The All-Playoff, First TeamLeBron JamesGive me LeBron because he’s the best. He hasn’t exactly stood out this postseason because he’s merely done what he always does: influence every aspect of the game, every minute he’s on the floor. The spider-string of dominance he casts on both ends of the floor has become rote. But he can also slay you with stylistic daggers, the kind of posterizations that ruin a legacy, or a run. He’s everything, and it’s terrifying.Steph CurryThe cinematic standout of the playoffs, Curry’s hot shooting streaks are reason enough for his Warriors to believe they’re competitors in any and all contests. It’s often forgotten that he’s a hell of a passer, too—fully aware of what the attention he demands from defenses does for his teammates, and great at capitalizing on the misdirection.Kevin Durant Durant’s been phenomenal. If anyone considers the Thunder’s (inevitable) loss to Memphis a referendum on what he’s made of, they ought to think twice. KD’s lost two of the league’s fifteen best players (also terribly close friends, which matters when facing the fire of May) in less than a year, and found out his coach and power forward’s weakness were being hidden by the excellence of three game-changing dynamos, all along. In having to do it all while the rest of them watch, LeBron-circa-2007 style, he’s been a marvel, and worth every bit of his hype.Marc GasolMarc made the big shot against OKC, last night. That he can add a clutch scoring capacity to what he’s already got—league-honored defense, best big-man distributor, co-owner of the paint—is scary. As the pressure of the second season ratchets up, Gasol ascends toward the form of the perfect big man.Roy HibbertWant to eliminate easy paint points entirely? Check. And if Hibbert can keep up what he started Saturday, re-discovering his offense by tipping in 24 points around Tyson Chandler, the Heat are in for a whole lot of work.
—Can anyone just shut up about the fashion choices of NBA players? Last night, Dwyane Wade’s (not-even-that) unusually high pants caused a ruckus of ridicule in broadcasts and all over the net. This seemingly innocuous signifier (Dwyane’s clothing) is actually a pretty clear mark of the times changing. As one player’s come out as gay, plenty more dress like they aren’t afraid of some jock-headed pundit calling him that—certainly a quirk that David Stern didn’t anticipate, in drafting his oppressive dress-code.
—That Marc Gasol’s the defensive player of the year but missed the All-Defensive first squad illuminates the changing valuation of defensive performance, overall. Said change doesn’t show up so clearly in the box scores, yet; and maybe not even the saber-scores. Is there, yet, reliable statistics for how effectively one stays on a team-defense string, help-covers when needed, and bounces in and out of the paint, doing the 2.9 second dance as well as Joakim Noah does? Until there are, honoristic discrepancies like Gasol’s can be expected.
How guaranteed is a second straight Miami title? Are we falling prey to a recency bias, in being so sure of one? Are we distracted by the glamour of their huge winning streak, and their endless open-court style? What challenges have they conquered, in these playoffs? Does shutting down Nate Robinson and Marco Bellinelli (and not even doing it every game) and the Milwaukee Bucks really count as dominance? Are we ignoring that the only way Dwyane Wade can be playing this poorly is if he’s hurt? Isn’t this a circumstance sure to worsen against the relentless Pacers? Are the Grizzlies even better than they look? And, perhaps, do we generally give too much credence to the gravity of a dynasty? (There has, as a matter of fact, been six teams to win the O’Brien cup in the last ten years). I’d still put my money on the Heat, but only if there was a gun to my head. My jury’s still largely out.