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All-NBA teams, award predictions: History beckons for Jokic but LeBron's 19-year streak could come to shuddering halt

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Expert
23rd March, 2024
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NBA award season is just around the corner and while history beckons for Nikola Jokic, this could be the first time LeBron James misses All-NBA selection since some players in the league were not yet born. 

Jokic is all but certain to win his third MVP which would vault the Denver star into rare air alongside all-time greats Larry Bird, Magic Johnson and Moses Malone, trailing only LeBron and Wilt Chamberlain on four, Michael Jordan and Bill Russell with five each and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s record six. 

The Serbian centre is still only 29 and with a game based around intelligence rather than athleticism, it is not beyond the realms of possibility that he could win a couple more. 

LeBron holds the record for most All-NBA selections with 19 and has not missed the honour since his rookie season of 2002-03. 

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But with the Lakers likely to finish in the play-in tournament and his potency diminishing a fraction as he nears his 40th birthday at the end of this year, he is no sure thing to be named among the top 15. 

Here’s how the NBA awards and All-NBA teams are shaping up as the competition enters the final few weeks. 

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MVP: Nikola Jokic. It probably would have been Joel Embiid again if not for his knee injury ending his regular season early in January. Jokic has been masterful for the Nuggets who are in cruise control against most teams and when they meet a fellow contender like Boston, he steps up and the team underlines its status as the benchmark by which all other sides are measured. 

OKC guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is probably the only other possible winner but he would need the Thunder to outlast Denver and Minnesota for top spot in the West and for many voters to be suffering from Joker fatigue. 

Defensive Player of the Year: Rudy Gobert has bounced back after a down year in his Minnesota debut to re-establish himself as the best all-round defender in the NBA. But you’ve got to love the bravado of Victor Wembanyama with the Spurs rookie telling his fellow Frenchman to enjoy winning this award because he’s going to take the mantle from him next season. 

LOS ANGELES, CA - MAY 22: Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James (6) gets past Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic (15) during the Denver Nuggets versus the Los Angeles Lakers in Game 4 of the NBA Western Conference Finals on May 22, 2023, at Crypto.com Arena in Los Angeles, CA. (Photo by Jevone Moore/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James gets past Denver Nuggets centre Nikola Jokic. (Photo by Jevone Moore/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Most Improved Player: Tyrese Maxey will probably win but Bulls guard Coby White should get the gong. Maxey was sensational for the 76ers in the opening half of the season but has not had the same impact since Embiid’s injury. White has been a revelation for Chicago with Zach LaVine sidelined, going from a sixth man scorer into a potential future All-Star. 

Sixth Man: Malik Monk. The Sacramento scorer has been instant offence off the bench for the Kings. It is great timing after bouncing around Charlotte and the Lakers with a huge upgrade in the pipeline as he enters free agency. Minnesota big man Naz Reid, Norman Powell at the Clippers and Dallas veteran Tim Hardaway jnr have had similar impact but won’t run down Monk. 

Coach of the Year: Mark Daigneault is the odds-on favourite after lifting the Thunder to the top of the West. Boston’s Joe Mazzulla and Minnesota’s Chris Finch will also attract plenty of votes but their rosters were expected to be at the pointy end of the standings. JB Bickerstaff has revived Cleveland while Jamahl Mosley has exceeded all expectations at Orlando so they should be right up there as well. 

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All-NBA First Team: This looks pretty straightforward: Jokic, SGA, Giannis Antetokounmpo and Luka Dončić are locks and it would be tough for Jayson Tatum to not get a run given he has led Boston to the best record in the league. 

Positions are no longer taken into consideration when formulating the All-NBA teams but this five-man line-up would form a rather handy starting unit that even the Mon-Stars would struggle to handle. 

All-NBA Second Team: the new 65-game minimum threshold is going to affect the final make-up of this team. 

Donovan Mitchell would have been a sure thing but he has missed too many games for Cleveland. 

Kawhi Leonard has been surprisingly durable this season in his lead role for the LA Clippers, Kevin Garnett deserves a spot for his output at Phoenix and Anthony Edwards is also guaranteed a run following his alpha dog rise at the Timberwolves. 

Warriors veteran Stephen Curry and Knicks guard Jalen Brunson should get the nod for the final two spots for the way they have carried their teams all season long. 

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All-NBA Third Team: This is where it gets tricky for LeBron. 

Tyrese Haliburton should squeak in for 65 games and although his form has tapered off a little recently, he has earned a spot. 

Celtics forward Jaylen Brown has excelled at both ends while Phoenix sharpshooter Devin Booker has dominated for the Suns. 

That leaves just two spots and LeBron is likely going to face stiff competition from Lakers teammate Anthony Davis for the Third Team. 

And while the likes of Orlando rising star Paolo Banchero, Sacramento centre Domantas Sabonis and Pelicans forward Zion Williamson have strong cases for selection, LeBron and AD will probably get the nod even though their team is ninth in the West with a 38-32 record because they’re established superstars from past seasons and they play for the Lakers. 

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