The three All-NBA teams were announced Tuesday night ahead of Game 5 of the Brooklyn Nets-Milwaukee Bucks series. Here are how the three squads ended up:
Any award or distinction comes with snubs, but missing out on an All-NBA spot is especially costly. In order to become eligible for a supermax contract, a player must be named to an All-NBA team in the most recent season or both seasons before it, be named NBA Defensive Player of the Year in the most recent season or both seasons before it, or be named NBA MVP in any of the three previous seasons. With that in mind, the panel of sportswriters and broadcasters responsible for making the All-NBA selections help determine the potential payday for some of the league's brightest stars.
It was a difficult year to make the cut with the 15 players listed above putting together spectacular seasons. Still, these 10 players had a case for earning an All-NBA distinction, too:
Russell Westbrook, Washington Wizards
The NBA’s all-time triple-double king missed the cut.
Westbrook led the NBA in assists for the third time in four seasons, dishing out 11.7 per game in his first season in the nation’s capital. He helped a 19-33 team that was decimated by injuries and COVID-19-related absences to the No. 8 seed in the Eastern Conference and a win in the NBA’s first Play-In Tournament.
Despite averaging 22.2 points and 11.5 rebounds per game as well, Westbrook fell short of his 10th All-NBA selection while compiling one first-team vote, six second-team votes and 21 third-team votes.
Donovan Mitchell, Utah Jazz
The top team in the NBA only had one representative on this year’s All-NBA teams.
The high-flying guard led the Jazz with 26.4 points per game and tacked on 5.2 assists and 4.4 rebounds per game. Mitchell also was named an All-Star for the second straight season while helping lead the Jazz to the No. 1 seed in the West.
Mitchell is one of several players whose All-NBA chances were ultimately hampered by injuries. He missed the final 16 games of the season with a sprained right ankle.
Zion Williamson, New Orleans Pelicans
The No. 1 pick in the 2019 NBA Draft wrecked opponents with 27.0 points per game on 61.1% shooting from the field. He is one of just two players to start the 2021 All-Star Game who missed out on All-NBA honors this season.
Williamson’s chances were mostly hurt by his team’s place in the standings. Every single player who made an All-NBA team -- and every other player on this list -- reached the NBA playoffs or Play-In Tournament. Williamson’s Pelicans, however, were on the outside looking in with a 31-41 record.
Jayson Tatum, Boston Celtics
Tatum is the other All-Star starter to miss out on an All-NBA selection.
The Celtics star set career highs with 26.4 points, 7.4 rebounds and 4.3 assists per game despite missing a portion of the season due to a bout with COVID-19. He still played 64 of 72 games, so time off the floor didn’t hurt his chances. His flexibility on the ballot played a factor, though:
An All-NBA berth would have triggered a designated rookie extension criteria that would have allowed Boston to pay him a higher percentage of the salary cap. Instead, Tatum will miss out on $32.6 million.
Devin Booker, Phoenix Suns
Booker notably made an All-Star team while his teammate, Chris Paul, was not when the teams were first announced. This time around, Paul got the honor and Booker didn’t.
Booker’s scoring and assist numbers dropped ever so slightly this season, but he saw the most success in his NBA career. He made the playoffs for the first time since entering the league in 2015 with help from his backcourt partner in Paul.
After sweeping the Nuggets in the second round of the playoffs, Booker will have his sights on an even greater prize.
Kevin Durant, Brooklyn Nets
Durant finally returned for the 2020-21 season after tearing his Achilles in the 2019 Finals.
The Slim Reaper helped spearhead one of the most prolific offenses the NBA has ever seen in his first season on the floor in Brooklyn. He, along with Irving and the next player on our list, brought the Nets to the No. 2 seed in the East.
Durant picked up 26.9 points, 7.1 rebounds and 5.6 assists per game with some eye-popping efficiency. Yet, he played less than half the season (35 games), which kept him from his 10th All-NBA honor.
James Harden, Brooklyn Nets
The newest addition to Brooklyn’s big three, Harden was spectacular once he joined the Nets. He garnered MVP consideration after overhauling his game with his new team, averaging 24.6 points, 10.9 assists and 8.5 rebounds across 36 regular-season games.
Harden miraculously managed to win back the appreciation of pundits and voters in Brooklyn after making a loud and controversial exit from Houston. His extended absence due to a hamstring injury ultimately cost him his All-NBA chances, a potential MVP run and later some critical playoff games.
Trae Young, Atlanta Hawks
Young went from starting in the 2020 All-Star Game to missing the game entirely in 2021. However, as the season went on, Young and the Hawks turned on the jets.
The third-year pro went on to average 25.3 points and 9.4 assists per game while leading Atlanta to the No. 5 seed in the East. His playoff performances have been even more stellar, dismantling the Knicks in five games and standing his ground against the top-seeded Sixers in the second round.
Like Booker, Young has bigger fish to fry right now.
Ben Simmons, Philadelphia Sixers
Simmons had a peculiar season on the offensive end, but his impact on the defensive end is undisputable.
He finished second in the Defensive Player of the Year race and was a pillar in one of the league’s most stingy squads. Despite some scoring woes, Simmons still also managed 14.3 points, 7.2 rebounds and 6.9 assists per game.
He is another player to miss extended time due as he dealt with knee and back injuries.
Coming off an NBA Finals appearance, Adebayo scored a career-high 18.7 points per game during a roller-coaster Heat season. He also tacked on 9.0 rebounds, 5.4 assists, 1.2 steals and 1.0 blocks per game.
Unfortunately for Adebayo, there were only three All-NBA spots for centers. With the NBA MVP (Jokic), the MVP runner-up (Embiid) and the NBA Defensive Player of the Year (Gobert) at the position, there simply wasn’t room for Adebayo.