2014 All-NBA Playoff Team
The NBA season is over. The San Antonio Spurs are the new champions after drubbing the Miami Heat in a 4-1 Finals victory.
In the process, they set a new NBA record for scoring differential in the Finals, outscoring the Heat by 70 total points in five games. They also set new Finals records for field-goal percentage, (.528) effective field-goal percentage (.604) and true shooting percentage (.635).*
Congratulations to the Spurs for their historic performance.
We’ve been recognizing the postseason’s best performer’s each week, but with the playoffs over, we’re going to make this final edition span the whole playoffs.
In determining the selectees, I included both conventional and advanced stats. Winning was also factored in. The deeper a player’s team went, the more credit for excellence they received.
With that, here is your 2014 All-NBA Playoff team.
Stats for this article came from Basketball-Reference.com and NBA.com/STATS. If they can’t be accessed directly from those two links (for some on the NBA.com page, you need to select “Advanced Stats” in the top left selector) direct links are provided, though they still come from those two sites.
*At times, I had to do the math myself (with help from Excel). In such cases, I provided the link from which I got the data to calculate.
Point Guard: Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City Thunder
Russell Westbrook of the Oklahoma City Thunder had an amazing postseason, even if it was a bit unrecognized and perhaps even overly criticized.
Westbrook had the third-best player impact estimate (PIE), 16.4 percent, trailing only LeBron James and Dwight Howard. He was also the fourth-leading scorer, averaging 26.7 points. He added 8.1 assists and 7.3 rebounds per game as well.
Westbrook joined Larry Bird and Oscar Robertson as the only players to average 25/8/7 through at least 10 postseason games. Westbrook’s Thunder only made it to the Western Conference Finals, but they lost to the eventual champs. He played exceptionally in the losing effort.
Honorable Mention: Chris Paul, Los Angeles Clippers
Chris Paul has been considered the best point guard in the NBA for a number of years now. He’s earned that distinction, but his grip on it is slipping, particularly with a consistent failure to move his team past the second round of the playoffs.
His personal numbers, however, indicate it’s not entirely his fault. Paul averaged 19.8 points and 10.3 assists per game and shot an effective field-goal percentage of .548. It’s hard to look at that and say what he should have done better.
Shooting Guard: Joe Johnson, Brooklyn Nets
At a position dominated by Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant and Dwayne Wade for two decades, there’s now a bit of a void. There tends to be either lopsided, one-way players (James Harden) or older ones decidedly on the downside of their careers (Bryant, Wade).
Joe Johnson of the Brooklyn Nets, therefore, gets the nod here. His team only made it to the second round, but no one who made it deeper was better.
He averaged a remarkably efficient 21.2 points, boasting an effective field-goal percentage of .592. He was also the Nets' top clutch player, notching 20 points when the score was within five and less than five minutes remained.
Wade was hit-and-miss. James Harden was a punch line on defense and—even accounting for threes—was an inefficient volume scorer, with an effective field-goal percentage of just .519.
Honorable Mention: Manu Ginobili
Manu Ginobili of the San Antonio Spurs acquitted himself of last year’s Finals disappointment. Satistically, he was solid, not great, averaging 14.3 points, 3.3 assists and 2.9 rebounds during the postseason. What he was, though, was essential for the freshly crowned champs.
He led all shooting guards in win shares with 2.2. The Spurs outscored their opponents by 182 during the 586 minutes Ginobili was on the court. They were plus-32 during the 523 he wasn’t. Clearly, he was a major part of the Spurs' win.
Small Forward: LeBron James, Miami Heat
Yes, the Miami Heat lost to the Spurs. Yes, Kawhi Leonard deservedly won the Finals MVP (and quite poetically if you consider the unresolved homicide of his dad, and that he won it on Father’s Day).
However, these are not Finals awards, they’re for the entire postseason, and James was better over the haul.
James’ PIE, 21 .2 percent, was significantly better than any other rotation player. The next best was Howard at 17.3 percent.
James had the most win shares, 4.3, and the highest player efficiency rating (PER), 31.1.
His conventional stats were as good as anyone’s too, averaging 27.4 points, 7.1 rebounds and 4.8 assists.
Whether you’re using conventional stats or traditional ones, James was the best playoff performer.
Honorable Mention: Kevin Durant, Oklahoma City Thunder
Kevin Durant had a decent postseason, but it was a significant drop-off from his MVP performance during the regular season. His PER fell from 29.8 in the regular season to 22.6 in the playoffs. Based on earlier research (i.e. a spreadsheet) that’s the second-biggest drop by an MVP in history.
Still, you can argue that Durant was the second-best player this postseason, as he averaged 29.6 points, 8.9 boards and 3.9 dimes. That reveals how wide the gap is between the world’s two best players and everyone else.
Power Forward: Tim Duncan, San Antonio Spurs
Since Tim Duncan earned his thumb ring, it’s easier to make the case he’s the greatest player of his generation, even over Kobe Bryant. Think about it.
If you want to see a complete statistical comparison, click here, but let’s just do a rough one for the sake of brevity.
While it’s a very rough measurement, NBA.com has a stat they call “total stats,” which is just adding points, rebounds and assists. It excludes obvious things like field-goal percentage and has big holes as a result, but it’s still an easy way to do a general comparison.
If we throw in blocks and steals with the other three conventional stats, then combine postseason and regular-season numbers, the statistical comparison is stunningly close. Duncan has a grand total of 55,530, while Bryant has 54,934.
And while this crude measure slightly favors Duncan because rebounds are easier, that’s offset mostly by the fact that Bryant has played, 1,701 more minutes.
The upshot is that in terms of total production, over both their careers, they are within 1 percent of each other. The stats are essentially a wash.
Both players can claim the loyalty tag, so that’s a wash.
They both have an extraordinary legacy of All-Defensive teams, All-Star nominations and All-NBA teams, although as a forward, Duncan has seen more competition than Bryant has.
Duncan, though, has three Finals MVPs to Bryant’s two, and two regular-season MVPs to Bryant’s one.
The argument in Bryant’s favor had been five rings to four, but now that’s a wash. Ergo, Duncan moves ahead of Bryant on the all-time list.
Honorable Mention: LaMarcus Aldridge, Portland Trail Blazers
The toughest decision was choosing between the Portland Trail Blazers’ LaMarcus Aldridge and the Los Angeles Clippers’ Blake Griffin. I ended up going with Aldridge because he’s the best player on his team and Griffin is the second-best on his team.
Aldridge averaged 26.2 points and 10.6 rebounds for the postseason, with 29.8 and 11.2 during Portland’s upset over Houston.
Center: Dwight Howard, Houston Rockets
The state of affairs at the center position is so sad that the only performance worth giving the starting nod to is by a fella who didn’t even break out of the first round. Howard was a beast in his one series, averaging 26.0 points and 13.7 rebounds while serving as the one defensive presence the Rockets had.
There just was no other center who performed consistently. The others I considered, Chris Bosh, Roy Hibbert and Boris Diaw, Marcin Gortat and DeAndre Jordan, had moments where they shone but had just as many where they disappeared.
Honorable Mention: Chris Bosh, Miami Heat
Chris Bosh gets the honorable mention for getting to the Finals and being (arguably) the only player on the Heat other than LeBron James who wasn’t a complete disappointment in the Finals (including Wade).
In this year’s postseason, James had 4.3 win shares. Chris Bosh had 2.0. The rest of the team combined had 2.9.
Yet, when there’s discussions about which of the “Big Three” to jettison, it’s usually Bosh’s name brought up. That seems a bit unfair to Bosh, who has been overly criticized and underappreciated since going to Miami.
That disappointment from the team's bench have many wondering if the Big Three era is over, but James wasn't ready to talk about it, telling the press:
I will deal with my summer when I get to that point. Me and my team will sit down and deal with it. I love Miami. My family loves it. But obviously right now that's not even what I'm thinking about. You guys are trying to find answers. I'm not going to give you one. I'm just not going to give it to you. When I get to that point, I'll deal with it.
By "my team" he means his agent, manager etc., not the Heat, though I'm sure he'll talk with them too.
If James does opt out, Bosh will probably bolt too. And, as the saying goes, you don't know what you've got 'til it's gone.
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