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As NBA takes a breather, our expert looks at the All-NBA team at the All-Star break

Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

Throughout the last decade, there has been a growing murmur that has evolved into a clear-cut
exclamation. Decades of highly competitive AAU, an advancing global game, minor league
programs, and strides in medical and training philosophies have progressed this era of NBA
players to the most talented of all time.

The collection of players vying for All-NBA consideration has never been higher. We cut through the noise and considered all metrics and factors in concluding our selections for the three tiers of teams.

This year has shown greater parity amongst contenders. The trade deadline was the perfect
opportunity for contenders to become buyers, setting up a Western Conference arms race come
April. But the players on this list have cemented their stature as All-NBA even before the
deadline, with rising point-per-game averages across the board for many on this list.

Some players, like Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Jalen Brunson, and Domantas Sabonis, took significant jumps toward stardom. In contrast, others added to their legacies, like LeBron James, Kevin Durant, and Stephen Curry. The field was deep with worthy candidates, but we kept it to those whose output contributed the greatest to winning.

We also kept to the league format in deciding each lineup, selecting two guards, two forwards,
and one center for each tier. There has never been a greater argument for dissolving the rigid
positional titles in lieu of selecting the five best players at every level. But since the rules remain
the same, so shall our selections.

So here are our three All-NBA Teams with added commentary on stand-out selection for every tier.

All-NBA First Team

Shai Gilgeous-AlexanderGOklahoma City Thunder
Luka DončićGDallas Mavericks
Jayson TatumFBoston Celtics
Giannis AntetokounmpoFMilwaukee Bucks
Nikola JokićCDenver Nuggets
all-nba first team
Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Winning tends to heavily inform the players selected for this honor — especially those in the
highest tier. But Gilgeous-Alexander has pulled off one of the most impressive single seasons in
recent history. His averages of 30.8 points on 50.8 percent field goal shooting, 4.7 rebounds, and 5.7 assists have him in the candidacy for the Most Improved Player and Most Valuable Player awards.

Furthermore, his ascension has accelerated the Oklahoma City Thunder’s rebuild, with the Thunder only a game out of .500 at the All-Star break. It looks likely they will make the Play-In tournament on the back of SGA, who has become one of the best guards in the league.

Second Team All-NBA

Stephen CurryGGolden State Warriors
Donovan MitchellGCleveland Cavaliers
LeBron JamesFLos Angeles Lakers
Kevin DurantFPhoenix Suns
Joel EmbiidCPhiladelphia 76ers
all-nba second team
Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Joel Embiid should be All-NBA First Team. He’s not because of the league’s antiquated approach toward positional recognition, leaving no room for two centers on the first team.

Between him and Jokić, they are evolving the center position into the modern NBA, with point
guard sensibilities, elite passing, and high-octane perimeter shooting. Embiid is the last player
left from “The Process” era, and he has become the anchor of the 76ers identity and championship contention.

This year Embiid finally has a full season with a second star in James Harden, whom he has developed an elite pick-and-roll game with. But even after adding Harden and reshaping their roster around their skill sets, Embiid is still the sun of Philly’s solar system. And he will continue to be so, whether Harden — a free agent this summer — re-signs or not.

Third Team All-NBA

Jalen BrunsonGNew York Knicks
Ja MorantGMemphis Grizzlies
Jaylen BrownFBoston Celtics
Julius RandleF New York Knicks
Domantas SabonisCSacramento Kings
all-nba third team
Kyle Ross-USA TODAY Sports

It would have been insane to predict the Knicks having two All-NBA selections this past

Many around the league chided the Knicks’ signing of Jalen Brunson as an overpay while selling low on Randle’s stock after an inefficient shooting season where he bad-mouthed fans. But more than halfway through the season, the Knicks are in the sixth seed and six games over .500, their best start since 2013, when they advanced to the second round of the playoffs.

The elite pairing of Brunson and Randle has powered the success. Randle has rejuvenated himself into a legitimate MVP candidate, as he currently sits 7th on NBA.com’s MVP Ladder. Brunson has put together a MIP candidacy with career high averages of 24 points, 6.2 assists, 0.9 steals while shooting 41.1 percent from the perimeter.

The two of them have become a top 10 pick-and-roll duo in the league while serving as the engine of a top 10 offense (7th in Offensive Rating at 115.7) and 8th overall Net Rating.

Lee Escobedo covers the NBA for Sportsnaut. You can follow him on Twitter at @_leeescobedo