Thursday night the NBA all-star starters were announced on TNT and next week the all-star reserve selections will occur in a similar fashion. The starters are locked in and there are seven reserve players that have yet to be chosen. I will attempt to break down the remaining selections in the east by looking at who will be there, who should be there, and who deserves to be there, but may not quite make the cut.
Obviously, the starters are voted in by the fans and are largely based on popularity. For the most part this works out just fine, and in other cases it may result in a player or two being left off that should maybe have been selected. After the starters, there are a number of different theories that can apply when looking at how to select the reserves.
Personally, I think the all-star selections are about representations and that they should be made in accordance with the teams that deserve to have players represent their success through the first half of the season. Some people like to simply look at the best players and disregard the standing of the teams that they are on. There are some instances where this is entirely appropriate, for obvious reasons, and there are other times when there is not an obvious choice available, and perhaps the records of their respective teams could be the deciding factor.
Rarely do I like to see a team get three or more players into the all-star game. If this is a necessary situation, the selected team should have a clear distance between themselves and the rest of the pack, as well as three damn good players. This year, I do not think that any team should get three players into the game. The Heat are the team that would be most deserving of getting three selections—and they usually do get Bosh in as the third—but this year they have not been playing well enough for that to be the case, and there are some tough selections to be made in the east.
Let’s go ahead and acknowledge the starters. Not surprisingly, from Miami are LeBron James and Dwyane Wade; Carmelo Anthony from New York; and the not-so obvious selections of Rajon Rondo and Kevin Garnett to be starters. Rondo will get his first start as an all-star and, being the league leader in assists, I see no reason why that should not be the case.
The only issue I have here is with Kevin Garnett. He is a great player, but he is beyond his prime. Whether this is a life-time achievement selection or simply a case of him retaining popularity, he should not be a starter. In fact, I’m not so sure that he should even be headed to Houston as an all-star at all. At best, he is the fourth best center in the east. I guess it could be worse, Jeremy Lin could have been chosen as a starter in the west. Thankfully that did not happen, but this KG selection will result in a snub for one deserving player this year. Ironically, it may end up being his teammate Paul Pierce. If not, it will be a center that is clearly having a better year.
There will be a couple of players that will be selected without a doubt. I will take the liberty of penciling in Deron Williams from Brooklyn, and Tyson Chandler of the Knicks. I would also throw Paul George in as a player who is a lock from Indiana. He has been their best player in Danny Granger’s absence and has the Pacers third in the eastern conference.
Chandler however, should be the starting center in the east. The reigning defensive player of the year is the focal point of the Knicks defense and just as big a reason for their success as Carmelo Anthony is, in terms of winning games. Regardless, he will make his way to Houston.
That makes eight all-stars with four selections remaining. This is where it starts to get tricky.
Most years there is a team in the top eight of the conference that will simply not get any all-stars. Usually this team will be a well-rounded unit that plays well together, but lacks any single star-caliber threat. This year for example, the Denver Nuggets in the west will not likely receive any selections. The same can be said about the Atlanta Hawks, who are sixth in their conference, just as the Nuggets are. Josh Smith is the only Hawk with a shot at making the team and he has seen his numbers take a decline in every category except for blocks.
The remaining teams in the east with deserving selections are the Bulls, who should get at least one player in; Milwaukee; and I would give the Nets a second selection as well. Brandon Jennings should get his first all-star nod for the Bucks. Jennings is averaging 18 points, just fewer than six assists a game and is fifth in the league in steals. He has kept his turnovers down and has been the best player on the seventh place Bucks team in the east.
For the Nets, I would choose Brook Lopez to be their second representative. He has been the best center on both ends of the floor in the east, and has been the best and most consistent player for Brooklyn this season.
With two players left to be selected I have yet to include Paul Pierce, Chris Bosh, and Kyrie Irving. This year, I believe that each of these players should be left off the all-star team. Bosh for the reasons mentioned earlier. Pierce, because the Celtics do not deserve to have three representatives, especially being eighth place in the east, despite Paul Pierce arguably having the best year out of any Celtic. Pierce has not slowed down at all this year in his production and has kept this Celtics team afloat. Selections often come down to a numbers game and I would not put three Celtics into the game. With that being said, Pierce may very well end up in Houston anyhow.
Finally, there is Kyrie Irving. Again, it comes down to a numbers game, and unfortunately for Irving this may not be his year. I would not be surprised if he made the team—he is playing arguably the best basketball out of any eastern conference point guard right now—but I do not think that he should make the team. Cleveland is thirteenth in the conference and Irving missed considerable time with a hand injury. His assist numbers (5.6) also leave much to be desired. It is only his second year in the league and as he is turning into a superstar he will have plenty of time in the future to leave an impact on the all-star game, likely as a starter for multiple years.
So who should be the last two players selected to the eastern conference all-stars? Two players from the Chicago Bulls: Luol Deng, and Joakim Noah. If I was forced to choose one of these two guys I’m not sure who I would choose. But let’s reward two players that do a little bit of everything on the stat sheet and also play outstanding defense. They both deserve to be there, and with Rose still out and Chicago remaining fourth in the conference there is a real shot at both of them making it.
The east has become the stronger conference at the center position, ironically as Dwight Howard has transferred to the west coast. This is also the first year that the center position has been removed from being a required position for the game. With Garnett being a starter there may not be room for three reserve centers. If either Noah or Lopez is left off the roster, look for one of the mentioned players above to fill the last roster position.
So there you have it. The starters: Rondo, Wade, LeBron, Melo, and KG.
And the reserves: Deron Williams, Brandon Jennings, Paul George, Luol Deng, Tyson Chandler, Brook Lopez, and Joakim Noah.
Just out: Kyrie Irving, Paul Pierce, Josh Smith, and Chris Bosh.