ALL-NBA Team Snubs

By: John Ryan Ventura

The All-NBA teams for the 2019-20 season were officially announced last Wednesday. Voting took place prior to the league’s restart, and was based on play through March 11th. Players received five points for first place votes, three points for second team votes, and one point for third team votes. Lebron James and Giannis Antetokounmpo received perfect 500’s—first place votes from all 100 voters. 

There are eight players who had over 250 points, making their selections unquestionable by any stretch of the word (James Harden, Luka Doncic, Lebron James, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Anthony Davis, Damian Lillard, Kawhi Leonard, and Nikola Jokic). The other seven spots, however, are disputable. Below is a list of nine notable players who were snubbed, followed by analyses of whether or not each of them deserves All-NBA recognition, and, if so, who they should replace. With the exception of FiveThirtyEight’s WAR metric, which is reflective of the entire regular season, the data used is from the start of the season until the March 11th suspension of play.

Guards

In or out: Bradley Beal

No snub has seen more outrage on their behalf than Bradley Beal. He averaged 30.5 PPG, second to only James Harden—all while John Wall was sidelined. With this snub, he became the first player to average over 30 PPG and not make All-NBA since the league began recognizing a third team in 1988. Beal averaged over 12 PPG more than Chris Paul and Ben Simmons, both of whom were chosen over him, and Paul did not have notably higher assisting or rebounding numbers. Looking at just Beal’s PPG, RPG, and APG, one would think he was a lock for All-NBA. Digging deeper, however, his offensive rating (113.1) was not as high as one would expect from the leading scorer in the East. His 57.9% true shooting percentage was barely above the league average of 56.3%, and he put up a league-high 22.9 shots per game. These numbers indicate that his high scoring was due to his enormous workload rather than spectacular play. Finally, for the dagger: Beal’s defensive rating was an atrocious 117.6, putting him at a net -4.5 rating. Not a single player on the All-NBA teams this year had a negative net rating. Although Bradley Beal scored a lot this year, he does not deserve All-NBA recognition; his scoring was not particularly efficient and his defense was subpar.

Verdict: OUT

In or out: Trae Young

After an impressive first year, Trae Young picked up right where he left off. He averaged 29.6 points and 9.3 assists per game, putting himself into the conversation for All-NBA recognition. Like Beal, Young averaged more points than five of the six guards selected, and he had more assists per game than all of them. FiveThirtyEight put his WAR at 7.2, which is higher than Simmons and Westbrook. His offensive rating, however, is decent at best, coming at 111.2. Young has the privilege of playing for one of the fastest offenses in the NBA, averaging 107.8 possessions per game. This enabled him to attempt the fourth-most shots per game in the NBA, and it explains why he can score so much despite low efficiency. Also like Beal, Young’s defense is subpar, with a defensive rating of 116.1, giving him a negative net rating. While Trae Young scores a lot, he is not very efficient and is a below average defender, so he does not deserve an All-NBA spot.

Verdict: OUT

In or out: Kyle Lowry

Fresh off a championship, questions surrounded Kyle Lowry and the Kawhi Leonard-less Raptors’ going into this year. Lowry responded by quietly having one of the best seasons of anyone at any position. Lowry had a WAR of 10, which was third amongst all guards. He had a higher defensive rating than all six guards chosen over him, a higher net rating than five of them, and his offensive rating topped both Russell Westbrook and Ben Simmons, who made the third team. His performance this season went largely under the radar, likely due to Toronto’s team-oriented style of play and the fact that he did not score as much as players like Harden, Beal, and Young. Regardless, his dominant defense and elite WAR should have earned him a spot on the All-NBA team over both Westbrook and Simmons. So, who goes? Comparing the two third team guards, Simmons boasts a true shooting percentage 6.3% higher than Westbrook’s despite scoring about 11 fewer points per game. Although they have practically the same offensive and defensive ratings, Simmons has a 3.0 point WAR advantage (5.3 to 2.3). This disparity indicates that he edges out Westbrook due to his efficiency and unselfishness on offense, so Westbrook loses his spot.

Verdict: Lowry IN, Westbrook OUT

In or out: Devin Booker

Yes, the Phoenix Suns had a season before the bubble, and in that season the last guard on our list, Devin Booker, proved himself worthy of All-NBA consideration. As established, Ben Simmons holds the lowest spot of the guards currently on our team. Comparing these two, Booker was undoubtedly the better scorer. He averaged nearly 10 points per game more (26.1 to 16.7), and he did so on a better true shooting percentage (61.7% to 60.2%) and a better offensive rating (113.7 to 109.1). Simmons’s 112.5 defensive beats out Booker’s 107.3, and he collected 3.6 more rebounds and 1.6 more assists each game. Predictably, FiveThirtyEight reported that the two had very comparable WAR’s, however Booker has a slight edge. This indicates that Booker’s elite scoring narrowly tops Simmons’s advantages elsewhere. In all, Booker takes our sixth guard spot by a small margin.

Verdict: Booker IN, Simmons OUT

Forwards

In or out: Khris Middleton 

Khris Middleton averaged 21.1 points, 6.2 rebounds, and 4.1 assists per game before the season was suspended. After voting concluded, Middleton had more points (82) than Ben Simmons (62) and Russell Westbrook (56), however he was snubbed because his votes were split between the guard and forward positions. Basketball today is a positionless sport, and this case is evidence that the league should remove position allocations when voting. Middleton averaged approximately the same number of points (21.1) and rebounds (6.2) per game as Pascal Siakam, Jayson Tatum, and Jimmy Butler, all of whom made the cut. He comfortably topped all three in true shooting percentage (62.3%), defensive rating (99.6), and net rating (13.8). He had the same 113.4 offensive rating as Butler, which was higher than Siakam’s 112.8. With his stellar offensive efficiency and defensive rating, Middleton overtakes the three of these players, moving all the way up to second team. So, between Tatum, Siakam, and Butler, who loses their All-NBA recognition? Tatum narrowly tops Siakam and Butler in almost every statistical category. Therefore, he deserves his spot. Butler and Siakam are pretty evenly matched across the board, the only huge disparity being their WAR’s: Butler’s 10.1 ousts Siakam’s 4.4. This indicates that Butler’s 2.4% edge in true shooting, .6 point edge in offensive rating, 2.5 edge in assists per game, and .7 point edge in turnover ratio add up to him being the more valuable player. 

Verdict: Khris Middleton IN, Pascal Siakam OUT

Centers

In or Out: Bam Adebayo

Bam Adebayo made huge strides this season, quickly establishing himself as one of the best young centers in the NBA. He averaged 16.2 points, 10.5 rebounds, and 5.1 assists, up from 8.9/7.3/1.5 just a season ago; this improvement earned him second place in MIP voting. His offensive and defensive ratings lagged behind Gobert by less than a point. His impressive 60.6% true shooting was higher than stars like Embiid and Jokic, but lagged behind Gobert’s significantly. Adebayo’s WAR of 5.3 and net rating of 4.6 are solid, but they fall short of the three All-NBA centers. While he did not do quite enough to earn himself a spot on our list, Bam Adebayo is certainly someone to look out for. In just his third season he averaged a double double with five assists—and with his youth and athleticism, the sky is the limit. While it is a little too early to give him All-NBA this year, do not be surprised if it happens in the not too distant future.

Verdict: Adebayo OUT 

In or Out: Joel Embiid

Joel Embiid is the only candidate to rank in the top ten at his position in PPG (23.4, 3rd), RPG (11.8, 7th), and APG (3.1, 10th). He is also an overlooked defender: his 101.4 defensive rating ranks him right near the top at his position. Looking deeper into his offensive performance, however, Embiid’s 59.3% true shooting percentage and 106.2 offensive rating paled in comparison to Gobert’s 70% and 113.0. With this in mind, Embiid’s position-high 31.3% usage explains why his PPG is higher than Gobert’s, who only has a 16.1% usage rate and takes far fewer shots each game. Gobert’s incredible efficiency is reflected in his 10.6 WAR, which tramps Embiid’s 5.7. Embiid has always been a star down low and his defensive prowess went under the radar this season, but Gobert’s statistical dominance on offense is too much to overcome.

Verdict: Embiid OUT

Updated All-NBA Teams 

All-NBA First Team

Guard: James Harden, Rockets (474)

Guard: Luka Doncic, Mavericks (416)

Forward: Giannis Antetokounmpo, Bucks (500)

Forward: LeBron James, Lakers (500)

Center: Anthony Davis, Lakers (455)

All-NBA Second Team

Guard: Damian Lillard, Trail Blazers (284)

Guard: Chris Paul, Thunder (199)

Forward: Kawhi Leonard, Clippers (371)

Forward: Pascal Siakam, Raptors (168) Khris Middleton

Center: Nikola Jokic, Nuggets (311)

All-NBA Third Team

Guard: Ben Simmons, Sixers (61) Devin Booker

Guard: Russell Westbrook, Rockets (56) Kyle Lowry

Forward: Jayson Tatum, Celtics (153)

Forward: Jimmy Butler, Heat (147)

Center: Rudy Gobert, Jazz (110)

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