We are only three weeks into the fast-paced, condensed NBA season, but given the fact that the 2012 NBA All-Star game will be here next month, this is a perfect time to begin picking the 24 players who deserve to be in Orlando next month representing their respective conferences.
Predicting the Eastern and Western Conference starters is the easy part, given that the players are chosen solely based on fan voting. It's a popularity contest, plain and simple. The hard part is trying to guess who the coaches will chose to fill the seven spots on the bench. Each team must have two centers, four forwards, four guards and two more players from any position.
Here come the predictions. Some will be obvious and some maybe questionable, but these 24 players deserve to be recognized as All-Stars this year.
Guard: Derrick Rose, Chicago Bulls—Two-Time All-Star
Rose is attempting to live up to the expectations of being the current league MVP, and so far he is handling that pressure easily. The Chicago Bulls rely heavily on Rose. As Rose goes, the Bulls go. He is the leading scorer at the point guard position in the league and top 10 in assists. He will definitely be making his third All-Star appearance next month.
Guard: Dwyane Wade, Miami Heat—Seven-Time All-Star
Wade has been a little banged up this year, but those minor injuries will not keep him from appearing in his eighth All-Star game. He is only averaging 19 points per game (which will rise once he gets healthy), but he has been huge in the fourth quarter this year. His two game-winners speak to that.
Forward: LeBron James, Miami Heat—Seven-Time All-Star
James is again on the short list for league MVP this year. He is second in the league in scoring behind Kobe Bryant. We have all heard the fourth quarter playoff LeBron jokes, but regular season LeBron is as good as it gets. The only to stop LeBron from making the All-Star team each year is retirement.
Forward: Carmelo Anthony, New York Knicks—Four-Time All-Star
For the first time in his career, Carmelo Anthony name will appear on the Eastern Conference All-Star ballot, but for the fifth time, he will be named to the All-Star team. He is fourth in scoring and has been unreal in the fourth quarter this year averaging about 10 points in the fourth. He is currently the most clutch player in the NBA. Sorry Kobe, Kevin Durant and Dirk Nowitzki.
Center: Dwight Howard, Orlando Magic—Five-Time All-Star
Superman has been at the center of numerous trade rumors, and while we aren't positive if he will still be a member of the Orlando Magic come Feb. 26th, Dwight Howard will be in Orlando that night as a starting center in the All-Star Game. He is top 15 in scoring, rebounding, steals and blocks in the Eastern Conference. With that, he will be named to his sixth All-Star game.
Guard: Chris Paul, Los Angeles Clippers—Four-Time All-Star
The NBA All-Star game will never be confused as a defensive battle, so who better to run the show for the Western Conference than Chris Paul himself? Paul is the mayor of Lob City. He leads the league in steals and is top six in assists. His scoring may be a little down this year, but he is orchestrating highlight plays every time he steps onto the court.
Guard: Kobe Bryant, Los Angeles Lakers—13-Time All-Star
Kobe has been battling a pretty serious wrist injury that requires him to get a cortisone shot before every game. After some struggles early on, the Black Mamba is starting to find his groove and has been playing very well lately. He has surged to the top in scoring average after four consecutive 40-point games.
He has the most All-Star appearances among active players and will be adding to that total in February.
Forward: Kevin Durant, Oklahoma City Thunder—Two-Time All-Star
Kevin Durant has simply been brilliant this year. He has hit big shot after big shot including a crazy 25-foot three pointer to beat the Dallas Mavericks at the buzzer. He has the Thunder on top of the Western Conference and will making the his third appearance in the All-Star Game.
Forward: Blake Griffin, Los Angeles Clippers—One-Time All-Star
While I personally believe that Kevin Love should be the other starting forward, the All-Star Game is all about popularity, and few players are more popular than Blake Griffin. After his impressive showing in last year's dunk contest, he will be one of the starting forwards in the All-Star Game for years to come.
Center: Andrew Bynum, Los Angeles Lakers—No All-Star Appearances
One thing has kept Andrew Bynum from becoming an All-Star—injuries. When healthy, Bynum is a monster. He has been punishing teams since he returned from his four-game suspension at the beginning of the year. He is averaging 16 points per game and a gaudy 14 boards a game. If he keeps up this pace, he will surely be making his first All-Star appearance.
Forward: Chris Bosh, Miami Heat—Six-Time All-Star
While Bosh is a member of the Big Three, most analysts do not consider Bosh to be an equal to either Lebron or Wade. But Bosh is playing really well right now. He is in the top 24 in scoring, rebounding and blocks. While he may not be a true superstar, he does deserve to make his seventh All-Star appearance.
Forward: Amare Stoudemire, New York Knicks—Six-Time All-Star
The New York Knicks are extremely mediocre. If they continue to play like they have, the will struggle to even make the playoffs. Amare has continued to play well by averaging 19 points and eight rebounds a game. While I expect the Knicks to get their act together defensively, you can bet that Amare and Anthony will continue to play at a high level on the offense side of the ball.
Guard: Rajon Rondo, Boston Celtics—Two-Time All-Star
Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen were the original Big Three. In the last couple of years, Rondo has played so well that the group became the Big Four. With Pierce and Garnett looking close to their end, Rondo is carrying the team by averaging 15 points, 10 assists and five rebounds a game. Add in his stellar defensive abilities, and it's hard not to imagine Rondo an All-Star next month.
Guard: Ray Allen, Boston Celtics—10-Time All-Star
Ray Allen seems so defy logic. The older he gets, the better he gets. Equipped with the sweetest shot in the game, Allen is shooting an incredible 59 percent from beyond the arc. He continues to hit the biggest shots for the Celtics. Allen should be suiting up for his 11th All-Star Game this year.
Guard: Deron Williams, New Jersey Nets—Two-Time All-Star
Deron Williams has been the lone bright spot on a terrible Nets team. He is top 20 in both scoring and assists in the league. Without Williams, the Nets would struggle to win eight games this year. Depending on what happens with Dwight Howard, this may very well be Williams only All-Star appearance as a New Jersey Net.
Forward: Kevin Love, Minnesota Timberwolves—One-Time All-Star
Kevin Love has been spectacular this year. He is a double-double machine and is in the top six in scoring and rebounding in the league. He worked hard on extending his shooting range, and it has shown. He is shooting 38 percent from deep which is excellent for a power forward. This will be the second of many All-Star game appearances for Love in the years to come.
Forward: LaMarcus Aldridge, Portland Trailblazers—No All-Star Appearances
It was shocking that Aldridge was not named to the All-Star game last year. This year, there is no way that they can keep him off the roster. He has the stats and his team is playing well, so there is no excuse for Aldridge not making his first All-Star game.
Forward: Dirk Nowitzki, Dallas Mavericks—10-Time All-Star
2011 Finals MVP Dirk Nowitzki has started off a little slow this year, but I will cut him some slack given his track record. Dirk is consistently in the top 10 in scoring while taking far less shots than the other members on that list.
Dirk's stats are a little deceiving. The Mavericks have been involved in only two close games this year, which means that Dirk is only playing about 30 minutes a game. His stats will improve and his selection to his 11th All-Star team will be justified.
Center: Marc Gasol, Memphis Grizzlies—No All-Star Appearances
With the loss of both Zach Randolph and Darrell Arthur, Marc Gasol is the burdened with carrying the low post scoring and rebounding load for the Grizzlies. Gasol's averaging two more points per game than last season, and he is still in the top seven in rebounding and blocks. There are not many good centers in the west, so Marc Gasol should be making his first All-Star appearance.
Guard: Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City Thunder—One-Time All-Star
Westbrook is a turnover machine, but that is because he plays at such a frantic pace. Westbrook has really stepped it up over the last six or seven games for the Thunder. He is in the top 25 in scoring, assists and steals. Westbrook will be making his second All-Star appearance.
Center: Andrea Bargnani, Toronto Raptors—No All-Star Appearances
While Bargnani has never lived up to being selected as the No. 1 overall pick in the 2006 NBA draft, this year he has raised his game to another level. He is ninth in the league in scoring and has hit some big shots for the lowly Raptors. If he continues to play at this level, he certainly will be making his first All-Star appearance.
Guard: Kyrie Irving, Cleveland Cavaliers—No All-Star Appearances
Kyrie Irving may not be a superstar yet, but he is well on his way. Among the point guards in the league, Irving is in the top 15 in scoring, rebounding, field goal percentage, free throw percentage, three point percentage and blocks. He is within one assist per game of being in the top 15 in assists. He should be the lone rookie playing on Sunday during All-Star weekend.
Guard: Kyle Lowry, Houston Rockets—No All-Star Appearances
Kyle Lowry has been Mr. Everything for the Houston Rockets this year. His play last year was impressive, and he is showing that last year was no fluke. He is averaging 17.8 points, 9.3 assists and 6.9 rebounds per game. There is no question that he should be in Orlando next month enjoying his first All-Star appearance.
Guard: Monta Ellis, Golden State Warriors—No All-Star Appearances
As explosive as Monta Ellis has been, it is amazing that he has never been named to the All-Star team. Ellis has been carrying the load for the Warriors since Stephen Curry has been out with a nagging ankle injury. Ellis is averaging 23 points and close to eight assists a game. If he continues his stellar play, he will likely be named to his first All-Star Game.
John Wall, Washington Wizards—No All-Star Appearances
Wall is on the outside looking in. Wall has been good, not great. With his natural ability, you would expect him to score more than the 13 points per game this season. His biggest downfall is his jump shooting. He definitely provides some highlight plays throughout the game, but until he improves his shooting and consistency, Wall will be watching the All-Star Game rather than playing in it.
Brandon Jennings, Milwaukee Bucks—No All-Star Appearances
Jennings has been fantastic for the Milwaukee Bucks. With Bogut missing the majority of the season, Jennings play has the Bucks just one game out of the eighth seed in the East. With Bogut returning, Jennings numbers are sure to go up. Jennings could sneak up and grab a spot on the All-Star roster.
Spencer Hawes, Philadelphia 76ers—No All-Star Appearances
Spencer Hawes is not a household name, but he is manning the middle on a Philadelphia team that is just tearing teams apart. Hawes is averaging 10 points and almost nine rebounds a game. Hawes could make the team if Bargnani is not allowed to be considered as a center.
James Harden, Oklahoma City Thunder—No All-Star Appearances
Harden will unfortunately miss making his first all-star appearance despite being the leader in the clubhouse for sixth man of the year. Two things are working against Harden: He plays with both Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, and there are a bevy of really good guards in the West this year.
Demarcus Cousins, Sacramento Kings—No All-Star Appearances
If Cousins would get his act together off the court, his on the court play would be more widely appreciated. Cousins has the ability to be the third best center in the league behind Dwight Howard and Andrew Bynum, but unfortunately he lacks the maturity to become that player. His stats are better than that of Marc Gasol, but it will be his reputation that will keep him from being an All-Star anytime soon.
Ty Lawson, Denver Nuggets—No All-Star Appearances
Ty Lawson certainly deserves to be an All-Star this year, but like Harden, there are so many good guards in the West that he will fall short in his quest to be named to his first All-Star Game. The Denver Nuggets are currently a top-four team in the West and Lawson is the main reason why. While he may not make the All-Star team this year, Lawson could walk away this season the most improved player.