Each year, a group of NBA writers vote on All-NBA teams, a snapshot of the best 15 players in the league each season. Since I just spent three hours figuring out my personal ballot, I ought to share it here. As of April 4, there is still a week of basketball left, so picks and relevant stats are subject to small tweaks and changes.
First Team: (G) Devin Booker, (G) Luka Dončić, (F) Jayson Tatum, (F) Giannis Antetokounmpo, (C) Nikola Jokić
Let’s start with the easy ones. Jokić and Antetokounmpo are likely going to finish first and second in MVP voting in some order, so they’re no-brainers for the first team. Jokic is on pace to set the highest player efficiency rating (PER), an advanced statistic that combines all of a player’s efforts into a single number, of all time; Giannis would be too if Jokic wasn’t outpacing him.
It’s between four guards — Booker, Dončić, Ja Morant and Stephen Curry — for two spots. This season, Booker has averaged about 27 points, 5 rebounds and 5 assists per game, effectively propelling the Phoenix Suns to the far-and-away best record in the league. Easy lock.
As for the other three, all have led their teams to success, as the Grizzlies, Warriors and Mavericks respectively make up the second, third and fourth seeds in the Western Conference. For me, the tiebreaker is that Doncic is averaging an absurd 28 points, 9 rebounds and 9 assists, while his competitors have slightly less impressive statistics.
The last forward spot is a tossup between the Celtics’ Tatum and the Nets’ Kevin Durant. While Durant has been incredible, he has played 20 fewer games than Tatum this season, and the Celtics are going to be a top four seed while the Nets could lose in the play-in tournament.
Second Team: (G) Ja Morant, (G) Stephen Curry, (F) Kevin Durant, (F) Demar DeRozan, (C) Joel Embiid
Morant and Curry are both having seasons that could be considered first-team quality, putting up huge numbers and leading their teams to high seeds. Durant is an easy pick, too, putting up MVP numbers (30 points, 7 rebounds, 6 assists). He just missed too many games to be first-team.
The elephant in the room is Joel Embiid’s absence from the first team. He is likely going to finish third in MVP voting, but due to positional requirements, he gets pushed to the second team behind Jokić’s superior advanced statistics and passing ability.
The second forward spot is between LeBron James and DeRozan. LeBron is on pace to win the scoring title and has been a cornerstone of the Lakers when he has played this season.
However, the Lakers will probably miss the playoffs, while the Bulls are locked into a top-six seed in the Eastern Conference. On top of playing 17 more games than James, DeRozan has had an incredible season in his own right — 28 points, 5 rebounds and 5 assists — in addition to being the clutchest player in the league.
Third Team: (G) Trae Young, (G) Chris Paul, (F) LeBron James, (F) Jimmy Butler, (C) Karl-Anthony Towns
While the Lakers are struggling and are likely to miss the playoffs, it’s impossible to leave LeBron off the third team due to his individual success.
The second forward spot was not as easy a decision, but Butler is my pick. He’s been essential for the Heat this season, doing everything from initiating offense to playing stellar defense and has the Heat in contention for the East’s first seed. Towns easily makes this slot, averaging 25 points, 10 rebounds and 4 assists as the best player on an overachieving Timberwolves team.
Selecting the two guard spots was tricky. I had a tough time leaving the Jazz’s Donovan Mitchell off, but I felt Paul’s contributions to winning were more important than Mitchell’s individual stats, given the Jazz’s recent slide. Trae Young’s sensational season, averaging a hyper-efficient 28 points and 10 assists, catapults him over Mitchell, too.
These are, of course, just regular season awards. The playoffs are looming, and for many of these guys, that’s where their legacies will really get tested.
Tim Brennan is a sophomore in the McDonough School of Business. Around the Association appears online and in print every other week.