My all-NBA Playoffs team and MVP
The NBA's annual awards recognize excellence during regular-season play.
This version of your local scribe's ramblings will reward performance through the postseason — albeit prior to the NBA Finals matchup between the Toronto Raptors and the Golden State Warriors.
An aside: I'm of the opinion that the league should change its voting procedures for the annual awards, which including Most Valuable Player, Coach of the Year, Rookie of the Year and so on.
Yes, there is an MVP award for the NBA Finals — the Bill Russell Award. But there are no other awards for postseason play. And frankly, what a player accomplishes in the postseason should be prominent in the package of credentials considered for a candidate to receive an annual award.
So — yo, Adam Silver — shift voting to follow the NBA Finals, so that ballots can reflect production in the postseason, too.
The league's official All-NBA first team this season was this: Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee; Paul George, Oklahoma City; Nikola Jokic, Denver; James Harden, Houston, Stephen Curry, Golden State.
The second team: Kevin Durant, Golden State; Kawhi Leonard, Toronto; Joel Embiid, Philadelphia; Damian Lillard, Portland; Kyrie Irving, Boston.
Not surprisingly, all 10 players were members of playoff teams, and three — Curry, Durant and Leonard — have advanced to the championship series.
Herewith my all-NBA playoffs first and second team:
MVP: Kawhi Leonard, Toronto.
Leonard would win this award if it were based solely on offense. But the Raptors' do-everything forward has also been a lock-down defender, putting in yeoman work in containing Milwaukee's Giannis Antetokounmpo in the Eastern Conference finals.
Heading into the NBA Finals, the 6-7 Leonard was averaging 31.2 points in 18 playoff games. He was shooting superbly — .507 from the field, .388 from 3-point range, .875 from the foul line. He carried Toronto to its first NBA Finals appearance with two-way play that will make him and Kevin Durant the most desirable free agents on the market this summer.
F: Kawhi Leonard, Toronto.
F: Draymond Green, Golden State. He's the runner-up to postseason MVP, though he averaged only 13.6 points through the 16 games that took him to the Finals. Green, the maestro of the Warriors' Western Conference finals sweep of the Trail Blazers, has averaged 9.9 rebounds and 8.2 assists while shooting .521 from the field and providing perhaps the best defense of the postseason.
C: Nikola Jokic, Denver. What a force he was through the regular season and the playoffs. The 7-foot Serbian averaged 25.1 points, 13.0 rebounds and 8.4 assists — numbers we've not seen since the likes of Wilt Chamberlain. He also shot .506 from the field, .393 on 3-point attempts and .846 at the line in leading the Nuggets through a pair of draining seven-game series.
G: Stephen Curry, Golden State. Curry wasn't great through much of the West semifinal series against Houston, but his overall playoff numbers — 27.3 points, 6.3 rebounds, 5.6 assists — speak for themselves. His consistent scoring output against Portland — 36, 37, 36, 37 — was debilitating to the Blazers. His shooting percentages — .452, .390 and .940 — have been spectacular.
F: Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee. He struggled at times in the East finals, but he averaged 25.5 points, 12.2 rebounds and 4.9 assists despite ferocious defensive coverage in his 15 playoff games. Antetokounmpo shot .494 from the field but left plenty of room for improvement from the 3-point line (.327) and foul line (.637).
G: James Harden, Houston. There wasn't a whole lot more Harden could have done in the West semis. The "Beard" averaged 34.8 points, 7.0 rebounds and 5.5 assists while playing 40.4 minutes a game. In 11 playoff games, his averages were 31.2, 6.8 and 6.6. Even with the so-so defense he played, there are no weapons like him in basketball.
G: Damian Lillard, Portland. Lillard was phenomenal in the first round against Oklahoma City (33 points per game), then dealt with suffocating defensive pressure the rest of the way. He wound up averaging 27.3 points, 4.8 rebounds and 6.6 assists in his 16 games, shooting .418 from the field, .373 from 3-point range and .833 from the charity stripe.
F: Kevin Durant, Golden State. Durant's calf injury limited him to 11 games, kept him out of the West finals and will sideline him for at least the first two games of the NBA Finals. But his impact was immense — a playoff-high 34.2 points, 5.2 rebounds and 4.9 assists. His shooting has been sensational — .513, .416 and .901. That's first-team material if he hadn't missed so much time to injury.
G: CJ McCollum. Nope, not a hometown pick. McCollum's contributions may have flown under the radar for some, but he took the initiative with Lillard struggling at times and put up 24.7 points per game along with 5.0 rebounds and 3.7 assists. McCollum shot well from the field (.440) and the 3-point line (.393), but was a puzzling .732 on free-throw attempts, a huge drop from his .839 career percentage.
G: Klay Thompson, Golden State. Numbers (19.1 points, 3.9 rebounds, 2.0 assists) don't tell the story with Mychal's kid, whose understated brilliance is essential to the Warriors' success. His shooting (.429, .393, .920) has been stellar, the timeliness of his shot-making terrific and his defense relentless.
F: Paul George, Oklahoma City. George was an effective weapon in the first round against the Blazers (28.6 points, 8.6 rebounds, 3.6 points), but was limited to only five games in the postseason.
F: Pascal Siakim, Toronto. A candidate for the NBA's Most Improved Player Award for the regular season (16.9 points, 6.9 rebounds), he has cranked it up a half-notch in the playoffs, averaging 18.7 points and 7.0 boards in 18 games.
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