NBA All-Star Game 2013: Predicting the First-Time All-Stars

Maxwell Ogden@MaxwellOgdenCorrespondent IIIOctober 8, 2012

NBA All-Star Game 2013: Predicting the First-Time All-Stars

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    What's a life of success without recognition? For some, the simple fact that they achieved will be enough. For others, there is a need for the acknowledgement of their glory.

    Regardless of which end of the spectrum these following players are on, each will be pleased to know that they are going to be selected to their first career NBA All-Star Game.

    From the established stars who have always fallen short in the voting process to the up-and-coming players who are ready to burst onto the scene, some fan favorites will make their names known. This recognition will come by virtue of extraordinary statistical achievements and a significant impact on their team's success.

    Regardless of who and why, be prepared for a year in which the landscape of the NBA is reshaped forever.

    Here are the five NBA players who will be first-time All-Stars this upcoming season, and who they will replace.

DeMarcus Cousins, Sacramento Kings

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    Position: Center

    Age: 22

    Experience: 2 Seasons

    Whom He'll Replace: Marc Gasol, Center

     

    During the 2011-12 NBA season, DeMarcus Cousins quietly established himself as one of the top big men in the NBA. With averages of 18.1 points, 11.0 rebounds, 1.5 steals and 1.2 blocks per game, he proved to be worthy of the Top 5 draft choice the Sacramento Kings spent on him in 2010.

    Cousins also proved that he's an All-Star-caliber player who should have found his name on the ASG roster before a handful of those voted in or hand-selected.

    His Player Efficiency Rating of 21.72 ranked fourth amongst all centers, behind just Dwight Howard, Andrew Bynum and Al Jefferson. Although Jefferson deserves to be found in the All-Star Game, he'll continue to be underrated as his teammates' production prevents his individual recognition.

    As for Cousins, monster numbers and a growing reputation make him a very likely choice for this position. He was third in terms of rebounds per 48 minutes, ranking higher than Kevin Love and Andrew Bynum.

    Cousins also led the league in offensive rebounds and was one of five qualified players to average at least 1.0 blocks and 1.0 steals simultaneously.

    Although the Kings' success is always in question, Cousins has emerged as a vocal leader of the unit (via Ailene Voisin of the The Sacramento Bee). If the team can follow his pattern of emerging as an elite player, he could rival a big name for a starting slot.

    After all, we love an underdog story. Who better than the guy we've all written off as too much of a headcase to become one the best bigs in the game?

     

    2011-12 Season Averages

    21.72 PER, 18.1 PPG, 11.0 RPG, 1.6 APG, 1.5 SPG, 1.2 BPG

Ty Lawson, Denver Nuggets

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    Position: Point Guard

    Age: 24

    Experience: 3 Seasons

    Whom He'll Replace: Tony Parker, Guard

     

    It pains me to write that Tony Parker will not be an All-Star in 2012-13, but he will not. Not when you consider the fact that his four career appearances are spaced out across seven years, and his eye injury is an extreme wild card.

    Especially not when you consider how little respect one of the game's greatest playmakers receives.

    In his place will be Ty Lawson, who built up quite the reputation during the 2012 postseason. With four games scoring at least 24 points against the Los Angeles Lakers, Lawson became a fan favorite to be one of the next elite players.

    The 2013 All-Star Game will mark the day in which he makes the leap.

    The Denver Nuggets are due for their breakout season. With the arrival of Andre Iguodala, we've been all but assured that they will find their groove in 2012-13.

    For that reason, one can only assume that an individual will be targeted by the masses as the star of the team. Although Iguodala has built up a great reputation, the Nuggets are shifting more and more in the direction of becoming Lawson's team to lead with each passing season.

    Consider Lawson's buzzer-beater in the Nuggets' preseason opener the tone-setter for what should be a season to remember.

     

    2011-12 Season Averages

    19.43 PER, 16.4 PPG, 6.6 APG, 3.7 RPG, 1.3 SPG

Paul George, Indiana Pacers

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    Position: Shooting Guard

    Age: 22

    Experience: 2 Seasons

    Whom He'll Replace: Paul Pierce, Forward

     

    Paul Pierce remains one of the better players in the game. With an infusion of extraordinary depth to the Boston Celtics' perimeter, however, it appears as if his statistical production will dip.

    As a result, he won't garner the level of respect that he deserves.

    In his place will be one of the premier perimeter players in the game. Although he's gone under the radar in his first two years, Paul George has quietly emerged as one of the most well-rounded young perimeter weapons.

    Oh, and did we mention that he stands 6'8" at shooting guard? 

    As a rookie, George averaged 7.8 points, 3.7 rebounds, 1.1 assists and 1.0 steals on 29.7 percent shooting from beyond the arc. In his second year, George upped those numbers to 12.1 points, 5.6 rebounds, 2.4 assists and 1.6 steals on 38.5 percent shooting from distance.

    His steal numbers ranked ninth in the league, while 5.6 rebounds per game placed him second among all shooting guards.

    As we enter the 2012-13 NBA season, the Indiana Pacers look to return to the elite-level form that helped them finish third in the Eastern Conference one year ago. Should they be able to do so, an All-Star will emerge from Indianapolis.

    That man will be Paul George.

     

    2011-12 Season Averages

    16.55 PER, 12.1 PPG, 5.6 RPG, 2.4 APG, 1.6 SPG, 38.5% 3PT

Joakim Noah, Chicago Bulls

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    Position: Center

    Age: 27

    Experience: 5 Seasons

    Whom He'll Replace: Roy Hibbert, Center

     

    With Derrick Rose sidelined by a devastating torn ACL, the Chicago Bulls need their leaders to step up in full force. As the most vocal and emotionally wild player on the roster, expect center Joakim Noah to be the first to take action.

    Also, expect him to make his first career All-Star Game appearance.

    Prior to falling victim to a sprained left ankle, Noah was on pace for a breakout postseason series against the Philadelphia 76ers. In Game 1, the former Florida Gator put up 12 points, 13 rebounds, three assists, two blocks and a steal.

    Game 2 proved how far his once severely flawed offensive game has come, as Noah dropped 21 points, eight rebounds, five assists and a steal on 10-of-11 shooting. For those believing that performance was simply a fluke, it was not.

    Noah's mid-range game may not be pretty, but it is more than effective. He was in the midst of proving that during Game 3 before suffering the injury.

    The significant developments in Noah's game that will lead him to an All-Star selection can be described with one word: discipline.

    Noah averaged 10.2 points per game on just 7.7 shot attempts per game. He also committed just 2.5 fouls per game after averaging at least 3.0 in three consecutive seasons.

    As 2012-13 rolls around, expect Noah to take on a much larger role on offense. He and Nate Robinson are developing a great rapport in training camp and should work the high-low game well, thus leading to Noah finishing around the basket.

    An average of 15 points, 10 rebounds, 3.0 assists and 1.5 blocks per game are projected expectations. With all due respect to Greg Monroe, the fact that Noah will be carrying a postseason team gets him the nod.

     

    2011-12 Season Averages

    19.95 PER, 10.2 PPG, 9.8 RPG, 2.5 APG, 1.4 BPG, 74.8% FT

Josh Smith, Atlanta Hawks

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    Position: Power Forward

    Age: 26

    Experience: 8 Seasons

    Whom He'll Replace: Andre Iguodala, Forward

     

    It is criminal that Josh Smith has yet to make an All-Star Game appearance. Although his previous seven seasons had their downsides, Smith emerged as one of the best players at his position in 2011-12.

    On both ends of the floor.

    On offense, Smith finally began to mature with his shot selection. Rather than attempting long jump shots, J-Smoove found his way into the paint and post much more often. As a result, he averaged a career-high 18.8 points per game.

    Smith also hauled in 2.1 offensive rebounds and dished out 3.9 assists per contest during the regular season. That number raised to 4.8 dimes during the playoffs.

    Defense is where Smith made the most significant improvements, as he emerged as a dominant force on that end. He was one of five qualified players to average at least 1.0 blocks and 1.0 steals, joining Dwight Howard as the only players in the league to average at least 1.5 swats and 1.0 swipes.

    His season averages sat at 9.6 rebounds, 1.7 blocks and 1.4 steals a night. His 7.5 defensive boards a contest ranked sixth in the league, while his blocks sat ninth and steals were in the Top 20 overall.

    We've all been waiting for Smith to break the athleticism mold and find some substance. In 2011-12, he finally did.

    There is no way he isn't honored for this progression in 2013, as he becomes an All-NBA-caliber talent and leads the Atlanta Hawks to a postseason berth.

     

    2011-12 Season Averages

    21.14 PER, 18.8 PPG, 9.6 RPG, 3.9 APG, 1.7 BPG, 1.4 SPG