Whoever was the first person ever to be quoted saying, “you can’t please everyone, and if you try, you will please no one,” had to have been involved the National Basketball Association business in some capacity. Because, let’s get this straight, handing out awards of recognition is tough to reconcile with, even for grown men. The latest example of this being the All-NBA First Team selection that was announced this past Thursday.
The line-up includes: G Stephen Curry; G Russell Westbrook; F LeBron James; F Kawhi Leonard; and, C DeAndre Jordan.
Indeed the announcement of such awards and the fury of reactions from fans that followed are nearly as entertaining as any NBA playoff game. So without further ado, let’s dive into analyzing the 2016 All-NBA First Team. I trust most readers would agree that right off the bat we can cross out any skepticism as to why Curry and James were selected First Team, those are givens. There is not much more to praise about Curry or James – they are two all-time greats.
That takes us to Leonard. This is a pick that I personally agree with, and once it was revealed that Leonard finished as the runner-up in the 2015-16 MVP voting, fans should have assumed Leonard was going to be a First Team player. Without him, the San Antonio Spurs would not nearly be the contenders they were this year. Leonard is one of the premier defenders in the league, now a two-time Defensive Player of the Year whose offensive game has taken huge leaps with each passing year he has been in the league. It’s also worth noting that he came extremely close to the “so rare only eight players have ever done it before” 50-40-90 club – shooting 50% from the field, 40% from 3-point land, and 90% from the free throw line. The 24-year-old hit an impressive mark of .506 from the field, .443 from 3-point range, and .874 from the free throw line. It speaks volumes as to how he’s has catapulted himself into the upper echelon of NBA elites.
Now comes the meat of the bone; the one everyone has been chewing at since the announcements came: why is DeAndre Jordan here? First, I want to defuse any hot takes declaring it is preposterous that Jordan was ever considered, because it is not. While I do not agree with Jordan making the First Team, he was a reasonable selection. The obvious reason being is his health compared to DeMarcus Cousins, who was selected to the All-NBA Second Team. Jordan played 77 of the 82, while Cousins only played 65 of the 82 games. He led the league this year in field goal percentage at a remarkable .703. According to Basketball-Reference.com, per 36 minutes he’s averaged 13.6 points, 2.5 blocks, 14.7 total rebounds, and a defensive plus/minus ratio of 2.7. Per 36 minutes, Cousins averaged 28 points, 1.5 blocks, 12 total rebounds, and a defensive plus/minus ratio of 1.6. Jordan excels at all the above statistics over Cousins’ save points per 36 minutes, where Cousins dramatically has the better hand. Still, these stats reiterate the idea that media voters did not lose their minds when selecting him over Cousins. The comparison is closer than it appears from the naked eye.
I hate to play devil’s advocate here, but I am going to do it. No, I did not forget about Russell Westbrook, and while he is deserving of First Team honors, his selection makes little sense to me. The NBA requires two guards, two forwards and one center for All-NBA selections. This contradicts its own guidelines of All-Star selections that is made up of two guards and three “frontcourt players.” The league needs to stay consistent with itself, and if they are going to single out the center position specifically, why not do that with every position? Why not specify a shooting guard rather than an ambiguous “two guards.” Westbrook is one of my favorite players in the league, but if the NBA plans on keeping any clear lines, then Westbrook should not have been a First Team All-NBA player, the spot should have gone to a shooting guard like Klay Thompson.
If the league does not want to specify each position, and I don’t think they should, especially in today’s NBA when multiple players are able to play up to three different positions, then neither should they specify the center position. The league should place the guidelines as three frontcourt players and two backcourt players; then Draymond Green or Kevin Durant could have been eligible, both of whom were more worthy of First Team honors than DeAndre Jordan. Voting is a sticky situation, and I recognize the tough position media members with such privileges are placed in. They can’t make everyone happy, nor should they. They didn’t make me happy, but then again that might be the fault of NBA guidelines rather than those who voted. Elections, it seems, always get dirty.