I thought I was done with All-NBA stuff, and then I went and listened to the latest episode of “Wizards After Dark,” a podcast by Fred Katz of The Athletic. The podcast is a good listen with tons of nerdy Wizards talk. Also, listeners get to hear Katz’s amusing habit of saying each player’s first and last name nearly every time he mentions them.
This episode featured Katz and his boss, David Aldridge, discussing Wizards guard Bradley Beal getting “snubbed” for All-NBA.
Now, Beal wasn’t snubbed, at least in my analysis. As I wrote in April, he was borderline — there were equally good cases for naming him to the third team or leaving him off. He was All-NBA caliber this season but in a tight enough group with several other players that it was entirely reasonable to pick one or more ahead of him.
For those who may have somehow missed the announcement, here’s who made All-NBA for 2019-20:
F: Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks
F: LeBron James, Los Angeles Lakers
G: James Harden, Houston Rockets
C: Anthony Davis, Los Angeles Lakers
G: Luka Doncic, Dallas Mavericks
F: Kawhi Leonard, LA Clippers
C: Nikola Jokic, Denver Nuggets
G: Damian Lillard, Portland Trail Blazers
G: Chris Paul, Oklahoma City Thunder
F: Pascal Siakam, Toronto Raptors
F: Jayson Tatum, Boston Celtics
F: Jimmy Butler, Miami Heat
C: Rudy Gobert, Utah Jazz
G: Ben Simmons, Philadelphia 76ers
G: Russell Westbrook, Houston Rockets
In my analysis, Beal is third in the “I was snubbed” line. Khris Middleton and Bam Adebayo (ahead of Pascal Siakam and Russell Westbrook) are one and two.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. The reason I’m writing about this again is something Katz said on his podcast:
“There’s no fourth or fifth team All-NBA.”
Which immediately started my mind clanking and wheezing into action. What if there was? Who would be on it? What would be the point?
Strike that last one.
There are a few, uh, provisos, a couple of quid pro quos:
- I’m following NBA position rules. So, each team has two guards, two forwards and a center. I don’t like it, especially in this allegedly position-less league, but those are the official rules.
- I’m starting fourth and fifth teams from where the NBA left off. In other words, while I believe Middleton and Adebayo are better choices for All-NBA than Siakam and Westbrook, I’m not overruling the league. Yes, I realize I’ve now spoiled 60% of my fourth team.
- For the Almost All-NBA squad, I’m using the same process I used to pick my original All-NBA group. I watch a gazillion games per season and I’m a bit of a data nerd (if you haven’t noticed). So the teams are a combination of what I’ve seen on the court and what I’ve gleaned from the numbers.
- Unlike All-NBA (both the real one and my hypothetical ballot), I’m including bubble games. I know that wasn’t part of how they did it, but I already updated my spreadsheets to include the full season and it would be a royal pain to back out the bubble games. It’s eight games, which shouldn’t have too big an effect. (No, this was not a ruse to sneak Thomas Bryant onto fifth team. Keep reading to find out if that was a spoiler.)
Enough with the ground rules, here are the teams.
F: Kris Middleton, Milwaukee Bucks
F: Bam Adebayo, Miami Heat
G: Bradley Beal, Washington Wizards
G: Kyle Lowry, Toronto Raptors
C: Nikola Vucevic, Orlando Magic
G: Devin Booker, Phoenix Suns
F: Paul George, Los Angeles Clippers
C: Joel Embiid, Philadelpia 76ers
F: DeMar DeRozan, San Antonio Spurs
G: Kemba Walker, Boston Celtics
Who did I snub for Almost All-NBA? The biggest name is probably Trae Young from the Atlanta Hawks. His offensive game is breathtaking. His defensive game...well, he doesn’t really play that end of the floor. For me, Beal and Lowry were locks for fourth team. That left Young in a “three guys for two spots” battle with Booker and Walker. I thought both guys did more to help their teams win than Young did.
Other guards I considered but didn’t make the cut to the final three:
- Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Oklahoma City Thunder — very good season from the second-year pro.
- Fred VanVleet, Toronto Raptors — Good timing to play so well in a contract year. He’s going to get paid somewhere next season.
- Eric Bledsoe, Milwaukee Bucks — Terrific defender with suspect shooting and a penchant for disappearing in the playoffs (the latter flaw did not figure into his evaluation for Almost All-NBA).
Incidentally, if Westbrook hadn’t been named to third team All-NBA, he would not have made my fourth or fifth team. I haven’t looked to see how many teams I’d need to create to get to Westbrook. At least one more.
At forward, I considered a bunch of players but the only one who was even a semi-strong contender to displace one of the four on my list was Danilo Gallinari from the Oklahoma City Thunder. I considered slotting him ahead of DeRozan for fifth team, but I ultimately decided DeRozan was more important to the Spurs than Gallinari was for the Thunder.
Had he not been chosen for second team, Siakam would have been fifth team on my Almost All-NBA team.
For center, the only potential snub was Karl-Anthony Towns of the Minnesota Timberwolves. I drew the minutes cut off at 1,250 — he played 1,187. In Major League Baseball, they have a weird thing where a player can win a batting title without the required number of at-bats if he still would lead the league in batting if statisticians add enough hitless at-bats to get him to the minimum.
I tried a basketball version — giving him 63 production-less minutes — but that put him behind Embiid. If I lowered the minutes requirement, Towns would have been fifth team.
Am I snubbing someone else? Probably. But look, if someone wants to complain about a favorite player getting left off an entirely made up Almost All-NBA Team...I guess that’s why we have message boards and Twitter.