As we get closer and closer to the upcoming 2020-21 season, HoopsHype decided to make predictions for the All-NBA squads – including rookies and defensive players.
As the league does it, for each group, HoopsHype writers were allowed to pick one big man, two forwards and two guards. These were the results:
All-NBA 1st Team
Damian Lillard has long been one of the more respected point guards in the NBA but somehow raised his profile even more at the end of last season. He averaged 33.0 ppg in the bubble, the most among all players, and essentially willed the Portland Trail Blazers to the playoffs during seeding play. Lillard is one of the more reliable options in the Western Conference and is a likely pick to earn All-NBA 1st Team consideration, which he has only accomplished once before.
It is hard to remember that Luka Doncic is entering just his third season in the league, considering his play on the court and his accomplishments are significantly more impressive than any other 21 years old in recent memory. But the Dallas Mavericks superstar is already a betting favorite to win 2021 NBA MVP, a do-it-all type of player who seems poised to take yet another leap forward ready to lead Dallas to a deep playoff run.
This past season, LeBron James showed a different side of himself on the offensive side of the ball. James averaged 10.2 assists per game, which was the best mark in the NBA. During a tumultuous time off the court, including the tragic loss of Kobe Bryant and a global pandemic, he showed exemplary leadership and extraordinary determination to win a championship with his third team in the league. James is an unbelievable figure on and off the floor and is still playing like a perennial MVP candidate.
After winning back-to-back NBA MVP awards, as well as winning Defensive Player of the Year this past season, Giannis Antetokounmpo is ready for another huge season. He answered the biggest question about his future by signing a five-year, $228 million contract extension with the Milwaukee Bucks. Antetokounmpo averaged a career-best 29.5 ppg and 13.6 rpg in 2019-20 and may look even better next season considering Milwaukee is flanking their superstar with a solid duo of Jrue Holiday and Khris Middleton.
Now coming off his first NBA championship, Anthony Davis showed he is every bit the superstar that warranted a massive haul in a trade that sent him from the New Orleans Pelicans to the Los Angeles Lakers. Not only did he average 26.1 ppg but he was also the runner-up in voting for the league’s Defensive Player of the Year. Davis is a special player on both sides of the floor and should be considered the best big man in the league.
All-NBA 2nd Team
After suffering from the devastating loss of Klay Thompson to injury, the Golden State Warriors will need a stellar season from Stephen Curry. But that is far from an impossible task from the two-time NBA MVP, who is widely regarded as the best shooter of all-time. He will be tested with a restructured roster of Andrew Wiggins, Kelly Oubre Jr. and rookie James Wiseman. If they are able to gel, it will be on the strength of Curry’s jaw-dropping abilities with his jump shot.
The biggest question in the NBA right now is about the fate of James Harden, who clearly wants no part of playing for the Houston Rockets. His season is going to be harder to predict than others because if he stays in Houston it’s worth wondering what his effort will look like and if he is traded to a new team, there may be an adjustment period. But no matter what, the back-to-back-to-back scoring champion is still one of the most elite of the elite in the league.
The end of the season for the LA Clippers may have been disappointing, but don’t forget what an energized and focused Kawhi Leonard is able to do for his team. He is one of the highest impact players on both offense and defense and his presence can lead his team to the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference. The Clippers have a new coach, transitioning from Doc Rivers to Ty Lue, and should still be considered among the favorites to make the NBA Finals.
While he is coming back from a torn Achilles tendon, Kevin Durant is ready to take the basketball world by storm yet again. During the limited sample size of preseason action, his movement has looked fluid and he does not seem nervous to use his full force. KD will be joined on the court by offensive juggernaut Kyrie Irving and the coaching staff includes offensive gurus like Steve Nash and Mike D’Antoni.
There are few players in basketball history who are able to do what Denver Nuggets superstar big man Nikola Jokic is able to do on the court. He is a one-of-a-kind center capable of putting up a triple-double on any given night. This past season, he earned his first All-NBA 1st Team considerations based on his unique abilities as not only a scorer and rebounder but as a shooter and playmaker as well. Denver is a team on the rise and Jokic is the engine that will keep their train running.
All-NBA 3rd Team
Philadelphia 76ers star Ben Simmons may be in store for the best season of his career thus far. The front office has re-tooled their roster to flank Simmons, now playing for a coach other than Brett Brown for the first time in his professional career, with more shooting to space the floor. The mere presence of Seth Curry and Danny Green can help Simmons be an even more dominant player when he is attacking the rim.
Phoenix Suns star Devin Booker, just 24 years old, could make a significant jump heading into the 2020-21 campaign. Booker averaged more than 30.0 ppg in the bubble, one of the most elite scorers in the league. Phoenix then acquired future Hall of Fame point guard Chris Paul, who has constantly made the players around him better. His presence will take some of the load off Booker, who can focus on his phenomenal scoring ability rather than carrying the entire offense.
Miami Heat wing Jimmy Butler was a force to be reckoned with during the playoffs, using his tenacity to lead his squad to the NBA Finals. Butler, a five-time All-Star, has finally found the perfect franchise to match his work ethic and intensity. As their young core (e.g. Bam Adebayo, Tyler Herro, Duncan Robinson) continues to develop, Butler can be a leader for one of the more exciting teams in the Eastern Conference.
Boston Celtics star Jayson Tatum actually received more votes for All-NBA 2nd Team than Curry did, but based on positional fit, he was relegated to our All-NBA 3rd Team. Tatum, who is now actually listed at 6-foot-10, has moments on the floor where he looks like a future MVP candidate. He made significant improvements last season, jumping from 15.7 ppg in 2018-19 to 23.4 ppg in 2019-20. Tatum is just 22 years old and he has all the makings of a franchise cornerstone.
Philadelphia 76ers big man Joel Embiid, who averaged 23.0 ppg and 11.6 rpg this past season, is a force to be reckoned with in the frontcourt. If he and Simmons are able to co-exist harmoniously, the Sixers have one of the highest ceilings among all NBA teams for the upcoming season. Embiid’s monster presence on the floor speaks for itself as he is a consensus pick for one of the best bigs in the league.
Others receiving votes: Donovan Mitchell, Kyrie Irving, Bam Adebayo, Bradley Beal, Trae Young, Pascal Siakam
All-Defensive 1st Team
Last season, Simmons led the league with 2.1 steals per game for the Sixers. His block percentage (0.8 percent) and steal percentage (0.8 percent) both ranked in the 92nd percentile among all point guards, via Cleaning the Glass. He led the NBA in loose balls recovered on defense (1.0) this past season. Simmons is able to guard several different positions on the floor, using his speed to keep up with guards and his height to match up with bigs.
Opponents shot just 34.0 percent from three-point range against the Boston Celtics last season, which was the second-best mark in the NBA, with credit owed to the perimeter defense of Marcus Smart. His steal percentage ranked in the 90th percentile among all combo guards this past season, per Cleaning the Glass. He recorded his career-best block percentage (0.8 percent) in 2019-20 as well.
This past season, per Basketball-Reference, Antetokounmpo led the NBA in defensive win shares and defensive box plus-minus. For the second year in a row, Milwaukee recorded the best defensive rating (102.5) in the league. The Bucks also allowed the fewest points in the paint (38.7 ppg) among all teams in the league.
After adding Davis, Los Angeles improved their defensive rating from 13th-best in the NBA (108.9) in 2018-19 to third-best in the NBA (106.1) this past season. Davis also had the third-most blocks per game (2.3) in the league, proving his value as one of the best rim protectors in the game.
Utah Jazz big man Rudy Gobert is essentially grandfathered in for this prediction. He is a two-time Defensive Player of the Year and he has earned NBA All-Defense 1st Team consideration four seasons in a row. Coming off a year in which he had the best real defensive plus-minus in the NBA, he has earned the reputation as the most feared interior defender in the league.
All-Defensive 2nd Team
Not only do the Clippers have Leonard as a stellar defender but they also have Beverley, who had the best real defensive plus-minus among point guards last season. Beverley is the kind of player who is able to transcend counting statistics. He will pick up his man the full-length of the court and irritate them with his unparalleled peskiness.
The Milwaukee Bucks already had arguably the best defense in the NBA last season. But adding Holiday, who was named NBA All-Defensive 1st Team in 2018 and NBA All-Defensive 2nd Team in 2019, will only make them a more feared opponent heading into the upcoming campaign. Holiday, who led the Western Conference in deflections (4.0) this past season, is going to be a difference-maker.
No one can question how stellar Leonard is as a defender. As noted by Michael Pina, the two-time NBA champion was the first non-center to win consecutive Defensive Player of the Year awards since the 1980s and he holds the second-best defensive rating among all active players in the league. Leonard is simply on another level.
Miami Heat big man Bam Adebayo played a huge role in the defensive identity for his team, which is one of the key factors that allowed them to become Eastern Conference champions last season. He is a skilled, versatile option able to slow down his opponents in every sense of the word. With due credit to his defense, the future looks incredibly bright for Adebayo.
The best way to understand the defensive impact that Embiid has for his team is to look at his on-off numbers. The 76ers allowed just 105.7 points per 100 possessions when Embiid was on the floor, per PBP Stats, but that increased to 112.3 points per 100 when he was off. Similarly, opponents were unable to attack the paint with Embiid hovering. For example, 27.8 percent of shot attempts were at the rim when he was on the floor and that rate was then significantly higher (35.8%) during minutes without Embiid.
Others receiving votes: Draymond Green, Jaylen Brown, Matisse Thybulle, Pascal Siakam, Robert Covington, Eric Bledsoe, Jayson Tatum, Jevon Carter, Paul George
All-Rookie 1st Team
While he may struggle with efficiency at the start of his career, Charlotte Hornets guard LaMelo Ball will certainly dazzle with his impressive court vision and playmaking ability. In fact, some of his insane passes have already been preseason highlights. He will have every opportunity to make his mark in Charlotte.
The Detroit Pistons are going to let Killian Hayes take his licks as the starting point guard. This will allow him to learn from both the highs and lows of the NBA as he adjusts to the league after playing overseas. He has solid size for his position as a combo guard and after having the keys to the car as the focal point for Ratiopharm Ulm, he will have a similar situation as a rookie.
There may be a little bit less opportunity for Anthony Edwards to have a high usage rate during his first year in the league considering that D’Angelo Russell and Karl-Anthony Towns both require the ball in their hands. But with his remarkable pop and athleticism, Edwards will have a chance to show whether or not Minnesota made the right pick at No. 1 overall in 2020.
The New York Knicks drafted a hometown hero in Obi Toppin, who was the best player in college basketball last season. He is one of the favorites for NBA Rookie of the Year because at 22 years old he is already farther along in his development than most of his peers.
Wiseman, who was the No. 2 overall pick in the 2020 NBA Draft despite playing just three games of college basketball, is in a different situation than most other drafted rookies. He will be the starting big man for a team with multiple future Hall of Famers running the floor with him, which will give him a clear and defined role. This may make his transition to the pros a little easier than others who are on rebuilding rosters.
All-Rookie 2nd Team
The Nuggets signed a fascinating player in Facundo Campazzo, a 29-year-old guard who stands at 5-foot-11. While this will be his first season in the NBA, he boasts a ton of experience playing overseas for Real Madrid. The guard is technically a rookie but he is a two-time Euroleague champion who won the Spanish Cup and Spanish Supercup MVP earlier this year. He will immediately grab your attention with his phenomenal passing.
Some experts and analysts feel that at No. 12 overall, Tyrese Haliburton was the best value pick in the 2020 NBA draft. The guard is someone who can fit in well with any offense because he is long with advanced playmaking and shooting abilities. He has managed to be effective with a low usage rate, which will help him play alongside professional talent.
While he was mostly drafted as a defensive specialist, former Auburn star Isaac Okoro has popped during the preseason as a scorer as well. After three games, the wing is averaging 14.3 ppg while shooting 5-for-8 (62.5 percent) from the 3-point range. This is still a small sample size, of course, but it’s a positive sign for the No. 5 overall selection in the 2020 NBA draft.
The Washington Wizards drafted Deni Avdija with the No. 9 overall pick in the 2020 NBA draft. He was one of the top international prospects, winning MVP of the FIBA U20 Euro Championship in 2019. Avdija also won MVP of the Israeli BSL in 2020. The biggest question is his shooting but during his first preseason game, the forward was a perfect 3-for-3 from beyond the arc.
Denver Nuggets big man Bol Bol enters the upcoming season with strange circumstances about his all-rookie candidacy as he played seven games in the regular season and four games in the playoffs. But the league decided to allow him to keep his eligibility as all of those games occurred in the bubble. He has shown potential as one of the closest things to a unicorn in this league.
Others receiving votes: Chuma Okeke, Cole Anthony, Devin Vassell, Onyeka Okongwu, Patrick Williams, Deni Avdija, Patrick Williams, Saddiq Bey
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