The NBA’s awards’ season officially got underway Thursday, when the league announced the three All-NBA teams. Perennial members of the teams had their outstanding seasons recognized once again while rising stars garnered All-NBA honors for the first time.
From Russell Westbrook’s historic season to Giannis Antetokounmpo’s emergence as possibly the next great player in the league, the league had no shortage of phenomenal performances in 2016-17. Here are the 15 players who were honored this season and a breakdown of the voting.
Westbrook had a season that was impossible to ignore, joining Oscar Robertson as the only players to average a triple-double for a season. But Westbrook’s brilliance also translated to success for the Thunder, who many believed wouldn’t make the playoffs after losing Kevin Durant in the offseason. We finally got to see what Westbrook would look like as the unquestioned No. 1 option, and though there were some unsightly shots and turnovers from time to time, those don’t diminish the overall package.
Harden was the centerpiece for one of the league’s most lethal offenses. Mike D’Antoni’s decision to move Harden from shooting guard to point guard transformed the perennial All-Star into one of the greatest individual offensive forces the league has seen. He set career highs in points, rebounds and assists while orchestrating the Rockets’ 3-point-heavy attack to near perfection in the regular season.
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First team: F LeBron James, Cavaliers
2016-17 stats: 26.4 ppg, 8.7 apg, 8.6 rpg, 55% fg
While some complained about James’ willingness to sit out regular-season games, the four-time MVP quietly put together one of his finest seasons in a surefire Hall of Fame career. He averaged careers highs in rebounds and assists and had one of his most efficient offensive performances, shooting 55 percent from the floor and 36 percent from deep. While most players in their 14th season would start to show signs of slowing down, James continued to remind us that we’re watching a physical marvel the likes the league possibly has never seen.
Leonard has taken a step forward in each season of his career, but he leaped into the MVP conversation in 2016-17. He continued to add elements to his game – refining his already lethal post-up game to improving his handles – and the hard work paid dividends as he averaged a career high in scoring, which he’s done every year since he broke into the league in 2011. It appears his offensive exploits have finally caught up to his defensive skills, making him one of the best two-way players in the game.
It’s never been a question of talent but rather health when it comes to Davis, and we finally got to see what he’s capable of in 2016-17. He averaged career highs in points and rebounds while playing in a career-best 75 games. The Pelicans acquired DeMarcus Cousins at the trade deadline, a move many thought would eat into Davis’ individual production. But after some initial growing pains, Davis was back to being a dominant force in the paint, though it wasn’t enough to help New Orleans reach the playoffs.
It’s odd having the two-time reigning league MVP not on the first team, but that’s how deep the backcourt talent has become in the league. Curry might not have put up another historic 50/40/90 for a third consecutive season, but some of that could be attributed to playing alongside Kevin Durant. Despite shooting a career-worst 41 percent from beyond the arc (think about that for a second), he still managed to average 25.3 points while playing alongside the four-time league scoring champion. Not bad for an off year.
Thomas had a knack for reminding everyone this season that he was Mr. Fourth Quarter, but the budding superstar also was pretty lethal in the other 36 minutes of games, too. He averaged a career-best 28.9 points while powering the Celtics to the best record in the East. Despite being undersized (5-9) and Boston’s only true perimeter playmaker, Thomas found a way to slice and dice opposing defenses on a nightly basis, vaulting him into the MVP conversation.
No, he doesn’t play on a superteam or in a major market, but Antetokounmpo put the NBA world on notice that the title of “best player in the world” might be his one day. He became the league’s ultimate stat-sheet stuffer for a Bucks team that appears to be on the rise. The Greek Freak was virtually unstoppable attacking the basket and finishing around the rim, but his outside shot continues to be his kryptonite. The rest of the league better hope it remains that way because if Antetokounmpo becomes more comfortable beyond the arc, it might be game over.
It didn’t take long for Kevin Durant to feel right at home in Golden State. The perennial All-Star emerged as the Warriors’ No. 1 offensive option most games until he suffered a knee injury that derailed what appeared to be an MVP-worthy campaign. But as great as he is on the offensive end of the floor, Durant has quietly become one of the better on-ball defenders in the league. He averaged a career-best 1.6 blocks, and his size and quickness can cause problems for even the best offensive players.
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Gobert is a game-changer for a Jazz team that prided itself on defense. From leading the league in blocks per game to cleaning the glass, Gobert is one of the league’s premier intimidators manning the middle. He is the prototypical big man in today’s game – an athletic center who will finish at the rim at one end while defending it at the other – helping the Jazz limit opponents to a league-low 96.8 points per game in the regular season.
Critics of Wall couldn’t find much to complain about this season as the former No. 1 pick blended his brand of scoring and playmaking to near perfection. The offensive-gifted point guard averaged a career best in scoring while also setting new highs in assists per game and guiding the Wizards to 49 wins. Wall’s 3-point shooting continues to be a weakness (33 percent), but defenders still have problems staying in front despite him not being a consistent threat from deep.
DeRozan might not be an analytics poster boy, but the swingman proved you can be lethal knocking down midrange shots. The 27-year-old finished fifth in the league in scoring despite shooting 27 percent from deep, an anomaly in today’s game. DeRozan was the No. 1 offensive option for a Raptors team that finished third in the East, but in order for him and possibly Toronto to take the next step, he has to work on his range in the offseason.
Butler continued to make a compelling argument for best two-way player this season, putting up career-bests in scoring, rebounding, assists and steals per game. Once considered just a defensive stopper, Butler has proven to be very capable on the other end of the floor as the Bulls continue to give him more offensive responsibilities.
Green’s name might not be the first one you think of when debating who’s the most indispensable player on the Warriors, but it probably should be. Green’s ability to defend on the perimeter on and in the paint allows the Warriors to run out small lineups that spread other teams to their breaking points. He’s also critical in running their offense when opposing defenses double-team Steph Curry or Kevin Durant. Green is adept at finding the open man in those situations, whether it be a lob at the rim or a kick out to a shooter.
Jordan put up eerily similar numbers to last season, averaging the same points, rebounds and assists as he did in 2015-16, in being named to his first All-Star team. But Jordan tailed off in one key category – blocks per game, which fell from 2.3 to 1.7. He could abruptly become the Clippers’ No. 1 option if the franchise fails to retain Chris Paul and Blake Griffin this summer.