In 2014-15, 12 of the 15 players named to the All-NBA Team and 8 of the 10 named to the All-Defensive Team played in the Western Conference. My predictions provide for more of the same for the West dominance in 2015-16.
The surprise on the 1st Team is the absence of Lebron James. A healthy Durant and a ready-for-primetime-Davis knock Lebron off the NBA 1st Team for only the 3rd time in Lebron’s career. Maybe I am alone in this, but I am also projecting that this will mark the year that Lebron stays off the 1st Team for the rest of his career. That is more of a sign of respect for Durant and Davis, then a slight on Lebron. Durant and Davis look to be prepared to have a stronghold on those spots for at least a few years. Cousins will build on his 2nd Team honor from 2014-15 to establish himself as the top pivot man in the league. Curry and Harden will do just enough to hold off Westbrook to both repeat as 1st teamers with Harden being named MVP. Westbrook could leap Curry for 1st Team honors should the healthy Thunder re-establish themselves as the class of the West and knock the Warriors down a few notches in the process.
With this selection, Lebron would score only his 3rd Second Team honor of his career. Lebron’s numbers will dip as Lebron seeks to involve his teammates more and Kyrie and Love will siphon off some of Lebron’s points and rebounds. Westbrook will need to settle for 2nd Team honors after contending for an MVP trophy in a crowded race. John Wall will celebrate 2nd Team honors after a career year in Washington. Aldridge will thrive as the new focal point in the Spurs offense and will benefit by playing in a team defensive scheme. Gasol’s play on both sides of the ball will be keep the Grizzlies relevant in the hyper-competitive West and his play will not go unnoticed.
Kevin Love will return to his All-NBA form and David Blatt will figure out how to better utilize Love both offensively and on the glass. The Cavs’ team success will also help Love land himself this honor. Thompson, repeats his All-NBA performance as a dynamic two-way player in the most prolific backcourt in the game. Chris Paul and DeAndre Jordan will give the Clips two All-NBA selections, but Griffin will not be one of them. Leonard and Jordan will do most of their damage on the defensive side of the ball, but Leonard and Jordan are the most important players on top tier teams and will be honored in year-end awards.
Wall has had a chip on his shoulder since he was passed over by Team USA and will play 2015-16 like he has something to prove. His commitment will be most obvious on the defensive side of the ball. Tony Allen and Kawhi Leonard will continue building to their reputations as the top perimeter defenders in the league. Green’s ability to guard all of the frontcourt positions and allow the Warriors to play small-ball will contribute to the Warriors having a top defense again this year. Gobert is the surprise newcomer to the All-Defensive Team and will lead the league in blocks and win Defensive Player of the Year anchoring Quinn Snyder’s stingy Jazz defense that easily had the best Defensive Efficency Rating after the All-Star Break last season.
Two Thunder players make the 2nd team and Ibaka makes it back on the All-Defense Team after getting healthy. Westbrook turned the corner last year defensively when he figured out how to use his superior athleticism to dominate on both sides of the ball. He’s averaged 2.2 steals per game that last two seasons and if he stays healthy he may lead the league in steals next season. Ibaka will have lots of chances to help the defensively deficient Kanter. Carroll’s toughness in the playoffs last year and his assignment on Lebron James, showed the world just how good he is. Conley has been one of the best defenders on one of the stingiest defenses for almost a decade. Jordan made headlines this last off-season by rejecting Mark Cuban, but he’ll make more headlines by rejecting anyone crazy enough to challenge Jordan at the rim.
Another year of awards and another year that will be dominated by the Western Conference. I predict only 3 All-NBA spots and only 2 All-Defensive spots will go the players in the East.