The starters for next month’s NBA All-Star game from Los Angeles will be announced this Thursday night. The starting lineups, as we know, are voted on by fans all over the world especially China. We got a sneak peak of the results with two weeks left to vote, and if those results hold true the fans deserve some credit. Not a ton of credit, but 9 out of 10 deserving All-Star starters is pretty good. Let’s take a look at the expected starting lineups with my picks for the reserve spots.
Chris Paul, Hornets (16.2 points, 9.6 assists (3rd in NBA)) Paul’s numbers are below his career averages across the board, FG% is slightly up and 3pt% is way up. But he’s quietly having one of his best seasons. New Orleans is right in the thick of the playoffs in the Western Conference, currently tied for 3rd place. Paul is adjusting to some new teammates while still clicking with the one guy he has played with his entire career, David West. Don’t let the low ppg fool you; Paul should be the starting point guard in the loaded West.
Kobe Bryant, Lakers (25 points (6th in NBA), 5.1 rebounds, 4.8 assists) Kobe’s Hall of Fame career continues as LA tries to capture their 2nd 3-Peat in Bryant’s tenure. With all the talk that the Lakers are struggling, don’t look now but they are in 2nd place in the conference and winners of 9 of their last 11. I know I’m looking forward to Sunday when the Celtics take the floor at Staples.
Carmelo Anthony, Nuggets (23.5 points (9th in NBA), 8 rebounds) Melo is still on the Nuggets and thus likely to start on the West Squad. If he is shipped to the Nets prior to the February 20th game, than he would suit up for the East. Anthony has played well, maybe surprisingly well, with such a public possible trade going on. The fans in Denver have booed him, but the way things are progressing he’ll be representing them in the All-Star game.
Kevin Durant, Thunder (28.3 points (1st in NBA), 6.3 rebounds) My preseason pick for league MVP may not be that right now but he certainly deserves to be starting for the West. He is on pace to win his second consecutive scoring title and OKC could have home court advantage in the 1st round of the playoffs.
Yao Ming, Rockets (18.2 minutes per game in 5 GAMES) Did I mention that votes are tabulated all over the world particularly China. I get that Yao is popular in America too, but come on. This is one of the worst examples of fan voting ever. (Allen Iverson from last year was bad as well, but at least he was playing.)
Injury Replacement: Pau Gasol, Lakers (18.6 points, 8.6 rebounds (6th in NBA)) Gasol should be the replacement for Yao and start for the West. Yes, Pau is technically a power forward and not a center, but with Andrew Bynum missing so many games this year, more than half, he qualifies as a center and deserves to start alongside his LA teammate Bryant.
Here is where it gets fun… and extremely difficult. Picking the reserves is always a bit tricky, but this year’s Western Conference is as tough as ever. The West is loaded with talent at every position (besides center obviously). These are the 7 I’m taking…
Dirk Nowitzki, Mavericks (23.4 points (10th in NBA), 7.1 rebounds) Dirk looked like the league’s MVP (again) earlier this season, but injuries to him and Caron Butler have knocked him down that list. However he is still a lock for the All-Star game, for what will be the 10th time in his great career.
Deron Williams, Jazz (21.7 points (15th in NBA), 9.5 assists (4th in NBA)) D. Williams is still my pick for the best point guard in the NBA. I know Derrick Rose is playing out of his mind, but I like Williams. Paul is having a better season, thus deserves to start, however there won’t be a drop off when they go to the bench. He is one of the guys that will make the All-Star game that much more entertaining.
Russell Westbrook, Thunder (22.7 points (13th in NBA), 5 rebounds, 8.3 assists (9th in NBA) It was difficult to leave Steve Nash off the roster, but I doubt they would take more than three point guards. Westbrook has been a monster, as seen by the numbers. He and Durant are the highest scoring duo in the NBA and should both be in LA next month. I do question his shot selection late in games, although that shouldn’t prevent him from making his 1st All-Star game.
Blake Griffin, Clippers (22.8 points (12th in NBA), 12.9 rebounds (4th in NBA), 238746289 Highlights (1st in NBA)) The eventual Rookie of the Year has more than taken the league by storm. The staunchest Clippers fan… Penny Marshall, Malcolm in the Middle…? Whoever, could not have guessed Blake would be this good, this soon. Clipper games are now must watch. Fact.
Kevin Love, Timberwolves (21.3 points (19th in NBA), 15.6 rebounds (1st in NBA)) All-Stars are usually on successful teams. Well certain exceptions can be made, and this is one of them. Mr. Double-Double has been outstanding, 38 in 43 games. Also we can now rest on the “Greatest Current White American Born Player” debate that for years featured the likes of Wally Szczerbiak (who was actually born in Spain), Luke Ridnour, Kirk Hinrich, Mike Miller, Brad Miller, before it appeared as though it would settle on David Lee… now, it should be Love for the next 10-12 years. Whew.
Manu Ginobili, Spurs (18.5 points, 4.8 assists) I keep waiting for Manu to run out of gas. Guess it won’t be this year either. His basic numbers don’t “wow” you, but 37-7 does. The 2nd best current international player deserves to be on there. Bill Simmons had a fantastic article last week about All-Star picks and he mentioned the fact that the 3 best international players (Dirk, Manu, and Pau) will all be on the same team. And they would have had Yao if he was healthy.
Tim Duncan, Spurs (13.6 points, 9.6 rebounds (9th in NBA)) Under 14 points per game, but it’s still Tim Duncan, the Big Fundamental. He, along with Manu, Parker, and Pop have San Antonio on top in the West. I’m not one for lifetime achievement awards; this is more deserving than just name recognition. Duncan is still putting up a near double-double every night and is anchoring a defense for a team with the best record in basketball. Also in my scenario for All-Stars I need Duncan to be considered my second center. Please don’t shoe horn Okafor, Nene, or some other “center” in this spot.
Just Missed Out:
This group is far more extensive than its Eastern Conference counterparts. You can field a pretty good 3rd All-Star Team just from this selection of stars…
Monta Ellis, Warriors (25.8 points, 4th in NBA)
Eric Gordon, Clippers (24.1 points, 9th in NBA)
Steve Nash, Suns (10.9 assists, 2nd in NBA)
Luis Scola, Rockets (19.1 points, 8.3 rebounds)
Michael Beasley, Timberwolves (20.6 points, 20th in NBA)
LaMarcus Aldridge, Trail Blazers (21.4 points, 18th in NBA)
Zach Randolph, Grizzlies (20.1 points, 13.1 rebounds)
Rudy Gay, Grizzlies (20.5 points)
Tony Parker, Spurs (17.4 points, 6.9 assists)
Lamar Odom, Lakers (19 double-doubles)
David West, Hornets (18.9 points)
Kevin Martin, Rockets (23.3 points, 11th in NBA)
If the Clippers (who have won 12 of their last 17) had been playing like this all season, Eric Gordon would have been a lock. Monta Ellis is one of the easiest scorers in the NBA and perhaps the 2nd or 3rd most entertaining player in the league, however he won’t crack this list. Two-time MVP Steve Nash will likely watch this game from home, which seems crazy.
Career years from Aldridge, Beasley, and Scola also will net them on the outside looking in. But for an All-Star game to be truly great/ memorable, you need extremely talents players having career seasons to not make the cut, and that’s what you have this year… in the West. The East is a little easier to narrow down to 12.
Derrick Rose, Bulls (24.7 points (7th in NBA), 8 assists (10th in NBA)) Perhaps the league’s MVP at the midway point of the season, Rose recently surpassed Rajon Rondo in the fan vote and will likely keep his advantage and start at point for the East. He certainly deserves it, Charles Barkley recently crowned him the Best PG in the NBA.
Dwyane Wade, Heat (25.1 points (5th in NBA), 6.5 rebounds, 4.2 assists) The Heat had been rolling until an injury bug came out of no where and bit them, including D-Wade. The additions of LeBron and Bosh did not hurt Wade’s scoring as he is barely under his career average.
LeBron James, Heat (25.9 points (3rd in NBA), 7.2 rebounds, 7.2 assists) LeBron is not going to average a triple-double like some thought he would at the beginning of the year, but he will still be in the running to win his 3rd straight MVP award. Love him or hate him, who is better than LeBron in the East? In the NBA?
Amare Stoudemire, Knicks (26 points (2nd in NBA), 9 rebounds (13th in NBA)) Amare has taken New York by storm. He’s got the Knicks in the Top 8 in the East and turned a basement dwelling team to an attractive location to fellow stars (See: Anthony, Carmelo).
Dwight Howard, Magic (22.1 points (14th in NBA), 13.3 rebounds (2nd in NBA)) The league’s best center will take his familiar spot as the starting big for the Eastern Conference. Dwight has withstood a major shake up to his team’s roster and he’s only gotten better. To go along with his monster points and rebounding numbers he is also 5th in blocks and on pace to be the league’s top defender once again.
Paul Pierce, Celtics (19 points, 5.2 rebounds) Another All-Star season for Pierce, who leads the best team in the East in scoring. Similar to the players on the Spurs, the Celtics star players can’t compete based strictly on stats with many other stars, but their winning and overall play on both ends of the floor make it easy to pick them for the All-Star game.
Kevin Garnett, Celtics (15.2 points, 9 rebounds) KG is playing his best basketball in a Celtics uniform since the 2007-2008 season when he won Defensive Player of the Year and popularized the phrase “Anything is Possible!!!” Amare deserves to start ahead of KG, but in a historical perspective, Garnett in the starting 5 would give you 5 potential Hall of Famers (LeBron and Wade are locks, Howard is on his way, same with Rose, just don’t see Amare making the cut.)
Rajon Rondo, Celtics (10.5 points, 13 assists (1st in NBA)) Rondo has solidified himself as a regular for the All-Star game with an impressive first half of the season. He’s dishing out assists at a record clip. Insert him into this starting lineup, and something tells me Wade, LeBron, Amare, and Howard would enjoy themselves a lot more.
Al Horford, Hawks (16.2 points, 9.7 rebounds (8th in NBA)) The Hawks continue to be the same team from the past three seasons. They will finish at best in 3rd place in the conference and at worst 5th. Horford is a double-double big guy. If he was battling the likes of Aldridge, Nowitzki, Duncan, etc. he’d have a tougher time.
Chris Bosh, Heat (18.6 points, 8.3 rebounds) Those are the worst numbers Bosh has put up since the ’04-’05 season, but he’s doing it for a winner now. Bosh also had a very slow start to the season and has come on strong. We’ll see how this latest injury (ankle) affects him when he returns. A month and a half ago the “New Big 3” looked like it would send just 2 to the All-Star game, but it looks at though Bosh will get the invite after all.
Danny Granger, Pacers (21.5 points (16th in NBA), 5.7 rebounds)) A solid scorer on a very average team, Granger also benefits from playing in the East. Indiana is a fringe playoff team, but out of that group of Philly, Charlotte, Milwaukee, I think Granger is the best any of those teams have to offer, this season.
Ray Allen, Celtics (17.3 points, 50.7% FG) I think Allen returns to the All-Star game this year. He’s made 9 in his career, including his first two seasons with the Celtics. He did not go to the game last year, but has responded this season by shooting over 50% and knocking down countless crunch time shots. Doc is the head coach, Pierce, KG, and Rondo will be there, so why not Ray?
Just Missed Out:
Not nearly as many tough omissions in the East as in the West, but these guys could have a gripe.
Joe Johnson, Hawks (19.7 points, 5.5 assists)
Andrew Bogut, Bucks (Averaging a double-double, 1st in blocks)
Raymond Felton, Knicks (17.5 points, 8.7 assists)
Joe Johnson has made 4 consecutive All-Star games. A slow start to the season will likely snap his streak. He has come on, raising his averages to just below 20 points a night and 5.5 assists on a winning team. Bogut is shooting a miserable percentage for a 7 footer (49%), he should stay at home.
Felton deserves consideration as the metamorphosis in New York is not solely due to Amare. Felton could definitely make it. Look back at 2009 as Devin Harris and Jameer Nelson both made the team and Mo Williams was later added as a replacement. (Ray Allen replaced Nelson, and then Williams took Chris Bosh’s spot) How does Felton’s year compare to those guys from ’09?
It should be a very exciting All-Star game this year. There is a lot of intrigue for who will make the West squad. In the East, could 7 of the 12 players really be from the Celtics and Heat. We will find out soon enough. The starters will be unveiled Thursday night. Make sure to let me know who you think will be named to the 2010-2011 NBA All-Star teams. Before I sign off for this week…
-Heat Check: A Mike Miller sighting! Miami had been ripping off wins, enough for me to believe they would pass the Celtics for the #1 spot in the East. A 4 game losing streak knocked the Heat back just a bit. Injuries to their stars have certainly slowed them down. But did the injury to Wade allow Mike Miller to get on track? The sharp-shooter dropped 32 points (22 in the 2nd quarter) including 6 3-pointers in the Heat’s 120-103 win over the Raptors on Saturday; he also grabbed 10 rebounds as he and LeBron combined for 70 points. This might be the beginning of some big nights from their best long range scorer.