The All-NBA teams were announced today, and for the first time ever, a Los Angeles Clipper was on the first team. It was also the first time since 2006 that a Clippers made any of the three All-NBA teams and the first time ever that two Clippers received honors.
Chris Paul was voted first team All-NBA, receiving 74 of 120 possible first place votes from the journalists on the selection panel, and accumulating 484 points. Blake Griffin was selected to the second team, without getting a single first place vote while accumulating 170 points.
There's little question that Paul was deserving of the first team honor. Although the voting is done by position, those positions are guard, forward and center, so there's no obligation to vote for Paul as the top point guard in the league. But that's exactly what he was this season. Steve Nash remains great for a player in his late 30s, and Tony Parker had a terrific season and was rewarded with second team honors, but Paul quieted the debate between himself and Deron Williams and others, at least for the time being -- he's the best point guard in the NBA, period.
His numbers were astounding, but his impact on the Clippers may be the more telling piece of information here. The Clippers went from a winning percentage of .390 without Paul to .606 with him, turning their losing record on its head. That's really all you need to know right there.
One thing you can count on regarding Griffin's second team selection is a major backlash. The chorus of critics calling him overrated and "just a dunker" was pretty loud before -- it's likely to get deafening now. Of course those criticisms have always been off base. Griffin has myriad weaknesses in his game and loads of things to work on, as I've been the first to point out. But it doesn't alter the fact that he was incredibly productive in this his second season. For instance, Griffin doesn't get nearly enough credit for his high field percentage this season. At .549, he had the seventh best shooting percentage in the league among qualified players. The six players ahead of him are all centers, and none of them had as high a scoring average as Griffin.
The combination of scoring, rebounding and shooting percentage is unmatched by any player other than Dwight Howard, and that level of productivity is clearly All-NBA level. So while Griffin clearly has much to work on, that's mainly an indication of how high his ceiling is; it doesn't mean that he's not already elite.
Obviously he was just outplayed by Tim Duncan in the playoffs, but there's something you need to bear in mind about that. The All-NBA team is a regular season honor, not a playoff honor. Griffin played 2392 minutes this regular season, fourth most in the league. Duncan played 1634 as Gregg Popovich rationed his minutes and rested him intermittently throughout the season. That's 758 more minutes for Griffin, 46% more than Duncan. Likewise LaMarcus Aldridge who had a terrific season, played fewer than 2000 minutes because he missed 11 games, and Carmelo Anthony also missed 11 games and played 1876 minutes. Woody Allen has said that 80% of life is showing up, and Griffin showed up -- a lot.
So anyone who says that Griffin didn't deserve to be selected second team All-NBA is wrong. He clearly did deserve it. Had Aldridge not been hurt, I might have been inclined to put him on the second team and Griffin on the third team, but given the combination of Griffin's productivity and his durability, not to mention the Clippers success as a team, there's no question that the honor is well-deserved.
For what it's worth, the vote also establishes Griffin as the second best power forward in the NBA at the present time. The first team All NBA forwards, LeBron James and Kevin Durant, are both small forwards. Love received more votes than Griffin on the second team and so gets the mythical title of best power forward from the voters. But the debate over whether Love or Griffin is the best young power forward in the NBA has officially changed -- you can take the word young out of there, it's just best power forward now.
It's also interesting to look at the power couples around the league. Three teams had one player each on the first and second team (Clippers Paul and Griffin, Lakers Kobe Bryant and Andrew Bynum and Thunder Durant and Russell Westbrook), a fourth had a first team and third team selection (the Heat with James and Dwyane Wade) and a fifth with two third team selections (the Knicks with Anthony and Tyson Chandler, an obvious drop off). As we said the day they traded for Paul, the Clippers' Big Two ranks with any in the league. It also has the advantage of being younger than the Lakers' duo or the Heat's duo, and more complementary than the Thunder pair or the Heat pair.
The Clippers still need to identify some better pieces to array with Paul and Griffin. While no team had three All-NBA selections, Pau Gasol of the Lakers, Chris Bosh of the Heat and James Harden and Serge Ibaka of the Thunder all received at least a few All NBA votes. The Clippers don't have any other players worthy of that sort of consideration at this point, and finding one or two is the next order of business.
But getting the Big Two is the really hard part, and that task is complete. The All NBA teams is simply validation for what we already knew -- Paul and Griffin form one of the truly elite tandems in the NBA.