Predicting NBA Stars with 2013 All-Star Spots Locked Up

Dan FavaleFeatured ColumnistJanuary 15, 2013

Predicting NBA Stars with 2013 All-Star Spots Locked Up

0 of 16

    Balloting for the 2013 NBA All-Star Game has officially concluded, but the ambiguity surrounding which superstars made the cut remains.

    Well, for some of the superstars that is.

    While the Eastern and Western Conference rosters are hardly etched in stone, there are plenty of players who should already have packed their bags for Houston.

    LeBron James, Kevin Durant and Kobe Bryant are essentially guaranteed another All-Star selection, but they're not alone. Not if the Carmelo Anthonys and Blake Griffins have anything to say about it.

    Who else is guaranteed to appear on the NBA's brightest and most star-studded of stages?

    The results aren't in, but that doesn't matter.

    Why?

    Because concrete decision or not, a smattering of teeming talents already are.

     

    *All stats in this article are accurate as of January 15, 2013.

Chris Paul, PG, Los Angeles Clippers

1 of 16

    Number of All-Star Selections: Five

    2012-13 Per Game Stats: 16.8 points, 9.7 assists, 3.5 rebounds, 2.6 steals and 0.0 blocks on 48.1 percent shooting

    Prediction: Western Conference Starting Guard

    Sorry, Jeremy Lin.

    Chris Paul is going to make the All-Star team, and I fully believe that he'll beat out Lin for a starting guard spot.

    Should Lin's unconditional supporters somehow rally and get him at the forefront of the voting stage, though, Paul can take solace in knowing he would make it anyway. I mean, is there a coach in the NBA who could argue against his presence?

    Absolutely not.

    Paul has transformed the Los Angeles Clippers into legitimate championship contenders, leads the league in steals and is posting the third-highest PER (26.6) of any player in the league.

    Oh, and he's also an MVP candidate, meaning his appearance in Houston is about as sure as Blake Griffin's jumper is unfortunate. 

Kobe Bryant, SG, Los Angeles Lakers

2 of 16

    Number of All-Star Selections: 14

    2012-13 Per Game Stats: 29.8 points, 5.0 rebounds, 4.8 assists, 1.5 steals and 0.2 blocks on 47.5 percent shooting.

    Prediction: Western Conference Starting Guard

    The Los Angeles Lakers have 99 million problems, but Kobe Bryant's offense ain't one.

    Not only is the Black Mamba leading the league in scoring, but his 47.5 conversion rate from the field is a career high. Not bad for a 34-year-old playing in his 17th NBA season, is it?

    Though I wish I could say the same of his defense this season, there isn't a doubt in my mind that he'll be starting an All-Star game for the 13th time of his career.

    Let's be honest: An All-Star game without Kobe wouldn't be an All-Star game at all. He was built for this type of bout.

    So really, the only question here is: Will Bryant take to his newly activated twitter account to share the good news?

    I sure hope so.

Kevin Durant, SF, Oklahoma City Thunder

3 of 16

    Number of All-Star Selections: Three

    2012-13 Per Game Stats: 28.9 points, 7.6 rebounds, 4.2 assists, 1.5 steals and 1.3 blocks on 52.4 percent shooting

    Prediction: Western Conference Frontcourt Starter

    Playing without James Harden has looked good on Kevin Durant. Like really good.

    Somehow, someway, the Oklahoma City Thunder cornerstone has managed to take his game to the next level. The Durantula is averaging a career high in assists, steals and blocks per game and is shooting a career best from both the field overall and beyond the arc (40.2 percent). 

    Oklahoma City's wunderkind is also clad with a newfound competitive edge, one that has earned him his first career ejection. I'm not one to promote hostility, but this killer instinct of his is embraceable. 

    How much so?

    To the point where fans are able to look past the production of Thunderstruck and vote him into February's star-rific showdown anyway.

Blake Griffin, PF, Los Angeles Clippers

4 of 16

    Number of All-Star Selections: Two

    2012-13 Per Game Stats: 17.7 points, 8.6 rebounds, 3.2 assists, 1.5 steals and 0.6 blocks on 53.4 percent shooting

    Prediction: Western Conference Frontcourt Starter

    I'm not saying Blake Griffin doesn't deserve to make the All-Star team, but I definitely don't believe he should be starting. That said, with the polls being a popularity contest and all, I believe he will.

    For all the criticism we (including myself) toss Griffin's way, he really has made some improvements this season. His production isn't what it was last season, but on a much deeper Clippers team, he's receiving nearly five minutes of burn less a night.

    He has improved his back-to-the-basket sets, and his willingness to pass out of double-teams has never been more evident.

    Not unlike Kobe Bryant, Griffin's talents are made for this stage. In the All-Star game, dunks aren't only encouraged, but mandatory. To that end, you can definitely understand why he's as popular of a vote-getter as he is.

    As well as why he's likely to shine in Houston come this February.

Dwight Howard, C, Los Angeles Lakers

5 of 16

    Number of All-Star Selections: Six

    2012-13 Per Game Stats: 17.4 points, 12.5 rebounds, 1.8 assists, 1.0 steal and 2.6 blocks on 57.7 percent shooting

    Prediction: Western Conference Frontcourt Starter

    Charles Barkley may be vehemently against Dwight Howard starting in the All-Star game, but I am not.

    Not only does it prove a center can still make some noise on the ballot, but I'm also actually impressed with the work that Howard has done in Los Angeles.

    Sure, the Lakers are a terrible defensive team, but not because of Howard. He can be found trying to clean up the mess left by poor-to-nonexistent defensive rotations.

    That he's the only player in the NBA averaging at least 15 points, 10 rebounds and 2.5 blocks per game is a mere bonus. And the fact that he's done that while still recovering from a surgically repaired back and torn labrum is nothing short of incredible.

    I know some expected more from big Dwight while others are still reeling from the Dwightmare, but none of that should prevent us from calling a spade a spade. Or, in this case, an All-Star an All-Star.

    And Howard is certainly an All-Star.

James Harden, SG, Houston Rockets

6 of 16

    Number of All-Star Selections: Zero

    2012-13 Per Game Stats: 26.5 points, 4.3 rebounds, 5.3 assists, 1.9 steals and 0.5 blocks on 45.7 percent shooting

    Prediction: Western Conference Reserve Guard

    It's about damn time.

    After living in the shadows of Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook for three years, James Harden has finally found a team in the Houston Rockets to call his own. And much like Durant has thrived without Harden, the bearded wonder couldn't look better in his new digs.

    Not only is Harden fourth in scoring, but he's also one of only two players (LeBron James) to be averaging at least 25 points and five assists per contest. Toss his MVP candidacy into the mix, and it's hard to believe young James was coming off the bench in Oklahoma City but a year ago.

    Speaking of the bench, we're all in for a little dose of deja vu. Harden won't be starting at the All-Star game and will thus find himself coming off the pine once again.

    But while Harden is set to reprise an old role, he is far from the same player. Hence his inevitable selection to his first career All-Star game.

Tim Duncan, PF, San Antonio Spurs

7 of 16

    Number of All-Star Selections: 13

    2012-13 Per Game Stats: 17.1 points, 9.6 rebounds, 2.7 assists, 0.8 steals and 2.7 blocks on 50 percent shooting

    Prediction: Western Conference Frontcourt Reserve

    Getting old never looked so awesome.

    The 36-year-old Tim Duncan continues to embody dominance. He's getting it done on both ends of the floor for the San Antonio Spurs, and his numbers imply he's 10 years younger than he actually is.

    At present, the perpetually underrated big man is posting a PER of 24.3, the seventh-highest mark in the league. In case you're wondering, that's higher than All-Star teammates-to-be James Harden, Russell Westbrook and Blake Griffin.

    Impressed?

    Of course you are. You should also be slightly disappointed because Duncan should be starting this game. He won't be (thank you, Blake and Dwight Howard), but it's important that we know he should.

    Nonetheless, it's not a complete loss, because he'll still be there.

    Every coach with a head on their shoulders will make sure of it.

Russell Westbrook, PG, Oklahoma City Thunder

8 of 16

    Number of All-Star Selections: Two

    2012-13 Per Game Stats: 22.2 points, 5.3 rebounds, 8.4 assists, 2.1 steals and 0.3 blocks on 41.6 percent shooting

    Prediction: Western Conference Reserve Guard

    Whether you love him, hate him or simply despise his fashion sense, there's no denying that Russell Westbrook is an All-Star.

    His inefficiencies from the field continue, but the point guard is still averaging a career best in rebounds, assists and steals per game. He's also the only player in the league to be posting at least 20 points, eight assists, five rebounds and two steals a night.

    Westbrook's jumper is infuriating, yes, but his athletic prowess rivals that of anyone in the league. He's a walking highlight reel and one of the fastest players in the game, and he's not-so-quietly building a reputation for himself as a superstar.

    A superstar who belongs in the All-Star game just as much as any of our other locks.

Rajon Rondo, PG, Boston Celtics

9 of 16

    Number of All-Star Selections: Three

    2012-13 Per Game Stats: 13.2 points, 5.2 rebounds, 11.2 assists, 1.8 steals and 0.3 blocks on 49.5 percent shooting

    Prediction: Eastern Conference Starting Guard

    Fourth time's a charm for Rajon Rondo.

    I'm referring, of course, to the starting All-Star spot that has eluded him these past three years. As the self-proclaimed best point guard in the league, a starting slot would do nothing but bolster his argument.

    When he's not going through the motions of an obnoxiously lengthy pregame ritual, Rondo can be found dropping dimes like it's a sin to score. He leads the NBA in assists per game and is easily one of the best rebounding guards the Association has to offer.

    I know what you're thinking: If only he had a reliable jump shot. I, too, share such sentiments, but not even an inconsistent perimeter game is enough to refute the notion that Rondo is the East's best point guard.

    Thus, I will not hesitate to all but guarantee Rondo is a lock to start in this year's All-Star game.

    As for whether he'll be able to "play nice" and avoid an ejection, I make no such promise.

Dwyane Wade, SG, Miami Heat

10 of 16

    Number of All-Star Selections: Eight

    2012-13 Per Game Stats: 20.1 points, 4.6 rebounds, 4.3 assists, 1.3 steals and 0.7 blocks on 50.4 percent shooting

    Prediction: Eastern Conference Starting Guard

    Even at his worst, Dwyane Wade is still better than most.

    Okay, "worst" is a bit extreme, but those 20.1 points of his are Wade's lowest since his rookie season.

    The shooting guard remains one of the most versatile presences in the game and is still a top 10 star in my book. His ability to take over on offense (when LeBron James allows it, of course) coupled with his superior anticipation on the defensive end is nothing short of brilliant.

    While Wade has developed a reputation as an injury-prone talent, he has yet to miss any of the eight All-Star games he's been selected to.

    And come February, that streak will, without a doubt, reach nine.

LeBron James, SF, Miami Heat

11 of 16

    Number of All-Star Selections: Eight

    2012-13 Per Game Stats: 26.0 points, 8.2 rebounds, 6.9 assists, 1.7 steals and 0.9 blocks on 54.6 percent shooting

    Prediction: Eastern Conference Frontcourt Starter

    Just so we're clear, there's LeBron James, there's greatness and then there's everyone else. Yeah, he's that good.

    We've reached a point where we almost take James' talent for granted. It's become a given that he should put up a near triple-double every night.

    On some level, such assumptions are a tragedy, because they take away from the appreciation of his game we should all share. Mostly, though, it's a testament to how magnificent James is on the basketball court.

    Some would be quick to point out that LeBron's 26 points a night are below his career average of 27.6, and they would be right. But to those pessimists I'd point out that James is posting a career high in rebounds, shooting percentage and three-point percentage (40.7).

    I'd also like to point out that from defense to scoring to distributing, LeBron does it all for the Miami Heat.

    Which renders his status as a starter in Houston a mere formality.

Carmelo Anthony, SF, New York Knicks

12 of 16

    Number of All-Star Selections: Five

    2012-13 Per Game Stats: 29.3 points, 6.2 rebounds, 2.4 assists, 1.0 steal and 0.5 blocks on 46.1 percent shooting.

    Prediction: Eastern Conference Frontcourt Starter

    The phrase "all Melo does is score," no longer applies to Carmelo Anthony. Not this season.

    Sure, Anthony is second in scoring and shooting a career-best 42.1 percent from behind the rainbow, but he's doing plenty of other things as well. Most notably, that includes defense.

    For the first time in his career, Melo is committed to playing consistent defense. He's chasing after loose balls, getting back in transition (for the most part) and the New York Knicks are actually allowing fewer points with him on the floor. Go figure.

    Mike Woodson has made a two-way warrior out of Anthony, and the forward finds himself amongst the rest of the league's MVP candidates as a result. 

    Ask anyone other than Kevin Garnett and Doc Rivers, and they'll tell you Melo is a new man.

    But he'll be taking up a familiar post when he runs out of the tunnel in Houston as a starter for the third consecutive All-Star game.

Kevin Garnett, PF, Boston Celtics

13 of 16

    Number of All-Star Selections: 14

    2012-13 Per Game Stats: 14.6 points, 7.1 rebounds, 2.2 assists, 1.1 steals and 0.8 blocks on 50.9 percent shooting

    Prediction: Eastern Conference Frontcourt Starter

    I won't go as far as to say that Kevin Garnett shouldn't be an actual starter for the Eastern Conference, but it is implied.

    Yes, the Boston Celtics are allowing 9.7 points more per 100 possessions when Garnett is off the court, but as is the case with a few others, popularity, not statistical substance, rules all here.

    That said, for a 36-year-old big man, Garnett is definitely taking care of business. Playing near 30 minutes a game while making a positive impact at his age is no easy task, after all.

    Also not an easy task is figuring out how to stagger his minutes against Carmelo Anthony's now that these two are about to play on the same team in the same starting lineup. 

    But that's neither here nor there. What matters is Garnett is poised to earn his 15th career All-Star selection. 

    So take that, Melo.

Paul Pierce, SF, Boston Celtics

14 of 16

    Number of All-Star Selections: 10

    2012-13 Per Game Stats: 19.6 points, 5.5 rebounds, 3.8 assists, 1.5 steals and 0.3 blocks on 43.5 percent shooting

    Prediction: Eastern Conference Frontcourt Reserve

    Of the 10 All-Star games that Paul Pierce has been selected to, he hasn't started in a single one of them. Yikes.

    Unfortunately, such a trend is not fated to change this year. As a soon-to-be 11-time All-Star, though, I doubt Pierce is complaining.

    Even at 35, the prolific forward has proved to be one of the best scorers in the game. He continues to embody clutch, and those step-back fadeaways of his remain an in-game staple.

    Yes, there are plenty of other young guns who will, at some point, end Pierce's run of midseason stardom; there will come a time when the All-Star break will be just that for the forward, a break.

    But that "point," that "time," isn't this year.

Tyson Chandler, C, New York Knicks

15 of 16

    Number of All-Star Selections: Zero

    2012-13 Per Game Stats: 12.4 points, 10.9 rebounds, 0.9 assists, 0.7 steals and 1.0 block on 67.2 percent shooting

    Prediction: Easter Conference Frontcourt Reserve

    No, I'm not kidding.

    Tyson Chandler deserves to be an All-Star, and so he shall.

    Not only is the center averaging a career high in points per game, but his 67.2 conversion rate from the floor leads the league. He's also one of just five players to be averaging at least 10 points, 10 rebounds and one block per game.

    How's that for one-dimensional?

    Granted, Chandler isn't the most flashy or flamboyant of big men, but he is one of the most consistent. If you think the Knicks are bad defensively now, just imagine where they'd be without him.

    Plus, how can you say no to an All-Star pitch like this?

    Less than 10 hours remain to vote for the 2013 All-Star Game -- VOTE NOW!#NBABALLOT twitter.com/tysonchandler/…

    — Tyson Chandler (@tysonchandler) January 14, 2013

    Pack this man a bag; he's headed to Houston.

Kyrie Irving, PG, Cleveland Cavaliers

16 of 16

    Number of All-Star Selections: Zero

    2012-13 Per Game Stats: 23.0 points, 3.6 rebounds, 5.6 assists, 1.7 steals and 0.4 blocks on 45.9 percent shooting

    Prediction: Eastern Conference Reserve Guard

    Let me begin by saying I'm fully aware I'm going out on a limb here. But don't think for a second I regret it.

    Few have hesitated to ordain Kyrie Irving a star, and now, I'm not thinking twice about his potential All-Star selection.

    The Man in the Plastic Mask has re-instilled hope into a dying and, for the time being, a LeBron James-less franchise. That alone is enough for me.

    As a mere sophomore, though, I understand it may not be enough for everyone else. His efficiently dynamic scoring, ever-evolving playmaking and much improved defense, however, should.

    What intrigues me most about Irving is that despite exuding confidence and a level of maturation well beyond his years, he has yet to even approach his ceiling of potential. Unlike many other of the league's youngsters, he's on the fast track to superstardom.

    A track that will include a trip to Houston this season.