The All-Decade second team is a study in contrast. There is a pair of players decorated with rings and two surefire Hall of Famers who have consistently fell just short. One player on our team isn’t even approaching 30 years old yet. Another hasn’t suited up in three seasons. There are ferocious dunkers and defensive aces, with players both flashy and fundamental. The past decade of hoops began with a rock fight in the Finals and ended at the peak of the three-point revolution. It’s only right our All-Decade second team reflects such diversity.
What comes to mind when we envision Russell Westbrook? Do we see the skinny kid with a shaved head slamming alley-oops from Kevin Durant? Or do our minds wander to his 50-point triple double in Denver to close the 2016-17 MVP race. Regardless of your top Westbrook memory, the point is clear: few, if any, players over the last decade have captured our attention quite like Russ.
We’ve seen plenty of evolutions from Westbrook over the last decade. The UCLA product emerged from a gap-toothed colt to an elite running mate, then shifted his identity again with one of the most ball-dominant seasons in NBA history upon Durant’s departure. Westbrook was then criticized for being selfish. He responded by leading the NBA in assists for the next two seasons. Westbrook’s jumper is now the central source of derision among fans. If he can shoot even respectable percentages in the next decade, perhaps he’ll enter Springfield as an NBA champion and cement his place in this decade of basketball.
If Westbrook is the stallion of our group, Paul is the surgeon. No player this century was so precise with his passes, so exacting when directing the defense. We’ve seen many iterations of Paul over the last decade, but one thing has remained the same. Paul is the smartest player on the floor on a given night, ready to outfox his opponent even in the face of waning athleticism.
Paul’s athleticism wasn’t called into question one bit in the opening years of the decade. CP3 was never a burner a la Westbrook or John Wall, though his fast-twitch movements were unparalleled. Leave the ball in front of Paul for even a second and a turnover would ensue. Take one step too far left, and Paul would unleash a punishing crossover. Paul increasingly relied on his superior intellect through the 2010s, molding young Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan to form Lob City. And despite a trying 2018-19, Paul remained an integral playoff piece with Houston and nearly reached the Finals two seasons ago. We may have seen the best of Paul as he starts a new chapter in Oklahoma City, though the Point God remains a delight to watch even in his advanced age.
While the rest of the All-Decade second team will wind down their careers in the 2020s (or remain retired), we should still see another dominant decade of hoops from Anthony Davis. The Brow is just 26 despite playing on the national stage since his time at Kentucky in 2011-12, and Davis remains perhaps the most talented big in basketball. Now paired with the greatest player of his generation in LeBron James, can Davis finally make his postseason mark? The next few seasons could shape his reputation for years to come.
We shouldn’t spend too much time projecting ahead, though. Davis has been completely dominant since entering the league in 2012, registering mammoth production starting in his second season. Davis has averaged at least 20 points and 10 rebounds per game in six consecutive seasons. He’s led the league in blocks three times. Only five players have scored more points from 2013-18, and four tallied more rebounds. No player blocked more shots in that span. AD entered last season as perhaps the league’s No. 1 building block, and even after an ugly exit from New Orleans, he remains one of the NBA’s most prized assets. If Davis’ next decade is better than his last, a Finals appearance is sure to be in his future.
There isn’t a great statistical case for Tim Duncan on our All-Decade second team. The Big Fundamental averaged under 15 points per game from 2009-10 to his retirement in 2016, and Duncan played under 30 minutes per game in five of seven seasons this decade. Duncan made just two All-Star teams in his final five years. He hasn’t played in each of the last three seasons and is now an assistant coach in San Antonio.
How did a statistically pedestrian veteran make the All-Decade roster? Well, you have to look well outside the stat sheets. Duncan remained the commanding force for San Antonio on both ends through the 2014-15 season, raising his game in the Spurs’ Finals runs in 2013 and 2014. Specks of grey in his beard aside, Duncan appeared nearly identical to his mid-2000s self, albeit diminished offensively after 11 straight playoff appearances from 1998-2012. The patented bank shot remained lethal. His rim protection stayed elite. Duncan clinched his final ring this decade in 2014, and he could have added another if Gregg Popovich left him on the floor to close Game 6 of the 2013 Finals. Duncan’s stretch from 2000-09 is among the best in NBA history. His most recent decade was pretty damn good, too, with seven seasons of reliable production before playing his final game in San Antonio.
Each of our previous four All-Decade selections were top-five picks in their respective drafts. Draymond Green was selected 35th. Few assumed the Michigan State product would be more than a complementary player when Green entered the league in 2012-13, let alone a three-time champion and five-time All-Defense selection. Green is perhaps the best rim protector under 6’8” in NBA history. He can switch all five possessions with ease, bullying smaller guards before bodying beefy bigs. Watching Green defend a 2-on-1 is a treat. Seeing him roll down the lane off a Steph Curry pass is an absolute thrill. Green is ferocious and calculated, with his intensity occasionally boiling over the edge. But when he’s locked in, the Warriors’ machine hums like a basketball symphony. Green’s brilliance and versatility unleashed the Warriors’ dynasty. If Green can replicate his last decade, the Warriors aren’t leaving the title picture anytime soon.