On Tuesday, for the first time in his career, Jayson Tatum was named to the All-NBA First Team. The fifth-year forward is putting together a stellar campaign and led his Boston Celtics to the Eastern Conference’s No. 2 seed during the regular season.
Joining Tatum on that squad were Nikola Jokic, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Luka Doncic, and Devin Booker. Absent from the team was Joel Embiid, who finished runner-up to Jokic in MVP voting for the second consecutive season. Despite back-to-back appearances as an MVP finalist, Embiid has been named to the All-NBA Second Team each year.
Embiid garnered more First Team votes than Tatum, yet Tatum earned more at forward, while Jokic earned more at center. As a result, Tatum eclipsed him for a First Team Spot. With the MVP runner-up being a Second Team honoree the past two seasons, discussions about eliminating positions from the All-NBA criteria has swelled. Tatum weighed in on the conversation Wednesday.
“I do think it should be positionless,” Tatum said. “Joel Embiid was second in MVP voting and he made second team? It doesn’t really make too much sense.”
Tatum also advocated for a minimum number of games played to be eligible for All-NBA selections, as well as a potential requirement that players must make the playoffs. I certainly agree with his stance on the positionless debate and can support a minimum number of games threshold.
However, the playoffs are a team accomplishment and punishing individual players for being on non-postseason clubs feels faulty, especially as long as contract incentives are tied to these awards. To Tatum’s credit, though, he has criticized these votes impacting contract earnings, so he’d surely amend it if given the chance to add these stipulations.
Nonetheless, it’s welcomed to hear a prominent superstar address the flaws in All-NBA voting. Hopefully, this can help spur some change and ensure the best players of each season, independent of positions, are recognized moving forward.