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Steph Curry, James Harden, Paul George, Kevin Durant, and Giannis Antetokounmpo all have made strong cases to be considered one of the best five players in the NBA this season. Unfortunately, all five of these players cannot be the All-NBA First Team, even if every NBA expert were to agree they were the best.
The All-NBA selection process requires each team to consist of two guards, two forwards, and one center. Although Durant and Antetokounmpo both have the height of a five, both of them will certainly be considered forwards, which is more accurate than calling either of them a center.
Nikola Jokic is a slam-dunk choice to be the All-NBA First Team center, and this piece is not an attack on Jokic. He’s very good, and will receive some MVP consideration this season. The best center won’t always be deserving though, and oftentimes centers are rewarded with All-NBA selections simply for playing a position that is currently thin on top tier talent.
Durant lost out on All-NBA First Team honors following the 2015-16 season so that DeAndre Jordan could be named to the first team as the center. It is impossible for anybody with any sort of credibility to argue that Jordan was better than Durant was that season or any season.
Jokic is better than Jordan was that year, but is he better than all of Curry, Harden, George, Durant, Antetokounmpo, and LeBron James? Only four of that group can make First Team this season because of the positional designations, and it’s guaranteed that two forwards will miss out because the guards have guaranteed spots as well.
There’s simply no good reason for the teams to be like that. All-Star teams have less rigid positional structure, and those are actually used to pick teams that play a game! The All-NBA teams don’t need to worry about balanced lineups, they never suit up together (until the 2022-23 Warriors have the whole First Team for that season, at least).
Even if throwing away positions in All-NBA entirely is too extreme, at least make the switch to a mix of backcourt and frontcourt players like All-Star teams are set up. Right now three centers are guaranteed to get one of the highest accolades the league has to offer, often at the expense of talented forwards.
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