Damian Lillard

PBT mid-season awards: MVP and All-NBA

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The 2019-20 NBA season will reach its midpoint by games played tonight. So, we’re naming winners for mid-season awards. Tomorrow, we’ll pick Defensive Player of the Year, Rookie of the Year, Most Improved Player, Sixth Man of the Year and Coach of the Year.

Most Valuable Player

Kurt Helin: Giannis Antetokounmpo (Bucks)

This is how wide-open this race remains to me: a couple of weeks ago I would have said LeBron James led this chase, and a few days ago it was James Harden (and Luka Doncic could still be the one holding the trophy at the end of the season). Harden’s case is his 37.2 points per game scoring average, which the fourth-highest average in NBA history (trailing only three Wilt Chamberlain seasons) — and he’s scoring even more efficiently than he did a season ago. However, those numbers have slipped slightly in recent weeks, although that’s because defenses have adjusted and are throwing crazy double-teams at him. Antetokounmpo is averaging 30 points and 12 rebounds a game, added a three-point shot to his game, and has led the Bucks to the best record in the NBA. As it was last season, it’s the defense that separates Antetokounmpo — and this year LeBron, too — from Harden in my book.

Dan Feldman: Giannis Antetokounmpo (Bucks)

James Harden is averaging an astounding 37.2 points per game. That’s the start of his MVP case. But per 100 team possessions, Harden’s scoring lead over Antetokounmpo is a mere 46.4 to 44.9. Consider Antetokounmpo’s all-around advantages – especially defensively – and he deserves this honor.

Harden gets additional credit for playing more than Antetokounmpo. Those are minutes Harden is providing value to his team. But Antetokounmpo plays fewer minutes because he and Milwaukee are putting away teams early. Like Harden, Antetokounmpo is playing as much as necessary for his team to win.

LeBron James, Luka Doncic and Anthony Davis are also in the mix.

All-NBA

Kurt Helin:

First team

G: Luka Doncic (Mavericks)

G: James Harden (Rockets)

F: Giannis Antetokounmpo (Bucks)

F: LeBron James (Lakers)

C: Joel Embiid (76ers)

Second team

G: Damian Lillard (Trail Blazers)

G: Kemba Walker (Celtics)

F: Anthony Davis (Lakers)

F: Kawhi Leonard (Clippers)

C: Nikola Jokic (Nuggets)

Third team

G: Paul George (Clippers)

G: Donovan Mitchell (Jazz)

F: Pascal Siakam (Raptors)

F: Jimmy Butler (Heat)

C: Rudy Gobert (Jazz)

Every year I find All-NBA third team the most difficult part of the ballot — there are usually several players for each position very close in my mind, and those decisions by voters can have financial implications for the players. (Why players salary levels should not be based on media player votes is a rant for another day — but I have that rant ready.)

That’s the case again this season. I feel comfortable with the first two teams (although, obviously, things can shift) but the third team is challenging, and there are players not listed above who could make my end-of-year ballot. Karl-Anthony Towns is my fourth center but only because he has missed so much time and he likely gets back on the court soon (he has been phenomenal offensively when he plays). Bradley Beal could climb into a guard spot, as could Devin Booker or Trae Young (their defense still holds them back in my mind). Khris Middleton and others are hanging around as well.

Dan Feldman:

First team

G: James Harden (Rockets)

G: Luka Doncic (Mavericks)

F: Giannis Antetokounmpo (Bucks)

F: LeBron James (Lakers)

C: Rudy Gobert (Jazz)

Second team

G: Damian Lillard (Trail Blazers)

G: Chris Paul (Thunder

F: Anthony Davis (Lakers)

F: Jimmy Butler (Heat)

C: Nikola Jokic (Nuggets)

Third team

G: Ben Simmons (76ers)

G: Kemba Walker (Celtics)

F: Kawhi Leonard (Clippers)

F: Jaylen Brown (Celtics)

C: Joel Embiid (76ers)

Gobert and Jokic could go in either order at center. Because he has played less, Embiid had to edge out Bam Adebayo.

The final guard spot was extremely close between Walker, Devin Booker, Donovan Mitchell, Devin Booker and Trae Young. It’s splitting hairs.

Same for the final forward spot. Brown narrowly topped Jayson Tatum, Brandon Ingram and Domantas Sabonis

Pascal Siakam might have taken it if he stayed healthy, and he’ll have a chance to seize it the rest of the season. Paul George could also get in the race at either forward or guard if he’s healthier the rest of the season.

Alex Caruso jumps Russell Westbrook and Stephen Curry in All-Star voting

Alex Caruso
Chris Elise/NBAE via Getty Images
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Alex Caruso‘s All-Star votes caused waves when the Lakers backup ranked sixth among Western Conference guards.

Now, he’s fourth, passing Russell Westbrook and Stephen Curry.

Fourth!

Ultimately, this won’t matter. Caruso won’t be an All-Star. Starters are determined by a formula that combines the votes of fans, players (who’ll barely choose Caruso) and media (who won’t at all choose Caruso). Reserves are picked by coaches (who won’t at all choose Caruso). Caruso getting so many fan votes is funny and nothing more.

Really, if his climb produces any more outrage, that’d further expose the absurdity of this whole process. He passed Westbrook (who has slipped and is no longer playing like a Western Conference All-Star) and Curry (who has missed nearly the entire season due to injury). It’s a popularity contest that only somewhat overlaps with on-court production. Caruso is among the bigger absurdities in All-Star voting, but there’s no sanctity to uphold here.

The latest update in All-Star voting provides minimal meaningful change from the previous returns.

Carmelo Anthony moved from eighth to sixth among Western Conference frontcourt players, passing Kristaps Porzingis and Karl-Anthony Towns. It still seems likely LeBron James, Anthony Davis and Kawhi Leonard will snag the three Western Conference frontcourt starting spots. But Anthony – who’s highly popular among fellow players – has an outside chance if media votes (which won’t include him) are concentrated enough.

LeBron James still leads the overall voting. Giannis Antetokounmpo leads Eastern Conference players, though he trails Luka Doncic. Let me restate my objection: If he has more votes than Antetokounmpo, Doncic should be an All-Star captain. Dividing by conference at the captain-picking stage – when the whole point is no longer dividing the All-Star game by conference – is a bad method.

Likewise, players shouldn’t be divided by conference when selected at all (though I understand Eastern Conference teams want to protect spots for their lesser players).

Maybe we can start by eliminating positional designations. Make the best 26 – yes, 26 – players All-Stars, and let them sort it out on the court.

Here’s the All-Star full leaderboard:

Eastern Conference

Guards

1. Trae Young (ATL) 2,066,924

2. Kyrie Irving (BRK) 1,814,618

3. Kemba Walker (BOS) 1,797,633

4. Derrick Rose (DET) 1,381,934

5. Kyle Lowry (TOR) 848,293

6. Zach LaVine (CHI) 847,632

7. Jaylen Brown (BOS) 718,355

8. Ben Simmons (PHI) 629,199

9. Bradley Beal (WAS) 609,899

10. Fred VanVleet (TOR) 546,471

Frontcourt

1. Giannis Antetokounmpo (MIL) 4,474,107

2. Pascal Siakam (TOR) 2,433,411

3. Joel Embiid (PHI) 2,398,743

4. Jimmy Butler (MIA) 2,046,257

5. Jayson Tatum (BOS) 1,622,635

6. Tacko Fall (BOS) 757,375

7. Bam Adebayo (MIA) 529,244

8. Gordon Hayward (BOS) 398,213

9. Domantas Sabonis (IND) 381,390

10. Andre Drummond (DET) 325,178

Western Conference

Guards

1. Luka Doncic (DAL) 4,598,323

2. James Harden (HOU) 2,934,614

3. Damian Lillard (POR) 984,140

4. Alex Caruso (LAL) 894,827

5. Russell Westbrook (HOU) 837,187

6. Stephen Curry (GSW) 819,352

7. Donovan Mitchell (UTA) 673,917

8. Devin Booker (PHO) 577,035

9. D’Angelo Russell (GSW) 491,047

10. Ja Morant (MEM) 399,703

Frontcourt

1. LeBron James (LAL) 4,747,887

2. Anthony Davis (LAL) 4,412,619

3. Kawhi Leonard (LAC) 2,973,076

4. Paul George (LAC) 1,171,616

5. Nikola Jokic (DEN) 889,387

6. Carmelo Anthony (POR) 784,038

7. Kristaps Porzingis (DAL) 774,056

8. Karl-Anthony Towns (MIN) 746,013

9. Brandon Ingram (NOP) 672,666

10. Dwight Howard (LAL) 670,643

Damian Lillard hits halfcourt shot in Trail Blazers’ three-point win (video)

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Damian Lillard is the leader the Trail Blazers need.

Last night, that meant heaving a half-court shot to end the third quarter rather than holding the ball to protect his shooting percentage.

Lillard sunk the shot, and that made the difference in Portland’s 115-112 win over the Hornets.

Damian Lillard brings his son to work and it is adorable

Abbie Parr/Getty Images
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Monday night was “Bring Your Son to Work Day” for Damian Lillard.

And Dame Jr. stole the show from the second he walked in the building.

Then the toddler got out on the court and was making plays like his old man… or at least trying to pick up the ball.

I guess Dad made a play during the game too, a 115-112 Portland win where this shot mattered.

That’s nice. Give us more Dame Jr.

 

LeBron James passes Luka Doncic and Giannis Antetokounmpo in All-Star voting

LeBron James and Luka Doncic lead the NBA in All-Star voting
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images
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LeBron James has led the NBA in fan All-Star voting the last three years. If he leads the league again this season, he’d break a tie with Vince Carter (2000-2002) for the longest such streak since Michael Jordan (1987-1993).

But in the initial All-Star voting returns LeBron trailed Luka Doncic and Giannis Antetokounmpo.

Lebron is back on top now.

The updated voting:

Eastern Conference

Guards

1. Trae Young (ATL) 1,389,628

2. Kyrie Irving (BRK) 1,351,997

3. Kemba Walker (BOS) 1,331,577

4. Derrick Rose (DET) 918,550

5. Zach LaVine (CHI) 572,022

6. Kyle Lowry (TOR) 567,896

7. Jaylen Brown (BOS) 544,361

8. Ben Simmons (PHI) 456,066

9. Bradley Beal (WAS) 447,107

10. Fred VanVleet (TOR) 351,391

Frontcourt

1. Giannis Antetokounmpo (MIL) 3,259,383

2. Joel Embiid (PHI) 1,784,211

3. Pascal Siakam (TOR) 1,730,763

4. Jimmy Butler (MIA) 1,400,293

5. Jayson Tatum (BOS) 1,182,663

6. Tacko Fall (BOS) 543,352

7. Bam Adebayo (MIA) 349,078

8. Gordon Hayward (BOS) 291,608

9. Domantas Sabonis (IND) 239,639

10. Andre Drummond (DET) 228,190

Western Conference

Guards

1. Luka Doncic (DAL) 3,277,870

2. James Harden (HOU) 2,167,269

3. Damian Lillard (POR) 687,855

4. Stephen Curry (GSW) 595,913

5. Russell Westbrook (HOU) 581,500

6. Alex Caruso (LAL) 528,246

7. Donovan Mitchell (UTA) 449,835

8. Devin Booker (PHO) 381,071

9. D’Angelo Russell (GSW) 365,730

10. Ja Morant (MEM) 257,433

Frontcourt

1. LeBron James (LAL) 3,359,871

2. Anthony Davis (LAL) 3,124,446

3. Kawhi Leonard (LAC) 2,210,539

4. Paul George (LAC) 845,719

5. Nikola Jokic (DEN) 559,881

6. Karl-Anthony Towns (MIN) 545,385

7. Kristaps Porzingis (DAL) 540,603

8. Carmelo Anthony (POR) 520,021

9. Brandon Ingram (NOP) 444,522

10. Dwight Howard (LAL) 390,037

Observations:

  • LeBron, Doncic and Antetokounmpo will all be All-Stars. The overall vote lead is mostly about prestige, though it doesn’t carry as much since the NBA introduced player and media voting into the All-Star-starters equation.
  • LeBron and Doncic are competing for a captaincy, because they’re both in the Western Conference. With All-Star teams no longer divided by conference, why should one of them automatically fall behind Antetokounmpo just because Antetokounmpo is in the East? This patchwork system leaves a lot to be desired.
  • Kyle Lowry (No. 8 to No. 6) and Ben Simmons (No. 6 to No. 8) flipped spots. That could make the difference in an open Eastern Conference backcourt race. At No. 2 in fan voting, Kyrie Irving probably won’t fare as well with players and media. No. 4 in fan voting, Derrick Rose probably won’t get any media votes. No. 5 in fan voting, Zach LaVine also faces an uphill climb with media votes.