Naming NBA All-Star Game Lineups After Season's First 2 Months
I'm not one of those guys that believes the NBA All-Star selections should be taken away from the fans. It is true that it isn't always an accurate representation of the league's best players, but that's what the All-NBA selections are for at the end of the season.
The All-Star Game and festivities are for the fans.
That said, if the game was played on Sunday, and the most deserving players were selected, the stars in this slideshow would represent their teams and conferences.
Flip through the slides to see my take on the most deserving players, and click here to see the leading vote-getters for the game on Feb. 15 from Houston's Toyota Center.
East Reserves: Philadelphia 76ers PG Jrue Holiday
Holiday has been great the first two months of the season. He's the only player in the East averaging at least 18 points and eight assists per game.
In an offense that doesn't have a clear star, Holiday is the closest thing to it for the Philadelphia 76ers. Barring injury or a significant drop-off in production, Holiday deserves to be selected to his first All-Star game.
He had a huge night against the Phoenix Suns on Nov. 25. He put up 33 points and 13 assists in that game, and it was one of his eight double-doubles this season.
East Reserves: Cleveland Cavaliers PG Kyrie Irving
Irving has missed 11 of his team's 32 games this season due to injury, but he has been amazing in the games in which he's played. The injuries are the only reason I didn't place him in the starting lineup.
He's easily the highest-scoring point guard in the Eastern Conference averaging 22.7 points per game. He's also dishing a respectable 5.6 dimes per game for a team that doesn't have a ton of weapons to help him.
He's only failed to reach double figures twice, and he's scored 25 or more points in 10 games. That includes a 41-point explosion at Madison Square Garden against the New York Knicks on Dec. 15, and a 34-point performance at the Barclays Center against the Brooklyn Nets on Nov. 13.
I guess he really loves New York.
Unfortunately for Irving and the Cavs, both performances came in losing efforts. Still, he is clearly one of the six best point guards in the NBA right now.
This should be his first All-Star selection.
East Reserves: Boston Celtics SF Paul Pierce
You might hate him or think his game is ugly, but the Truth will set you free. Anyone that knows the game must admit that Pierce is still one of the NBA's premier wing players.
Through the first two months of the season, Pierce is averaging 19.9 points, 3.8 assists and 5.4 rebounds per game. That's as balanced a line from any small forward this side of LeBron James and Kevin Durant.
Rajon Rondo may be the catalyst for the Boston Celtics, but Pierce is still the go-to man when the team needs a bucket. He should be selected to his 11th All-Star game, and his sixth in a row.
East Reserves: Indiana Pacers SF/SG Paul George
Speaking of balance, the uber-athletic swingman from the Indiana Pacers has shown his all-around skills through the early going of the NBA season.
He has taken on more of the clutch-scoring role in Danny Granger's stead. This season he's averaging 16.5 points, 3.5 assists and 7.1 rebounds per game.
Beyond the scoring, rebounding and assists numbers, George has continued to assert himself as one of the better perimeter defenders in the league as well.
He's averaging 1.4 steals per game, and he still draws the toughest perimeter defensive assignments late in games.
He deserves to be a first-time All-Star selection.
East Reserves: Atlanta Hawks SF/PF Josh Smith
Josh Smith is one of the most underrated and under-appreciated players in the league. Sure, he still has a penchant to fire up the occasional ill-advised jump shot, but Smith is a demon on both ends of the floor.
He's an elite shot-blocker and a better-than-average rebounder and scorer.
He's averaging 16.9 points, 3.7 assists, 8.3 rebounds, 1.4 steals and 2.3 blocks per game. No other player in the NBA is averaging at least 16 points, three assists, eight rebounds and two blocks.
It is a crime that he's never been voted to an All-Star game. Hopefully, this is the year he gets the nod.
East Reserves: Chicago Bulls PF/C Joakim Noah
Noah has been one of the best defensive players in the NBA this season. He is eighth in the league in blocked shots, and he leads all centers in steals with 1.4 per game.
Besides his usual solid work on defense, Noah has stepped up his offensive production as well.
He's scoring a career-high 12.8 points per game, and that includes a 30-point, 23-rebound performance against the Detroit Pistons on Dec. 7.
He is pulling down 10.3 rebounds per game and he has 14 double-doubles this season. This should be yet another first-time All-Star in the Eastern Conference.
East Reserves: Brooklyn Nets C Brook Lopez
Lopez isn't getting the credit he deserves for a solid season. Noah and other East centers seem to be garnering more respect, but Lopez's 18.3 points, 7.3 rebounds and 2.3 blocks per game are near elite numbers for a big man.
If his rebound totals were higher, he would have been my choice as the starting center in the East.
He's still had seven double-doubles this season and has been a more-than-dependable scoring option on the block for the Nets.
How many All-Star games has Lopez been to? You guessed it, none.
He also deserves to make his All-Star game debut, barring a change in production.
West Reserves: San Antonio Spurs PG Tony Parker
Tony Parker has been up to his old tricks, and that has nothing to do with text messages.
He's averaging 19.3 points, 7.3 assists and 3.2 rebounds per game for a Spurs team that refuses to fade. He's had seven double-doubles, four 30-point games and two 30-point, 10-assist games this season.
Parker is sometimes overlooked when it comes to elite point guards, but his name definitely belongs in the discussion.
This should be his fifth All-Star selection.
West Reserves: Los Angeles Clippers PG Chris Paul
If you asked me which point guard I'd want to run my team, my answer would be Paul, but he doesn't deserve to be the All-Star starter in the West this season.
Despite averaging 16 points, 9.3 assists, 3.4 rebounds, 2.7 steals and leading the Clippers to a 25-7 record, there is someone out West playing just a little better.
I'll get to him a little later.
That said, Paul may ultimately end up getting a healthy number of MVP votes at the end of the season. The Clippers just saw their 17-game win streak snapped, but if they march to the best record in the West, as the team's leader and catalyst, he has to be considered.
The fans will likely vote him in, but he'd be a reserve on this year's team if it were based entirely on production.
West Reserves: Houston Rockets G James Harden
In nearly any other season, a player averaging 26.1 points, 5.2 assists and 4.4 rebounds per game would deserve to start in the All-Star game, but not this season.
That still doesn't take much away from the first two months Harden has had for the Rockets.
He's only been held under 20 points five times this season, and his play-making has been a huge help alongside a mediocre Jeremy Lin.
Harden has scored 30 or more points 10 times. He's another player that will get some MVP votes, though his Rockets aren't likely to finish high enough in the standings to make him a serious contender.
Unless the Mayans come up with a new doomsday date, Harden will be making his first All-Star game.
West Reserves: Dallas Mavericks G O.J. Mayo
The Dallas Mavericks haven't been very good this season, but imagine where they would be without Mayo. He leads the team in scoring with 18.2 points per game.
He's also been a solid rebounder and assist man from the guard spot, averaging 3.8 and 3.7 respectively.
While the Mavs wait for Dirk Nowitzki's health to come around, Mayo has held down the fort. He has a player option to become an unrestricted free agent after the season.
Based on what he's done, I'd say he has out-performed his current $4.02 million salary. Check off another player that deserves to be a first-time All-Star.
West Reserves: Portland Trail Blazers G/F Nicolas Batum
Batum has long been known for his defensive prowess and athleticism, but his scoring, rebounding and passing have all improved this season.
The 16.4 points, 5.7 rebounds and 4.4 assists per game are all career highs for Batum.
His defense hasn't taken a dip as the rest of his game has improved, either. His 1.6 steals and 1.2 blocks are also career highs for the 24-year old swingman.
While he isn't one of the prominent names at swingman in the NBA, thus far he's having one of the best all-around seasons of anyone at the position.
West Reserves: Golden State Warriors PF David Lee
Lee is quietly the only player in the NBA averaging 20 points and 11 rebounds per game. Were he a little more of a presence on defense, I'd consider him as a starter.
As it is, he is still having a great season.
Over the past four years and the first two months of this season, Lee has averaged 18.7 points and 10.7 rebounds per game. If his 2012-2013 pace holds, it'll be the second time he has averaged 20 and 10 in a season.
Still, he has only made one All-Star team in his career. There is no good reason this shouldn't be his second trip.
West Reserves: San Antonio Spurs PF/C Tim Duncan
Tim Duncan is having an amazing season for a man of any age, but considering he's 36, his first two months are even more special.
He's scoring 17 points, grabbing 9.7 rebounds and still blocking 2.5 shots per game. Duncan is the only player 35 years or older averaging near a double-double.
His continued excellence on the defensive end gave him the nod over the Memphis Grizzlies' Zach Randolph and the Los Angeles Clippers' Blake Griffin.
He is still the rock of the seemingly ageless Spurs, and he deserves to play in his 14th NBA All-Star game.
East Starters: Boston Celtics PG Rajon Rondo
Rondo's combination of rebounding and play-making makes him one of the most unique players at the point guard position.
He leads the NBA in assists at 11.6 per game, and he's second among point guards in rebounding with 5.1 per game.
If Rondo were a better shooter, he'd easily be the best point guard in the NBA. As it stands, he's still in the top five, and is the best non-injured point guard in the East.
Rondo is only keeping this spot warm until Derrick Rose returns to form.
East Starters: Miami Heat SG Dwyane Wade
Wade may be having a down year by his standards, but his 20.4 points per game is still tops among all Eastern Conference shooting guards.
His 4.5 assists and 4.5 rebounds are down from what we saw from him five years ago, but even Flash gives way to father time.
He is, however, shooting a career-high 51 percent from the field, and that has made him much more efficient.
The Heat are still the team to beat in the NBA, and Wade is still an elite shooting guard.
East Starters: Cleveland Cavaliers C Anderson Varejao
It was close between Carrot Top, Long Hair Don't Care AKA Joakim Noah and Short-Hair Don't Rebound AKA Brook Lopez, but Varejao gets the nod from me.
The guy is passing the ball nearly as well as Noah, averaging 3.4 assists per game. He's scoring nearly as well as Lopez putting in 14.1 points and he's out-rebounding them both with 14.4 boards per night.
Because of his production and the Cavs' struggles, you have to wonder if Varejao will finish the season in Cleveland.
He's a flopper and an irritant, but he deserves to be an All-Star starter.
East Starters: New York Knicks F Carmelo Anthony
Melo and Kobe Bryant are the most-skilled scorers on the planet. Kevin Durant and LeBron are obviously skilled when it comes to putting the ball in the basket, but they also benefit from elite athleticism.
Melo's game will translate even when he's lost a step, and he won't need to develop much that he doesn't already have.
He's second in the NBA in scoring at 29.2 points per game, he's averaging a respectable 6.2 rebounds and he's the figure-head in the Knicks' resurgence.
Even if he doesn't win the MVP this season, he'll likely get more votes than he ever has in the past.
East Starters: Miami Heat F LeBron James
You could call him the CM Punk of the NBA, because he's the best in the world, only King James doesn't need a script to prove it.
The numbers are as consistent and ridiculously good as they always are with James: 26.3 points, 8.4 rebounds and 7.3 assists per game.
He's shooting 54 percent from the field and 41 percent from three-point range. Both are career highs.
When the best player on the planet establishes a career high in shooting percentages, that says something. On the down side, that has to be the ugliest expression ever made in a Bleacher Report slideshow.
West Starters: Oklahoma City Thunder PG Russell Westbrook
Westbrook is tough as nails and no point guard in the NBA is playing better. He's scoring, distributing and playing defense at an elite level.
His 21.5 points per game is sixth in the NBA and leads all point guards. His 8.7 assists is sixth in the the league, but he is the only player in the NBA averaging 20 points and eight assists per game.
I mentioned defense. He's fourth in the NBA in with 2.1 steals per game. Were it not for his spider-like teammate, he'd be a serious candidate for league MVP if this production continues.
West Starters: Los Angeles Lakers SG Kobe Bryant
The Mamba is leading the NBA in scoring with his 30.3 points per game. That's really a remarkable feat considering his age and the tread on his well-traveled tires, but the dude is truly special.
He's not just scoring well, but he is also grabbing 5.4 rebounds, collecting 1.5 steals and dishing 4.7 assists.
The Lakers are struggling to live up to expectations, though. Part of the reason is because Bryant is taking too many shots. He leads the NBA in field-goal attempts per game wit 21.8, and he plays with Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol.
That may also explain why he's also averaging 3.5 turnovers per game.
Nonetheless, he's obviously the premier shooting guard in the NBA this season. Still, a little sacrifice on the offensive end would help the Lakers overall.
West Starters: Los Angeles Lakers C Dwight Howard
Dwight Howard looks frustrated and less than his normal dominant self, but he's still the league's best center.
When 17.3 points, 11.9 rebounds and 2.6 blocked shots is considered a slow start, you know that you're talking about a special player.
What's more impressive is that he's getting his offensive output with Kobe out-shooting him 21.8 to 10.7.
Something tells me if those two numbers were a little closer, the Lakers' overall chemistry might improve.
All that aside, no center is having a better season than Howard.
West Starters: Minnesota Timberwolves PF Kevin Love
Love began the season injured, but he has wasted no time getting back to the business of racking up double-doubles.
He's only played in 16 games, but he's already put up 12 double-doubles.
The 16 games isn't enough to qualify for leader status in Love's favorite category, rebounding. However, he's on pace to give Varejao a run for his money in the race for the NBA's top board man.
He's grabbing 14.1 rebounds and scoring 19.1 points per game. With Ricky Rubio missing most of the first two months of the season, Love has done a good job leading the team and keeping it in sniffing distance of the playoffs.
West Starters Oklahoma City Thunder SF Kevin Durant
Durantula is always going to score.
Yes, he's pouring in 28.5 points per game, but he's also grabbing eight rebounds and dishing 4.5 assists per night as well.
He's been in double figures every game this season and over 30 points 13 times.
With the Thunder sporting the NBA's best record in the NBA at 24-6, he and LeBron are likely going to battle for the league MVP, and possibly face each other in a rematch in the NBA Finals.
Those are two races we may have to get used to in the next three-to-five years. For now, he's an easy selection as an All-Star starter.
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