The last time LeBron James failed to receive designation for first team All-NBA was the end of the 2006-07 season, where the two forward spots were occupied by future Hall of Famers Tim Duncan and Dirk Nowitzki. Not only does his total of 12 first team selections mark him with the most in league history, his streak of 11 consecutive is the longest the NBA has ever seen. However, that streak not only could, but will likely be broken this season.
There are two major reasons he shouldn’t be expected to be listed among the All-NBA first team selections for the 13th time this season.
Firstly, he has just missed too much time. Suffering from a groin injury, James missed a total of 17 games in a stretch that spanned from late December to the very end of January. He then sat out his 18th game of the season when his Lakers took on the Golden State Warriors in their first February game.
In the last five seasons, only two players have missed similar time and still received an All-NBA first team selection.
During the 2014-15 regular season, Anthony Davis earned a forward spot on the first team while having missed 14 games. That season, though, Davis lead the league in blocks per game and finished with the highest player efficiency rating among all other players, with his 30.8 edging out second-place Russell Westbrook by 1.7.
The only player to miss more games that LeBron and still make it onto the first team recently was Chris Paul, who did so in the 2013-14 season after missing 20 games. However, Paul lead the league in steals per game and his number one ranking in assists per game came with a sizeable gap of 1.9 assists over anyone else. He also finished 21st in scoring with an impressive 19.1 points per game.
Both players were able to overshadow their limited number of games played with some incredible and dominating numbers for the season. Unfortunately for LeBron James, he won’t have the same advantage, sitting outside the top five, and even top 10 in some cases, of many of the influential statistical measures.
Also hurting his case is just how magnificent of a season players like Giannis Antetokounmpo and Paul George are having. Both have seen their names discussed heavily for MVP consideration, with Antetokounmpo being the favorite of many people around the league. They also share incredible team success, with Giannis’ Milwaukee Bucks holding on the best record in the league and Paul George’s Oklahoma City Thunder currently in line for homecourt advantage come playoff time.
Giannis’ numbers have been absolutely phenomenal. He is seventh in the league in scoring, sixth in the league in rebounding, 17th in assists per game, 15th in blocks per game, and just outside the top 20 in steals per game. His 30.3 player efficiency rating slots him in third and eighth in true shooting percentage, with three of the seven names ahead on that list being centers. The Greek Freak also leading the league in total win shares and win shares per 48 minutes. By just about every measure, he has been one of, if not the most statistically dominant players in the league this season.
Paul George has been putting up monstrous numbers of his own. His 28.7 points per game give him second place among all players in the league, only behind James Harden. George also leads the league in steals and is one of only four players averaging at least two steals per game. The OKC wing has earned the seventh spot in win shares per 48 minutes and is 13th in player efficiency rating. With consideration for both the Most Valuable Player and Defensive Player of the Year awards, PG has been one of the most spectacular players this season.
These two players are the most likely names to pop up on the listing for first team All-NBA, and that fails to even weigh LeBron’s season against Kevin Durant, who is worthy of praise and consideration, as well.
LeBron James is one of the greatest players in the history of the sport and arguably still the best player in the league despite being in his 15th season. He still may be the player that many people would want to start a franchise with or want suiting up for their team in a Game 7 of the NBA playoffs. However, he simply hasn’t been one of the two best forwards in the league this season.