As the NBA Playoffs score on, superstars continue to impress while other players step up at the right moments. But, regular season credit must be given to the best at their respective positions. Deciding the All-NBA teams should focus on statistics, but also on team importance and value, asking the question: where would this team be without this player? Here are the five players most deserving of All-NBA First Team:
Portland Trailblazers’ point guard Damian Lillard: 25.8 PPG, 4.6 RPG, 6.9 APG, 44 field goal percentage, .912 free-throw percentage, and 12.1 win shares.
After years of little recognition as a top three point guard, Lillard made All-NBA First Team in 2018 and deserves to return. Without Lillard, the Trailblazers would be not be competing in the Western Conference Semifinals or even a playoff team. To support, his 12.1 win shares is fourth in the league and first among all point guards. He is one of the few players who can score at ease in a multitude of different ways: a mid-range game, driving, and displaying his nickname “Logo Lillard.” He is capable of defending the league’s best point guards while scoring at will against them. If playoff games counted, his performances thus far would cement him as first team, but even so, it’s Lillard’s spot to vacate another year.
Houston Rockets’ shooting guard James Harden: 36.1 PPG, 6.6 RPG, 7.5 APG, 44 field goal percentage, .879 free-throw percentage, and 15.2 win shares.
Of course Harden has to return, he is closest to matching Michael Jordan’s 37.1 PPG in 1986-87. If Harden wants to score, he will and there’s nothing a defender can do about it. Over the past few years, he may have the most fascinating highlight reel without dunking being the main focus. Throughout the year, Harden has carried the Rockets due to key players getting injured and lack of another consistent scorer, hence the league-leading 15.2 win shares. Also, to silence some critics, his two steals-per-game is tied for second in the league. Harden is a clear decision for another All-NBA First Team, and a potential second straight MVP.
Toronto Raptors’ small forward Kawhi Leonard: 26.6 PPG, 7.3 RPG, 3.3 APG, 49 field goal percentage, .854 free-throw percentage, and 9.5 win shares.
On July 18, 2018, the NBA was shook as the Raptors traded All-Star DeMar DeRozan, Jacob Poeltl, and a 2019 first round pick to the San Antonio Spurs for Leonard, Danny Green, and cash. It’s evident who won the trade. Leonard has had his best offensive year while continuing to dominate on the defensive end. The most overlooked part of his game: ball control. As the primary scorer, Leonard averaged two turnovers-per-game and ranked 20th in the league for lowest turnover percent. “The Claw” continues to improve, amaze with his efficient mid-range game, and defensive presence. Leonard is headed for his third All-NBA First Team selection.
Milwaukee Bucks’ power forward Giannis Antetokounmpo: 27.7 PPG, 12.5 RPG, 5.9 APG, 57 field goal percentage, .729 free-throw percentage, and 14.4 win shares.
The “Greek Freak” is the most unique and exciting player in the league. Whether he is driving or delivering an obliterating block, Giannis is going to be an MVP candidate not just this year, but for a decade to come. For a player averaging over 20 PPG, he is the most efficient scorer and it’s not even close. Giannis plays within his 15-foot range and as time goes on, his shot selection will only expand and his three-point shot will improve. He uses his length to his advantage on the defensive end, averaging 1.5 blocks-per-game and is an absolute monster on the boards. As 2019 MVP voting goes, Giannis is a front-runner and will certainly earn his first All-NBA First Team nod.
Denver Nuggets’ center Nikola Jokic: 20.1 PPG, 10.8 RPG, 7.3 APG, 51 field goal percentage, .821 free-throw percentage, and 11.8 win shares.
Jokic is not the most athletic, or strongest, or skilled, but his intelligence is fantastic, and other-worldly for a center. Basketball IQ is an incredible talent, most noticeably displayed in LeBron James’ game. But for Jokic, his awareness and decision-making process is a main reason why the Nuggets are still in the playoffs. He has shown the ability to score, rebound, and distribute, but more importantly, he makes his supporting cast better. It could be debated Philadelphia 76ers’ center Joel Embiid is more deserving, but in team value, the Nuggets would not be a playoff team without him. At 24 years old, Jokic should make his first All-NBA First Team appearance with many more to follow.
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