With six or seven games left in the regular season for most teams, the All-NBA teams are just about set, especially for the forward spot. It’s clear that some combination of Giannis Antetokounmpo, Kevin Durant, Paul George and Kawhi Leonard will fill out the first two teams. For the third team, it seems like it will come down to Blake Griffin and LeBron James. With news today that James will sit out the rest of the season, however, he’ll finish the year with just 55 games played. As a result, there’s been some buzz about James possibly not making an All-NBA team for the first time since his rookie season. Some have thrown out LaMarcus Aldridge as a possible replacement, but does James truly not deserve Third Team All-NBA this year?
While 55 games played is barely two-thirds of the season, it’s not unheard of for a player to make an All-NBA team despite missing a large chunk of the year. For instance, just last year Steph Curry made Third Team All-NBA after playing in just 51 games. Furthermore, Kawhi Leonard, who is more than likely gong to make Second Team All-NBA has also played in just 55 games thus far. With the Raptors’ second seed all but locked down, there’s a good chance that Leonard sits at least a few of the Raptors’ final six games.
Even so, very few times in recent history has a player made an All-NBA team without making the playoffs. Both DeMarcus Cousins and Kevin Love made Second Team All-NBA while members of a 10th seeded team (Cousins in 2016 and Love in 2014). Furthermore, Love also made Second Team All-NBA in 2012 despite his team finishing in 12th. Outside of these feats, it’s relatively unheard of for a player to make an All-NBA team without making it to the playoffs.
Objectively, LeBron’s stats are good enough to make First Team All-NBA in any given year. James averaged 27.4 points, 8.5 rebounds and 8.3 assists per game, which is downright elite. The only downside to his performance is that his Lakers currently sit in 11th. The only player that could ostensibly take LeBron’s spot is LaMarcus Aldridge, whose Spurs currently sit at the 7th seed and barring a complete collapse, will make the playoffs. On the year, Aldridge is putting up 21.2 points, 9.0 rebounds and 2.5 assists while being the main scoring option on his team. While his stats aren’t as solid as those of LeBron, he still ranks 23rd in scoring despite taking just 0.5 threes per game this year.
The Case for Aldridge
Aldridge’s case essentially comes down to the fact that he’s missed just one game this season. As they say, the best ability is availability, so Aldridge deserves some points for staying healthy all year, suiting up each game, and playing hard every night.
The only other argument in favor of Aldridge is that he ranks 19th in win shares, while James doesn’t crack the top 20. Aldridge has clearly had a huge impact on the Spurs this year. They most certainly wouldn’t be where they are without his contributions, but is that one stat enough to propel him past James?
Aldridge has a case, but admittedly it isn’t a very strong one. James’ stats are superior, and despite the Spurs having a better record, their team and coach is miles ahead of the Lakers’. Additionally, Aldridge logged most of his minutes at center this year. Even though he spent the vast majority of his career as a power forward, and he’s been playing power forward recently with the addition of Jakob Poeltl to the starting lineup, it seems a bit disingenuous to call him a four this season. Overall, James’ stats are much better and his legacy makes him difficult to vote against. Aldridge had a great year, but it likely wasn’t enough to make All-NBA this season. Does he deserve the spot? Probably. Will he get the spot? Probably not.
Stats courtesy of Basketball Reference
Featured image courtesy of Ronald Martinez/Getty Images
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