Is the Toronto Raptors' Andrea Bargnani an All-Star?
This Wednesday NBA.com officially opened All-Star voting to fans who can now select up to 18 players who they think should represent the leagues elite during the NBA's annual All-Star game.
Toronto fans should be pleased to see three Raptors on the ballot including guards Jose Calderon, Demar DeRozan and power forward Andrea Bargnani.
Realistically it may be hard to imagine seeing the underrated Calderon make the team, but anything is possible. Budding star Demar DeRozan has not failed to impress, but he will be competing with perennial superstars such as Dwyane Wade, Derrick Rose, Rajon Rondo and Ray Allen; like Calderon, DeRozan would need a mini-miracle to be selected on the team.
While Andrea Bargnani is no exception to these very same obstacles, I believe the leading scorer and captain of the Toronto Raptors could—under the right circumstances—find himself representing the East All-Stars in Orlando.
Here are my reasons:
Talent and Production
First and foremost, Andrea Bargnani is unquestionably an All-Star level talent.
In six games so far this season, Bargnani is averaging 24 points and six rebounds, but he's also producing efficiently, making 52 percent of his attempted field goals. A second straight year of averaging 20-plus points will definitely help Bargnani's reputation as one of the leagues most talented scoring big men.
One of the biggest issues with Bargnani has been his inability to rebound the ball, but he's improved in that category thus far and should continue to improve as long as he stays aggressive.
Also, as a power forward, Bargnani isn't necessarily required to average double figures in rebounding the same way most All-Star centers are.
Bargnani's unbelievable scoring ability coupled with a modest six or seven rebounds could be enough for coaches to decide that he's an All-Star level player.
Former Supersonic and Magic forward Rashard Lewis has made two All-Star appearances despite never averaging better than 5.7 rebounds in both of those seasons, and it's also been the same story with perennial All-Star Dirk Nowitzki throughout the years.
Overall, Bargnani's All-Star prospects will rely heavily on maintaining his offensive production while a slight improvement on the boards would be the icing on the cake for the Italian big man.
Winning is one of the most important factors in deciding who makes the All-Star team, especially for reserves and injury replacements.
Although it's an historical fact, I didn't have to look very far back to find evidence for this claim.
In 2009, Mo Williams, for the third season straight, averaged over 17 points a game and made the All-Star team. Why did he make it? Was the 0.4 point difference from his average in '07 really that significant? No, it was because he hopped over to the 61-win Cleveland Cavaliers' team.
In 2010, Gerald Wallace, aka "Crash," made his first All-Star game after six seasons of providing excellent defense and energy. Why didn't he make the team in '08 where he averaged nearly 20 PPG, or in '06 where he averaged 2.5 steals, 2.1 blocks and shot a career best 51 percent from the field?
The answer is simple, the Bobcats were winning for the first time in franchise history and thus Wallace received the All-Star nod.
Wait a minute, what does winning have to do with Bargnani? The Raptors are expected to be horrible, and many feel it would be in their best interest to land another lottery pick again. Still, despite this, there is reason to believe the Raptors could surprise a lot of people this season.
So far this season the Raptors are 3-3 and while it's not much of a sample size, Dwane Casey's leadership has breathed life into Toronto's young Roster.
Despite losing key reserves Sonny Weems and Reggie Evans, the Raptors have reached a new level defensively and could even be better offensively.
It seems each young player has improved—especially Demar DeRozan who's shooting an amazing 62.5 percent from beyond the arc after only making 9 percent of his outside shots last year.
There is a theory suggesting the Raptors will only maintain a winning record early on thanks to the rigorous schedule. That their young legs' ability to handle back-to-backs gives them an advantage over veteran squads, but eventually most teams will adjust to the season and the Raptors will then fall out.
I'm not so sure how popular this theory is, but even if it were true, the Raptors could still be a decent team at the time of the All-Star game and Bargnani could still grab a spot before the team starts losing gas.
Overall, winning is of huge importance and I believe as long as Toronto can maintain a .500 record, Bargnani will be considered in All-Star talks.
Reserves and Inevitable Injuries
The All-Star game format works like this: first the starters from each conference are selected by the fans, the top two vote receivers for guards and forwards will be starting and the top center in each conference will also start during the All-star game.
Then the reserves are selected by NBA head coaches who cannot select their own players. The reserves will be made up of three guards, three forwards and one center. In case of injury, the NBA league office gets to decide who fills in.
Andrea Bargnani is playing as a forward this season and has virtually no chance to compete with LeBron James or Carmelo Anthony for a starting spot on the team, but he might be able to win coaches over with a reserve role. Amar'e Stoudemire and Chris Bosh might be locks to make it again, but would some of our more traditional veterans really gain more votes than a primed Bargnani?
Boston's Kevin Garnett is struggling so far this season averaging only 12.8 points and 6.3 rebounds, while his teammate Paul Pierce is averaging only 14 points on 41.2 percent shooting from the field.
Other obstacles that may stand in Bargnani's way could be Danny Granger, Luol Deng, Carlos Boozer or Josh Smith, since each player will likely be playing on a better team than Bargnani, but each player has their own flaws.
Danny Granger is only shooting 34 percent from the field and his scoring average of 17 points is the lowest we've seen in four years.
Luol Deng is great, but he doesn't carry a team, rather he holds the image of a great role player.
Meanwhile. both Boozer and Smith are seeing career-lows in scoring, minus their rookie seasons.
There's also injury.
In the last five seasons, a total of 13 players had to be replaced due to injuries (including Iverson who missed the 2010 game due to "personal reasons").
That's nearly three additional players every year that become All-Stars.
Therefor, even if Bargnani isn't a top-four forward in the East, he could still make the team if a forward (Stoudemire?) is unable to play.
Last but not least, in 2008 Chris Bosh was selected as the All-Star center reserve despite being named a forward on the ballot.
Pau Gasol was also selected as the reserve center in 2009 despite being categorized as a forward on the All-star ballot.
Andrea Bargnani has spent a few years playing center and this exception could also be stretched out to his favor.
Overall, Bargnani is a very talented player and his rivals are currently lagging behind. After analyzing the rules and history behind All-Star game selections, I have no doubt that this Bargnani can make the team.