NBA ALL STARS HARD TO READ

kobe_all_star_11_568At the season’s halfway mark, my mind is usually made up on which teams will be in the playoffs, All-Star selections, and individual early awards; but this season, coming up with a fair verdict was no easy task.

Like wildfire, injuries have spread on all corners of the league, affecting players like Chris Paul, Kobe Bryant, Derrick Rose, Rajon Rondo, Deron Williams, Brook Lopez, Al Horford, Kemba Walker, Danilo Gallinari, and Eric Bledsoe. As a result of this infestation, everyone in the Eastern Conference outside of Indiana and Miami is preposterously clinging to the hope of possible playoff success, forgetting that no one outside of Indiana and Miami could even sniff the playoffs in the West.

The first half of the season has not been one to cherish, but in the midst of this unfathomable chaos, it would be remiss of me not to enshrine the small specks of gold.

For the All-Star teams, I will follow the same criteria that the league uses to select starters: two guards, two forwards, and one centre. For reserves: two guards, three bigs (forwards and centres), and two wild cards. I’ll also give reasoning for close calls under the ‘Coin Flips’ section.

Note: My selections are purely based on merit, not popularity.

EASTERN CONFERENCE

Starters

PG: John Wall

SG: Paul George

SF: LeBron James

PF: Chris Bosh

C: Roy Hibbert

Reserves

Backcourt: Dwyane Wade, Kyrie Irving.

Frontcourt: Carmelo Anthony, Joakim Noah, Paul Millsap.

Wild Cards: Joe Johnson, DeMar Derozan.

Sunbs

Al Jefferson, Kyle Lowry, Jeff Teague, Arron Afflalo, Lance Stephenson, Luol Deng, Andre Drummond, Evan Turner, Michael Carter-Williams.

COIN FLIPS

Wall over Irving

Kyrie Irving will probably start over John Wall because of fanbase and popularity, but so far this season, John Wall has been the better player. Along averaging more rebounds, assists, and steals, Wall has also emerged as a true leader, something we have yet to see from Irving.

Carmelo Anthony

Typically, players selected to play in the All-Star game are prized on both individual and collective success, but in this particular case, the individual trumps the group. I know, I know, no player on this year’s Knicks team should be honoured in any way, shape, or form; but still, not prizing Anthony for his efforts would be a foolish mistake.

Despite sitting at the fulcrum of New York’s lost season, Carmelo Anthony is almost averaging a double double (26PPG, 9RPG) and is shooting 41% from beyond the arc, not to mention that he leads the league in minutes per game at 39.2. This year, the Knicks score 105.7 per 100 possessions with Melo on the floor, and only 97.4 when he is off the court. Opposing teams also score less when he is in, which is an improvement from last season, where opponents scored more with him in the lineup (Basketball-Reference).

Joe Johnson

Since Jason Kidd and the Nets are finally in the playoff picture, someone should be prized for the turnaround. Joe Johnson is the clear winner not only because everyone else is injured, but rather because he has been the only star player during Brooklyn’s bumpy roller-coaster ride to play in every game and garner high praise for his performances. Whether it be late game heroics, or filling up the stat-sheet, Joe Johnson’s effectiveness has not waned.

DeMar DeRozan over Kyle Lowry

There is no right or wrong pick here, it really depends on which player you think is more valuable to the Raptors. DeRozan gets the nod because at an All-Star game, I’d rather see high-flying, flashy dunks than uncontested three-pointers.

Paul Millsap

Yes, the Hawks are a three seed mainly because the East sucks, and this selection is more by default than anything else; but that being said, Millsap’s ability to remain productive in Al Horford’s absence shouldn’t go unnoticed. With his frontcourt partner out for the season, Millsap has embraced the added pressure and has solidified himself as one of the most versatile bigs in the league.

Lance Stephenson

If Lance played for a different East team (except Miami) and still managed to register the same numbers he is putting up this season, he’d be a lock on my East squad; but instead, he’s my headline snub. The attention and respect that Paul George and Roy Hibbert demand  are too big of obstructions to neglect. I don’t mean to belittle his play, which has been fantastic up to this point; but would he be as effective in a team like Boston?

Andre Drummond

The 20-year old centre deserves to be mentioned in the All-Star conversation, but his argument to be included isn’t as strong when you disregard individual stats. Despite being a statistical genius (12.6PPG, 12.6REG, 1.8BPG, 21.41.PER), the Pistons allow 102.4 points per 100 possessions when he is off the floor as opposed to the 109.3 they allow when he is playing (Basketball Reference).

Drummond is a work of art still in progress, let’s not be too hasty with his progression.

WESTERN CONFERENCE

Starters

PG: Chris Paul (?)/Steph Curry

SG: James Harden

SF: Kevin Durant

PF: LaMarcus Aldridge

C: Dwight Howard

Reserves

Backcourt: Damian Lillard, Tony Parker.

Frontcourt: Kevin Love, Blake Griffin, DeMarcus Cousins.

Wild Cards: Anthony Davis, Dirk Nowitzki.

Snubs

Kobe Bryant, David Lee, Klay Thompson, Goran Dragic, Eric Bledsoe, Mike Conley, Serge Ibaka, Tim Duncan, Chandler Parsons, Wesley Matthews, Nicolas Batum, Monta Ellis.

DeMarcus Cousins

Sacramento isn’t winning, so excluding Boogie out of a stacked-West squad wouldn’t be a crime; nevertheless, more and more people are accepting the fact that he has grown to become arguably the best offensive big man in the NBA. Cousins has a unique skill-set of being able to score both facing and with his back to the basket, knocking down mid-range jumpers, making the right pass at the right time, and using his ball-handling abilities when needed. Brook Lopez and the Gasol brothers are the only other centers (Pau Gasol is a center) that come close to Cousins in that regard, but even then, they don’t look as comfortable as Cousins.

His statistical outburst of 22.6PPG, 11.6RPG, and 26.51PER (6th in the league) is too tantalizing to resist. Why so many people are not yet sold on him is a dilemma I’ll never unfold; but I understand, until he develops any substantial leaderships skills, he’ll remain in the All-Star doghouse.

Aldridge over Love

As a Blazers fan, I’m trying to be as unbiased as possible, but choosing bewteen Aldridge and Love is like choosing between two siblings. While it is 50/50, I’m giving Aldridge the slight edge simply because of Portland’s winning record. Again, there isn’t a right/wrong answer here.

Anthony Davis

Do I really need to build a case here? Fifth in PER (lowest usage rate among top ten in PER), first in blocks (3BPG), top-20 in win shares. If he keeps this up, Anthony Davis will be the first second-year player since Shaq in the 1993-1994 season to record a PER at least 26 (Basketball-Reference).

Dirk Nowitzki

Father time is slowly creeping up on Dirk, who looks a step slower, works a little harder to get his points, and is seeing his minutes gradually diminish; but despite the old man symptoms, a drop in effectiveness is missing. Assuming he maintains this level of play, Dirk will be one one of three players in league history to register a PER of at least 23 and average 21 points or more in the same season (Basketball-Reference).

Chris Paul (?)

CP3 is scheduled to be back in early February, so if everything goes to plan he’ll be available for All-Star weekend. If not, I’ve chosen Steph Curry to be his substitute at the starting PG spot.

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