players as well, and everybody's tied together—we can be pretty good. But he's the linebacker. He's a high-IQ guy on both ends of the floor, very professional. He's a heck of a player."

    Gasol is a center without a weakness, which is why he ends up here. It's also why he'll be among the most sought-after free agents this summer.

Second Team Guard: Chris Paul, Los Angeles Clippers

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    D. Clarke Evans/Getty Images

    2014-15 Regular-Season Statistics: 19.1 points, 4.6 rebounds, 10.2 assists, 1.9 steals, 0.2 blocks, 26.0 PER 

    There should be three spots for guards on the first team. There just should.

    Since there aren't, Chris Paul winds up a second-teamer. And just to get a sense of how ridiculous that is, consider that he put up a nearly perfect duplicate of his 2013-14 campaign (in which he made the All-NBA First Team), except that he increased his accuracy from the field and from beyond the arc.

    Not only that, but CP3 played all 82 games this year for the first time in his career.

    Paul got better this year, did it without missing a single contest and he lost his spot.

    Forget all of the plaudits we showered on Curry and Harden earlier; that's the greatest proof of their brilliance this season. 

Second Team Guard: Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City Thunder

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    Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

    2014-15 Regular-Season Statistics: 28.1 points, 7.3 rebounds, 8.6 assists, 2.1 steals, 0.2 blocks, 29.1 PER 

    Maybe you heard: Russell Westbrook got up to some pretty exciting stuff this year.

    His 11 triple-doubles were enough to lead the league comfortably and exceeded the combined totals of Harden, James and Paul. I think we all implicitly understand that the triple-double is a pretty arbitrary statistical achievement, but in this case, it's a strong indicator of exactly what Westbrook did this year.

    Which is to say: Everything.

    Without Kevin Durant for more than half of the season and sans Serge Ibaka down the stretch, Russ shouldered the load.

    His Oklahoma City Thunder fell short of the postseason, and there's definitely a case to be made that his lone-wolf play reached a point of counterproductivity, but, man, it was incredible to watch.

    Grantland's Brian Phillips elaborates:

    Oklahoma City drastically retooled its roster around the injury crisis, leading to a universe in which Enes Kanter somehow emerged as a local folk hero and Dion Waiters capped off the season with a disciplined 33 points. The only constant among all these spare parts was Westbrook, knifing at the rim like a matador who decided to charge the bull.

    Nobody was more entertaining than Westbrook this season, and though that's not necessarily what lands players on All-NBA squads, the sheer physical achievement of playing so hard for so long will certainly warrant Russ a spot here.

Second Team Forward: Blake Griffin, Los Angeles Clippers

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    Chris Carlson/Associated Press

    2014-15 Regular-Season Statistics: 21.9 points, 7.6 rebounds, 5.3 assists, 0.9 steals, 0.5 blocks, 22.8 PER 

    It was a strange year for Blake Griffin, who played in just 67 games because of elbow surgery and saw his rebounding totals plummet to career-low levels.

    The decline on the glass came with a spike in assists, which made sense considering Griffin's increasingly perimeter-oriented role in the Clippers' league-best offense. Nearly 38 percent of Griffin's field-goal attempts came from 16-23 feet. In contrast, he attempted just 32.8 percent of his shots from inside three feet.

    His offensive game changed this season, partly to create space in L.A.'s offense and partly to showcase Griffin's full set of skills—which include a keen passing eye.

    Despite the shift away from the bucket, he was still an extremely efficient scorer, shooting 50.2 percent from the field and getting to the foul line 6.4 times per game. And the athleticism was still there, too, making Griffin one of the league's most dangerous forwards in transition and on the pick-and-roll.

    Though limited defensively and increasingly defined by his flopping, Griffin remains exceptionally difficult to guard. In some ways, flaws and all, he's the frontcourt version of Russell Westbrook: imperfect but so physically gifted that he eventually wears down every opponent.

    Don't let the histrionics or mild statistical decline fool you; Griffin remains a wildly productive forward.

Second Team Forward: LaMarcus Aldridge, Portland Trail Blazers

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    Mark Humphrey/Associated Press

    2014-15 Regular-Season Statistics: 23.4 points, 10.2 rebounds, 1.7 assists, 0.7 steals, 1.0 blocks, 22.8 PER

    LaMarcus Aldridge posted a career-high scoring average, became a more viable three-point threat than ever and despite the highest usage rate he's ever posted, still managed to cut his turnover percentage to a career low.

    And he did all that while playing a huge portion of the 2014-15 season with injuries to both hands—one of which was supposed to sideline him for six to eight weeks.

    Aldridge skipped surgery and led an increasingly injury-hit Portland Trail Blazers team to 51 wins.

    Now, to be clear, making an All-NBA team isn't some kind of award for heroism; playing hurt doesn't necessarily lead to preferential treatment. But it's easy to see how voters would see Aldridge's remarkable season and give him a tiny nudge ahead of some other deserving candidates.

Second Team Center: DeAndre Jordan, Los Angeles Clippers

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    Chris Carlson/Associated Press

    2014-15 Regular-Season Statistics: 11.5 points, 15.0 rebounds, 0.7 assists, 1.0 steals, 2.2 blocks, 21.0 PER 

    DeAndre Jordan led the NBA in field-goal percentage for the third consecutive year and rebounds per game for the second time in a row. Though Doc Rivers' constant campaigning may push some critics into backlash mode, nobody can deny that Jordan is very good at the things he's tasked with doing for the Clippers.

    Defensively, he's an intimidating presence.

    And on the boards, he's overwhelming, as Grantland's Zach Lowe notes: "Even the most diligent boxout guys can’t keep Jordan from the offensive glass. He just leans on them until they’re under the rim, outleaps them, and grabs the ball for himself. He makes regular big men look helpless."

    Jordan finished third in Defensive Player of the Year voting, which indicates he's got some supporters who'll treat him favorably in the All-NBA selection process.

    All stats courtesy of Basketball-Reference.com unless otherwise indicated.

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