Everyone and their mother knows LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, Kevin Durant and Chris Paul will play in the 2013 NBA All-Star Game in Houston. Underneath them, though, are some underrated players who do not get a ton of time on ESPN, or even the reputable TNT, who can make it to Houston.
Here are some of the players deserving of trips to Houston that many do not know of, or simply do not realize are having great seasons.
Lamar Odom, LA Clippers
Of players who have suited up for the majority of their team's games, Lamar Odom has the highest plus/minus ratio in the league at plus-13.2 per 48 minutes, according to Basketball-Reference.com. Odom has mostly been a reserve for the Clippers in 2012-13, but has been a key to the teams’ best start in franchise history. He was huge in the team's recent 17-game winning streak as well.
Jamal Crawford, LA Clippers
Jamal Crawford is another reserve who has been more than outstanding for the Clippers in 2012-13. He began the season with an amazing streak of three 20-plus-point games—and one 19-point game—off the bench.
In 37 games this season his PER is 17.1 and true shooting percentage .554. He is averaging 16.6 points per game, though his per 36 minutes average is 20.6, which would make him a top 15 scorer in the league if he had more minutes.
Kevin Martin, OKC Thunder
It would make for a nice story to see former Rocket—who fans admired if nothing else—Kevin Martin, return to Houston for the 2013 All Star Game. There is precedent, as Martin has a 10.1 plus/minus ratio and averages 14.9 points per game off the bench for one of the NBA’s best teams. If he joins James Harden—the man he was traded for—on the bench of the West team, it would make for a fascinating storyline.
James Harden, Houston Rockets
The home team should always have a representative in the All-Star Game—even if it requires a commissioner exemption. This season, no exemption will be necessary as James Harden has been everything the Rockets hoped he would be, and then some.
He is the main reason the Rockets are one of the more surprising teams in the league this season. He is proving himself to be a true franchise player, and someone to build around. The Rockets might get two players in the game because of Jeremy Lin’s popularity in the international market.
Brook Lopez, Brooklyn Nets
Writing Brooklyn Nets still seems weird, but that should not be a detractor from Lopez’s All-Star candidacy. Nor should the Nets firing head coach Avery Johnson after a 14-14 start, or the fact the All-Star Game no longer has a designated slot for “center,” instead coloring it as “big man.”
Lopez is averaging 18.5 points per game and 7.3 rebounds for one of the top five teams in the Eastern Conference.
Mario Chalmers, Miami Heat
Mario Chalmers has the fifth-highest plus/minus ratio among regulars in the 2012-13 season at plus-11.1. Based on that statistic alone, one could make a case for Chalmers—and not LeBron or D-Wade—as the team's MVP.
Chalmers has long been an underappreciated player. In a conference struggling to field a full 12-man All-Star roster, Chalmers should be a cinch.
David West, Indiana Pacers
David West is one of the primary reasons the Indiana Pacers are surging this season after a slow start (Paul George the other) and the loss of star forward Danny Granger. He is a plus-6.9 points per game difference for the Pacers when he is on the floor.
His play is steady as ever, as he is averaging 16.5 points and 8.0 rebounds per game—numbers that are slightly amplified per 36 minutes.
Paul George, Indiana Pacers
Forget the numbers with Paul George, though they are sweet. With George, it is the freakish athleticism he displays on both ends of the court. It is the length and dunking ability combined with the ability to shoot the ball from long range that make him a clone of teammate Danny Granger.
In fact, George should have his own segment on All-Star weekend entitled: “Look at This Freak!” If you were building the perfect basketball player, you would likely give up and just claim George as the prototype.
Each player is deserving of a trip to Houston (or, in Harden’s case, to stay home for All-Star weekend). Each is having a near magical season in 2012-13 that is benefiting their respective teams and is a key reason their team is making a serious run in their respective conference.
It is possible some of these players will not make the All-Star Game. All of them should, though.