Kawhi Leonard didn’t deserve All-NBA second-team nod over LeBron James

On Wednesday, the NBA announced its All-NBA teams for this season. LeBron James was voted onto the All-NBA third team along with Devin Booker, Stephen Curry, Tyrese Haliburton and Domantas Sabonis.

On the surface, it seems like an excellent accomplishment and an appropriate choice by the voters. This was the 20th time James was chosen to an All-NBA team, and at 39 years and four months of age, he’s the oldest player to earn that honor.

But a closer look reveals a detail some may consider an injustice.

The 2023-24 All-NBA second team consists of James’ Los Angeles Lakers superstar teammate Anthony Davis, Jalen Brunson, Kevin Durant, Anthony Edwards and Kawhi Leonard.

That’s right. Kawhi Leonard was named to a higher All-NBA team than James, and that was wrong.

To be fair, Leonard is an excellent player. Even though he is somewhat diminished compared to a few years ago, he’s clearly a better defender than James. He also shot an outstanding 88.5% from the free-throw line, while James made 75% of his foul shots.

But those were the only facets of the game in which Leonard was superior to James this season.

James averaged more points per game (25.7) than Leonard (23.7), and his shooting percentage of 54% was higher than Leonard’s mark of 52.5%. Leonard shot 41.7% from 3-point range compared to 41% for James, but that is a negligible difference. James also averaged 1.2 more rebounds per contest than Leonard.

There was one category in particular he was much better than the Los Angeles Clippers forward. He dealt 8.3 assists a game, his highest output in that department since the 2019-20 season, while Leonard was at 3.6 dimes per game.

In fact, Leonard’s career-high in that category (5.2 per game in the 202-21 season) is still lower than James’ career-low (5.9 a game as a rookie).

Then there is the health factor. Both have been injury-prone in recent years.  James appeared in 71 games this regular season compared to 68 for Leonard. But in the playoffs, Leonard missed four of the six games of the Clippers’ first-round series versus the Dallas Mavericks due to knee inflammation after sitting out the last eight regular-season games with the same ailment.

In the two postseason games he appeared, he mustered a total of 24 points. It was the fourth straight postseason in which he had missed at least two games.

James, on the other hand, played in all five contests in the first-round series between the Lakers and Denver Nuggets. There, he continued his excellent play by putting up 27.8 points on 56.6% overall shooting and 38.5% from 3-point range, 8.8 assists and 6.8 rebounds a game.

Even after all these years and 17 playoff appearances, he has never missed a single playoff game.

The head-to-head stats this year also favor James. He registered 31.3 points, 8.7 rebounds and 7.3 dimes a game while shooting 62.7% from the field and 52.2% from downtown (he missed one of the four contests between the Lakers and Clippers this season). Leonard, meanwhile, was at 26 points, 8 boards and 5.8 assists, and he made 53.8% of his shot attempts and 40% of his 3-point tries.

The Lakers won their season series versus the Clippers 3-1, and their lone loss came when James sat out the Jan. 23 game between the two squads.

Despite all that working in James’ favor, in the balloting for the All-NBA teams, he ended up getting 164 points to Leonard’s 242 points.

Perhaps James will use this as motivation this offseason and into his 22nd NBA season.

Story originally appeared on LeBron Wire