Announcing regular-season awards during the playoffs is like sending college acceptance letters, but only after everyone’s enrolled. (Hopefully you got in somewhere! And hopefully you have yet to drop out!) On Thursday, in the middle of the Eastern and Western Conference finals, the NBA released the All-NBA teams voting. The timing, as always, felt inappropriate. Only a few of the regular-season standouts are still in play. Some, like Anthony Davis, faded gracefully out of the playoffs. Others [subtweets Damian Lillard] had their respect eliminated alongside their team. Here are three overdue takeaways from 2017-18’s All-NBA teams:
This Feels Late, Again
To hand out All-NBA honors now is awkward. The focus is no longer on an 82-game record or a win streak, it’s on advancing to the Finals. If the voting began before the season ended, just early enough for the awards to be announced during the first week of the playoffs, it would hit the sweet spot: Enough time to contemplate and analyze the regular-season feats, yet not so long that they become passé in relation to the postseason.
The awards coming so late also highlights the need for separate postseason awards. Reflecting on the regular season is necessary, but the All-NBA team doesn’t correlate with playoff trends. So that’s the solution: Move the NBA Awards up and introduce a second set of awards for the playoffs. Now that we’ve fixed the voting timeline—you’re welcome, Adam Silver; I like orchids best—let’s fix the actual voting.
First Team All-NBA, First-Round Out
Spot the user error:
First Team: LeBron James, James Harden, Anthony Davis, Damian Lillard, Kevin Durant
Second Team: Giannis Antetokounmpo, Russell Westbrook, Joel Embiid, LaMarcus Aldridge, DeMar DeRozan
Third Team: Stephen Curry, Victor Oladipo, Karl-Anthony Towns, Jimmy Butler, Paul George
Lillard received 71 first-place votes, which is eight more than Durant, as in Kevin Durant. (Though KD did have thicker competition for a first-team forward spot, with Giannis pulling 28 first-place votes of his own.) I thought I stanned for Big Game Dame more than the general NBA fan, but it turns out those with an NBA ballot topped me. In the past, Lillard has spoken about how frustrating it is to be snubbed, but it might be worse to make an All-NBA first team only for it to be called a collective head-scratcher.
The timing, as aforementioned, is particularly poor for Lillard. His utter collapse during the first round of the Western Conference playoffs—Lillard shot 35 percent overall, 30 percent from deep, and averaged nearly 10 points fewer than he did in the regular season, with 18.5 per game—resulted in Portland getting swept by New Orleans.
Dame D.O.L.L.A., Meet Davis Dolla
For the second straight season, Davis made first team All-NBA. The fact it was announced after the Pelicans were eliminated could not matter less to him, for about 230 million reasons. With the award, Davis met the super max criteria of making All-NBA in two of three seasons. In 2019, he’s eligible to make history: Davis could sign the largest contract the NBA’s ever seen, an extension projected to be worth $230 million, starting at $39.7 million per year.
Davis carried New Orleans after frontcourt-mate DeMarcus Cousins was declared out for the season, averaging 30.2 points, 11.9 boards, 3.2 blocks, and two steals in the final 33 games. The Pelicans have all reason to cling to Davis, just 25, and offer him that historic chunk of change.