Giannis Antetokounmpo

Marcus Smart, Mikal Bridges Head All-Defensive Team

Marcus Smart, Mikal Bridges, Rudy Gobert, Giannis Antetokounmpo and Jaren Jackson Jr. comprise the 2021/22 All-Defensive First Team, the NBA announced in a press release.

Smart, who was voted Defensive Player of the Year, received the most points with 198 (99 first-place votes), but he was left off of one voter’s ballot. It’s his third All-Defensive nod, all First Team.

DPOY runner-up Bridges was second with 193 points (it’s his first All-Defensive team), followed by third place finisher Gobert (171), a three-time DPOY who has now been voted to the First Team for the sixth straight season.

Antetokounmpo, the ’19/20 DPOY, was voted to his fourth consecutive First Team. He was also selected to the Second Team in ’16/17, so it’s his fifth nod overall.

Jackson, who led the league in blocked shots per game at 2.27, makes his first All-Defensive Team, edging Bam Adebayo by just one point (153 to 152) for the First Team. It’s the third straight season Adebayo has been selected to the Second Team.

Jrue Holiday earns his fourth All-Defensive honor, now owning two Firsts and two Seconds. He also earned a $120K bonus for his efforts, per Jim Owczarski of The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (Twitter link), which will increase the Bucks‘ luxury tax payment to about $52MM.

Matisse Thybulle was selected to the Second Team for the second straight year, while Robert Williams earns his first nod. Williams has a $223,215 bonus attached to his rookie scale extension, but he won’t earn it for his efforts this season because he’s in the final season of his rookie contract. However, the award will change his cap hit for ’22/23 (up to $10,937,502), because he’s now considered likely to achieve an All-D nod again next season, as ESPN’s Bobby Marks relays (via Twitter).

Draymond Green, the ’16/17 DPOY, was the final selection to the Second Team. It’s his seventh All-Defensive Team overall (four Firsts, three Seconds). Green is now second among all active players in All-Defensive Team awards, only trailing Chris Paul (nine). He was previously tied with LeBron James at six.

Here are both All-Defensive teams in full, with their voting point totals noted in parentheses. Players received two points for a First Team vote and one point for a Second Team vote.

2021/22 All-Defensive First Team:

2021/22 All-Defensive Second Team:

A total of 24 other players received votes: 10 guards, 11 forwards and three centers. Among the group that missed the cut, Fred VanVleet was the top guard with 41 points, Evan Mobley was the top forward with 13, and Joel Embiid was the top center with 33. The full results can be found here.

One thing worth noting, which I personally disagree with: media members with ballots are asked to select two guards, two forwards and one center for each team, and vote for players “at the position they play regularly,” which is counterintuitive in the modern NBA, where positions increasingly matter less and less. “Players who received votes at multiple positions were slotted at the position at which they received the most voting points,” per the release.

Forcing voters to shoehorn players into positions is a poor process. For example, Adebayo starts at center, but is listed as a forward; Bridges is listed at guard, but starts at small forward. I’m not saying those players were undeserving, far from it — but it’s an irritating and outdated inconsistency.

In my opinion, the best defensive players should be on the All-Defensive teams, regardless of position. I’d also like to see a third All-D team so more recognition is given to players for their efforts on the less glamorous end of the court.

Bucks Notes: Hill, Matthews, Horst, Antetokounmpo, Ibaka

George Hill returned to action in Game 3 of the Bucks’ series against the Celtics and had no setbacks. The veteran guard is not listed on the injury report for Monday’s game, Jim Owczarski of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel tweets. Hill, who hadn’t seen action since April 8 due to an abdominal strain, played 11 scoreless minutes with one assist in Game 3.

We have more on the defending champions:

  • Wesley Matthews‘ excellent defense and the Bucks’ scheme frustrated Jayson Tatum in Game 3. Tatum now has to figure out how to get to his sweet spots more frequently, Jared Weiss of The Athletic writes. Weiss takes an in-depth on the Bucks’ plan against Tatum and how he might counter in Game 4.
  • Boston fumed about a no-call in the closing seconds of Game 3. Surprisingly, Bucks GM Jon Horst also felt the officiating wasn’t up to par, as he told Eric Nehm of The Athletic“I couldn’t do their job. You couldn’t do their job,” Horst said. “Officiating is hard, just like playing is hard and coaching is hard, and I think we all have a standard of trying to get better and improve. And at the end of the day, that’s what stood out to me. We have to improve. That wasn’t a quality playoff basketball game, and I think officiating played a role in that.”
  • Giannis Antetokounmpo takes all kinds of punishment and doles it out, too. His teammates marvel at his mental toughness with defenses constantly collapsing on him, Steve Aschburner of NBA.com writes. “He’s so good at being mentally strong,” center Brook Lopez said. “He obviously has lots of guys throwing themselves at him when he’s trying to get into his moves and make plays for himself and everyone else. He does a great job of sticking with it, staying in the game, and just keeping his mojo … It can be frustrating at times. He does a great job of just kind of letting it go like water off a duck’s back.”
  • Serge Ibaka was a late scratch from Monday’s game due to a non-COVID illness, Lily Zhao of FOX6 tweets. Ibaka has made two cameo appearances in the series.

Eastern Notes: Giannis, Hill, Dedmon, Isaac

Bucks superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo declined to criticize the officiating after Game 3 on Saturday, Mike Hart of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel writes. Instead, Antetokoummpo joked that he’d rather avoid the fine and spend his money on something else.

“How much does it cost if I say a comment about the ref?” he asked, as relayed by The Sporting News (Twitter link). “Is it $20,000? It’s a lot of money. So, I should not do it. I’ll save my money, I’ve got to pay for diapers.”

Antetokoumpo, of course, has a two-year-old son. He put forth an excellent performance in Game 3, finishing with 42 points, 12 rebounds and eight assists in the win. The Bucks were called for six more fouls than the Celtics and shot 17 fewer free throws.

There’s more from the Eastern Conference today:

Central Notes: Bucks, Tatum, Brissett, Pistons

Guarding Jayson Tatum will require a team effort from the defending champion Bucks, Eric Nehm of The Athletic writes. Milwaukee will open its second-round series against Boston on Sunday, playing the only undefeated team remaining in the postseason.

As Nehm notes, Jrue Holiday was Tatum’s primary defender this season, but a lot has changed for both clubs. Milwaukee is expected to play without Khris Middleton (MCL sprain), which likely means Bobby Portis will continue to start for the team.

With Holiday, Wesley Matthews, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Portis and Brook Lopez starting, the Bucks held the Bulls to an average of 92 points in three games last series. Starting Portis would also allow Milwaukee to match Boston’s big men and designate Antetokounmpo as Tatum’s primary defender.

The Bucks will certainly miss Middleton, the team’s second-leading scorer at 20.1 points per game this season, but as Nehm writes, it’ll take a full team effort to slow down Tatum and the Celtics.

Here are some other notes from the Central Division:

  • Zach Lowe of ESPN lays out why the Bucks will need absolute peak Giannis Antetokounmpo to beat the Celtics. Antetokounmpo is coming off a season where he averaged a career-high 29.9 points, 11.6 rebounds and 5.8 assists per game, shooting 55% from the floor. Boston tends to play two big men at all times (starting with Al Horford and Robert Williams III), making it difficult to score at the rim. When you combine this with Middleton’s absence, Milwaukee will certainly need a group effort on both ends to win this series.
  • James Boyd of the Indianapolis Star explores why the Pacers should consider turning down Oshae Brissett‘s $1.85MM team option. By declining the option, Indiana could make Brissett a restricted free agent this summer instead of an unrestricted free agent next summer. The Pacers would be able to match any offer Brissett gets from a rival club. He averaged 9.1 points and 5.3 rebounds in 23.3 minutes per game in 67 appearances this season.
  • Keith Langlois of Pistons.com examines a number of Pistons-related notes in his latest mailbag, including which team may express interest in Jerami Grant and the chances of a Killian Hayes trade. Detroit finished the season 23-59, but it still has a young core headlined by No. 1 pick Cade Cunningham.

NBA Announces 2021/22 Award Finalists

The NBA has announced the 2021/22 season award finalists for the league’s six major awards: Most Valuable Player, Rookie of the Year, Sixth Man of the Year, Coach of the Year, Defensive Player of the Year and Most Improved Player.

[RELATED: Hoops Rumors’ 2022 NBA Award Picks]

The awards were voted on by a panel of sportswriters and broadcasters. The three top vote-getters for each award are the finalists. They are as follows:

Most Valuable Player:

Rookie of the Year:

Sixth Man of the Year:

Coach of the Year:

  • Taylor Jenkins (Grizzlies)
  • Erik Spoelstra (Heat)
  • Monty Williams (Suns)

Defensive Player of the Year:

Most Improved Player:

Winners will be announced during TNT’s coverage of the NBA playoffs, according to the league.

Nikola Jokic, Giannis Antetokounmpo Named Players Of The Month

Two of the top contenders for this season’s Most Valuable Player award have been named the NBA’s Players of the Month for March/April.

Nuggets center Nikola Jokic earned Player of the Month honors in the West, while Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo was named the Player of the Month for the East, the league announced (via Twitter).

Jokic, who appeared in 19 games in March and April, capped off an MVP-caliber season by averaging 31.6 PPG, 13.7 RPG, 7.5 APG, 1.8 SPG, and 1.3 BPG in 34.9 MPG across those 19 appearances, shooting 63.6% from the field. Denver had an 11-8 record in the games Jokic played.

Antetokounmpo, meanwhile, led the Bucks to a 13-3 record in his 16 games in March and April. In 33.5 minutes per contest, he averaged 31.5 points, 12.3 reobunds, 5.0 assists, 1.3 steals, and 1.2 blocks with a .579 FG%. The team went 1-3 in March and April when Giannis was unavailable.

Jokic is the only Western Conference player to have won two Player of the Month awards this season — he also earned the honor in January. In the East, Antetokounmpo joins Joel Embiid (twice), Kevin Durant, and DeMar DeRozan as this season’s Players of the Month.

The other nominees for March/April were Devin Booker, Luka Doncic, Dejounte Murray, Jordan Poole, and Karl-Anthony Towns in the West, along with Embiid, Durant, LaMelo Ball, Darius Garland, Pascal Siakam, Jayson Tatum, and Trae Young in the East (Twitter link).

Atlantic Notes: Rivers, Embiid, Toppin, Durant, Brown

Speaking to reporters this weekend, Sixers coach Doc Rivers made a case for Joel Embiid to win the Most Valuable Player award, as Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer relays. Embiid is currently in the midst of his best season, averaging 30.0 points, 11.5 rebounds and 4.3 assists per game.

“Listen, I don’t get on this, but I really believe he should be the MVP,” Rivers said.

In addition to his impressive averages, Embiid has led Philadelphia to a 47-30 record. He’ll face stiff competition for the award this year, which will include Denver’s Nikola Jokic, Memphis’ Ja Morant, Phoenix’s Devin Booker and Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo.

Here are some other notes from the Atlantic:

  • The Knicks have been eliminated from playoff contention, but second-year forward Obi Toppin is showing he still cares about the games, Neil Best of Newsday writes. Toppin most recently finished with 20 points, four rebounds and four assists in a loss to the Cavaliers on Saturday, showing potential at 24 years old.
  • The Nets dropped a 122-115 game to the Hawks on Saturday despite receiving a superstar performance from Kevin Durant, Brian Lewis of the New York Post writes. Durant finished with a career-high 55 points on 19-of-28 shooting from the floor (68%), but it clearly wasn’t enough. Brooklyn forced just six Atlanta turnovers and allowed over 115 points for a fourth straight game.
  • Now that the Celtics have won 49 games, forward Jaylen Brown is halfway to meeting the criteria for a $482K bonus, according to ESPN’s Bobby Marks (Twitter link). Brown will receive the bonus if Boston makes the second round of the playoffs. The incentive was deemed unlikely at the start of the season, Marks notes.

Injury Notes: Randle, Bucks, Pistons, Jazz, Simmons

Knicks forward Julius Randle, still dealing with a quad injury, has been ruled out for Saturday’s game against Cleveland, according to Fred Katz of The Athletic, who tweets that the team is considering Randle day-to-day. For the time being, there are no plans to shut down Randle for the rest of the season, Katz adds. He missed three games with the same injury last week.

Here are a few more injury updates from around the NBA:

  • The Bucks will be without several key players on Friday vs. the Clippers on the second night of a back-to-back set. According to the team (via Twitter), Giannis Antetokounmpo (right knee soreness), Jrue Holiday (left ankle sprain), Khris Middleton (left wrist soreness), and Brook Lopez (return to competition reconditioning) are among the players who will be inactive.
  • Cory Joseph (left lumbar spine strain), Marvin Bagley III (left hip strain), and Kelly Olynyk (rest) won’t play for the Pistons on Friday against Oklahoma City, tweets James Edwards III of The Athletic. The two teams are neck-and-neck in the lottery standings, so neither front office will be particularly motivated to win the game.
  • The Jazz got some reinforcements on Thursday when Bojan Bogdanovic returned from a nine-game absence and Danuel House played after missing eight consecutive games, writes Eric Walden of The Salt Lake Tribune. Both forwards had positive plus-minus ratings in a win over the Lakers that snapped Utah’s five-game losing streak.
  • Shams Charania of The Athletic and Stadium (video link) provided another minor update on Ben Simmons, reporting that the Nets guard has resumed “light” on-court workouts and still hopes to return in time for the playoffs. Charania’s colleague at The Athletic, Joe Vardon, reported earlier today that Simmons is unlikely to be ready for the start of the playoffs.

Northwest Notes: Jokic, Roby, Micić, Beverley

Nuggets center Nikola Jokic appears to be the favorite as the MVP race enters the home stretch, writes Tim Bontemps of ESPN. In its latest straw poll of 100 media members, the network found 62 first-place votes and 860 overall points for Jokic, putting him ahead of the SixersJoel Embiid, who had 29 first-place votes and 719 points, and the Bucks‘ Giannis Antetokounmpo with nine first-place votes and 593 points.

Bontemps notes that the race appears similar to last year’s when Jokic built late momentum to capture his first MVP award. ESPN’s previous poll, taken in mid-February, showed Embiid with a slight advantage.

Jokic’s statistics are nearly identical to last season as he’s averaging 26.3 points and 8.0 assists to go with a career-high 13.6 rebounds per game. He has kept Denver in the playoff race despite injuries to Jamal Murray and Michael Porter, but his candidacy could suffer if the Nuggets fall into the play-in tournament. They’re currently in sixth, two games ahead of seventh-place Minnesota.

There’s more from the Northwest Division:

  • Thunder fans may not have wanted to win Monday’s game at Portland, but Isaiah Roby did, per Joe Mussatto of The Oklahoman. With Oklahoma City locked in a tight lottery race and having only had eight available players, all of whom started in the G League this season, Roby delivered a career-high 30 points, including a clutch shot that sent the game into overtime. “With the amount of talent that we have out, nobody’s counting on us to win any games,” Roby said. “The fact that we’re going out competing against playoff teams (Denver on Sunday) and we’re winning games like tonight, that’s very encouraging. I’m just proud of the guys. Proud of the eight guys we had out there tonight.” 
  • Vasilije Micić, whose rights are owned by the Thunder, is only interested in coming to the NBA if he believes he’ll get regular playing time, according to Eurohoops. The 28-year-old signed a three-year extension with Anadolu Efes last summer that contains an escape clause after each season. “Honestly, I have a desire to go to the NBA,” he said. “But in a way, and I told that to the people from Oklahoma, to actually play there. I don’t see myself going there to tell my neighborhood friends that I was in the NBA and bring them back an OKC jersey. That doesn’t inspire me. I also came to Efes when they were at the bottom, and I had offers of some, perhaps, better-standing names.”
  • Patrick Beverley has completely changed the culture surrounding the Timberwolves since arriving in an offseason trade, states Cole Huff of The Athletic, who adds that the veteran guard has inspired toughness everywhere he’s been in his NBA career.

And-Ones: Molinar, All-Defense, Most Influential Players, Collison

Mississippi State guard Iverson Molinar announced on Twitter today that he is declaring for the 2022 NBA draft while maintaining his NCAA eligibility.

Molinar, who recently completed his junior season with the Bulldogs, led the team in both points (17.5) and assists (3.6) per game in 2021/22. He also chipped in 3.1 RPG and 1.2 SPG in 34 appearances (34.1 MPG).

Although he showed the ability to hit outside shots during his first two college seasons (.419 3PT%), Molinar’s three-point percentage dropped to just 25.2% this season. Still, ESPN ranks him at the No. 64 player on its big board for 2022, so he has a chance to be a second-rounder if he keeps his name in the draft.

Here are a few more odds and ends from across the basketball world:

  • Using a series of new advanced metrics, Kirk Goldsberry of ESPN.com (Insider link) identifies the top candidates for the NBA’s All-Defensive teams for 2021/22. Goldsberry’s list includes a pair of Celtics (Marcus Smart and Robert Williams), two recent Defensive Players of the Year (Rudy Gobert and Giannis Antetokounmpo), and a rookie (Herb Jones), among others.
  • Michael Scotto of HoopsHype polled 52 current and former NBA players, asking them to name the five most influential players in league history. Michael Jordan, LeBron James, Allen Iverson, Kobe Bryant, and Magic Johnson were the leading vote-getters, according to Scotto, who also shared the rest of the top 10 and outlined which other players received votes.
  • As expected, the South Bay Lakers have officially added veteran guard Darren Collison to their roster (Twitter link). A report earlier this week indicated that Collison was joining Los Angeles’ G League affiliate.