In the age of analytics, it can sometimes be tough to have an argument about who the better player is when comparing two guys. Take the quintessential argument between LeBron and Jordan as an example. Statistically, LeBron is better than MJ in just about every category, but Jordan still has six titles and “you can’t compare eras” (I’m 100% pro-comparison in all situations though). Really what it boils down to are taste and preference and some will argue that skill trumps résumé while others preach the opposite.
Each season though, you can more clearly compare the stats and team success of one player to another from that particular season (2018 Kyrie Irving against 2018 Victor Oladipo was a hotly debated one) to determine who had the better year. Those in charge of voting for the All-NBA 1st, 2nd and 3rd teams each year have to do just that; decide who was the best at their respective positions. It’s hard though sometimes when you have guys like DeRozan or Oladipo who, not only have great seasons, but also happen to be extremely likable. You want those dudes to get in!
So it got me thinking. Some players put there seem to be almost immune to criticism and hate. How much fun would it be to root for a team comprised of only those players? So shout out to Twitter for making it very easy to see which players are the most likable by simply thinking “hmmm, which players can I not recall reading a bad tweet about?” Let me tell you, it was a short list. Bubble guys like Demar DeRozan, Kyle Lowry, and Victor Oladipo were all considerations but I couldn’t justify putting them in last season specifically over those who did make the cut. Especially because those guys all happen to be guards and the guard spots were pretty easily locked up.
So without further ado, I present to you the 2017-2018 1st team All-NBA most likable team selections.
Guard: Milos Teodosic
Milos Teodosic is a relatively unathletic Serbian player who, after making a name for himself by throwing flashy passes on an underdog Serbian national team in both the 2015 EuroBasket tournament AND the 2016 Olympic games, signed with the L.A. Clippers in the summer of 2017 to start his NBA career as a 30-year-old rookie. If that sentence isn’t enough in and of itself to make you believe that Milos was a lock for this squad last season then you may just not be human. So first I’d go get that checked out. And then I’d come back and root for Milos.
Let me give you two stat lines:
The top stat line is Milos’.
The bottom is James Harden’s from last season! Don’t take this to think that I’m implying that Milos and James Harden are of equal skill level. I’m absolutely not. However, with Milos almost certainly being the least skilled player on this roster, I felt like I had to justify his play somehow and it’s worth noting that he really is a better player than he’s given credit for.
Milos’ lack of real NBA level athleticism combined with his unlikely rising and entry into the NBA makes him so easy to root for. If Milos can continue to enthrall the hearts of those who see him as a cult favorite he has a chance to hold a first team ballot spot for years to come.
Guard: Manu Ginobili
Last year was tough for Spurs fans. Entering the second year of the Kawhi Leonard era, which started after Tim Duncan’s retirement, in San Antonio was supposed to be filled with the excitement and promise of a brand new look to try and continue a basketball dynasty. Instead, one year removed from Duncan’s retirement, the Spurs watched the foundation of their future decide that he just didn’t want to play for an entire season and blame incompetence on the part of the team’s doctors for that choice. But as always, when the night seemed darkest in San Antonio, Manu Ginobili came through.
Ginobili was always the third guy on the spurs behind Tony Parker and Duncan, and then more recently behind Leonard and LaMarcus Aldridge. But he was always there, always ready. He was consistent, he was crafty, he was smart, he was gritty, and he played a brand of basketball that was uniquely his own. He was a well-rounded player who could shoot the three, pass and/or finish in traffic, play solid defense, and even now and then throw down some unexpected dunks on guys in the lane. He may be the most underrated player of the last twenty years
The absence of Leonard, the relationship between Popovich and Ginobili, and the lingering question of whether or not it was Ginobili’s final season all made him so watchable around the league last year, and no matter what team you’re faithful to, it felt like everyone wanted Manu to succeed.
Forward: Giannis Antetokounmpo
Antetokounmpo is liked basically for all of the reasons that certain other players were disqualified from making this team. He has a chance to be a league MVP someday while other guys have less promising ceilings. He hasn’t really been involved in a scandal of any kind. He seems likable and has a blossoming personality. He hasn’t destroyed the hopes of dreams of any fan base in the playoffs yet so there really isn’t a set group of people who dislike him for that reason (this was a knock on A TON of players). And I think the biggest pro for Antetokounmpo is that he wasn’t ever recruited as some sort of other-worldly talent and his come-up has really helped his popularity by a sort of “overcoming the odds”.
Speaking of odds, as of right now, Antetokounmpo is 5 to 1 to win the MVP this upcoming season, which puts his chances at fourth place behind LeBron, Harden and Anthony Davis. He had some buzz for MVP possibilities last season as well, but fell short in the end primarily due to the Bucks not really meeting the expectations everyone had for them in the preseason. Being a new face in the MVP race really helped his case to make this squad, as its kind of been James Harden, LeBron James, a third player every year for about the past five years.
Antetokounmpo is a superstar NBA talent, and although he did find a place on this past season’s all-likability roster, if he starts to really put it together and begins to break the hearts of fan bases like Boston or Toronto in the playoffs his spot could be in jeopardy going forward.
Forward: Dirk Nowitzki
Nowitzki, like Ginobili, is an esteemed veteran in the twilight of his career. Manu was a great player no doubt, but Nowitzki is an all-timer and probably the second best foreign player of all time behind Hakeem Olajuwon. His accolades are no joke either: a 13x All-Star, 12x All-NBA, an MVP award, a championship, a finals MVP, and he’s sixth on the all-time points list for the league with a real chance to pass both MJ and Wilt Chamberlain this upcoming season. He’s undoubtedly a first ballot Hall of Famer. But his history is only part of what earns him a spot on this roster.
Nowitzki has lost a step, and if you watched him play at all last year he was SO SLOW it was unbelievable. The way he moved it looked kind of like from his knees down he was made of some sort of heavy, dense metal and his shoes had weights in them that automatically put him at a severe disadvantage on the court, yet somehow he still made it work! The Dallas Mavericks really didn’t have a lot to cheer for last year, but whenever Nowitzki made a shot the American Airlines Center went bonkers.
Cheering on a big, slow, goofy, 3pt shooting legend who basically trademarked his own shot was a lot of fun for fans of the NBA and for those in NBA inner circles last year, thus giving Nowitzki his spot on the All-NBA likability team.
Center: Steven Adams
The big man for the OKC Thunder rounds out our team. I almost went with DeAndre Jordan for this spot but, even though he’s on the Mavs now. What he did to them a few offseasons ago still rubs people the wrong way, the scuffle with the Rockets hurts and he just has some haters who think that he gets more credit than he deserves. Stev-o on the other hand, has none of that. What Adams does have though is a New Zealand accent, a bromance with Enes Kanter (they were collectively were nicknamed the Stache Bros during Enes’ stint in OKC), a calm demeanor, and some of the best interviews in the NBA.
Some of his best quotes are these:
– His thoughts on draft night: “I’d never worn a tie before. I was a bushman”.
– On clean shaven vs. facial hair: “I stuck with a mustache because… do you know Magnum P.I.?”
– On his man-bun: “My head is weirdly shaped so I can’t wear a headband”.
– And finally, on dessert: “Of course cake is not bread. Is this why Americans are fat? You confuse cake with bread?”
I rest my case.
Adams is an underrated player on the Thunder and in the league, but not underrated in his ability to liked. Good work big guy.
The votes are in, and here is last season’s All-NBA likability team. Let me know how you feel about it! Surprise players, biggest snubs, things I should have considered, your personal roster? Let’s hear it. I’m always open to talk basketball.