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THE 15 BEST: With not much word on when the NBA season may resume (if it does at all – and Joe Ingles isn’t hopeful about it), it’s time we start to accept the possibility that we may not be able to crown a champion in 2019-20. And if that is the case, that means the next step for the league and the people who cover it for a living would be to decide on individual awards for the campaign, a process that shouldn’t be too difficult seeing as every team played at least 63 games, giving us three-quarters of the season as a sample size, which is more than enough.
1st Team All-NBA for 2019-20 is pretty clear-cut: In the two guard spots, James Harden and Damian Lillard (both rank Top 6 in Value Over Replacement Player – VORP – and Top 9 in Box Plus/Minus – BPM – and have posted insane offensive numbers on the campaign); in the two forward spots, LeBron James and Giannis Antetokounmpo (the two undoubted frontrunners for league MVP, though we gave the nod to Giannis when play was first suspended); and at center, Nikola Jokic (20.2/10.2/6.9 stat line and most of the advanced metrics rate him as the best 5-man in basketball this season).
2nd Team All-NBA gets a bit trickier, but should still be pretty straightforward: At guards, Luka Doncic and Chris Paul (Doncic’s numbers are insane and he has Dallas back in the playoff picture, while Paul has been revitalized in Oklahoma City and has been one of the most clutch players in basketball); at forwards, Kawhi Leonard and Anthony Davis (Davis would have been 1st Team at center but he has played power forward mostly on the campaign, while Leonard has been excellent and without load management, could have been more firmly in the MVP picture); and at center, Rudy Gobert (defensive monster with an underrated offensive game in recent years).
Finally, 3rd Team almost feels like a matter of preference, but there are some fairly strong candidates: In the 1-and-2 spots, Trae Young and Ben Simmons (Simmons doesn’t shoot, but he’s an awesome playmaker and one of the best defenders in basketball who the analytics love, and Young doesn’t defend, but his offensive game makes up for it); at the 3-and-4 positions, Jimmy Butler and Jayson Tatum (Butler is Top 10 in VORP, BPM and Win Shares per 48 minutes, and has taken the Heat to the No. 4 seed in the East after missing the playoffs last season, and Tatum has blossomed into an elite two-way wing for an excellent Boston team); and at center, Joel Embiid (it was between him and Domantas Sabonis, but there’s no question who the bigger game-changer is when healthy).
PIPPEN TALK: Much was made about the first two episodes of the Michael Jordan Last Dance documentary, particularly about Scottie Pippen’s lack of pay during the Bulls’ glory years.
Here, we look deep into the numbers to determine just how underpaid Pippen was in his heyday, and here, an NBA agent, Torrel Harris, who happens to be Tobias Harris’ father, discusses what people in the league thought about Pippen’s contract back in the 1990s.
FRESH POD: Speaking of The Last Dance, our own Alex Kennedy was recently joined by former Bulls forward Scott Burrell, who was on the infamous 1997-98 team, to discuss the documentary, Michael Jordan’s bullying and much more.
GOBERT GONE? If the Jazz eventually decide they have to split up Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell, they could decide to keep the talented guard whose skill-set is hard to replicate. Should that happen, we broke down what the right trade for the French center could look like.
STAYING STRONG: Bernie Lee, agent to Jimmy Butler, penned a wonderful piece for us about coronavirus shutting down the NBA from his perspective and how he thinks the NBA will come out firing when it does return.
KOBE DOC NEXT? Much like a camera crew was granted unprecedented access to the ’98 Bulls, a camera crew was also given similar access to the 2015-16 L.A. Lakers for Kobe Bryant’s final season, leading to speculation a documentary about Kobe’s final campaign could be in the works.
COMEBACK POSSIBLE: NBA veteran point guard Darren Collison nearly returned this season, and although that fell through, there’s still a chance he makes a comeback someday.
BEEF: Kevin Durant and Draymond Green had a pretty well-discussed falling out during KD’s final year there. Draymond recently opened up about what happened and… things got pretty ugly between the two.
COACHING SEARCH: Now that we mentioned Durant, his new team, the Nets, need a coach to replace Kenny Atkinson. Among the reported candidates this week are TV analysts Jeff Van Gundy and Mark Jackson. You can see the latest on the search here.
LINSANITY: Jeremy Lin recently talked to USA Today about a variety of subjects, including the potential of the Chinese basketball season resuming, his thoughts on Donald Trump’s handling of the pandemic and much more.
HOPE: Nuggets head coach Mike Malone is much like the rest of us, unsure about what the immediate future holds. However, he does think that although the season could be canceled, the likelier outcome will be games without fans in attendance.