This NBA season has featured mind-blowing individual performances, unbelievable comebacks, tragic injuries and eye-popping highlights.
Every year, the All-NBA First Team honors the best potential starting lineup of players from around the league. Two guards, two forwards and a center are selected.
Last year, Russell Westbrook of the Oklahoma City Thunder, James Harden of the Houston Rockets, LeBron James of the Cleveland Cavaliers, Kawhi Leonard of the San Antonio Spurs and Anthony Davis of the New Orleans Pelicans were chosen.
The closest call came at center, when Davis barely held off Rudy Gobert with an accumulation of 343 versus 339 points.
Although a number of players have already proven that they could qualify for this year’s First Team, there can only be five individuals lucky enough to be labeled as the most elite in the sport. It’s early, but so far, here’s what the team would look like if the season ended today.
Guards: James Harden (Houston Rockets), Kyrie Irving (Boston Celtics)
Harden currently leads the NBA in scoring, averaging 32.5 points per contest. Not only that, but he’s also pulling down 5.1 boards and dishing out an 9.0 assists per contest, which ranks third in the league. Leading the Rockets to a 25-6 record (the best in the NBA), Harden would likely be the frontrunner to win the MVP award if the season ended today. He’d most likely be a unanimous pick to land on the First Team as well.
The second guard spot is where the debate would occur. Although Russell Westbrook is putting up ridiculous numbers, averaging 23.6 points, 9.5 rebounds and 9.9 assists per game, the Oklahoma City Thunder are 18-15 and have looked disjointed to say the least. Also, since Paul George and Carmelo Anthony are now in town, his overall value took a bit of a hit compared to last season when he was literally the entire team. Oddly enough, he is shooting 41.3 percent from the field this year compared to 42.5 percent last year despite the addition of his new co-stars.
A better choice would be Kyrie Irving. Leading the Celtics to a 27-9 record this season has been no small task. Not only did the team lose All-Star forward Gordon Hayward to a dislocated ankle in the first game of the year, but Irving has been forced to navigate a skilled-but-young core. While his averages of 24.9 points and 4.9 assists per game aren’t better than some of the other possible choices, his leadership and newfound commitment to defense have made him an all-around star on one of the highest-achieving teams in the Association.
Honorable mentions: Westbrook, Victor Oladipo (Indiana Pacers)
Forwards: LeBron James (Cleveland Cavaliers), Giannis Antetokounmpo (Milwaukee Bucks)
This is already LeBron’s 15th NBA season, which is incredible. What’s even more amazing is that he has not showed a single glimpse of an impending decline. Averaging 28.4 points, 8.2 rebounds, and 9.2 assists per game for the 24-9 Cavaliers this season, James has carried a new cast of teammates through an initial rough patch to one of the best records in the East. He is a clear-cut choice to earn his NBA-record 12th-career spot on the First Team.
The “Greek Freak” is having a remarkable season for the 17-14 Milwaukee Bucks. Filling the stat sheet by averaging 29.6 points, 10.5 rebounds, 4.6 assists, 1.8 steals and 1.4 blocks per contest, Antetokounmpo has shown a never-before-seen versatility in which he can play every spot on the court on both ends of the floor. He ranks slightly ahead of a few other worthy candidates because he is the clear face of his franchise and he makes the team tick on offense and defense.
Honorable mentions: Kevin Durant (Golden State Warriors), Anthony Davis (New Orleans Pelicans)
Center: DeMarcus Cousins (New Orleans Pelicans)
If the season ended today, Cousins would most likely earn this honor without any real competition. Although the Pelicans are 17-16 this year, Cousins led the Pelicans to a 3-1 record without co-superstar Anthony Davis in the lineup, with their only loss coming to the Golden State Warriors in that scenario.
It’s hard to ignore Cousins’ ridiculous numbers this year. Averaging 25.9 points, 12.1 rebounds and 5.2 assists per contest, he ranks fifth in the league in scoring and fourth in rebounding. He also has posted 24 double-doubles in 33 games this year, ranking second in the league in that regard.
There's a long way to go in the regular season and a lot can change over that span, but as of right now, these five players have stood out above the rest.