The WNBA announced on Friday morning that this year’s All-WNBA teams will be selected independent of position. That means if five guards, forwards, or centers prove to be deserving of every spot on each team, the voters could make it as such. This is an excellent decision from the league — players of all archetypes, positions, and sizes are anchoring either side of the ball. Positions defined by stature should not inform or inhibit who is eligible to make all-league teams.
Kudos to the WNBA for nailing this decision. The hope is that it continues moving forward and that the NBA soon follows suit, as quickly as the 2022-23 season. I understand the argument and belief All-NBA teams should line up logically. Two guards, two wings, a center, that’s a traditional lineup structure. But my push back comes from the fact these teams are never actually taking the court in a meaningful basketball game. We need to eradicate antiquated positional requirements.
All-NBA and All-WNBA teams should be an insightful snapshot into each season. Recognizing the five, 10, and 15 best players outright rather than the best at specific positions is how you enable these teams to be the most insightful seasonal snapshot possible.
This topic has especially held premium standing in the lexicon over the last two NBA seasons, as Nikola Jokic and Joel Embiid, a pair of centers, have finished first and second in MVP voting during that span. Jokic is the back-to-back winner; Embiid is the back-to-back runner-up. Jokic owns two All-NBA First Team appearances; Embiid, generating the vast majority of his All-NBA buzz at center, carries zero.
Embiid’s misfortune is not the first time an MVP finalist has been squeezed by rigid All-NBA criteria. In 1974, Bob McAdoo finished second in MVP voting and made All-NBA Second Team. The third-place finisher, Bob Lanier, and fourth-place finisher, Dave Cowens, didn’t earn a spot on either of the two All-NBA Teams (a third has since been added).
In 1974, Bob Lanier finished 3rd in MVP voting and didn’t make an All-NBA team.
MVP runner up Bob McAdoo landed on the 2nd team.
(There were only 2 teams back then, so the 4th-place finisher Dave Cowens also missed out on All-NBA.) https://t.co/uo7ydOjqTV
— Ben Taylor (@ElGee35) March 22, 2022
Those occurrences are equally as absurd as Embiid’s recent situations. This dilemma should not happen or exist! If you put together a dominant enough season to be an MVP candidate, let alone the runner-up, you should be a First Team member that year. There is no way around it, and the WNBA deserves credit for rewarding excellence like this. Given the contract incentives tied to some of these honors in the NBA — which is a faulty stipulation as is — broadening the flexibility of the voting process and ensuring the best of the best are on their serving teams is paramount.
The NBA has aimed to avoid these developments the past two years, granting Embiid and Jokic eligibility at forward. But those are tepid amendments when they have to garner enough votes at forward to make the team as one. It is not total votes that you earn you a spot, it’s votes at a specific position of guard, forward or center. Many media members are rather stringent in their criteria, which is an issue itself, and will not tab Embiid or Jokic as a forward, rendering the alteration ineffective altogether.
Basketball is constantly and rapidly evolving. The limits size, athletic gifts, and other factors impose on the role and style players can adhere to are routinely being shattered. The reigning NBA MVP is a center, its reigning Defensive Player of the Year is a guard. Arguably, the NBA’s three premier offensive players are a ground-bound, 6’11 big man; to jittery, 6’2 guard; and a wily, 6’7 wing who win in contrasting manners. Jokic, Embiid, and Giannis were the MVP finalists this past spring. They all have distinct signatures.
Some teams thrive with small-ball, others thrive with tall ball — look at the 2022 NBA Finals! Some are spearheaded offensively by giants, others by ball-handlers I could look in the eye without standing on my tiptoes. Superstars and the sport itself are wildly multidimensional. The WNBA has gotten it right, and it’s long past time All-NBA teams better reflected and celebrated the game’s eclectic nature.