Biggest Snubs and Takeaways from 2019 All-NBA Team
We officially no longer need to wonder who will make up this year's All-NBA teams.
The league released the final tallies Thursday, and the three squads unfolded as follows:
- First Team: Stephen Curry, James Harden, Paul George, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Nikola Jokic
- Second Team: Kyrie Irving, Damian Lillard, Kawhi Leonard, Kevin Durant, Joel Embiid
- Third Team: Kemba Walker, Russell Westbrook, LeBron James, Blake Griffin, Rudy Gobert
People always find something to gripe about, and we will, too. A few obvious potential snubs stand out. But voters by and large aced the test, and the did-nots needn't be the primary focus of this season's fallout.
Other implications abound anyway. Certain players earned themselves an supersized payday, while others missed out. As a result, this summer just became a lot more intriguing.
Biggest Guard Snub: Bradley Beal, Washington Wizards
Missing out on All-NBA honors means Bradley Beal isn't eligible for a supermax extension this summer (more on that later). Equally important: It also cost him a nod he deserves.
As the Rule of Snubs stipulates, someone else must be bounced from the docket for Beal to get the distinction. That isn't a problem. Russell Westbrook can get the ax. Or, hell, even Kemba Walker.
Beal was that good. He became the 11th player in NBA history to average at least 25 points, five rebounds and five assists per game with a true shooting percentage north of 58.
Playing for the no-good, really bad, not-fun, 32-win Washington Wizards probably hurt Beal's case. Let's agree not to care.
Third-team selections are a chance to reward players who hail from basement franchises. Walker's Charlotte Hornets were hardly a beacon of watchability. That isn't to say he's the one who should be nixed. Westbrook averaged a triple-double for the third consecutive season, but his efficiency dipped, and the Oklahoma City Thunder's net rating plummeted whenever he played without Paul George.
The Wizards, by comparison, finished (just barely) in the green during the extensive time Beal logged without John Wall. They were, however, a net minus in those minutes following Wall's season-ending injury.
Whatever. Nitpicking is part of this process. The gap separating Beal's candidacy from Westbrook's is thin, if it exists at all. Ditto for Walker's case.
Still, Beal deserved an All-NBA nod. He had the credentials to curry favor over either of the actual two third-team selections.
Biggest Forward Snub: None
Sometimes the smartest argument is no argument at all. This is one of those occasions.
Sample-size fusspots will decry LeBron James' third-team nod after he appeared in only 55 games. They'll have to get over it.
Stephen Curry was on last year's third team despite playing in only 51 tilts. James' selection isn't railing against the grain.
Besides, if not him, who else? Danilo Gallinari? Pascal Siakam? Luka Doncic? LaMarcus Aldridge?
Cute, but no.
Gallinari and Siakam, the favorite to win Most Improved Player, have the strongest alternative cases. Neither measure up to James in a talent-and-value vacuum.
LeBron hibernated on defense for 99 percent of the year, but he still averaged 27.4 points, 8.5 rebounds and 8.3 assists. He spent the first part of the season burying ridiculous step-back threes, and the Los Angeles Lakers' had the Western Conference's fifth-best net rating at the time of his groin injury.
Maybe Ben Simmons would have given James a run if he qualified as a forward. But he didn't, and more importantly, it probably wouldn't have mattered.
Fifty-five games' worth of LeBron James is still a top-10 season.
Biggest Center Snub: Karl-Anthony Towns
"Snub" is a strong word here. Nikola Jokic and Joel Embiid have airtight cases unless you take issue with the latter missing 18 games, which, bleh. Karl-Anthony Towns is more like a lateral choice to Rudy Gobert.
He is to the Minnesota Timberwolves on offense what Gobert is to the Utah Jazz on defense: a system unto himself. He used to want for the creative license afforded to typical alpha scorers. It came with the territory. He was a big man living in a world conditioned to feature guards and wings.
No more, though.
Towns' 28.9 usage rate this season was not only a career high, but one of the league's 20 highest—right in superstar territory. He canned 40 percent of his threes on 355 attempts and kept up the tradition of shaming people in the post and off pump fakes from beyond the arc that he leveraged into dribble drives.
Minnesota's offensive rating plunged by a team-high 7.4 points per 100 possessions without Towns on the floor after Jimmy Butler's departure, during which time he also looked more comfortable making defensive rotations around the basket.
And then, of course, we have the sheer enormity of his output.
This is the 49th time an NBA player has cleared 24 points, 12 rebounds and three assists, and Towns' true shooting percentage (62.2) is the fourth highest within that bunch, trailing seasons from only Charles Barkley, Giannis Antetokounmpo and Wilt Chamberlain.
Who Lost Money?
Bradley Beal, Washington Wizards
Bradley Beal would have been eligible for a four-year extension worth around $191 million, set to take effect in 2021-22, had he made the All-NBA cut. However, he missed it.
That means the Wizards can breathe...for now. As The Athletic's Fred Katz wrote:
"But now that Beal isn't an All-NBA player (and he came as close as can be, receiving the most votes of anyone who didn't make the league's top 15, now that he's fallen short of becoming the third Wizard this century to earn such honors, there's no contract awkwardness to force a trade.
"Washington still has to decide if it wants to trade Beal this summer. But in this universe, the power falls solely on management, not on some quirky, league-made rule."
The Wizards might run into this supermax problem next summer. Beal can still qualify if he makes an All-NBA team in 2019-20. But this year's snub buys them the time they need.
Washington doesn't have its front office hashed out after a failed dalliance with Denver Nuggets president Tim Connelly. More than that, offering Beal an extension this summer would've left the Wizards with more than $82 million committed to him and John Wall in 2021-22 and more than $88 million in 2022-23.
Klay Thompson, Golden State Warriors
After failing to qualify for a supermax, Klay Thompson's max-contract options this summer are as follows:
- Five-year deal with the Warriors: $189.7 million
- Four-year deal with the Warriors: $146.5 million
- Four-year deal with another team: $140.6 million
Bank on Thompson rolling with one of the Warriors' options. Few expect him to give them a discount on his next deal, and it would've have been great theater to see whether they peddled a $221.3 million supermax, but worrying about his future remains much ado about nothing.
Warriors owner Joe Lacob wants him to stay with the franchise forever, and Thompson, the league's lowest-maintenance superstar, has never shown an inclination to leave. This fit is too perfect for us to predict the worst.
Karl-Anthony Towns, Minnesota Timberwolves
Failing to make an All-NBA team cost Karl-Anthony Towns $32 million worth of contract incentives.
Consider this your annual reminder that the league and players union needs to negotiate a better system in the next collective bargaining agreement. Whether Towns truly is a snub doesn't actually matter.
Player earning potentials shouldn't be at the mercy of media members. Nor should media member be saddled with the responsibility of drastically impacting a player's salary.
Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks
Rival front-office executives already plotting to steal Giannis Antetokounmpo from Milwaukee when he hits free agency in 2021 should consider themselves warned: He may never reach the open market.
"Earning All-NBA for a second consecutive season now has Giannis Antetokounmpo eligible in the summer of 2020 to sign the largest contract in NBA history," ESPN's Bobby Marks wrote. "The five-year extension starting in 2021-22 would be worth $247.3M and carry a $42.6, $46.0, $49.5, $52.9 and $56.3M cap hit."
This All-NBA break couldn't come at a better time for the Bucks. They finished with the best regular-season record and are now a stone's throw away from the NBA Finals. Their long-term sales pitch to Antetokounmpo was already looking up.
If they put this money on the table one year from now, his future in Milwaukee figures to be a non-issue.
Damian Lillard, Portland Trail Blazers
Damian Lillard and the Blazers can now make their supermax nuptials official(ish).
Almost immediately after Golden State swept Portland in the Western Conference Finals, Yahoo Sports' Chris Haynes reported Lillard and the Blazers were "expected to come to terms over the summer on a four-year, $191 million supermax contract extension" if he made an All-NBA team.
Well, he did, and he will now get his money.
Plenty of risk is caked in here for the Blazers. This extension will take Lillard through his age-34 season, and while it seems like his offensive game will age well, he subsists on absurdly difficult pull-ups that could eventually take their toll.
Even so, the Blazers don't have much of a decision to make. Lillard is perhaps the NBA's best culture-setter and, as of now, a top-10 player. He bleeds Portland black, white and red. It would be more of a risk for the Blazers to hold off on an extension and risk disenchanting him two years out from free agency.
Kemba Walker, Charlotte Hornets
Kemba Walker's All-NBA selection is the most pivotal. He is now eligible for a five-year supermax worth $221.3 million.
The almost-one-quarter-of-a-billion-dollars question: Will Charlotte offer it?
General manager Mitch Kupchak said at season's end the Hornets will "do everything that we can" to keep him, per the Charlotte Observer's Rick Bonnell. That at-all-costs declaration is about to be tested.
Paying Walker the normal full-Bird max (five years, $189.7 million) was a major stretch in the first place. He just turned 29, is slightly undersized at 6'1" and has ferried a one-man-show's workload for the better part of a decade. Whichever version of the max he theoretically accepts may not age well.
But the Hornets do not have the leverage to play hardball. Their foundation is nonexistent without him. And when so many other suitors can sell better situations, refusing to give Walker the full boat could leave Charlotte scrambling to rebuild without a cornerstone.