Yesterday the NBA announced their yearly All-NBA teams. We saw some familiar names such as LeBron James and Kawhi Leonard, but we also saw four players make an All-NBA team for the first time: Luka Doncic, Pascal Siakam, Jayson Tatum and Ben Simmons.
Luka joined some truly elite company, becoming the first 21-year-old selected to the first-team since Kevin Durant in 2010, and the first 21-year-old to do so in their first two seasons since Tim Duncan in 1998.
Jayson Tatum became the youngest Celtics player to make an All-NBA team since Ed Macauley in 1951. Truly remarkable considering he plays for a franchise that has featured the likes of Bill Russell, Bob Cousy, Sam Jones, John Havlicek, Dave Cownes, Jo Jo White, Larry Bird, Kevin McHale, Robert Parish and Paul Pierce.
The point of this post: Luka and Jayson joined a list consisting of some of the best players in NBA history.
Stay with me here.
Consider this: starting with the 1976-1977 All-NBA teams (the first All-NBA teams since the NBA-ABA merger), 164 players have made at least one All-NBA team. Of those players, the following 22 made their first All-NBA appearance when they were below the age of 23 AND before their fourth season in the league:
- Kobe Bryant (20 years old, 3rd season)
- LeBron James (20, 2nd season)
- Carmelo Anthony (21, 3rd season)
- LUKA DONCIC (21, 2nd season)
- Tim Duncan (21, rookie)
- Kevin Durant (21, 3rd season)
- Dwight Howard (21, 3rd season)
- Isiah Thomas (21, 2nd season)
- Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (22, rookie)
- Anthony Davis (22, 3rd season)
- Paul George (22, 3rd season)
- Magic Johnson (22, 3rd season)
- Michael Jordan (22, rookie)
- Dirk Nowitzki (22, 3rd season)
- Shaquille O’Neal (22, 2nd season)
- Chris Paul (22, 3rd season)
- Derrick Rose (22, 3rd season)
- Amar’e Stoudemire (22, 3rd season)
- JAYSON TATUM (22, 3rd season)
- David Thompson (22, 2nd season)
- Karl-Anthony Towns (22, 3rd season)
- Russell Westbrook (22, 3rd season)
* bold for player to join list this season
This is elite company. Excluding Tatum and Doncic, there are 20 players on this list.
Lets break it down a bit more:
Between those 20 players, there are 174 All-NBA selections, 106 specifically to the first-team. That averages out to 8.7 All-NBA selections and 5.3 first-team selections per player (basically the career of Kevin Durant to date).
Only two players on this list have not been selected to the first-team during their careers: Carmelo Anthony and Karl-Anthony Towns.
Only three players on this list have less than 5 All-NBA selections: David Thompson, Derrick Rose, and again, Towns (note: Towns, 24, has only played 5 seasons).
11 of the 20 players have won an MVP; 5 – Kareem, Jordan, LeBron, Magic and Duncan – have won multiple MVPs.
10 of the 20 players have won a Finals MVP; 8 of the 20 players have won at least two, and the 5 players in NBA history to win at least three – Magic, Shaq, Duncan, LeBron and Jordan – are on this list.
My point: you have to feel pretty good if you’re a fan of Doncic and Tatum, and specifically for the futures of the Dallas Mavericks and Boston Celtics.
As Ryan Bernardoni describes it above, making an All-NBA team by your third season is a strong indicator of being capable of being the best player on a title team (I added the additional criteria of being 22 or younger).
Of course not every player on this list has won a championship (nor does this list include all the best players on all championship teams the past 40 years), but more than half the players on the list (thus far) have been a primary reason their team made the Finals. Tatum, already in the Eastern Conference Finals, could lead Boston to the Finals this season. The only other players on this list to lead their teams to the NBA Finals during their first All-NBA season are Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (1970) and Magic Johnson (1982).
There’s no guarantee Dallas and Boston will win a title with Doncic and Tatum, but this list shows each player is talented enough to lead a team to a championship; history is on their side. At the same time, teams this century such as Orlando (Dwight), Oklahoma City (Durant and Westbrook), Indiana (George) and New Orleans (Davis) serve as cautionary tales for what can go wrong if you don’t capitalize on that talent. Hopefully it does not come to that for the Mavs and C’s
If it wasn’t clear already, Luka Doncic and Jayson Tatum are the future of the NBA, and if this year has shown us anything, the future of the NBA is in very good hands.
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