6 Young NBA Stars Guaranteed to Make Their First All-Star Team in 2013
NBA All-Star Weekend is a little over a month away, and chances are the fans will see the regulars suit up. Yes, guys like Kobe Bryant, Kevin Durant and LeBron James are fun to watch, but they've already established themselves as true All-Stars. More often than not, they overshadow the younger talents who really blow our minds.
Nothing against the superstars, but some of the young guns this season have been absolutely amazing. Kyrie Irving (pictured) has picked up right where he left off last season, and is thriving as a phenomenal scoring point guard destined to lead the Cleveland Cavaliers back to the postseason. Down south, Josh Smith continues to be electrifying in Atlanta.
Granted, only a small handful of spots are available on each All-Star team, but to stack each side with superstars just doesn't seem right. So many young players are just as good, if not better, than the established top dogs, and some will definitely get their small moment in the sun this season.
No. 6: Serge Ibaka, Oklahoma City Thunder
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2012-13 Stats: 14.3 PPG, 8.5 RPG, 3 BPG
Ibaka has picked up right where he left off last season, playing excellent defense in Oklahoma City and helping the Thunder remain one of the best teams in the NBA. The only difference is that this season, Ibaka has brought some offense to his game.
He has shot a highly respectable 56 percent from the field, so the new part of his game has been quite effective. After losing out on Defensive Player of the Year last season, it's clear that Ibaka wants to win that trophy and then some in 2013.
While that is all well and good, perhaps he could get some extra motivation by being named to his first All-Star team this year. Yes, the game has been all about superstars scoring the lights out in recent years, but letting Ibaka play would usher in a new era of versatility in All-Star Weekend. He would bring some electrifying defense to an otherwise predictable game.
No. 5: Josh Smith, Atlanta Hawks
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2012-13 Stats: 16.9 PPG, 8.3 RPG, 2.3 BPG
Let me put it this way. Josh Smith is in his ninth NBA season, is one of the hardest-working players in the league, and still hasn't played in a single All-Star Game.
I don't know what the fans are thinking, because the man is incredibly fun to watch. If his Atlanta Hawks are on national television, I actually make sure that my schedule is cleared that evening just so I can watch the guy play.
He scores, plays excellent defense, and already has some All-Star Weekend experience. In 2005, Smith won the Slam Dunk Contest.
It is thus time for him to make his All Star Game debut this season. Sure, his numbers aren't overwhelmingly good, but Smith has carried the Hawks this season now that Joe Johnson is on the Brooklyn Nets. It is time for him to get his long overdue credit.
No. 4: Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors
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2012-13 Stats: 20.4 PPG, 6.5 APG, 1.6 SPG, .456 3P%
Curry is a scoring point guard, and his numbers are not exactly eye-popping. That is, until you look at his three-point percentage.
He has done an incredible job for the Warriors this season, stepping up as team leader now that former teammate Monta Ellis is on the Milwaukee Bucks. More importantly, his appearing in just 26 games last season due to an ankle injury is becoming more and more of a distant memory.
Also, let's not forget that a trademark of the NBA All-Star Game is so many of the league's best playing in a high scoring contest. There is little defense out of concern for injury, and that is why Curry should be on the Western Conference's roster.
The man is an absolutely deadly shooter from long range, and should definitely get a chance to showcase his talents on the All Star level. He's going to become one eventually, so not giving him a spot this year is really just delaying the inevitable.
No 3: Kyrie Irving, Cleveland Cavaliers
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2012-13 Stats: 22.7 PPG, 5.6 APG, 1.3 SPG, .462 FG%, .391 3P%
Irving is only in his second NBA season, but has already shown great improvement on offense. He is committed to carrying the team on his back, and is slowly building on-court relationships with younger teammates like Dion Waiters and Tyler Zeller.
The only real mark against Irving is that he plays for a losing team, but just look at the man's numbers. To deny him a spot on an All-Star team just because his team is not in contention is not just absolutely ridiculous, but unfair.
It's time for this former Blue Devil to remind fans outside of Cleveland just why he was picked first overall in 2011, and there is no better stage than All-Star Weekend.
No. 2: Jrue Holiday, Philadelphia 76ers
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2012-13 Stats: 18.8 PPG, 9 APG, 1.3 SPG .356 3P%
The Sixers' problem the past two seasons was that despite having a deep and talented team committed to defense, there was no star to step up in crunch time. The team received someone who could fill that role this summer, when center Andrew Bynum was acquired via the Dwight Howard trade, but his balky knees have kept him out all season long.
In his absence, Holiday has done an excellent job of taking over when the game is on the line. He has balanced his scoring and passing games very well, and has also played solid defense.
Granted, Holiday is not in the same league as point guards like Rajon Rondo and Deron Williams, but he's slowly getting to that level. He has a long way to go before peaking, but his performance this season has been extremely notable. Holiday deserves an All Star berth, not to mention some quality minutes in the game.
No. 1: James Harden, Houston Rockets
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2012-13 Stats: 26.3 PPG, 5.3 APG, 4.3 RPG, 1.8 SPG, .446 FG%, .359 3P%
A year ago, Harden was the Oklahoma City Thunder's dynamic sixth man and living in the shadows of Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. Thanks to a trade made right before the start of the regular season, he is now the star of the Houston Rockets and an MVP candidate.
Since becoming a starter, Harden has done it all. He scores, passes, plays excellent defense, and much more.
The fact of the matter is that if Harden does not earn a trip to the All Star Game this season, then there's something wrong with fan-voting. The man's season has been beyond phenomenal, and some could argue that his performance thus far is just the tip of the iceberg.
Harden is an All Star, and his trip to the game this year will only further prove it.