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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All-NBA Second Team

Guard: Damian Lillard

Lillard is having a mind-blowing season, and his placement on the 2nd team is more of a testament to just how many elite guards there are in today’s NBA than anything else. With averages of 32 points and seven assists per game, this has arguably been Lillard’s best season throughout his 11 years in the league.

However, he’s spending it on a 32-44 season from Portland, a disappointment considering their expectations coming into the season. At 33 years old, it’s now or never for Dame if he wants to win a championship during his prime years, and if so, an offseason trade is inevitable.

Guard: Steph Curry

Curry has only played 51 out of the Warriors’ 77 games up to this point, but he’s been incredible enough in those games that I’m willing to place him on the second team. Averaging 29 points per game on 50% shooting from the field and 42% from three, Curry and Klay Thompson have been Golden State’s only consistent sources of offense throughout the season.

So it’s no surprise to see the Warriors have disappointed. Coming off a 53-27 regular season and of course, a championship, Golden State is currently the sixth seed in the Western Conference and only 3 games above .500. Many believe the Warriors will flip the switch back to contention in the playoffs, but there’s been no indication that they will even in the final weeks of the season.

Forward: Kawhi Leonard

Coming back from a season-long absence, Leonard has looked every bit of his old self this year. Despite only playing in 47 of the Clippers’ 76 games up to this point, he’s proven worthy of an All-NBA selection, providing his usual hyper-efficient scoring shooting 50% from the field and 41% from three, while contributing in all other areas of the game as well.

Obviously, more will be expected of Kawhi in the playoffs, but that’s not much of a concern as he has a track record of stepping up in the postseason. The real question with Los Angeles is how the rest of the roster will fair, as the team has the potential to win it all, but could still lose in the first or second round.

Forward: Jimmy Butler

Jimmy Butler has helped keep the Miami Heat competitive despite many of their shortcomings this season. He’s given a well-rounded performance, averaging 23 points, six rebounds, and five assists per game while shooting an impressive 53% from the field.

Butler may be the sole reason Miami has a chance of winning a playoff series. However, in order to maximize his prime years, the Heat will need to bring in some kind of reinforcements this offseason, a task you can count on their front office to complete.

Center: Joel Embiid

The NBA is very recency-biased, arguably to a fault. Because of this, Nikola Jokic has likely gained the upper hand in the MVP race due to Embiid’s absence in a recent game against the Nuggets, which Denver won. Of course, if Jokic wins the MVP, it would leave Embiid on the second team—a ridiculous statement, but one that will likely ring true by the end of the season. However, this doesn’t take away from Embiid’s ridiculous numbers of 33 points per game on 53% shooting, which have led the 76ers to the 3rd best record in the Eastern Conference.

Of course, we’ve seen the Sixers fail to match their regular-season success time and time again in the postseason, so this shouldn’t be any indication of what’s to come. What we can be sure of, though, is that now is a better time than ever for Philly to make its playoff run, with an aging James Harden and an MVP candidate in Embiid who could quietly be nearing a trade request depending on how the playoffs go.