It's that moment!


• I start from scratch. It's more fun to try to identify the top twelve players this particular season in each conference. Some colleagues, including Kevin Pelton, pocket square enthusiast, give more weight to a player's background.

I could use that as a starting point, but I give priority to more than 40 games.

• I use the same compositional restrictions as the fans and coaches: five starting players with two guards and three players on the field and seven reservists regardless of their position. (I am among the media members who vote for beginners.)

Eastern Conference


g Kyrie Irving
g Bradley Beal
FC Giannis Antetokounmpo
FC Kawhi Leonard
FC Joel Embiid

Reserve locks

Blake Griffin
Nikola Vucevic
Ben Simmons
Kemba Walker
Victor Oladipo

• The only debate between the starters is the place of guard behind Irving. You can make a strong case for Beal, Walker, Oladipo and Simmons. Advanced statistics favor Simmons. He is the best passer and the most versatile defender, and it is not close.

But his total absence of rider makes Simmons a delicate piece. It can not flourish in any ecosystem or against all adversaries.

Beal plays for the worst team here – a quagmire of melodrama and laziness. Almost none of this is his fault. The Washington offensive disintegrates without him. Before John Wall's surgery, Wiz outshot his opponents by almost six points for 100 possessions when Beal played without his back partner.

Beal beat Walker and Oladipo. He is 36% of his territory at 3 points and 54% of his score at two points – a career high – while posting a tasty 24-5-5 line. He never attacked the rim with such low head determination. Walker is no longer the same since he's shot his ankle in mid-November. Oladipo's shooting divisions have dropped below the league average.

Oladipo is a better defender than Beal or Walker. He sacrificed the score to involve everyone in a team from Indiana well ahead of Charlotte and Washington.

But Beal is not a sieve, and he borders the other three. They are all locks.

• Vucevic as a lock could surprise people, but, shit, did you look at numbers like this? He shoots like a Splash brother: 39% on Deep, 56% on 2. He bounces and beats dimes at the best levels of his career; his ability to draw opposite centers to the outside is the only thing that strengthens the Orlando attack.

His defense has improved, although he remains scattered.

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Can we somehow have Vucevic on the Lakers? They could use more shooting and another upgrade to the center. Vucevic ticks both boxes! (The Lakers know that they had Brook Lopez last season, right?)

Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and a first-round pick for Vucevic would be the only realistic deal. Magic may want more; Vucevic just turned 28 and went all-in on the front of Mo Bamba-Jonathan Isaac means to refuel. That sounds okay until you remember that Orlando was no longer relevant since 2012. Also: Caldwell-Pope and LeBron share an agent, and the Lakers could save their assets for bigger things.

• This leaves two places for: Khris Middleton, Pascal Siakam, Eric Bledsoe, Kyle Lowry, John Collins, Jimmy Butler, Myles Turner, Bojan Bogdanovic, Domantas Sabonis, JJ Redick, Angelo Russell, Spencer Dinwiddie, Josh Richardson and Al Horford. Marcus Morris, André Drummond and maybe some others.

• I disqualify Butler. I give priority to the current season and Butler has devoted one-third of his participation in the sabotage of Timberwolves. This is not really a value judgment. Butler wanted the same thing as Kyrie Irving a year earlier – a new home – and, like Irving, began to wave for another during the off season. The intransigence of Tom Thibodeau is probably the main reason why the Butler saga has been dragged into the All-Star period considered.

But it dragged on, and so Butler has a break of a year. He did not light the flaming world at Philly and did not crease his feathers as he walked out the door.

• Horford's numbers are the same, but his defense has not been.

• I wanted a second Pacer. In figures, it should be Sabonis. But including a reserve is difficult. Sabonis records just 25 minutes per game and spends a lot of time feasting on backups.

He also plays more alongside the less important lights of Indiana. Some advanced numbers take into account these variables. These numbers like Sabonis. I'm not sure what it would take to insert a backup into the game of stars, but Sabonis is near.

Bogdanovic is rock-solid, but Turner is perhaps becoming the most important non-Oladipo Pacer. He knocks on the door of the conversation with the defensive player of the year. It's just difficult to create an All-Star argument of 12.8 points per game, with no more games or twists.

• I almost shrugged and went with Collins. He accumulates a lot of points, and the Hawks face their opponent almost in neutral.

But he missed 15 games, pretty much to the point where I start scoring everyone except the superstars. The Hawks are only 10-20 with Collins in training. Big numbers on bad teams do not mean that much. There is no issue. The opponents do not get up to play the Hawks.

• That leaves five last places: Bledsoe, Middleton, Lowry, Siakam and Russell.

We admire players who wear thin teams. This is how Pelicans could get two stars even if they are three parts under .500, and how the Sixers could get three.

But the downside is to punish players deep teams. Is it fair to penalize Middleton and Bledsoe because every dollar kills him? If we do, the Bucks could have the best record and the best points differential, but only an All-Star. Is it the price of depth?

Toronto could get three to one for Milwaukee in part because the depth of the Raptors compared to last season did not extend.

Lowry and Leonard missed 23 combined games and their absences rarely overlap. This created a void for a third Dino – Siakam, although Serge Ibaka also distinguished himself – to build a record.

In the end, I went this way:

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• Lowry had the strangest season of all the candidates. He managed to catch fire, then scored four digits in four consecutive games before missing nearly a month because of back problems. He has been strangely passive since, and really all season with Leonard on the ground. His 3-pointer left him. He averages only 14 points per game.

Russell, meanwhile, is at 19 per game and has reached a new level during the Brooklyn push. He makes fun of his inability to get to the starting line and his reliance on the floats that make skyscrapers, but no matter if all these midrangers – plus lots of 3 off-the-bounce – go there. Russell looks offended pivot.

Lowry is doing everything he can to get back to Leonard, to the point that one wonders whether he is following a decision from his organization or whether he's making a mini-crisis, or both. . But he is second in the overall standings and decided to propel his teammates, especially Ibaka, as a center thanks to Lowry's assists.

When Leonard is resting, Lowry becomes Lowry again. He is averaging 19.5 points and 15 shots per 36 minutes with Leonard on the bench, compared to 11.6 and 9.9, respectively, when they share ground, by The Raptors eliminated their opponents by 16 points for 100 possessions in Solo / Lowry minutes.

Lowry appears at the top of the most advanced statistical rankings. These figures reflect the particular floating value of Lowry. He is a nuisance for the defense, takes charges, switches at the right time and gets his hands on the ball.

He constantly moves productively in attack. The teams fear his shots and follow him everywhere, reducing the congestion of the corridor. He cuts at the right time and has the gift of finding offensive rebounds. He makes the appropriate pass, instantly. Some come three or four steps before a shot. These passes – those that trigger a cascade of ball movements – may be more important than hockey aids or aids.

Lowry does good things every second that he's on the ground even when you're not looking. It is rare. No one else in this group can match its bidirectional value.

• It gave the impression of giving several stars to Milwaukee. Sorry, Pascal. The next time. (The advanced numbers favor Siakam over almost all of those guys, I could not go in. His game is crazy and I do not trust him 100%, it's clear in the third wheel when Toronto is in good health, works against him.)

I spent most of the season on Middleton, even during his infernal December doldrums. His skills – high-volume 3-point shooting, positioning versatility – are more fundamental to Milwaukee's identity. Bledsoe only touched 31% of the depth.

But Bledsoe draws an absurd 61 percent on 2, stab in the free space of the Giannis offensive and Milwaukee shooters. It is grilling guys one-on-one. Milwaukee outshines opponents with Antetokounmpo on the bench, and Middleton and Bledsoe both prospered under a growing burden in those minutes.

If Bledsoe has a business card, that's the defense. Middleton is shooting. We saw more telephone cards from Bledsoe than Middleton. Bledsoe receives the nod.

Layne Murdoch / NBAE / Getty Images

Western Conference


g James Harden
g Stephen Curry
FC Kevin Durant
FC Anthony Davis
FC Paul George

Reserve locks

Nikola Jokic
James Lebron
Damian Lillard
Rudy Gobert
Karl-Anthony Cities

• It is cruel to have to choose two of LeBron, Jokic, George, Durant and Davis. They are five of the nine best players in the league this season.

LeBron is the best player. We know that. He knows it My daughter, who can name three players, knows it. (She calls him "LeBrunch" for some reason, she can also name Kemba Walker and Joel Embiid, and she says "Jo-EL" perfectly.) It's an average of 28-8-7, and we let's just agree.

But he missed 30 percent of the season (and that counts), and that's enough to put him on the bench, as ridiculous as it sounds.

• I'm not sure why Durant's 28-7-6 campaign (a record career in aids) on nearly 50/40/90 shots has no buzz. Maybe it's the warriors' discomfort or the Golden State that was lazing the whole season before going to scorched earth in the last two weeks or so. Maybe it's the lingering feeling that the warriors have compromised something in their soul to accommodate Durant, and that he could leave, anyway.

I do not know. But Durant was amazing, the Warriors outclass their opponents with Curry on the bench, and Durant has 33 points every 36 minutes. He does not always go on defense, but he is still very good.

• George was the best player in Oklahoma City and he was not close. Jokic is the best player of Denver and the orchestrator of a team that spent a good part of the season at the top of the West despite a multitude of injuries. Russell Westbrook is the orchestrator of Oklahoma City, although George has done an incredible job on his pick-and-roll opportunities, believing that the defenses ignore all the other Thunder players, including and especially Westbrook , to obstruct the lane when he is in possession of the ball.

Almost all general managers would choose Davis rather than both, but New Orleans ranks 12th in the West.

If LeBron is absent, George must be present. He has an average of 27 points on 44% of shots, 39% of which are deep. He could be the favorite of the defensive player of the year.

• That leaves Davis and Jokic. Davis averages almost 10 points more per game. He is more sporty and versatile in defense, a real deterrent to the edge.

Jokic gives 7.7 crazy dimes per game. One center ranks seventh in number of assists, ahead of LeBron! I do not think we fully understand how crazy it is. Jokic is already the best man of all time, and it is becoming increasingly clear that his death has a powerful compounded effect beyond the clichés "he makes everyone better". Meanwhile, Davis averages 4.4 assists per game average.

The Nuggets are well ahead of New Orleans in defense. Even with Davis on the ground, teams score in New Orleans at an average league rate. If Davis is so good, why are not they better?

It's a good question. Davis is too close to possessions. But the composition of New Orleans is absurdly heavy, and they were wounded at the top. You can play a lot of different schemes with Davis. Denver had to create a system to minimize Jokic's vulnerabilities. On Jokic's merit, he walks around and everything bounces.

It's still Davis by a hair.

• Fans of Utah seem worried that Gobert is not going in. It would be crazy. He has an average of 15 and 13 years and draws 66% – the best of the league. Its aid is up and its turnarounds are down. It's a defense to a man, but not a one-way player.

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Scary thing: he improves his defense. It looks more comfortable to venture further from the hoop to dissuade good shooters.

Utah has built a whole system around their faith in Gobert who himself closes the pick and roll. Everyone stays at home on the shooters. To have Gobert is to impose the worst possible mathematical selection to each opponent. It's like starting each game by 6-0. Utah awarded only 100.3 points for 100 possessions with Gobert on the ground, almost four points more stingy than the team's best defense, according to

• The cities have awakened in defense since Butler's exorcization by the Wolves. He is perhaps the most versatile big man in the league. He just needs to stop fouling everyone.

• This leaves two places for (deep breaths): Westbrook, Mike Conley, Jrue Holiday, Luka Doncic, Danilo Gallinari, Tobias Harris, LaMarcus Aldridge, DeMar DeRozan, Donovan Mitchell, Jamal Murray, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, Clint Capela (injured ). ), Steven Adams, Jusuf Nurkic, Devin Booker, De Aaron Fox, Buddy Hield (seriously – compare his figures to Thompson's, though Thompson wrapped Hield in defense), and maybe a few others.

It's bad to be in the west.

Westbrook is not a lock. His shot is broken – beyond the bow, at the line, at the edge. In layups, he sometimes has the impression of throwing the ball blindly in the direction of the back panel, hoping for a friendly rebound. This is legitimately alarming. He has not yet found all his explosiveness and is rising after a new operation of the knee. He also accumulates 4.5 turnovers per game, the second highest total in the league.

You can not shoot 41% in total, and 24% of the deepest (not a typo), and be an unthinking All-Star. I do not care who you are. His progress in defense has been a bit exaggerated. Bad habits persist.

But Westbrook squeaks here. Almost no one puts more pressure on the rim, and this pressure – the help it sucks – creates easy paces for a group of teammates who (other than George) need each other some one for do the heavy work. Even George needs that in the stumps; It is not a coincidence that he publishes career figures playing next to a demon of training.

Leading the league in the assists always counts for something. The most advanced statistics, such as Westbrook, are more important than all those except Gallinari.

You just feel Westbrook, in every possession, in a way that you do not feel Conley, Holiday, others. He is relentless. He is exhausting. He is big enough and physically so that the Thunder can switch between four positions in defense during many clashes.

• This leaves room. Murray is 36% from 3 years old. He made a mini-jump as a playmaker. Denver is pretty much the same when Murray plays without Jokic – a solid job considering their injuries.

I get the push for Denver to get a second All-Star. Murray has a stronger case than advanced statistics (it is said that he does not have any). He's missing here. Murray's jumper has not been consistent enough and can still be a handicap at the other end.

• Too much of Thompson's production was limited to four or five games. Green was not himself before the last three weeks. Mitchell took too long to go.

• I like Fox; the offense of kings dies without him. Hield is averaging 20.5 points per game and has 46% of his 3. He belongs to the deepest part of this conversation. It is difficult to formulate an argument – based on statistics, the sight test, and so on. – who is as good as the remaining candidates. Hield is a disadvantage for the defense and does not do a lot of games. Fox is coming soon for one of these spots.

• We are in Conley, Holiday, Doncic and both Clippers and Spurs. There is little difference between their individual numbers. That made me want to choose Conley for sentimental reasons. It is difficult to reward a member of the Grizz while he is 14th in the West.

• The pelicans' scoring margin improves by 20 points for 100 possessions with Holiday on the floor. This seems wrong. This is the league's biggest net score, behind Danny Green. Pelicans are really good with Holiday and Davis on the ground. They are awful when one plays without the other, but much worse in just minutes for Davis, according to

These statistics should be worth Somethingeven if they say as much about the unpleasant support of the pelicans as on Holiday. Holiday has 21 points and eight assists per game while defending his ass wherever Pelicans need him. His case contrasts perfectly with the San Antonio and Los Angeles candidates. The Spurs are just over-8 for the season with DeRozan and Aldridge on the ground. They are minus-21 when one plays without the other and over-120 (!) When both sit down. Their depth is to win games.

The Clippers have a positive margin between Harris and Gallinari together; they blitz teams when Lou Williams and Montrezl Harrell play. But it's not the fault of Harris and Gallo that the Clippers have built a strong team. Holidays should not happen this a lot of extra credit because the pelicans have failed.

The Spurs and Clippers design rotations to keep firepower in reserve. Nonconformists struggled to find a feasible start at five; their score margin is almost identical with and without Doncic.

For these teams, playing opponents of the draw is a victory apart. He prepares the bench for success.

Harris stands as the best Clipper. The advanced numbers point to Gallo.

Aldridge surpassed DeRozan on this ballot. He's better than DeRozan on defense and is 21 points per game on 51% of his shots after a slow start. DeRozan has prepared more dimes and has been one of the best clutch shooters in the league. Aldridge is a playmaker of a different kind; his kickout goes on to trigger chain reactions that lead to open fire.

Doncic is the only undisputed alpha dog in this group. This may make him the best candidate. He is real. He is already one of the twelve best smugglers in the league. Doncic has 13 -23 points in the last three minutes of the match with less than three points. He has the most lethal recoil outside of Houston. It would make the game more fun. I hope he's coming in!

You can choose any of them. The simplest solution is to fall back on the record of the team. San Antonio was the best team in this group with its record and points differential. New Orleans is 22-25, but they have the margin of a team almost at the San Antonio level; their disastrous performance in tight games kills them.

You can justify taking two pelicans by claiming that their team is about as good as the Spurs and the Clippers – and that they are only good because of Davis and Holiday. But they are 22-25, and Holiday is a nasty 10 of 34 in the last five minutes of games when the score is within five points. Of course, the size of the sample is small. A half season – the period in question here – is a small sample by definition.

The old school part of my soul likes the idea of ​​going with victories when there is almost nothing else to separate the boundary candidates. Aldridge is one of the best players in the league "raise your floor". You can not snort the championship quarrel if he is your best player. You may not even be able to win 50 wins, no matter what 2-15 players look like. The basic and developed skills of Doncic are much more useful than those of Aldridge. But Aldridge is a two-way stabilizer that guarantees a certain level of skill.

If Holiday were to lead the Pelicans to a good record in this sequence without Davis, I would probably return for Aldridge. But the deadlines are the deadlines.

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Until next year!