Well, the All-Star reserves were named Thursday, so now we’ve got the full All-Star rosters to pick over and critique. Now, as I’ve said before, I have no problem with the selection process for the All-Star game, since it’s for the fans and it’s not necessarily about getting the 12 best players from each conference. However, that doesn’t mean I agree with who’s been voted in, so I’m going to tell you who should be playing in Phoenix, and who should be staying at home. Just so you know. I factor in records very little in my analysis. For example, I’m not going to penalize Kevin Durant for playing with the NBA’s two worst regular players (Earl Watson and Desmond Mason). I don’t care about how many players from each team I pick. I don’t care about how great a player has been in the past. I’m picking the 12 players from each conference who have played best so far this year. That’s it, very simple.
Red represents a player who was not selected to the actual team/wasn’t voted a starter
Starters: Devin Harris, Dwayne Wade, LeBron James, Kevin Garnett, Dwight Howard
No way on God’s green earth should Allen Iverson be an All-Star. He had a fantastic year last year, but this season he’s really struggled to fit in with the Pistons. Since we’re kicking him out, the only choice is whether Devin Harris or Jameer Nelson should replace him in the starting lineup. This wouldn’t have been an issue earlier in the year, but Harris has fallen off a bit and Nelson has been getting better and better. Still, the choice has to be Harris. He takes on a large offensive load, and he’s an extremely efficient scorer, due to the fact that he draws fouls at the highest rate among guards, and he’s hitting 83% of his freebies. His improvement this year has been nothing short of amazing.
Bench: Chris Bosh, Jameer Nelson, Danny Granger, Paul Pierce, Vince Carter, Ray Allen, Rashard Lewis
Honestly, there were four shoe-ins here (Bosh, Nelson, Granger and Pierce), one pretty strong candidate (Carter), and then a crapshoot of “not quite All-Stars.” If you have a problem with Bosh, Nelson, Granger or Pierce, you should have your head examined. I balked at first when considering Carter, but that’s mostly because I still hate him for completely screwing over Toronto. He’s been playing at an extremely high level this year, and the Nets are certainly better than I thought they’d be. Rondo and Lewis are the last two picks, not because I think they’re great candidates, but because there’s really nobody better. Lewis is shooting blistering percentages, and has played surprisingly good defense while often being asked to guard power forwards who are much stronger than him. Allen was the toughest selection. He has quietly been having a great season, shooting absurdly well (3rd in the league in eFG%) and basically carrying Boston’s offense early in the season when KG and Pierce were struggling.
Guys I Left Off: Joe Johnson, Mo Williams, Rajon Rondo, Zydrunas Ilgauskas
Just because Cleveland has the best record, it doesn’t mean they have to have the most All-Stars. Mo Williams has been a substantial upgrade in Cleveland, but the Cavs also had a crappy backcourt last season. Williams has been good, but not All-Star level. Big Z would have been by backup center pick, but he’s played less than 750 minutes this year. That just doesn’t cut it. Johnson is wildly overrated as an offensive player. He’s a high usage, middling efficiency guy who is only getting All-Star hype because Atlanta is playing well this year. He played exceptionally well early in the year, but has fallen off drastically over the last month or so. I had Rondo in when I first wrote this, but I just couldn’t put him in over Allen. He’s the best defensive point guard in the league, but it’s still too easy for good defensive teams to take advantage of his offensive weaknesses.
Starters: Chris Paul, Kobe Bryant, Dirk Nowitzki, Yao Ming, Tim Duncan
Four of these were easy, and honestly the fifth wasn’t that hard. Since I can’t put Brandon Roy in because he’s another guard, Nowitzki is the obvious choice. He’s continuing a downward trend in his career, but he’s still the best choice over Amare. Funny that acquiring Shaq was supposed to help Amare, but this year he’s regressed significantly from last season, with drops in pretty much every significant category.
Bench: Brandon Roy, Amare Stoudemire, Tony Parker, Chauncey Billups, Pau Gasol, Jason Terry, Kevin Durant
The first five guys were easy. In fact, I actually considered the prospect of putting Roy as a starter instead of Bryant. It’s awfully close, but Kobe’s superior defense is the real separator. That’s how good Roy is though, he just keeps taking his game to another level. Amare may be having a bad year, but he’s still good enough to make my All-Star team. Parker and Billups are shoo-ins, both are having fantastic seasons. Gasol has been nothing short of awesome since joining the Lakers, and his skill and versatility really makes that offense run and allows them to play a wide variety of lineups. Terry is the guy that nobody is talking about, much like Manu last year, but he’s having an absolutely fantastic season. Few players are as good at simply putting the ball in the basket. He’s taken on a much larger role and is often the primary offensive option on the floor, even if Dirk is out there. Despite coming off the bench and playing with Dirk (5th in the league in usage rate), Terry is top 20 in usage rate, and has maintained a high efficiency while taking on that load. So, why is Durant an All-Star? Well, as president of the Kevin Durant Fan Club, I will take it upon myself to tell you why. In case you hadn’t noticed (and practically no one has), you can count on one hand the number of guys playing at the level Durant has been playing at this past month. Don’t believe me? Check out these numbers. 27.8 ppg while shooting 49-40-89%, 8.8 rpg, 3.7 apg and 1.3 spg. Even more? Durant’s Thunder, who started off the season so woefully, are 7-7 in 2009. I don’t care about the team’s overall record, Durant deserves to be on the team.
Guys I Left Off: Shaquille O’Neal, Al Jefferson, Paul Millsap, Deron Williams, Nene
Though he’s putting up very strong numbers this year, Shaq has barely played 1000 minutes this year, he’s not a good defender. I just can’t possibly put him in over comparable guys who don’t have his limitations. Everyone is saying that Jefferson is a huge snub, but that’s really just a product of the TWolves’ recent winning ways. Jefferson is basically playing exactly the same as he did last year. Millsap is a great story, coming from the second round, waiting his turn and then shining while Carlos Boozer has been out, but frankly he just hasn’t been as good as the rest of these players. Williams is a fantastic player who will have many All-Star games in his future, but he hasn’t played as well as usual this season, and he’s also missed 12 games. Nene has been extremely good this year for the Nuggets, putting in basically anything he catches around the rim. However, he doesn’t carry a big load on offense, and he’s not as good a rebounder as you’d expect.
Usually, the Maestro Award goes to the best performance of the previous week, but I’m going to do something a little different this week. I realize this is an NBA blog, but I would be remiss I didn’t mention the passing of legendary NC State women’s basketball coach Kay Yow last Saturday. Yow was a fantastic coach and a pioneer of women’s basketball, but that wasn’t what made her special. Despite battling multiple bouts of breast cancer over the course of 20 years, Yow continued to coach up until about a month before she died, and became an inspiration for many in the fight with cancer. Above all, she was an amazing person and lived out her faith in every aspect of her life. I grew up on NCSU women’s basketball with my mom taking me to games, and as far back as I can remember watching basketball, I remember Kay Yow. She certainly influenced my life, even though I never personally met her, and she left her mark on both college basketball and the fight against cancer. The game of basketball will certainly miss her.
- xphoenix87 is a Contributing Writer for BallerBlogger.com.