Alex Boeder's NBA Awards Ballot: MVP and All-NBA Teams
- Russell Westbrook
- James Harden
- LeBron James
- Kawhi Leonard
- Giannis Antetokounmpo
Westbrook and Harden. Neither ever misses a game. They are first (Westbrook) and second (Harden) in scoring. They are first (Harden) and third (Westbrook) in assists. They are unstoppable going to the basket and rank easily first (Harden) and second (Westbrook) in free throws made per game. They both ignite a near-constant game of semi-transition basketball for their teams, ranking first (Westbrook) and second (Harden) among guards in rebounds. They turn the ball over a lot because they are central to everything on offense. They are not great on defense and are roughly even in steals in blocks.
With those things being mostly equal, you can argue in favor of Harden and point to team offensive success (Rockets rank second in offensive efficiency while the Thunder rank 16th) and team overall success (Rockets have eight more wins). Of course the teams are not even, but Harden has a good case.
Westbrook just finished going for 50/16/10 and hit a 36-foot game-winner at the buzzer as I am typing this. This is not the reason why he should be MVP. The fact that it was not a surprise is (roughly speaking) the reason why he should be the MVP. This is simplifying things. Westbrook has just been slightly more overwhelming, with slightly more overwhelming numbers. The stat recently circulating about their team record (33-9) when Westbrook records a triple-double is powerful. His entire candidacy is staring at you, into you.
On to Giannis. He leads the Bucks in points, rebounds, assists, steals and blocks. He is top-20 in the league in each of those categories – and if that keeps up, he will be the first player ever to do that. Giannis should probably finish ahead of the guy who is the two-time defending league MVP (Curry), a glut of great points (like Wall, Thomas, Paul, Lillard), everyone not named LeBron in the East (ex: Butler, DeRozan, George), and the best center in the NBA (Anthony Davis), to name a few. These are not terrible times.
All-NBA First Team
- C: Anthony Davis
- F: LeBron James
- F: Kawhi Leonard
- G: Russell Westbrook
- G: James Harden
As a reminder, these are the positional designations. And with that in mind, every choice here is quite clear.
All-NBA Second Team
- C: Rudy Gobert
- F: Giannis Antetokounmpo
- F: Kevin Durant
- G: John Wall
- G: Stephen Curry
Durant playing in only 62 games (to date) hurts his case a bit, but he was arguably a top-five player in those 62 games. Wall gets the edge over Thomas for a more complete overall season (creating, defending, rebounding) while Curry versus Thomas is an even closer call in a battle of two of the most unguardable, efficient and fun-to-watch players in league history. Curry has been the Curry of the previous two seasons during this 13-game win streak, doing just enough to tip this one in his favor.
I inadvertently typed “Roy Hibbert” the first time when I was intending to type Rudy Gobert. Gobert, like Hibbert used to be, is a game-altering force on defense, and all of a sudden he is averaging 19.0 per game over the past nine games.
All-NBA Third Team
- C: Nikola Jokic
- F: Jimmy Butler
- F: Gordon Hayward
- G: Isaiah Thomas
- G: Chris Paul
Here is where it gets tough. Every spot here is contested.
Jokic ekes out the center spot over Karl Anthony-Towns (who will be hard to hold off these teams for the next decade). Jokic and Anthony-Towns are offensive dynamos, though defensively lacking. Jokic is a brilliant passer who orchestrated what looked like an underwhelming Nuggets roster into the fourth-best offense in the league. Fourth-best! The Nuggets! Just ahead of the Clippers, Raptors and Spurs. Marc Gasol, Hassan Whiteside, DeMarcus Cousins and DeAndre Jordan get honorable mention.
Draymond Green is a genius-level player, an incredible passer, and one of the most valuable defensive players in the game. But I couldn’t quite squeeze him in ahead of do-everything stars Jimmy Butler and Gordon Hayward. Especially with Green’s shooting numbers (below 42.0 percent from the field and below 31.0 from three) really falling off this season. Statistically, there is not much separating Butler, Hayward and Paul George. Butler is the superior creator and defender though, and Hayward shot the ball a touch better.
Thomas could have made the Second Team. That leaves one final guard spot with a bunch of worthy contenders: DeMar DeRozan, Damian Lillard, Klay Thompson, Kyrie Irving and Kyle Lowry. Paul would be the sure choice barring injury (even jumping to the Second Team perhaps), especially with the way he is playing down the stretch. But missing 20+ games (more than Durant, even) is almost too much to hold off DeRozan and Lillard, a couple guys giving you 27 every night in very different ways.