Who Will Get Squeezed out of the NBA All-Star Game?
The NBA All-Star Game starters have been announced, and now it is up to the coaching staffs to fill out the rest of the rosters. It's going to prove to be a tough task this season, as so many players are having excellent season and fans voted for starters in the frontcourt and backcourt as opposed to standard positions. As a result, players who were once surefire locks for the All-Star Game will not be making the trip to Houston this year, at least not to play in the game.
It's truly sad because fans love watching these players, but will be robbed of the chance to see them simply because of a voting change. Were the regular system used, such a problem (for lack of better word) might not be present.
Instead, perennial All-Stars like Steve Nash will fall victim to better seasons from fellow players like Tony Parker and Russell Westbrook, and breakout guys like Brook Lopez may fall victim to being on the bubble as well.
Don't get me wrong; the 2013 NBA All-Star Game is still going to be a lot of fun to watch, but not seeing a small handful of players participating will take a small, unidentifiable something away from it.
No. 6: Brook Lopez, Brooklyn Nets
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2012-13 Stats: 18.6 PPG, 7.4 RPG, 2.1 BPG, .517 FG%
Lopez has been one of the most pleasant surprises of the season, and by his stats alone the man should be an All-Star. He has shown a new commitment to defense on top of his scoring, and his overall confidence in the paint has skyrocketed.
Unfortunately, the Eastern Conference frontcourt landscape is too deep. Lopez may be having a breakout season, but the All-Star game is for players who have been consistently good at their position for some time.
Moreover, Lopez has quite a bit of competition. Reigning Defensive Player of the Year Tyson Chandler is also sure to make a strong case for an All-Star spot, as will big men like Chris Bosh and Joakim Noah. Compared to those three, Lopez is small potatoes.
The man is destined to make an All-Star team at some point in his career, assuming he can continue to balance his scoring with his interior defense. Unfortunately, with so many better players ahead of him, 2013 just isn't going to be his year.
No. 5: Joe Johnson, Brooklyn Nets
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2012-13 Stats: 17.2 PPG, .429 FG%, .377 3P%
Even though his scoring output has decreased since he signed his max-level contract in 2010, Johnson has played in six consecutive All-Star Games. This season, that streak will come to an end.
Yes, Johnson has posted solid numbers in his first year with the Nets, but is cursed with having to compete with younger guards in Kyrie Irving and Jrue Holiday. Granted, both are point guards, but their overall production this season has outclassed that of Johnson by a wide margin.
That isn't to say that Johnson has zero chance of making the All-Star team for the Eastern Conference. The team needs shooting guards off the bench, and the East does not have many options at the 2 outside of him and Dwyane Wade.
However, throw in the fact that New York Knicks sixth man J.R. Smith is having an excellent season at the 2 along with point men Holiday and Irving, and the reasons to let Johnson play in a seventh straight game number quite low.
No. 4: O.J. Mayo, Dallas Mavericks
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2012-13 Stats: 18.3 PPG, .459 FG%, .426 3P%
As the starting shooting guard for the Mavericks, Mayo has enjoyed an excellent season. Apart from being a great scorer in Rick Carlisle's fast-paced game, he has proven to be one of the league's deadliest three-point shooters.
Unfortunately, not even solid numbers will earn him an All-Star spot this ear. His spot on the roster is likely going to be taken by Houston Rockets guard James Harden, who ranks fifth in the NBA with 26.3 points per game. Los Angeles Clippers sixth man Jamal Crawford must also get some consideration.
Just how good Mayo is compared to both of those players is debatable, but here's the kicker: Unlike Mayo's Mavericks, the teams of both of those players are both in playoff contention. All three would be great choices for the Western Conference's roster, but overall production and team performance does count for something.
This is sad for Mayo, as he definitely deserves to make a trip to Houston. He may participate in the Three-Point Shootout, but the odds of him making the final roster are slim.
No. 3: Zach Randolph, Memphis Grizzlies
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2012-13 Stats: 16.4 PPG, 11.6 RPG, .494 FG%
Prior to this season, Zach Randolph was a solid scoring power forward with a knack for grabbing rebounds. The only issue was that he was a scorer first, and really only took the rebounds as they came to him.
He has been a different player this season. Unlike previous years, Randolph has spent more time in the low post, and has been forced to adjust his game in the paint. This new effort has him ranking second in the league in rebounding, and All-Star whispers are surrounding his name.
However, let's not get excited about the man known as "Z-Bo" heading to Houston just yet. The Western Conference is highly competitive and full of talented players, especially in the frontcourt. Randolph definitely deserves to be considered for an All-Star spot, but what about shot-blocking machine Serge Ibaka and Golden State Warriors double-double extraordinaire David Lee?
Both of those players are young, but have been far more consistent at their craft than Randolph has been. That's an odd standard to hold regarding the All-Star Game, but should be considered just the same.
That isn't to say that Randolph does not deserve to make the All-Star team for the Western Conference. He has been remarkably consistent all season long and has played a key role in the Grizzlies' performance this season.
Still, when it comes to either Randolph or the dynamic Ibaka, something tells me coaches will go for the younger option who has played consistent defense throughout his career.
No. 2: Steve Nash, Los Angeles Lakers
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2012-13 Stats: 10.4 PPG, 8.8 APG, .517 FG%, .343 3P%
Over the course of his Hall-of-Fame caliber career, Nash has played in eight All-Star games. The last one was last season, at age 38,
This season, however, Nash will find himself on the outside looking in. His numbers are respectable, but not necessarily All-Star worthy. That isn't his fault, as he missed a month and a half due to injury and has had two different head coaches this season.
Even if that weren't the case, letting Nash play in the All-Star Game means screwing over one of three players: Tony Parker, Russell Westbrook or Stephen Curry, assuming he is cleared to play before the game.
All three of those players have had far superior seasons to Nash, and are also all on contending teams. Yes, Nash's status as a veteran counts for something and if the regular voting process were in place, chances are his name alone would accumulate a high number of votes.
Unfortunately, a new system has been employed, and these point guards' seasons are too good to snub.
No. 1: Josh Smith, Atlanta Hawks
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2012-13 Stats: 16.5 PPG, 8.3 RPG, 2.3 BPG, .439 FG%
In terms of stats, Smith is the ultimate defensive forward. He rebounds and gets blocks, and is also a fine scorer.
However, compared to other frontcourt stars of the Eastern Conference like Chris Bosh, his numbers are fairly low. Given how the All-Star Game is basically a high-scoring playground match, defense-first guys like Smith often get the shaft.
This is a bit disheartening, as Smith is one of the game's most electrifying players with an undeniable skill set. The sad truth is that based on how recent All-Star rosters have been set, there really isn't much room for anyone like him. The fact that Luol Deng earned a roster spot over him last year is ridiculous.
Yes, Deng is a defensive forward as well, but definitely has more of an offensive game than Smith. The star of the Hawks may be able to hold his own on offense, but that's not at all what his game is about.
Throw in that his averages this season are below those of last year, and the case against him grows stronger.