(my personal) 2021 All-NBA 1st Team

Before I start this, I will just list the players who qualify for multiple positions: C/F - Nikola Jokic, Joel Embiid, Anthony Davis, Bam Adebayo, Karl-Anthony Towns, and Draymond Green F/G - Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum, Zach LaVine, Luka Doncic, LeBron James, Kawhi Leonard, Paul George, Jimmy Butler, Khris Middleton, Ben Simmons, Devin Booker I'm not going to argue how Jokic or Embiid are forwards, I am strictly trying to put the best 5 players on the first team within the parameters given by the NBA, and after that, work on the best 2nd team. I'm not worried about how overloading one position will make the third team weaker, or anything of the sort. So, with that said, my first team...

To me, there's a clear top 6 players that can fit on the first team. The 5 listed, plus Giannis Antetokounmpo. I don't expect anyone else to put 3 centers on their first team, because it simply leaves the center position so thin for the other two teams, but that's an issue for the second and third team. To me, Gobert has been arguably the 2nd best player in the league behind Jokic when you factor in Embiid's missed time, that I just can't sit with myself not having him on the first team with his fellow big boys.

C - Rudy Gobert 14.3 points per game, 13.4 rebounds per game, 1.3 assists per game, 0.6 steals per game, 2.7 blocks per game Gobert has been the most impactful player in the league in terms of plus/minus. He's 2nd in the NBA behind teammate Mike Conley with an on-court rating of +15.7 (Conley is +16.1), and #1 in the league in terms of on-court/off-court difference (on/off) at +17.5. No one has exceeded those numbers since Draymond Green and Steph Curry on the 73-9 Warriors in 2016, and before that (and 2015 Curry) you have to go all the way back to 2005 with Tim Duncan. To me he's a shoe-in as one of the top 5 players in the league this year, it's just a shame 50% of the other top 5 guys play the exact same position as him. Offensively he will always be criticized, but his scoring rate is 59th out of the top 100 players in terms of minutes played this season, ahead of players like Joe Harris, Ben Simmons, and Joe Ingles. When you factor in the efficiency of his scoring (leading the league), his scoring rate moves up to 42nd in the NBA right between Chris Paul and Ja Morant. I think a lot of people don't properly evaluate how valuable he is as an off-ball threat either. He doesn't space the floor in a typical sense, but with a 9-foot-9-inch standing reach and his mobility he sucks in help defenders while he rolls to the rim since there's simply so few people that can actually defend him in a lob situation, which is turn leads to so many wide open shooters. This leads to the Jazz posting a 119.86 ORTG while Gobert is on the court, a team high and 19th in the NBA among players with at least 1000 MP. Defensively, I don't think much needs to be said. He should easily win defensive player of the year. He can guard almost everywhere on the floor unless he's against a top scoring guard on the perimetre, and his impact closer to the rim is as valuable as anyone's in the last decade.

F - Joel Embiid 28.8 points per game, 10.6 rebounds per game, 2.9 assists per game, 1.0 steals per game, 1.4 blocks per game Most of the Spinaroonie crew agreed Embiid was the MVP favourite at the half-season mark, but more missed games has tipped the scale in Jokic's favour. Either way, both make the All-NBA 1st team to me. I would say I still care about time missed when considering All-NBA teams, but even so Embiid to me was clearly the best player when healthy this year. With one game to go, the Sixers are currently 48-23 and clinched the 1st seed in the East, but despite being the best team they were 10-11 in the games Joel missed. Among those qualified for league leaders, Joel Embiid was the league's premier scorer on a per-possession basis, 44.4 per 100, only Steph Curry is even close to him (43.8). His insane scoring rate is matched by great efficiency (5th out of 27 players averaging over 30 points per 100 possessions), and he's shooting over 37% from 3 to go with it. He also leads the league in free throw attempts per 100 at 16.7 shots on an elite 86%; Giannis is in 2nd is all the way down at 13.6. Of course free throws are the most valuable shot in the game, at least, as long as you're that efficient with them, but it also adds long term in-game benefits just from putting the opposition's starters on the bench. Defensively, he doesn't have the motor nor mobility of Gobert but is still a strong anchor and solid positive even with the offensive load he carries.

F - Nikola Jokic 26.5 points per game, 10.9 rebounds per game, 8.4 assists per game, 1.3 steals per game, 0.7 blocks per game What Gobert is to defence, Jokic is to offence. Denver with Jokic on the court has the third highest offensive rating in the league at 121.82 (behind only teammate Michael Porter Jr. and Kawhi Leonard) among players with at least 1500 minutes, and without him they are a paltry 107.02, which is -5.2 below league average. The +14.80 on/off difference between offensive ratings for Jokic is by far the best in the league, Trae Young is second at a whole 2.66 points behind (+12.14). Jokic is a very unique player, as there's really no denying him the ball because of his size and physicality. The only people strong enough to bang with him are too slow, and his vision is arguably the best in the entire NBA that he can take advantage off of any help a defence sends his way. Defensively he's, in my opinion, worse than a lot of people try to justify him, but his offence is so transcendent and absurdly consistent. To go with it all, Jokic has played all 71 out of the Nuggets current 71 games and is currently going back and forth with RJ Barrett for 2nd in the league in minutes played.

G - Kawhi Leonard 24.8 points per game, 6.5 rebounds per game, 5.2 assists per game, 1.6 steals per game, 0.4 blocks per game For the 2nd year in the row the Clippers will be the #2 ranked offence in the NBA, and I feel like it goes no deeper than the fact that they aren't #1 that people haven't really cared how impressive Kawhi has been on the Clippers without a true point guard on the team and a lot of roster change during the off-season. Kawhi has almost doubled his career average in assists per game while maintaining a very low turnover rate (2.0 per game), good for the 9th best AST:TOV ratio among 58 players with a usage rate of 25% or higher, and is shooting 51/40/89 on the season right now. He has missed substantial time, but he still is going to have played around 1800 minutes this season (currently 86th in the league in MP). I mentioned in Jokic's section that Kawhi and the Clippers lead the league with the highest offensive rating while he's on the court, and while maybe his box score numbers aren't elite compared to some others left off the first team, his ability to orchestrate the best offence in the NBA can't be overlooked. Defensively, I think he gets too much credit, but he is still good with a very high ceiling to step up when need be in an on-ball situation.

G - Steph Curry 31.8 points per game, 5.5 rebounds per game, 5.7 assists per game, 1.2 steals per game, 0.1 blocks per game The league leader in scoring dropping almost 32 a game for the season on a .656 TS%. The Warriors are not the offensive juggernaut they once were, but they are still a strong defensive team. Offensively, it's all on the shoulders of Curry. Curry's on/off on the offensive end +11.46, 6th in the NBA (Draymond is 4th). The Warriors with Curry off the court is 103.92, the 2nd worst off-court rating among players with at least 1500 minutes played (Lu Dort is 1st). And if you look at Curry on with James Wiseman off, the Warriors are 119.67, which is a huge +15.75 difference, almost a full extra point to what Jokic adds (the current #1). We all know he's the greatest shooter of all-time, but he's also the best off-ball player of all-time and that's worth remembering too. He draws double teams multiple times throughout a game without even getting the ball just by his insane, constant movement. Defensively, I rank him pretty average. Not really a needle mover, a slight negative, but being not-a-liability is good enough given his immense offensive value. I'll try to do the 2nd team tomorrow, the 3rd team following that, and keep working through awards on a daily basis. Written by W. Smith, thanks for reading! Sources: basketball-reference.com and pbpstats.com Offensive Rating Stats Defensive Rating Stats Scoring Efficiency Stats AST:TOV Stats

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