Nods and snubs: Who should go to the 2008 NBA All-Star Game?
The NBA has just released the fourth returns for the 10 starting spots in the All-Star game, so things are starting to really heat up. Fans around the world can vote for their favorite players a number of different ways, including paper ballots, online at NBA.com and via T-Mobile wireless. The starting five for each conference is more of a popularity contest than an actual referendum on a player’s current season, as evidenced by Tracy McGrady’s repeated presence in the top-five Western Conference vote getters. (And it looks like he’ll get the starting nod once again.)
Every year I provide my picks, which are based on a combination of three factors:
- How good of a statistical season is the player having?
- What other things does the player do to help his team win?
- How well is his team playing?
For each conference, I will pick five guards, five forwards and two centers, but those don’t have to be the players’ listed positions. If I think a certain small forward can play shooting guard, then I’ll list him as a guard if he won’t make the roster as a forward. My main concern is that the 12 best players in each conference get the honor. And, believe me, being named to my All-Star list is a huge honor.
Anyway, here it goes.
(Note: All statistical data is valid through 1/9.)
EASTERN CONFERENCE STARTERS
Guard: Jason Kidd, Nets
11.6 ppg, 8.7 rpg, 10.7 apg, 1.7 spg
It’s a tough call between Kidd and D-Wade, but the Nets are having a much better season, so Kidd gets the nod. He’s having a poor shooting year (.370) but he’s doing everything else he can to keep his team afloat. At press time, he has an eye-popping 10 triple-doubles on the season, including three in a row earlier this month.
Guard: LeBron James, Cavaliers
29.1 ppg, 7.4 rpg, 7.5 apg, 1.9 spg
LeBron is no-brainer #1 in the East. James leads the league in scoring, but he has also upped his rebound and assist numbers this season. He is shooting a career-low 28.8% from three-point range and his free throw issues (.711) continue to haunt him, but he means so much to a Cavs team that desperately needs his leadership.
Forward: Caron Butler, Wizards
21.9 ppg, 6.8 rpg, 4.5 apg, 2.2 spg, 49.8 FG%, 40.9 3P%
I can’t write about Butler without mentioning that the Lakers made a huge mistake by letting him go in the Kwame Brown trade. If L.A. keeps Butler and he progresses at half the rate he has progressed in Washington, we’d be talking about the Lakers as serious title contenders. With Gilbert Arenas out indefinitely, Butler has taken the Wizards on his back and carried them to the middle of the Eastern Conference pack. In Antawn Jamison, he has a little more help than Wade, but his team has several more wins, which is why he gets the nod.
Forward: Kevin Garnett, Celtics
19.2 ppg, 10.0 rpg, 3.6 apg, 1.5 spg, 1.5 bpg
KG is no-brainer #2 in the East. Obviously, the Celtics are rolling and Garnett’s intense play is a big reason why. It’s funny – his numbers are down pretty much across the board from his last few seasons in Minnesota, yet he deserves this recognition for checking his ego at the door and helping to turn the Celtics into a defensive juggernaut in just a few short months.
Center: Dwight Howard, Magic
22.4 ppg, 15.2 rpg, 2.6 bpg, 60.5 FG%
Howard is no-brainer #3 in the East. He is leading the league in rebounding and has become a major force in the post. What’s really scary is that the kid is only 22. Sure, he still can’t hit the broad side of a barn from the free throw line (.597), but other than some low assist numbers, it’s the only hole in his game.
EASTERN CONFERENCE RESERVES
6. Dwyane Wade, Heat
25.0 ppg, 4.3 rpg, 6.9 apg, 2.0 spg
He is struggling through injuries and is still putting up All-Star numbers. Miami has very little talent and their playoff chances are dwindling, but Wade continues to gut it out.
7. Paul Pierce, Celtics
21.2 ppg, 5.7 rpg, 4.9 apg, 1.5 spg
Pierce has modified his game to accommodate Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen, hoisting 2.6 fewer shots this season. More importantly, he has also risen to the challenge on defense.
9. Chris Bosh, Raptors
20.5 ppg, 9.0 rpg, 2.2 apg
The Raptors aren’t playing as well as last season and now have to look up at the Celtics in the standings, but Bosh is still putting up big numbers.
10. Antawn Jamison, Wizards
21.6 ppg, 10.6 rpg, 1.5 apg
Without Gilbert Arenas, the .500 Wizards are one of the biggest surprises in the East and Jamison’s 20/10 play is a big reason why.
11. Josh Smith, Hawks
17.9 ppg, 7.8 rpg, 3.3 apg, 1.9 spg, 3.1 bpg
The Hawks are hovering around .500 and Smith is stuffing the stat sheet more than ever. The sky is the limit for this kid.
12. Ray Allen, Celtics
18.0 ppg, 4.0 rpg, 3.1 apg
Ray Ray should be rewarded for swallowing his pride and playing third fiddle in Boston. The Celtics are running away with the East, so three All-Star nods seem appropriate.
Just missed the cut: The final spot in the East could have gone to a host of contenders. Michael Redd is putting up gaudy stats, but the Bucks are a few games under .500 (and have played pretty well without him). Hedo Turkoglu is playing like he’s the second-best option in Orlando, and the Magic are atop the Southeast. An argument could be made for Vince Carter and Richard Jefferson, but the Nets aren’t good enough to justify two All-Star nods. Andre Iguodala and Gerald Wallace are both putting up great all-around numbers, but neither the Sixers nor Bobcats are playing well enough to demand an All-Star slot.
WESTERN CONFERENCE STARTERS
Guard: Chris Paul, Hornets
21.9 ppg, 3.8 rpg, 10.2 apg, 2.9 spg, 48.1 FG%
New Orleans is right in the thick of it in the Southwest, and Paul is a big reason why. He’s a pass-first point guard who can score like crazy. All due respect to Steve Nash, Chris Paul is having the best season of any Western Conference point guard.
Guard: Steve Nash, Suns
16.7 ppg, 3.7 rpg, 12.0 apg, 50.9 FG%, 45.6 3P%
What the heck – let’s start two point guards. He makes the Suns go, and Phoenix has one of the best records in the West. Just look at the efficiency in those shooting percentages. The guy is deadly from long range.
Forward: Kobe Bryant, Lakers
26.4 ppg, 6.0 rpg, 5.0 apg, 2.1 spg, 44.1 FG%
What a turnaround since this summer! It was only a few months ago that Kobe was demanding a trade, and now his Lakers look like serious challengers to the Suns’ dominance in the Pacific. He’s getting a lot more help, so his scoring is down, but so is his shooting percentage. Still, Kobe is far and away the best shooting guard in the West, but we’ll start him at small forward.
Forward: Dirk Nowitzki, Mavericks
22.3 ppg, 8.6 rpg, 3.7 apg
Nowitzki’s numbers are down a bit from last season, but they’re still pretty gaudy. The Mavs are one of the best teams in the West and Dirk is still the team’s best player, so he gets the starting nod.
Center: Tim Duncan, Spurs
18.6 ppg, 10.6 rpg, 3.1 apg, 1.6 bpg
Duncan might be showing his age a little, but his overall numbers are still terrific. Plus, he has enough help in Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili that he doesn’t have to post great stats every night. But he gets the start because the Spurs are playing well. Plus, he’s a top-notch defender.
WESTERN CONFERENCE RESERVES
Carlos Boozer, Jazz
23.4 ppg, 11.1 rpg, 2.9 apg, 55.3 FG%
Utah has struggled for most of the season but the Jazz are several games above .500 and Boozer is playing better than ever. Over the last three years he has transformed from a solid contributor into a bona fide star.
Amare Stoudemire, Suns
22.1 ppg, 9.1 rpg, 2.3 bpg, 57.9 FG%
Two years removed from a serious knee injury, Amare is definitely looking like his old self. He just needs to improve his defense.
Shawn Marion, Suns
16.4 ppg, 10.2 rpg, 2.1 apg, 1.9 spg, 1.8 bpg, 52.4 FG%
The Matrix wants more recognition and he probably won’t get it in Phoenix playing alongside Steve Nash and Amare Stoudemire. Still, this is his best chance for a title – which is more important? Marion stuffs the stat sheet better than anyone this side of Josh Smith.
Yao Ming, Rockets
22.0 ppg, 10.6 rpg, 2.5 apg, 2.3 bpg
His scoring is down a little but his boards are up. He has to deal with Tracy McGrady’s consistently uncertain injury status, but over the last few years he has established himself as the face of the Houston franchise.
Baron Davis, Warriors
21.9 ppg, 4.7 rpg, 8.0 apg, 2.3 spg
The Warriors got off to a slow start but Davis has them running again. He has always been a “volume scorer,” but this season he has cut down on his bad shots and is shooting better than ever from the field.
Allen Iverson, Nuggets
27.1 ppg, 2.8 rpg, 6.8 apg, 2.2 spg
I’m still not convinced that this AI/Melo marriage is ever going to result in anything substantial, but the Nuggets are atop the Northwest and AI’s gaudy stats have earned him another All-Star nod.
Carmelo Anthony, Nuggets
25.2 ppg, 6.9 rpg, 3.6 apg
Anthony and Iverson make a scary combo and they seem to be co-existing pretty well. Melo’s numbers are down a smidge, but that’s to be expected with AI hoisting 19 shots a game.
Just missed the cut: Don’t be surprised if Brandon Roy gets an All-Star nod, given the way Portland is playing. But things are tight in the West and while Roy gets most of the press, LaMarcus Aldridge and a balanced attack have a lot to do with Portland’s winning ways. Chris Kaman has been a monster this season, averaging 18.0 points and 13.8 boards per game, but the Clippers are in last place in the Pacific and there are a number of good centers in the West. The same goes for Al Jefferson, who has been a force down low (20.5 ppg / 12.2 rpg) for Minnesota. But getting gaudy numbers for a bad team just doesn’t cut it. Don’t be surprised if Marcus Camby wins the Defensive Player of the Year award again. He’s a borderline All-Star and is leading the league in blocks yet again.
Remember, this isn’t a prediction of who’ll end up making the All-Star game, just my list of guys who should. Since the league releases voter returns several times before the announcement of the starting five, that group usually isn’t much of a surprise. It’s more interesting to see how the coaches vote for the reserves.
As of Jan. 13, paper balloting is closed. Fans can continue to vote at NBA.com through Jan. 20. The starters will be announced Jan. 24 on TNT, and the reserves will be announced on Jan. 31 prior to a TNT doubleheader.
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