It's tough to argue too much with the fans' choices to start the 2013 NBA All-Star Game.
Kobe Bryant and Chris Paul have been the two best guards in the Western Conference by a wide margin this season—far more so than Jeremy Lin's performance at the ballot box would suggest. Even those two LA-based superstars would have to admit that Kevin Durant, in what's been another transcendent campaign for the Oklahoma City Thunder superstar, deserved a trip to Houston without contest.
Especially considering that KD's vote total far outpaces the endemic population of the city in which he plays.
On the other side, at least four of the spots among the Eastern Conference's starting five were fully accounted for. There was no way LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Carmelo Anthony and Rajon Rondo weren't going to be busy on February 17th, when the All-Star Game is set to air on TNT. The whole crew from Inside the NBA offered their thoughts on who should accompany the 10 fan favorites in Houston (via Beyond the Buzzer):
Kenny Smith, Chris Webber, Shaq & Barkley's All-Star reserve selections. What do you guys think? twitter.com/BeyondTheBuzze…
— Beyond The Buzzer(@BeyondTheBuzzer) January 18, 2013
But there remains plenty of room for debate within those two squads.
Did Kevin Garnett, an effective-but-declining forward on a Boston Celtics squad that's struggled through much of the first half of the season, deserve a 15th All-Star appearance? What about Dwight Howard, who hasn't dominated in the middle with the same consistency as years past? Or Blake Griffin, whose numbers are down as his role on the ever-deepening Los Angeles Clippers has decreased?
And who might've challenged them for starting spots had fans not spent hundreds of thousands of ballots on the likes of Jeremy Lin, Pau Gasol and Manu Ginobili in the West; and Amar'e Stoudemire, Andrew Bynum, Shane Battier and Jeff Green in the East?
Surely, these five studs deserved more votes than they got and, perhaps, would've been voted in as All-Star starters if they had.
If being snubbed for a starting spot in the All-Star Game can be considered a cause for agony, then Chris Bosh is surely in the midst of some emotional distress at the moment. He was the fourth-highest vote-getter among frontcourt players in the Eastern Conference, with just 25,208 votes separating him from Kevin Garnett in third place.
Which, while not necessarily a traveshamockery, is cause for argument on multiple levels, nonetheless.
Both have seen their respective stats dip to a degree in 2012-13. However, Bosh's numbers—raw (17.8 points, 7.1 rebounds, 1.8 assists, 1.4 blocks in 33.4 minutes) and per-36-minutes (19.2 points, 7.7 rebounds, 1.9 assists, 1.6 blocks)—generally outpace Garnett's (14.6 points, 7.0 rebounds, 2.1 assists, 0.8 blocks raw; 17.8 points, 8.6 rebounds, 2.6 assists, 1.0 blocks).
Bosh is also shooting a higher percentage from the field (.550 to .511) and a far superior effective field goal percentage (.559 to .511), the latter of which accounts for the added value of three-point shots.
And if team success counts at all, then Bosh should still be in ahead of The Big Ticket. Bosh's Miami Heat are currently tops in the East, five-and-a-half games ahead of KG's recently resurgent Boston Celtics.
Those same C's whom the Heat steamrolled on opening night, 120-107. Bosh finished that game with 19 points, 10 rebounds and three blocks, compared to nine points, 12 rebounds and two blocks for Garnett.
Am I missing anything?
Drop down the list of Eastern Conference forwards another spot, and you'll find Tyson Chandler. The reigning Defensive Player of the Year finished with 467,968 votes—85,254 behind Garnett and 60,046 shy of Bosh.
Which is strange, considering that Chandler plays for the new-born New York Knicks, in the biggest market and in front of the most rabid fans in the NBA.
In some ways, Tyson's case to supplant Garnett among the East's top five isn't as strong as that of Bosh. He doesn't score as much (12.4 points) as either of those two, though that's hardly Chandler's primary role. Rather, Tyson is tasked with anchoring New York's defense, though they've slipped in that regard—from seventh in defensive efficiency in 2011-12 to 18th in 2012-13.
It also doesn't help Chandler's case that his Knicks recently lost to Garnett's Celtics, sans Rajon Rondo.
By the same token, though, Tyson's team has topped Bosh's Heat by 20 points this season not once, but twice. And, despite that head-to-head loss to Boston, the Knicks still own a five-game cushion over their Atlantic Division rivals.
Keep in mind, too, that Chandler is the only one of the three averaging a double-double (with 10.9 rebounds), and that he's currently leading the NBA in field goal percentage for the second time in as many seasons—albeit almost exclusively on dunks and layups.
You may not think of Tyson Chandler as an All-Star starter in the abstract, but when you get down to brass tacks, his case for such an honor is surprisingly strong.
Speaking of Defensive Player of the Year, Marc Gasol may well nab that particular torch from Tyson's grasp at season's end, though, apparently, that wasn't enough to get him more than 153,459 votes.
Or, rather, 710,374 votes fewer than he would've needed to eke out a victory over Blake Griffin at the polls, and 768,611 fewer than would've been required to beat Dwight Howard.
To be sure, Gasol's numbers (13.2 points, 7.4 rebounds, 3.7 assists, 1.0 steals, 1.8 blocks) pale in comparison to those of Griffin (17.7 points, 8.4 rebounds, 3.3 assists, 1.6 steals, 0.7 blocks) and Howard (17.8 points, 12.6 rebounds, 1.8 assists, 1.0 steals, 2.6 blocks). And, in comparison to Blake's Clippers, Marc's Memphis Grizzlies have some catching up to do—more than five games worth—and have already lost twice to Lob City this season.
In convincing fashion, no less.
Stats aside, Gasol is the lynchpin of his team to an extent that neither Griffin nor Howard can match just yet. He anchors the NBA's second-stingiest defense with his keen understanding of timing and spacing
On the other end, he's forged a fantastic front-court partnership with Zach Randolph (more on him in a bit)—one that would clog the middle too much for most teams—thanks in large part to his pinpoint passing and mid-range shooting.
Marc's numbers aren't flashy, and the Music City happens to be one of the smallest markets in The Association. This makes it easy to understand how he garnered less than half as many All-Star votes as his older brother, Pau Gasol, despite the Los Angeles Lakers big man enduring the worst season of his NBA career.
Zach Randolph's campaign to be an All-Star starter was likely dragged down by the same population-based concerns that left teammate Marc Gasol on the outside looking in.
What's more puzzling about Z-Bo's case, though, is that he finished with 6,479 fewer votes than did Gasol, despite sporting the sort of stats that would seem to excite the voting public. Randolph's 11.6 rebounds are the second-most of anyone in the NBA, and his 16.4 points make him one of 10 players currently averaging a double-double.
To be sure, Randolph isn't stuffing the stat sheet to the same extent that landed him in the 2010 All-Star Game, when he averaged 20.5 points, 11.6 rebounds and 2.1 assists in the 51 games leading up to the midseason showcase. But, in the context of the 2012-13 campaign, Z-Bo certainly deserved more than the relative handful of votes that wound up his way.
As good a case as one can make for either of Memphis' two bigs, neither can quite compare his own case with any favor to Tim Duncan's—not individually, anyway. The Big Fundamental came in fourth among bigs in the Western Conference, though his 492,373 votes left him with a far bigger gap than his performance this season would suggest he deserved.
So far, Duncan's averaging 17.2 points (on 50.1 percent shooting), 9.6 rebounds, 2.7 assists and 2.8 blocks in just 30.1 minutes per game! Those numbers are comparable (if not superior) to Griffin's and Howard's. Compare Duncan's per-36-minute numbers this season to those of Griffin and Howard, and the scales of basketball justice tip ever more in Timmy's favor.
Let's not forget, either, that Duncan's doing all this at the tender age of 36, and that his San Antonio Spurs are leaps and bounds ahead of Howard's Lakers and just a step behind Griffin's Clippers in the Western Conference standings.
Unfortunately for Duncan, he and the Spurs just didn't seem to be flashy or sexy enough to get the average All-Star voter to notice what they've accomplished over the first half of the season.