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The NBA announced its 2014-15 All-NBA teams on Thursday, with newly minted Most Valuable Player Stephen Curry of the Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers superstar LeBron James ranking as the lone unanimous selections to this year's top squad, receiving First Team bids on all 129 ballots cast by sportswriters and broadcasters this season.
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This is the ninth time in James' 12-year career that he's earned a First Team spot, tying him on the all-time list with Oscar Robertson, Larry Bird and Magic Johnson. Only Kobe Bryant, Karl Malone, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Tim Duncan, Bob Cousy, Jerry West, Michael Jordan, Bob Pettit and Elgin Baylor have more First Team appearances. It's the second straight All-NBA selection for Curry, but his first to the top team.
Joining Curry and James on the First Team were MVP runner-up James Harden of the Houston Rockets (third All-NBA selection overall, second straight to the First Team); Memphis Grizzlies center Marc Gasol (second All-NBA selection, first to the First Team); and New Orleans Pelicans phenom Anthony Davis, who makes his first appearance on any All-NBA squad, and becomes just the fifth player in league history to appear on the First Team during his age 21 season, joining LeBron, Rick Barry, Tim Duncan and Kevin Durant.
The Beard and the 'Brow were both very popular selections, as Harden received First Team votes on 125 of 129 ballots, while Davis appeared in the first five on 119 of the 129. Gasol, the Memphis All-Star who took a step forward on the offensive end early in the season before receding a bit as the campaign stretched on, received 65 of a possible 129 First Team votes to slot in at center and give the Grizzlies their first First Teamer in franchise history.
Here's how the Second and Third Teams shook out:
• F/C: LaMarcus Aldridge, Portland Trail Blazers (13 First Team votes, third All-NBA selection)
• C/F: DeMarcus Cousins, Sacramento Kings (18 First Team votes, first All-NBA selection)
• C: Pau Gasol, Chicago Bulls (15 First Team votes, fourth All-NBA selection)
• G: Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City Thunder (10 First Team votes, fourth All-NBA selection
• Chris Paul, Los Angeles Clippers (one First Team vote, seventh All-NBA selection)
• F: Blake Griffin, Clippers (two First Team votes, fourth All-NBA selection)
• F/C: Tim Duncan, San Antonio Spurs (six First Team votes, 15th All-NBA selection, tying Kobe and Kareem for most all-time)
• C: DeAndre Jordan, Clippers (12 First Team votes, first All-NBA selection)
• G: Klay Thompson, Warriors (no First Team votes, first All-NBA selection)
• G: Kyrie Irving, Cavaliers (no First Team votes, first All-NBA selection)
As is always the case, the voting results were met in some quarters with criticism.
Why isn't Westbrook on the First Team? (Seems awful tough to knock either Curry or Harden off ... then again, let's not forget what Westbrook did over the last few months of the season.) No spot for Defensive Player of the Year Kawhi Leonard? No love for Most Improved Player Jimmy Butler?
What about DPoY and MIP runner-up Draymond Green, arguably the title-favorite Warriors' most important player beside Curry? No members of the Atlanta Hawks, despite a franchise-record 60 wins and the No. 1 seed in the East? And, hey, wait a second, where's John Wall? Didn't he start his second straight All-Star Game, serve as arguably the second or third best player in the East this season, and tear up the playoffs to the tune of a postseason-topping 28.4 points created by assist per game?
Well, they all received All-NBA votes and "award points" — five points for a First Team vote, three for a Second Team vote, one for a Third Team vote. Leonard actually received more points (155) than either Thompson (122) or Irving (112), but because the teams require voters to pick two forwards, two guards and a center — and because Kawhi can't claim hybrid forward/guard status after spending just 1 percent of his floor time at the two for San Antonio this year, according to Basketball-Reference.com's play-by-play data — he comes up short.
We're sure the famously hot-tempered Leonard is angry enough to use his manhole-cover-sized hands to start flipping over tables as a result of his "snub." Then again, maybe he's outsourced his angst to Duncan, who can really wreck shop like a rock star:
Your five nearest misses, post-Kawhi:
• Paul Millsap, Hawks (70 total award points): Averaged 16.7 points, 7.8 rebounds, 3.1 assists and 1.8 steals in 32.7 minutes per game for the 60-win Hawks, making his second consecutive All-Star appearance and ranking in the top 10 in steals per game and steal percentage for the third straight year;
• Al Horford, Hawks (one First Team vote, 64 total points): Averaged 15.2 points, 7.2 rebounds, 3.2 assists and 1.3 blocks in 30.5 minutes per game for East-leading Atlanta, made his third All-Star Game and finished sixth in the league in field goal percentage while anchoring the Hawks' No. 6-ranked defense;
• Wall, Washington Wizards (50 total award points): Sixth in the league in minutes, second in both total assists and assists per game, third in assist percentage, ninth in total steals and 12th in steals per game, one of only two players in the league (along with CP3) to average at least 10 points and 10 dimes per game this season, made his second straight All-Star Game and his first appearance in the starting lineup.
The Washington star offered a brief response to not making the top 15:
• Butler, Bulls (32 total award points): Led the league in minutes per game, averaged career highs in points, rebounds, assists and blocks per game, as well as free-throw shooting percentage; had the league's 10th lowest turnover percentage despite a sharp increase in his usage percentage as a secondary ball-handler for Tom Thibodeau; made these offensive strides while continuing to play All-Defensive Second Team-caliber defense.
• Damian Lillard, Blazers (22 total award points): Fourth in total minutes, second in 3-point attempts, sixth in 3-pointers made, 13th in scoring at a career-high 21 points per game.
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