NBA Awards Race: Predicting the unpredictable All-NBA teams

Joel Embiid Philadelphia 76ers, Nikola Jokic, Denver Nuggets (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
Joel Embiid Philadelphia 76ers, Nikola Jokic, Denver Nuggets (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images) /
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As the season nears its end, many are focused on the MVP conversation, one that is historically close between Joel Embiid and Nikola Jokic. However, an MVP award is not the only recognization of a player’s season. That’s what the All-NBA Teams are for.

Each of the three teams belongs to two guards, two forwards, and a center. Like the MVP race, not everyone will get the nod even if they’re having an incredible season. Regardless, we can still try to accurately predict who will finish on an All-NBA team. So, why not try?

All-NBA Third Team

Guard: Donovan Mitchell

After the blockbuster trade that sent him to Cleveland last summer, Mitchell has evolved into a superstar-level player. He had arguably achieved that status already, but he’s proven it further this season, scoring a career-high 27 points per game while shooting a career-best 47% from the field.

He’s led the Cavs to a 48-29 record, 4th best in the Eastern Conference. It’s fair to say Cleveland has lived up to expectations since the trade so far, but the playoffs will be the real test for Mitchell and the Cavs.

Guard: Jaylen Brown

While it might not show in the win-loss column, the Celtics have had some ups and downs this season. Throughout all of them, Jaylen Brown’s production has remained steady. He’s had a career year, averaging a career-high 26 points per game on 49% shooting while playing some elite defense as well, helping to keep Boston afloat during those down periods of the season.

Brown’s performance has likely garnered interest from many teams, and luckily for them, he’s expressed some uncertainty about his future in Boston. Depending on how the next two seasons go leading up to Brown’s free agency, there’s a chance he could find himself in a destination soon.

Forward: Lauri Markkanen

Markkanen appeared to be a throw-in in the Donovan Mitchell trade but has instead become likely the most important asset Utah received. Following his lone season with the Cavs that saw him average a decent 14 points per game, he’s massively improved with the Jazz, averaging 25 points per game on near 50, 40, 90 shooting splits. Markkanen has helped Utah compete for a play-in spot, one that the front office was trying to avoid, moving multiple contributing players at the trade deadline for draft capital.

This selling approach to the deadline raises questions about what role Markkanen will play for Utah in the future. Is it worth keeping a 25-year-old nearing his prime if the franchise will be bringing in 19-year-olds for at least the next few seasons? Whatever direction the Jazz choose, it will likely see Markkanen being valued highly thanks to his breakout season.

Forward: Julius Randle

This season has seen some ups and downs for Randle, but it should still be considered a bounce-back from what was a down year in 2021-22. The addition of Jalen Brunson has helped Randle a lot, which is evident in his improved scoring and efficiency from last season to this year, averaging 25 points per game on 46% shooting from the field. Most importantly, he’s played 76 games this season, though that number likely won’t change after an injury that he’ll be re-evaluated for in two weeks.

Assuming he’s back by the playoffs, Randle will need to keep his regular-season success up, as the Knicks’ postseason outcome likely depends on what version of him we’ll see in the playoffs.

Center: Domantas Sabonis

The Kings have clinched have a playoff spot for the first time in 17 years, and that’s largely thanks to Domantas Sabonis. With averages of 19 points, 12 rebounds, and 7 assists per game on over 60% from the field, Sabonis is on pace to be one of only two players to finish a season with that stat line, along with Wilt Chamberlain

Alongside De’Aaron Fox, Sabonis has helped to end Sacramento’s playoff drought, and in turn, his 2022-23 season will always be remembered by Kings fans.