Alec Liebsch's 2019-20 All-NBA Second Team
In the wake of the NBA's decision on how the rest of the season plays out, it's safe to assume there won't be much more regular season basketball. That means we have as big of a sample as we will get for determining accolades.
Other than Most Valuable Player and Defensive Player of the Year, making an All-NBA team is arguably the most prestigious honor for a player. The 15 players nominated to this squad are the true cream of the crop for a given year, with only positional imbalance causing disparities.
Two guards, two forwards and one center get the nod for each of the three teams. That amounts to six guards, six forwards and three centers. Some players act as a guard/forward or forward/center, which can lead to some creative ways to include players.
How they categorize some players is bewildering to me, but that's a topic for another day. For now let's take a look at the recent history of the Second Team:
F: Kevin Durant, Golden State Warriors F: Kawhi Leonard, Toronto Raptors C: Joel Embiid, Philadelphia 76ers G: Damian Lillard, Portland Trail Blazers G: Kyrie Irving, Boston Celtics
There was a common theme among last season's Second Team: load management. Three of the five on this list played less than 70 of their teams' 82 games: Irving appeared in 68, Embiid suited up for 64 (which was arguably too many in his situation), and Leonard was excused from half of each of Toronto's back-to-backs for a total of 60 games played. If these players
F: LaMarcus Aldridge, San Antonio Spurs
F: Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks
C: Joel Embiid, Philadelphia 76ers
G: DeMar DeRozan, Toronto Raptors
G: Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City Thunder
A lot of newbies made the Second Team in 2018; this was Embiid's first All-NBA nod, while Antetokoumnpo and DeRozan were each receiving just their second honors. Westbrook continued to be awesome in the encore to his MVP season, and Aldridge kept the Spurs afloat while Leonard missed most of the season.
As the middle of all three teams, the Second Team acts as a bridge. Some elites get "demoted" here for a season, and at the same time we see new kids show up on the block.
There won't be any newcomers to the quintet this season, but there is sure to be some dissonance with my Second Team. You can read about my Third Team here in case you think I forgot someone.
With that out of the way, here are my choices for the 2019-20 All-NBA Second Team:
F: Kawhi Leonard, Los Angeles Clippers
For a second straight season, Kawhi Leonard will "only" make the Second Team. Such is the life of an NBA superstar; the standards for absolute supremacy will always be higher than you think.
Finally a member of a team of his choice, the man built in a basketball laboratory has somehow improved. His scoring and the rate at which he scores has stayed the same, but his playmaking has seen a significant jump. For the five seasons prior to 2019-20, Leonard's assist percentage was 15.4%; this season it's up to 27.0%.
If the postseason is allowed to resume, Leonard would be in serious contention to achieve a triumph no one else has: a title with a third different team. As he enters his prime, the only knock against him is health.
F: Anthony Davis, Los Angeles Lakers
Another benefactor of the player empowerment era, Anthony Davis is back to big things after what amounted to a gap year. He hasn't missed a beat since teaming up with Lebron James.
Averaging 26.7 points, 9.4 rebounds, 1.5 steals and 2.4 blocks a night, Davis is still the multi-dimensional monster as before. His advanced stats tell the same story: his .262 win shares per-48 ranks second in the entire league, and his box plus-minus is fifth-best.
The Lakers are top-heavy, so Davis has more opportunity than your average second fiddle. That becomes even more the case when considering James' biggest strength is playmaking. Still, Davis has silenced the doubters and proven that he can spearhead a great team.
C: Rudy Gobert, Utah Jazz
Before anyone makes a COVID-19 reference, recall how dominant Rudy Gobert was this season. 15.1 points, 13.7 rebounds and 2.0 blocks barely tell the story of how important the French tower was to Utah this season.
In a year where Mike Conley disappointed and Donovan Mitchell only slightly progressed, Gobert held down the fort quite well. All the advanced stats took a tumble from last season, but so did Joel Embiid's and Nikola Jokic's.
Gobert remains one of the top two rim protectors in the league, while also being one of the best finishers (2nd best TS% in the league). Based on his strengths, he is the most unique great player in the league.
G: Damian Lillard, Portland Trail Blazers
Even in a weakened class of guards, Damian Lillard still falls short of the First Team. The Blazers' lack of success this season works against him, regardless of how much is actually his fault.
That being said, 28.9 points and 7.8 assists on excellent efficiency (.619 true shooting) is still awesome. The Blazers gave Lillard minimal help, worsened by a down year for C.J. McCollum, and the dude still put up awesome numbers.
In a six-game stretch this past winter, Lillard eclipsed 40 points twice, 50 points two other times, and got 61 in another. With a better support cast, it would be fascinating to see just how much higher he can go.
G: Jimmy Butler, Miami Heat
Jimmy Butler knew exactly what he was doing when he signed with Miami; clearly the rest of us didn't. Now back in a central role as the nominal point guard, Butler has hit his stride once again.
20.2 points, 6.6 rebounds and 6.1 assists a night give a glimpse into his well-rounded game. But we already knew Butler was All-NBA worthy in terms of talent; it's how he's gone about it this season that gives him an edge.
The Heat are right in the thick of the East's jockeying for seeds, and Butler's cooperation with the organization's culture is a big reason why. For being this good sans off-court friction, Butler gets the fourth guard nomination
Up next is my First Team: the absolute best of the best.
All statistics gathered from Basketball-Reference unless otherwise noted.