The 2012 NBA All-Playoff Team
The 2012 NBA Playoffs are heading towards the Conference Finals and already some of the league’s best players have stepped up and helped their teams advance. Here is a look at the players who have separated themselves from the rest of the league during the 2012 playoffs.
All-Playoff First Team
Rajon Rondo, Boston Celtics
No point guard has done more for their team than Rondo. He leads all players in assists in the playoffs at more than 13 per game and is second in steals. He’s also averaging almost 16 points per game, more than six rebounds and he’s shooting 47% from the field. Rondo has been controlling the pace for the Celtics and is arguably the biggest reason why Boston is on the verge of the Conference Finals for the third time during the ‘Big Three’ era.
Rondo’s improved play has energized the aging Celtics and his ability to get into the paint has opened up the perimeter for Paul Pierce, Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett. If Rondo can continue his torrid pace during the playoffs, the Celtics could be looking at their third trip to the NBA Finals in the last five years.
Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City Thunder
Westbrook is peaking at the perfect time. After averaging 3.6 turnovers per game during the regular season, he’s averaging only 1.6 during the playoffs. Westbrook’s ability to control the tempo of the game without losing control of himself or the ball is one of the reasons the Thunder have eliminated the last two NBA champions from the playoffs in the Dallas Mavericks during round one and the Los Angeles Lakers during round two.
Westbrook is pouring in more than 24 points per game, grabbing almost five rebounds and dishing out over four assists. His play has been nothing short of spectacular. In last year’s playoffs Westbrook took most of the blame for the Thunder’s Conference Finals loss to the eventual champion Mavericks, this year it’s clear he’s out to prove that he’s not just one of the best point guards in the league, but he’s one of the best players in the world.
LeBron James, Miami HEAT
No player has been more criticized during the playoffs than James, and no player has lifted his game to greater heights, either. James is the second-leading scorer during the playoffs at 29.1 points per game. With Chris Bosh missing all but the first game of the second round against the Indiana Pacers, James has done everything his coach has asked him to do.
James has been playing more power forward than he’s used to and because the HEAT are missing their best big man, James has taken it upon himself to dominate the glass. During the playoffs James has averaged nine rebounds per game, but against the Pacers, a team that features all-star center Roy Hibbert and former all-star power forward David West, James is averaging almost 12 boards per night.
James’ 40-point, 18-rebound and 9-assist effort on the road in game four against the Indiana Pacers was a historic performance that will be remembered for generations. Had the HEAT lost game four, they would have been looking at a near-impossible 3-1 deficit and another possible playoff flameout. Instead, James has put the HEAT on his back and has them one game away from another trip to the Eastern Conference Finals.
Kevin Durant, Oklahoma City Thunder
It should come as no surprise that the Thunder have two players that would be considered all-playoff first team. They didn’t just dispatch the last two NBA champions, but they did so in dominating fashion. They’ve lost only one game during their run to the Western Conference Finals and Durant’s clutch shooting has been a big reason why.
Durant hit a game-winning shot against the Mavericks in game one with 1.5 seconds remaining on the clock, he did again in game two against the Lakers with 18 seconds left and then drilled a three-pointer in game four against the Lakers with only 13.7 seconds left. Durant is leading the Thunder in scoring at almost 27 points a game, which isn’t a surprise, but he’s also leading the team in rebounding with just over eight per game.
Durant is also doing work on the defensive end. He was tasked with guarding Kobe Bryant during most of the fourth quarters during their second round series. Durant’s standout defensive performance came during the Thunder’s crucial road victory in game four when he held Kobe to just 2-10 shooting in the fourth quarter.
Kevin Garnett, Boston Celtics
It’s odd to put Garnett on a list as a center, but that is the position he has played almost the entire season for the Celtics. In fact, he seems to have been rejuvenated by moving from power forward to center. His defensive presence is as always, stellar. His rotations and intimidation in the paint is one of the main reason teams are only averaging 84.9 points per game against the Celtics, the best mark during the playoffs.
The move to center has also made Garnett a bigger factor on the offensive end. He’s tied with Paul Pierce for the team lead in points at 19.3 per game and is shooting over 52% from the field. Not bad for player who hasn’t averaged more than 16 points a game during the regular season in more than four years.
All-Playoff Second Team
Kobe Bryant, Los Angeles Lakers
A case could certainly be made that the playoffs’ leading scorer deserves to be on the first team; unfortunately, the Lakers are heading home while the Thunder and Celtics are still playing. Also, Bryant’s efficiency wasn’t in the same class as Westbrook or Rondo’s. Bryant averaged 2.8 turnovers per game and while he may have averaged 30 points, he shot below 44% from the field and it took him 25 shots a game to get those 30 points, more than any other player in the playoffs.
Tony Parker, San Antonio Spurs
If your team goes 8-0 and steamrolls into the Western Conference Finals, at least one player has to be considered for the all-playoff team. For the Spurs, Parker has been the catalyst that they run every offensive set through. He is the team’s leading scorer at over 19 points per game and is dishing out over seven assists. Thanks to Parker’s unrelenting offensive style, the Spurs are the playoffs leading scoring team at over 102 points per game.
Tim Duncan, San Antonio Spurs
Duncan, like Garnett, is turning back the clock. In only 32 minutes of action per game, Duncan is averaging 17.6 points on 54% shooting from the field and nine rebounds. Where Duncan has had the biggest impact though is on the defensive side of the ball. As always he is in the right place at the right time and is averaging one steal per game and almost 2 blocks.
Josh Smith, Atlanta Hawks
Smith is the playoffs leading rebounder at 13.6 per game, yes he only played five games, but he proved to be the Hawks best player in the first round against the Celtics. Smith not only dominated the glass for the Hawks but was also the team’s leader in assists and was second to Joe Johnson in scoring. Had Smith been available for game three in Boston, an eventual six-point loss, it could be the Hawks on the verge of the Conference Finals instead of the Celtics.
Andrew Bynum, Los Angeles Lakers
Bynum has deservedly received some of the blame for the Lakers second round loss to the Thunder, but it’s hard to argue with his numbers during the playoffs. He shot almost 48% from the field, scored almost 17 points per game, is third in the playoffs in rebounding with over 11 per game, and blocked more than three shots a night. The fans, media and even Kobe may want to point the finger at Bynum (and Pau Gasol) for the Lakers early exit, but it’s impossible for him to score when Kobe is taking 25 shots a game and Bynum is only taking 12.