My Ballot For All-NBA Third Team
By Ian Smith
My choices for All-NBA Third Team were especially difficult to make.
The reality of no Fourth Team existing means that if your favorite player hasn’t made my ballot for either this team or my previous First and Second Team selections, they haven’t made the cut. Fortunately for them I don’t have an actual vote, so maybe they’ll end up making one of the actual teams. If not, there’s always next year.
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It must have been a pretty fantastic year for point guards if Paul struggled just to make the Third Team, but his ability as a bona-fide floor general along with his talent on defense secured him a spot on this team. He averaged 19.5 points per game and 10 assists per game, making him 1 of only 3 point guards in the league to reach both of those benchmarks. His defensive capabilities were on full display, as he averaged 2.1 steals per game. Paul also ranked 1st in the league in Assist Percentage, 3rd in steals per game, 3rd in Steal Percentage, 3rd in Offensive Box Plus/Minus, 4th in Real Plus-Minus, 4th in Offensive Real Plus-Minus, 5th in Real Plus-Minus WINS, 6th in Offensive Win Shares, 6th in Box Plus/Minus, 6th in Player Efficiency Rating, 7th in Value Added, 7th in Estimated Wins Added, 7th in Win Shares, 8th in Value Over Replacement Player, and 10th in Offensive Rating. Specifically for point guards, Paul also ranked 1st in Defensive Real Plus-Minus, demonstrating his value as a two-way player. Apologies to Damian Lillard, who had an admirable performance this season to lead the Portland Trail Blazers to the playoffs, but Paul statistically had a better season, and the Clippers surely appreciate his production.
Although the Chicago Bulls severely underachieved this season, nobody can blame Butler for their struggles. In fact, he might be the league’s consummate overachiever. His career trajectory his mirrored Kawhi Leonard’s, developing a terrific offensive game to go along with tenacious defensive effort. Butler has increased his scoring average each season he’s been in the league, scoring a career high 20.9 points per game this campaign. Although his defense has slipped from its peak a couple seasons ago, he remains a dual threat. He’s not nearly as good of a shooter as Klay Thompson, but Butler edges him out for this spot based on a wider range of in-game impact. Butler ranked 12th in the league in Offensive Win Shares, 14th in Offensive Real Plus-Minus, 14th in Offensive Box Plus/Minus, 15th in Value Over Replacement Player, and 15th in Box Plus/Minus. Specifically for shooting guards, he ranked 2nd in Offensive Rating, 3rd in Win Shares, 3rd in Player Efficiency Rating, 3rd in Value Added, 3rd in Estimated Wins Added, 3rd in Real Plus-Minus, and 3rd in Real Plus-Minus WINS. Butler is an uplifting example of a star who clawed his way to elite status without the benefit of the hype machine behind him coming out of college.
The third player on this list also known for his defensive talents to go along with a prodigious offensive game. George overcame a devastating leg injury to reclaim his position as a superstar player in this league. He beat out Carmelo Anthony soundly for this spot, as Anthony failed to measure up to George’s all-around proficiency, forced to toil in New York and cursed to put up meaningless scoring numbers without the possibility of any significant impact to the NBA landscape. George averaged a career high 23.1 points per game this season, 7.0 rebounds per game, and 1.9 steals per game, remarkably playing the best basketball he ever has. George ranked 6th in the league in 3 point field goals made, 7th in Defensive Win Shares, 10th in Real Plus-Minus WINS, 11th in Value Over Replacement Player, 12th in Offensive Real Plus-Minus, 12th in Box Plus/Minus, 13th in Value Added, 13th in Estimated Wins Added, 13th in Real Plus-Minus, 15th in Steal Percentage, and 15th in Offensive Box Plus/Minus. The Indiana Pacers are lucky to have a deft weapon on both offense and defense to help them win games.
The theme of multi-faceted players continues, and Millsap is probably a stronger defender than he is an offensive force. He’s able to put up consistently solid numbers on offense, though, and he’s a big reason why the Atlanta Hawks have been so successful in recent years. Millsap averaged 17.1 points per game, 9 rebounds per game, 1.7 blocks per game, and 1.8 steals per game, filling up stat sheets with ease. Anthony Davis was a strong candidate for this slot, but his time missed ended up hurting his case. Davis may have had better scoring and rebounding numbers than Millsap, but Millsap earned this selection through greater defensive influence over a longer period of time. Millsap ranked first in the NBA in Defensive Win Shares, 3rd in Defensive Box Plus/Minus, 4th in Defensive Rating, 10th in Value Over Replacement Player, 10th in Box Plus/Minus, 11th in Real Plus-Minus, 11th in Real Plus-Minus WINS, 13th in Win Shares, and 13th in Defensive Real Plus-Minus. Amongst specifically power forwards, Millsap ranked 2nd in the association in Value Added as well as Estimated Wins Added. Millsap’s positive effect on both ends of the court warrants his inclusion on this list.
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I can no longer deny the urge to put this extremely gifted inside scorer on this list. His offensive game is too tremendous to let him slip any further. It was a tough call between him and Andre Drummond, who’s probably the best rebounder in the NBA right now. Drummond has the edge on defense, but Cousins gets the nod based on his offensive prowess. Cousins was 4th in the league with 26.9 points per game and 5th in the league with 11.5 rebounds. No other player ranked in the top 5 in both categories. Cousins was still able to make his presence felt on defense, though, swatting away 1.4 blocks per game and swiping 1.6 steals per game. Cousins ranked 12th in the NBA in Player Efficiency Rating, 12th in Real Plus-Minus, 14th in Defensive Real Plus-Minus, 14th in Real Plus-Minus WINS, tied for 14th in Estimated Wins Added, and 15th in Value Added. Specifically for centers, Cousins ranked 2nd in Offensive Real Plus-Minus. Cousins is a big fish in a small pond for the perennially lottery-bound Sacramento Kings, and the franchise dysfunction is robbing a dynamic player from truly impacting the league on a grander scale beyond just impressive statistics.