There are some predictably familiar names in the 2013 NBA All-Star Game, but of the 24 participating players, a little over 25 percent are making their first appearance.
Knicks center Tyson Chandler, Pacers wing Paul George, Rockets guard James Harden, Sixers guard Jrue Holiday, Cavaliers guard Kyrie Irving, Nets center Brook Lopez and Bulls center Joakim Noah will all make the trek down to Houston (or, in Harden's case, stay put) for the first All-Star game of their largely young careers.
Instead of enjoying this moment equally for all of them, let's do what we do best—rank people.
Here's how all seven first-timers stack up next to each other:
1. James Harden, Houston Rockets
Most of us thought this is what Harden would do with a full-time starting role, so his performance had hardly been a surprise. However, watching him progress has been a treat nonetheless.
In his first season with Houston—despite just four days to prepare after being traded from Oklahoma City—Harden has been an absolute revelation. Though the team around him has improved greatly, he is largely responsible for the Rockets' current playoff standing.
Things are working out swimmingly in OKC too, so it's hard to say the Thunder regret making this move. But they certainly aren't ecstatic about it.
2. Kyrie Irving, Cleveland Cavaliers
Prior to the season, Irving was a trendy pick to make them jump from "very good" to "great." Instead, he's bypassed that strata altogether and jumped from "very good" to "elite."
It's hard to find a time and place where Irving doesn't excel. Mid-game, late-game, big game, small game—it doesn't seem to matter.
He's got a chance to be the league's next megastar.
3. Tyson Chandler, New York Knicks
Sixty-seven percent shooting from the field ain't half bad, either.
4. Brook Lopez, Brooklyn Nets
If this were strictly based on season-to-date performance, Lopez has a case to sit above the likes of Harden, Irving and Chandler. His 25.05 PER is fourth in the NBA, trailing just the impressive trio of LeBron James, Kevin Durant and Chris Paul.
And to think he was one Rajon Rondo non-injury away from not even making it to Houston.
5. Paul George, Indiana Pacers
Most improved player award? Doubtful since his stats were actually pretty good in 2011-12. But George has made the very-good-to-great leap that so many predicted from Irving.
Especially down the stretch and with his outside shooting, George has done well to make Pacers fans forget about Danny Granger's absence. And when the former lead-forward does come back (which could reportedly be soon), he'll find that the team is no longer his; it's Paul George's now.
6. Joakim Noah, Chicago Bulls
Like Chandler, it's hard to quantify Noah's impact since so much doesn't appear on a box score. But like Chandler, Noah's double-double average makes his box score look pretty good, too.
Major props for the 4.1 assists per game at center, too. That kind of spread-the-wealth attitude has helped keep Chicago afloat (if not thriving) while Derrick Rose rehabs his torn ACL.
7. Jrue Holiday, Philadelphia 76ers
Let's start with a disclaimer: Holiday was a deserving All-Star and is certainly playing like one of the top-30 guys in the league. But even on a list this talented, somebody has to finish last.
Though Holiday's numbers stack up with most anyone ranked ahead of him, those have been slightly inflated by Andre Iguodala's departure. Philadelphia has no options other than Holiday, who's granted the opportunity to touch the ball with purpose on most every possession.
He's been great, sure, but not greater than the six men listed ahead of him.
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