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Baseline Awards 3.18.13: Dissecting the All-NBA

By Matt Moore | NBA writer

The top five. (Getty Images)
The top five players are no strangers to winning awards. (Getty Images)

When you look at it, while the NBA voters involved in the process of selecting award winners for a dozen various honors routinely screw everything up in amazing detail -- getting sucked into poor reasoning, a lack of coherent understanding of the actual play during the season, and fundamental logic -- they actually do pretty well with the All-NBA Team spots.

It's the rare award in which I have little to offer in the way of substantial changes. Looking back through the history of the award, there aren't a lot of teams filled with obvious snubs for first-team or outlandish selections.

(There will always be exceptions, and one that nabbed me almost immediately is that Paul Pierce didn't make a single first- or second-team selection until 2009. That means when he was hoisting the Celtics on his back and carrying them into the second round of the playoffs with God-awful teams, he was landing third team. This is a travesty.)

So what's the deal? Is it just that the number of spots available make it easier for them to not make crucial errors? In part. Basically, the voters and media in general can agree on the tiers of players. They can recognize the top three-to-five players, the level beneath that, and the players who were worthy of some recognition.

It's only when they have to split the atoms, cross positional lines and narrow it down, everything goes haywire.

Nonetheless, we have some interesting choices this season for the All-NBA teams.

The biggest lies with Tim Duncan and Marc Gasol for starting center on the first team. This is largely going to come down to choice. But given Duncan's level of engagement in the offense, Gasol's likely to get pushed out here. (Zach Harper of CBSSports.com has more on this quandary.)

If we're talking the five best players in the NBA this season, we'd realistically wind up with LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Chris Paul, Kobe Bryant and Tony Parker. But the positional influence lands one of Duncan or Gasol there and Parker on second team, which is a shame.

Considering the way the NBA has evolved, is there value to moving to a positionless system? After all, the two best players, James and Durant, both bring the ball up the court and operate as power forward for long stretches.

But the award then simply becomes a spread-out MVP vote. The All-NBA team is designed to recognize an actual team structure. Otherwise, you'd likely end up with with either Parker or Carmelo Anthony in the place of Duncan. Granted, this often means simply filtering both power and small forwards into one categories (most second teams over the last several years have featured a dual-power-forward selection.) But there's something to be said for recognizing the best at your individual position, to be the best player at that position in a given year.

But maybe it would be better to emulate what the emerging trends are in the NBA. You could make an argument that would look like:

G: Tony Parker (able to work as a set-up point guard vs. ball-control like Paul)

G: Kobe Bryant

F: Kevin Durant

F: LeBron James

C: Marc Gasol (rebounder and set-up big)

Or maybe even

G: Parker

G: Kobe Bryant

F: Kevin Durant

F: Carmelo Anthony

F: LeBron James

But at the end of this discussion, until the NBA decides to go in a different direction, here's where I've got the leaders for the current first, second and third team as we enter the last month of the season.

First Team All-NBA

G: Chris Paul, Clippers

G: Kobe Bryant, Lakers

F: Kevin Durant, Thunder

F: LeBron James, Heat

C: Tim Duncan, Spurs

(NOTE: I'm traditionally of the "Tim Duncan is a power forward!" crew, a dying breed in today's society. But despite Duncan playing more with Tiago Splitter this season, Duncan's operating in more dual-center lineups than anything. This season, I believe he qualifies for center.)

Second Team All-NBA

G: Tony Parker, Spurs

G: James Harden, Rockets

F: Carmelo Anthony, Knicks

F: Kevin Garnett, Celtics

C: Marc Gasol, Grizzlies

Third Team All-NBA

G: Russell Westbrook, Thunder

G: Dwyane Wade, Heat

F: Paul George, Pacers

F: David Lee, Warriors

C: Joakim Noah, Bulls

On to the rest of this week's award updates.

MVP

1. LeBron James, Heat: That winning streak is probably going to hit some voters in a big way.

2. Kevin Durant, Thunder: The fact that he plays so few fourth quarters should weigh in here. Durant has played in just 53 of 67 possible fourth quarters with a lead that high. And his scoring total remains that high. Just absurd.

3. Kobe Bryant, Lakers: Well, he's only human, so that ankle injury should impact his chances for a third-place fini ... hahahahahaha. Just kidding. He's not human.

4. Chris Paul, Clippers: The most lethally efficient player in the league. Not in terms of metrics but just in terms of his movement on the court. Every movement moves towards something good for him and his team.

5. Tony Parker, Spurs: You can tell the difference in San Antonio's offense with him out, even as the wins continue.

Rookie of the Year

1. Damian Lillard, Trail Blazers: Lillard might actually be getting better despite the rookie wall. That's impressive.

2. Andre Drummond, Pistons: Pistons desperately need him back. We desperately need him back to make the Pistons watchable.

3. Anthony Davis, Hornets: His numbers would reflect a first- or second-place finish.

4. Bradley Beal, Wizards: Beal's a pretty exciting player going forward.

5. Dion Waiters, Cavaliers: Learning to finish at the rim has helped him tremendously.

Defensive Player of the Year

1. Marc Gasol, Grizzlies: As a coach said to me this week, "He has so many little things he does which mess with what you do."

2. Larry Sanders, Bucks: Enough with the ejections, Larry.

3. Andre Iguodala, Nuggets: Kicked back up with some top-notch performances, including suffocating work on multiple opponents vs. the Grizzlies.

4. Tony Allen, Grizzlies: It gets lost how good he is.

5. Joakim Noah, Bulls: So. Many. Minutes.

Most Improved Player

1. Jrue Holiday, 76ers: Imagine his year if he'd had Bynum to take the defense's attention away.

2. Greivis Vasquez, Hornets: A truly fine playmaker who just needs to learn some veteran stuff. Could use a mentor in New Orleans.

3. Larry Sanders, Bucks: From nobody to major defensive player.

4. Lance Stephenson, Pacers: Stirringly good, in a very surprising way given his career.

5. Paul George, Pacers: The "only guy to jump to star-status" player.

Sixth Man of the Year

1. Jamal Crawford, Clippers: He's the key to the Clippers' title hopes.

2. Jarrett Jack, Warriors: Not enough attention on what he has brought Golden State.

3. Kevin Martin, Thunder: Very underrated for the first time since Sacramento.

4. Vince Carter, Mavericks: If that stepback vs. the Spurs had fallen ...

5. Ray Allen, Heat: Quietly comes in and just destroys teams during this winning streak.

Coach of the Year

1. Gregg Popovich, Spurs: Parker, no Parker, business keeps moving.

2. Scott Brooks, Thunder: Admit it; you thought they'd miss Harden more.

3. Eric Spoelstra, Heat: Well, he did win the second-most games in a row in NBA history, so you want to throw him a bone.

4. George Karl, Nuggets: Team's on pace for well over 50+ wins with two double-digit winning streaks despite a young roster that hasn't played together and a brutal opening schedule. A late comer but very deserving of a spot.

5. Vinny Del Negro, Clippers: I know, I know. It makes me nuts, too. But take his resume and tack it on anyone else, and how does it look? Like a top-five guy.

 
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