Despite losing Zach Randolph just four games into the season, the Memphis Grizzlies have been playing at a playoff-contending pace. They're currently eighth out West with a record of 19-15, and could make their first back-to-back playoff appearance since 2006. One of the main reasons why is the play of All-Star reserve Marc Gasol and All-Star snub Rudy Gay.
Gasol has thrived in Randolph's absence, posting career-bests of 15.0 points, 10.0 rebounds, 3.1 assists and 2.2 blocks per game. He's also added a steal per night and another career-best with 75.1 percent shooting from the foul line.
Rudy Gay, who was not selected to the All-Star game, has played magnificently.
On a team with five active players averaging double-digit scoring, Gay has managed to score 18.9 points per game. He's also grabbing a career-best 6.6 rebounds per contest, as well as 1.6 steals. He's shooting well across the board, including 39 percent from distance.
Nevertheless, the Grizzlies' leader has been omitted from the All-Star Game once again.
Sadly, Rudy Gay is far from alone as a Grizzlies' All-Star omission. In fact, one could even argue he's one of many on the Grizzlies' roster who was wrongfully excluded.
As for who should have made it most, Mike Conley is at the top of the list.
Conley has improved by leaps and bounds since entering the league in 2007 alongside fellow Ohio State alum Greg Oden. When the Grizzlies chose Conley with the fourth-overall draft choice, the pick was criticized as premature. Today, those critics can promptly shut their mouths and accept what's true: Mike Conley is steadily approaching elite status.
Is Mike Conley (13.2 ppg, 6.7 apg, 2.5 spg) All-Star Material?
Conley has proven himself as one of the best defensive point guards in the NBA. He currently leads the league in steals with 2.5 per contest, as well as ranking second among point guards in steals-to-personal-foul ratio. Maybe most significant about his play in 2012, however, is his basketball IQ.
The former Buckeye is currently averaging more steals per game than turnovers. None of the 2012 All-Star selections can make that claim. In fact, not a single point guard in the NBA can make that claim.
There's no denying how deserving the Western Conference point guards are.
Tony Parker has lifted the San Antonio Spurs to the top of their division despite losing Manu Ginobili and Tiago Splitter.
Russell Westbrook has continued to dominate opponents, posting a career-best 23.5 points per game.
Steve Nash remains one of the best players in the NBA despite being nearly 40 years old, leading the NBA in assists with 10.9 per contest.
As for Chris Paul, nothing needs to be said.
Nevertheless, Mike Conley is a name that was wrongly overlooked. He has played just as important a role for his team, contributing on both ends of the floor. He's averaging a career-best 6.7 assists and is shooting 89 percent from the free-throw line. Conley is also posting 13.2 points per game while playing a career-high 36 minutes a night.
His name may never garner the attention of his teammates or peers, but Conley may be the most deserving name in the race for Defensive Player of the Year.
Unfortunately, offensive statistics have historically dominated the All-Star selection process. Maybe things will change In 2013, as it may be time to honor one of the best defensive point guards of this new generation...before it's too late.