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Three Things to Know: Here are your 2018 All-Stars… now let’s talk snubs, it’s more fun

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Every day in the NBA there is a lot to unpack, so every weekday morning throughout the season we will give you the three things you need to know from the last 24 hours in the NBA.

1) All-Star reserves selected, and there are some serious snubs (particularly in the West). As sports fans, we like to talk about who got screwed/left out more than who actually deserved something. We argue about who is 69th in the NCAA Tournament and should have gotten in, because that is more fun than saying “well, they had that mid-season slump, lost to good teams, and weren’t getting out of the first day anyway” even if that’s the reality.

This year’s NBA All-Star selections played right into that. There was no way to make the All-Star selections and not snub people — particularly in the loaded Western Conference. Last summer the NBA’s talent pool got in a covered wagon and headed West young man, to the point that even with injuries opening up spots (Kawhi Leonard) some guys were going to get left out.

NBA coaches picked the reserves, and those were announced Tuesday. Here are your 2018 NBA All-Star teams:

WESTERN CONFERENCE
Starters: Stephen Curry (captain), James Harden, Kevin Durant, Anthony Davis, DeMarcus Cousins.
Reserves: Russell Westbrook, Klay Thompson, Damian Lillard, Jimmy Butler, LaMarcus Aldridge, Draymond Green, Karl-Anthony Towns

EASTERN CONFERENCE
Starters: LeBron James (captain), Kyrie Irving, DeMar DeRozan, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Joel Embiid.
Reserves: Kyle Lowry, Victor Oladipo, John Wall, Bradley Beal, Kristaps Porzingis, Al Horford, Kevin Love

Remember that this year the captains — LeBron and Curry — will select the teams in a playground-style draft (first from the pool of other starters, then the reserves). They can choose whoever they want regardless of conference — if LeBron wants to fuel rumors he’s headed to Houston he can choose James Harden first. This draft would be an awesome idea — if it were televised. But to spare feelings, it will not be (the NHL did it with the players standing right there, and somehow they survived). The NBA blew that one.

Who got snubbed? The Clippers’ Lou Williams has had a career-best season and carried that team to the edge of the playoffs despite a rash of injuries.

Paul George deserved a spot. Russell Westbrook made his case.

Andre Drummond was the odd-man out in the frontcourt rotations in the East (the coaches went with four guards in the reserves).

A couple of those guys will get in when players who make the team bow out due to injuries in the next couple of weeks (the game is Feb. 18 in Los Angeles). It happens every year (the injuries are usually minor, but for veterans who have been there before a few times they are happy to stay home with their families and recuperate). But that’s not fun to talk about either, so who else do you think got snubbed?

2) Before he went off on All-Star selections, Russell Westbrook went off on Nets and hit game winner. Want a good test for which fans are not really paying attention to the NBA this season? It’s the ones that say, “The Nets suck, why couldn’t we blow them out?” The Nets are not deep with talent, but they are scrappy, play smart and hard, and do not go quietly into that good night. They give everyone trouble.

That’s what happened with the Oklahoma City Thunder Tuesday. The Nets battled, and it took a Russell Westbrook game winner to save OKC’s bacon.

Even then, the embodiment of the Nets Spencer Dinwiddie — a point guard who battled his way into the league, got his chance, and is not letting go — almost won it for the Nets.

Brooklyn has a lot of tough losses this season, which in itself is a moral victory. And they’ve racked up enough wins to piss off Cavaliers fans. Brooklyn — with injuries to D’Angelo Russell for most of the season and Jeremy Lin for all of it — have gotten as much out of their talent as could be hoped for this season.

3) LeBron James became the youngest player in NBA history to get to 30,000 points. Could he catch Kareem? Early in the Cavaliers ugly loss to the Spurs Tuesday — a game that had a stark difference in execution levels, speaking to all things wrong in Cleveland — LeBron James became only the eighth player in NBA history to pass the 30,000 point mark. It’s another milestone in an all-time great career (and he got a nice ovation from the hoops-smart San Antonio crowd).

Some are now asking, can he catch Kareem Abdul-Jabbar for the all-time points lead? If he wants to, yes. The question is how much does he want to. LeBron ended Tuesday night with 30,021 regular season points, which is still 8,366 behind Kareem. The last two seasons in Cleveland, LeBron has averaged just more than 1,900 points a season. If he can stay healthy and roughly keep up that scoring pace — he just turned 33 — it will take about four more seasons after this one to get near Kareem.

LeBron could get there, but the reality is he’ll have to play five more NBA seasons at an All-Star level racking up a lot of points (and again, staying healthy). He could do that, I have no doubt. Whether he will want to, or whether he will step away from the game before then, is the question. He has the drive to get there, but he’s also someone who will want to step away with his game near his peak, not fade into his later years and see himself as a role player. There’s a lot of factors at play, including his family and if he is contending for more rings (what really matters to him), but if he wants the record, he could get it.

Lakers’ Jeanie Buss: “I have 100 percent confidence in Rob Pelinka”

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Internally, the Lakers believe they are on the right track: They signed LeBron James as a free agent, they spent years acquiring assets then turned those assets into Anthony Davis, and they believe the roster that will take the court next season will bring vindication for the front office and ownership group. The Lakers believe they will be back on top, where they belong.

From the outside, um, let’s just say there are doubts around the league. Doubts about all the picks — particularly the pick swaps and deferments — that the Lakers gave up to get Davis and now that could hurt them in the future. There are doubts about the ability of Rob Pelinka to build out a roster around LeBron and Davis that is truly a threat.

Jeanie Buss has no such doubts. Speaking to Tania Ganguli of the Los Angeles Times (and other reporters) at the NBA Awards show Monday, Buss expressed nothing but confidence in Pelinka and the Lakers’ staff.

“I’ve always had confidence in Rob, whatever the speculation is out there,” Buss said. “We don’t need outside media to validate the things that we do. I’m very happy and I think we’re on the right path.”

“I have 100% confidence in him in running his basketball operations,” Buss said. “He’s brought us a great new head coach in Frank Vogel, whose teams have had a lot of success in the playoffs and who have played consistently ranking high in defense, which means not only does he emphasize defense but the players buy into his defensive schemes.”

The question isn’t Vogel’s credentials, although how a staff with Jason Kidd, Lionel Hollins, and other veteran coaches with big egos will mesh together is going to be interesting.

The question is talent.

The Lakers have the high end of that with LeBron and Davis, but when you think about the Laker title teams of the past it wasn’t just Shaq and Kobe, it was also Derek Fisher and Robert Horry and Rick Fox and a host of others. The same thing was true in this past Finals — the deeper team won because the Raptors could adapt and handle their star not being 100 percent.

Are the Lakers going to chase another star and then complete the roster with minimum salary players? Or, get two or three quality role players with their cap space to have a deeper team? Has this all been planned out and thought through? Maybe Rob Pelinka builds this roster out beautifully, but we only have one year of experience to judge him on, and that did not go well.

Buss may have confidence, she should, the rest of us are in wait and see mode.

The Greek Freak has arrived, Giannis Antetokounmpo wins NBA MVP

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Mike Budenholzer came in with a plan — an offense built around the fact no one man on the planet can guard Giannis Antetokounmpo.

It worked. The Bucks won 60 games and had the best record in the NBA. Budenholzer picked up Coach of the Year hardware for his efforts.

Now Antetokounmpo has won the NBA MVP award, edging out James Harden (who chose not to attend the NBA’s awards show in Los Angeles Monday). He was emotional in thanking teammates for helping him reach this point, then talking about his father.

Antetokounmpo averaged 27.7 points and 12.5 rebounds a game, but it was his ability to destroy any defender one-on-one that made the Bucks offense work. Either the Greek Freak got to the basket and finished, he drew a foul, or he drew so much attention the shooters that surrounded him on the floor had clean looks of their own. He also was the Bucks best defender, a guy tasked with tough assignments nightly.

Antetokounmpo was the best player on the best team.

Antetokounmpo won the award handily with 941 points to Harden’s 776. The Greek Freak had 78 of the 100 first place votes.

James Harden — who averaged 36.1 points, 7.5 assists, and 6.6 rebounds per game — finished second in the voting, Paul George of Oklahoma City was third. Harden has finished first or second in the voting for four of the past five seasons. Harden believed he deserved to win and was frustrated with another second.

Antetokounmpo is the first player from Europe to win the MVP award since Dirk Nowitzki in 2007.

Nikola Jokic came in fourth in the voting, Stephen Curry was fifth. Here are the full results:

 

 

Rudy Gobert wins NBA Defensive Player of the Year for second straight season

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Rudy Gobert owns the paint for the Utah Jazz.

And he owns the NBA Defensive Player of the Year award.

Gobert won his second straight DPOY award Monday night, beating out the other 2019 finalists Giannis Antetokounmpo and Paul George.

The Jazz had the second best defense in the regular season and it is completely built around Gobert and his abilities in the paint, which is what separated him for this award. Utah’s defense was 20.1 points per 100 possessions better when Gobert was on the court and gave up less than a point per possession with him as the anchor.

This was a deep field with players such as Myles Turner of the Pacers, Joel Embiid of the 76ers and others getting votes as well.

Bucks’ Mike Budenholzer named NBA Coach of the Year

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Mike Budenholzer unleashed Giannis Antetokounmpo and from the start that made him the Coach of the Year favorite (and maybe Antetokounmpo MVP).

It was a wire-to-wire win for Budenholzer, who was the frontrunner for this award from early on and was named the NBA Coach of the Year Monday night, the second time he has won this award (Atlanta in 2015).

Budenholzer was the favorite with good reason. The Bucks won 16 more games than the season before and had the best record in the NBA, they improved their net rating by +10.1, and became a top-five team on both ends of the floor. To be fair, part of Budenholzer’s success was a contrast to how poorly the previous coach handled this roster, but give Budenholzer credit for utilizing players well.

He beat out Doc Rivers of the Clippers and Mike Malone of the Nuggets in what was a very deep field for this award.