10 NBA Players Making a Case for First All-Star Appearance

Dan FavaleFeatured ColumnistJanuary 9, 2012

10 NBA Players Making a Case for First All-Star Appearance

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    The 2012 NBA All-Star Ballot has been released, and while there are the usual locks who will earn a selection, numerous candidates are making a case for a first time appearance.

    In a league dominated by the LeBron James' and Kobe Bryants, we often overlook other young athletes who are lighting it up. Last year, LaMarcus Aldridge served as the latest victim, and there are likely to be a few other notable snubs this season as well.

    That being said, while both All-Star teams tend to consist mostly of repeatedly heralded players, a few surprising, yet deserving, first-timers are bound to make the cut. Plenty of athletes have begun to prove themselves this season, as they fight to earn their inclusion in the All-Star conversation.

Ty Lawson of Denver Nuggets

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    Over the past year, the Denver Nuggets have boasted a plethora of talented point guards, all of whom have been dealt or benched in favor of the third-year Ty Lawson. Currently, Denver is experiencing anything but remorse for such decisions.

    Lawson is averaging 16.6 points, 6.3 assists and two steals per game for the surprising Nuggets. He is shooting just below 40 percent from beyond the arc and has been an unstoppable force on both ends of the floor.

    At only 24 and standing at only 5'11", the elusive Lawson has emerged as a leading presence both on the court and in the locker room. His basketball IQ is impeccable, and he is making plays that imply experience well beyond his age.

    While Lawson is making a strong case to become a member of the Western Conference All-Star team, there is a real possibility he gets snubbed. No matter, though, because there are plenty of All-Star appearances to come from the point guard.

Jose Calderon of Toronto Raptors

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    Any speculation regarding the starting point guard position with the Toronto Raptors prior to the season has been put to bed early on thanks to the spectacular play of Jose Calderon.

    Calderon is in his seventh season and averaging 12.4 points and 9.4 assists per game while shooting nearly 39 percent from behind the rainbow this season. While he is a sub-par defender, he is adept at grabbing long rebounds, especially on the offensive end, and is an absolute lock from the charity stripe.

    The 30-year-old Calderon's stat lines may not be turning too many ends, but he is third in the entire NBA for assists per game . His savvy ball-distribution has allowed both DeMar DeRozan and Andrea Bargnani to put up career numbers thus far and has prevented Toronto from falling into oblivion as it normally does.

    Calderon is having a career year himself, and at the very least, will remain a part of the All-Star game conversation. 

LaMarcus Aldridge of Portland Trail Blazers

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    LaMarcus Aldridge was snubbed of an All-Star slot last season, and it is a near certainty that such an inexcusable occurrence won't happen for a second straight year.

    Aldridge is averaging 22.6 points and 7.8 rebounds per so far this season. He has been the driving force behind the Portland Trail Blazers' impressive start and is poised to lead his amongst the top of the Western Conference.

    While the power forward put up similar numbers last season, he has become more of a household name this time around. It is not going to be as easy to overlook him this year, as he as emerged as not only one of the league's best big men, but overall players.

    Portland has an underrated superstar in Aldridge, yet he will move one step closer toward shedding such a label with an All-Star selection. 

Roy Hibbert of Indiana Pacers

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    Move over, Al Horford; there is a new second-best center candidate for the Eastern Conference in Roy Hibbert.

    There aren't many capable big men in the NBA and even fewer of which who could hold a candle to Dwight Howard. Hibbert has become one of the select few who can, though.

    In only his third season, Hibbert is averaging a double-double with 13.8 points and 10 rebounds per game. He is also blocking 1.4 shots per contest, emerging as one of the most feared low-post presences on the defensive end.

    Aside from Howard, names like Horford and Tyson Chandler generated a lot of buzz heading into the season, yet Hibbert has been the most consistent and arguably most effective of all. 

    Is an All-Star appearance in his immediate future? Definitely, maybe.

Kyle Lowry of Houston Rockets

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    Should follies off the court come into play, then Kyle Lowry's recent run-in with the law would keep him out of the All-Star conversation, yet they aren't, and his play warrants definite consideration.

    Lowry is averaging 15.3 assists, 10 assists, 6.2 rebounds and two steals per game. He is shooting the ball magnificently, especially from long range and simply excelling in all aspects of the game.

    The 25-year-old point guard is second in the league in assists per game and is battling with Kobe Bryant for the top rebounding spot for all of the league's guards. Lowry is in his sixth season in the NBA, and few expected this type of production, but it seems that his game has finally clicked.

    Lowry is on pace to have a huge season, a campaign that could very well include an All-Star appearance.

Andrea Bargnani of Toronto Raptors

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    No, it is not a mistake that two members of the Toronto Raptors are making an appearance here. Andrea Bargnani is on pace to have the best season of his career and is making a case for an All-Star selection as a result.

    Bargnani is currently averaging 22.8 points and 6.4 rebounds per game while shooting just over 37 percent from three-point range. The seven-footer has continued to show off his impressive range, but it is his new-found willingness to rebound that is most noteworthy.

    While most would expect a player of Bargnani's size to grab closer to 10 rebounds per game, the 26-year-old has improved by great leaps and bounds on the glass this season. He is finally boxing out and grabbing some boards. The fact that he has become even more of a dominant scorer doesn't hurt his chances either.

    Could Bargnani make his first All-Star appearance of his career this season? It's far from a lock, but definitely not out of the question.

Andrew Bynum of Los Angeles Lakers

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    Andrew Bynum has been the poster-boy for inconsistency for more than half a decade, but such a role may be a reality of the past for the center.

    After missing the first four games of the season, Bynum has been on an absolute tear. He is averaging 18.8 points, 15.7 rebounds and 1.7 blocks per game thus far and boasting an improved state of endurance.

    While his overall defense and rebounding has been unexpectedly superb, the real shock is his offensive production. He is averaging nearly 20 points per game as the third offensive option.

    Dwight Howard to the Los Angeles Lakers rumors are unlikely to cease, but Bynum is making a case to stay in purple and gold in addition to proving he is due for his first All-Star selection.

Ryan Anderson of Orlando Magic

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    The Orlando Magic are fighting to retain their star Dwight Howard, and Ryan Anderson has done everything he can to help the cause.

    Anderson is averaging 18 points and 7.3 rebounds per game while shooting an incredible 43.7 percent from long distance. He has been a pillar of consistency and is the team's second leading scorer behind Howard.

    Also noteworthy is his 25.2 PER posting so far, as it is just above Howard's 25. The 23-year-old is excelling as a stretch power forward, and alongside Howard, has given the Magic a low-post tandem to be feared league-wide.

    Is Anderson's performance enough to convince Howard to commit to Orlando long term? Probably not, but it may be enough to earn him his first ever All-Star appearance.

Monta Ellis of Golden State Warriors

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    For the better part of a decade, Monta Ellis has been one of the highest octane of scorers in the NBA, and while he has been kept out of the All-Star game thus far, his is a streak that may come to an end this February.

    Ellis is currently averaging 24.1 points, 8.1 assists and 1.4 steals per game. Selfishness has long been a knock on the combo-guard, but such arguments hold no merit anymore. 

    While Ellis' three-point shot has been inconsistent, his ability to direct an offense has never been more prevalent, and his defense has even improved under new head coach Mark Jackson. He isn't swiping as many steals as we are used to, but that's because he is taking less risks in favor of playing a more intelligent style of defense.

    Ellis' stats may be bolstered a bit thanks to Stephen Curry's lingering ankle issues, but that's what a leader does in the face of controversy; he takes over.

    Don't be surprised if Ellis is named to the first All-Star roster of his career.

James Harden of Oklahoma City Thunder

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    It isn't often that bench players generate All-Star chatter, but James Harden has played like your run-of-the-mill role player, instead showing flashes of a superstar in the making.

    Harden has averaged 17.6 points, 3.9 assists and five rebounds per game off the bench for the Oklahoma City Thunder so far this season. He is hitting nearly 35 percent of his three-point attempts and has emerged as one of the league's best rebounding guards.

    Few teams boast the type of firepower off the bench that Harden provides. The shooting guard's production is consistent, and he remains humble despite his ever growing list of accolades. 

    Russell Westbrook has struggled quite a bit this season, but Harden has excelled in all facets of the game, which has allowed Oklahoma City to roll along without missing a beat. His role on this championship-caliber team may earn him his first All-Star appearance in only his third NBA season.

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