The NBA changed its All-NBA Team format, and it’s so stupid

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The NBA is announcing its end-of-season awards before the playoffs begin, and it includes a major change that’s one of the most nonsensical decisions not just in the NBA, but in any sport.

The 2023-24 season is the first year to ignore positions when it comes to the All-NBA teams, a move that now just throws together five players and calls them a “team” without anything to really back it up. It’s led to ballots like this, which on first glance make absolutely no sense.

Regardless of the fact that this is Perkins’ ballot, and ignoring the mind-boggling decision to snub Giannis Antetokounmpo after he became the first player in NBA history to average 30-plus points per game on 60-percent shooting — this list is both totally valid, and utterly nonsensical at the same time.

However, this is exactly what the NBA wanted by removing positions. The league made the decision on a whim, partially because it didn’t want to deal with Nikola Jokic and Joel Embiid trading off being snubbed at the 5 spot — especially with the rise of Victor Wembanyama around the corner. It created a logjam of talent at one position.

The entire problem the NBA tried to solve for didn’t even manifest this season, with Embiid being ineligible for the team because of games missed. This also has a trickle down effect on the rest of the end-of-year awards, because now the 2nd team All-NBA is simply the best players ranked 6-10, with the 3rd team being 11-15.

It would be the equivalent of the NFL’s All-Pro team having multiple quarterbacks on it, simply because they wanted to make everyone feel valuable. The issue is that historically there has always been brutal choices when it comes to deciding on the “best” player at each position — and it should be.

From 1959-to-1968 voters had to decide between Wilt Chamberlain and Bill Russell at the center spot, as the two traded back and forth for the honor of being on the 1st team All-NBA, with the runner up on the second. In the early 90s this happened again with David Robinson and Hakeem Olajuwon at the 5 spot.

LeBron James’ dominance in the late 2000s and beyond led to dozens of brilliant players missing out on their 1st team flowers because they were forced to play in LeBron’s shadow — but this is the entire point of making positions important.

The 1st team All-NBA should be a time capsule for basketball that season. A chance to look back, as we are now, at the brilliant teams of the past and compare talent across positions. It’s a unique opportunity to have interesting debates about whether the 1992-93 team of Mark Price/Michael Jordan/Charles Barkley/Karl Malone/Hakeem Olajuwon could beat the 2012-13 team of Chris Paul/Kobe Bryant/LeBron James/Kevin Durant/Tim Duncan.

That’s impossible when it’s just a loose collective of the best players, regardless of position. In 20 or 30 years time it will be nigh impossible to evaluate where the current era of players was strong or weak, without pouring over rotation minutes to work out who played where.

The All-NBA Team should be a TEAM. Wild concept, I know. By making an effort to ensure everyone feels special, nothing is special.



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