Very Early Predictions for the 2013 NBA All-Star Game Rosters

Daniel O'Brien@@DanielO_BRFeatured ColumnistSeptember 17, 2013

Very Early Predictions for the 2013 NBA All-Star Game Rosters

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    We're still five months away from the 2014 NBA All-Star Game in New Orleans, but it's time to unveil our preseason predictions for the Eastern and Western Conference rosters. 

    Narrowing the talent in each conference down to a 12-man unit is no walk in the park, and it reveals just how many star-caliber players there are in the Association today.

    A large handful of players will be competing with each other for All-Star honors, but only seven reserves get selected by the coaches after the fan-voted starting five is finalized.

    Who will represent their conference in the NBA's marquee midseason event?

    *Starting five for each conference based on voting projections, and each roster is separated into guards and frontcourt.

Eastern Conference Starting Guard: Derrick Rose, Chicago Bulls

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    After an excruciatingly long hiatus from the game, Chicago megastar Derrick Rose is ready to lead his Bulls in their pursuit of an NBA title.

    If you think he'll come back as a weaker version of his old self, you're sorely mistaken.

    The rehabbed edition of Rose will be nearly indistinguishable from the pre-injury edition. He's still going to attack the hoop and play above the rim, and he'll push the tempo to find his teammates easy buckets.

    On the stat sheet, he's going to jump right back into the All-NBA first team discussion, with at least 20 points and seven assists per game.

    As the premier player on the Midwest's major-market franchise, Rose is pretty much a lock to get voted in as a starter. Chi-town fans will flock the ballot-booths to send their prized guard back to the limelight.

Eastern Conference Starting Guard: Kyrie Irving, Cleveland Cavaliers

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    Kyrie Irving became a legitimate star in 2012-13, as he improved on his rookie campaign and captivated fans all over the country.

    His stardom will grow even more as the 2013-14 campaign picks up steam. Irving will be the conductor of a much-improved Cleveland Cavaliers squad, and the franchise's return to relevance will only help Irving's notoriety and national exposure.

    With world-class ball-handling skills, clutch shooting and ambitious imagination, Irving is one of the most creative basketball players on the planet. That's what makes him a threat to score 30-plus or drop 10 dimes on any given night and draw the attention of scores of fans.

    Irving will climb to the All-Star Game starting spot by out-performing Dwyane Wade in the voting booths, something that will require roughly a million votes.

Eastern Conference Starting Forward: LeBron James, Miami Heat

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    While Dwyane Wade will lose his starting spot, LeBron James' place on the front line is not in jeopardy.

    The Miami Heat icon will continue to rattle rims and break records as he chases the revered three-peat.  

    On offense, he'll look to improve upon his already stellar 57 percent shooting, and on the other end, he'll aim for another All-Defensive first team selection.

    James is still in his 20s, yet he's approaching his ninth midseason classic. He entered the league with so much hype and pressure, and he has lived up to every bit of it. That's not an easy thing to do, and the recurring All-Star appearances are a perfect occasion to appreciate his greatness.

Eastern Conference Starting Forward: Carmelo Anthony

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    Carmelo Anthony is the biggest hoops star of the nation's biggest city, and the New York Knicks forward always represents his squad with a wide grin and a smooth jump shot.

    Many doubt his ability to lead a team through the rigors of the NBA playoffs, but there's no doubt about his place as an elite performer.

    Unlike his Miami Heat pals and Lob City counterparts, 'Melo doesn't possess tremendous explosiveness, and he doesn't attract fans with high-flying exploits.

    What Anthony has is a picture-perfect jumper, a quick first step and excellent footwork. He owns an innate ability to go around or through his defender to find the tin.

    With 'Melo coming off his first scoring title, the Knicks will need him to light up the scoreboard once again in order to compete for a prime playoff seed.

Eastern Conference Starting Forward/Center: Joakim Noah, Chicago Bulls

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    There are bigger names than Joakim Noah, such as Kevin Garnett and Chris Bosh.

    There are post players who are more glamorous than Joakim Noah, such as Brook Lopez and Al Jefferson.

    There are big men who are more athletic than Joakim Noah, such as Tyson Chandler and Kevin Garnett

    But Noah is a more valuable anchor than all of them, and the fans will make sure he's duly rewarded for his all-around talents. As a defender, screener, high-post passer and rebounder, Noah accomplishes more tasks per possession than any other pivot in the league.

    Depending on his first half, Roy Hibbert could make a run at this spot, but the Chicago Bulls fanbase will rally around its emotional leader and give Noah the edge.

Eastern Conference Backcourt Reserves

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    Deron Williams, Brooklyn Nets

    It's going to be nearly impossible for Deron Williams to duplicate the down year he had in 2012-13, because he has too many reliable weapons around him.

    He'll churn out big numbers for the Brooklyn Nets, but none more important than the team's win total. 

    Rajon Rondo, Boston Celtics

    The NBA's most talented passer has a couple major challenges ahead: fully recovering from his torn ACL and running the Boston Celtics without Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett.

    Rondo will be up for both tests, and he'll pass with flying colors. He may not average 11-plus assists like usual, but he'll still be in the double-digit range, along with an increase in scoring.

    Dwyane Wade, Miami Heat

    After losing a close race for the starting spot with Kyrie Irving, Dwyane Wade will be content to represent the Miami Heat from the bench.

    He's not as explosive or acrobatic as he used to be, but like the other great NBA legends, he's adjusting, adapting and expanding his game. 

    Wade might not be an uncontainable force anymore, but he'll be good enough to help Miami compete for a three-peat.

Eastern Conference Frontcourt Reserves

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    Roy Hibbert, Indiana Pacers

    We might not see the kind of production he brought in the 2013 playoffs, but Indiana Pacers center Roy Hibbert should settle for nothing less than 15 points and 10 rebounds per game.

    His size changes the flow of games, and he's especially influential when he works to get good position and converts close-range attempts. That kind of assertiveness will land him on the East squad.

    Brook Lopez, Brooklyn Nets

    The Brooklyn Nets own the most talented scorer of all the centers in the NBA, as Brook Lopez can hurt opponents from almost anywhere.

    His strength and ability to finish inside complement his soft shooting touch and effective post-up turnarounds. From a skill standpoint, he more than belongs on the All-Star team.

    Paul George, Indiana Pacers

    Indiana Pacers small forward Paul George enjoyed something of a breakout year in 2012-13, and in 2013-14, he'll prove it wasn't a fluke.

    His skill set, size and athleticism allow him to create as a facilitator, thrive in the open floor and defend multiple positions at an elite level. This versatility allowed him to steer the Pacers past Carmelo Anthony and Co. and push LeBron James to the brink of elimination.

    Indy fans are hoping the 2013 playoffs were just a preview of what George will supply this season.

    Al Horford, Atlanta Hawks

    Paul Millsap and Jeff Teague are the only near-stars on the Atlanta Hawks squad, so Al Horford will match or exceed his career high in scoring while pulling down 10-plus rebounds per game.

    His efforts won't be enough to lift Atlanta past the first round of the playoffs, but they will be enough to bring him back to the All-Star Game.

Western Conference Starting Guard: Chris Paul, Los Angeles Clippers

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    Armed with the most talented supporting cast in his career so far, Los Angeles Clippers floor general Chris Paul is the man to beat for the Western Conference starting point guard spot.

    He'll flirt with 10 assists per game as he directs Lob City's high-octane attack. New head coach Doc Rivers will help Paul put everyone in the right spot and maximize mismatch opportunities.

    When evaluating CP3's All-Star Game candidacy, don't overlook his defensive value and production. He's always among the league leaders in steals, and he knows how to steer opposing guards and control the complexion of games.

    If Paul somehow suffers a disappointing first half, it would still take an abnormal voting surge for Russell Westbrook or Stephen Curry to challenge him for the starting spot. It's that tough to unseat a popular L.A. figure like CP3.

Western Conference Starting Guard: Kobe Bryant, Los Angeles Lakers

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    Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant has been a part of the midseason competition for so long, it would be strange if he wasn't donning the Western Conference uniform in New Orleans.

    Even if the first half of his 2013-14 season consists of him trying to get up to speed, he'll get more than enough votes from his global fanbase to crack the starting lineup.

    Kobe will certainly enjoy his 16th All-Star appearance, especially considering the long journey to get his Achilles back to playing shape. Individual accolades don't measure up to Bryant's primary focus of winning a championship, but that doesn't mean they aren't gratifying symbols of his hard work and longevity. 

Western Conference Starting Forward: Kevin Durant, Oklahoma City Thunder

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    At 24 years old, Kevin Durant is already a fixture at All-Star weekend.

    He has four games under his belt, and unless he mysteriously loses his basketball powers, he'll be a mainstay on the big stage for the next decade.

    What Durant has accomplished at such a young age (three scoring titles, NBA Finals appearance, Olympic gold medal) is remarkable, and it's scary to think he's just getting started.

    He hauled in more than 1.5 million fan votes for the 2013 contest, and he'll meet or exceed that mark this winter. Durant remains the second-best player in the league and a threat to dethrone the Miami Heat.

Western Conference Starting Forward: Blake Griffin

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    Whether he's overrated or not, Los Angeles Clippers power forward Blake Griffin is among the most popular and marketable figures in the NBA.

    His high-flying play in the L.A. market made him an All-Star in his rookie year, and the 2014 game will be the fourth of his young career.

    When you take a deeper look at Griffin's game, there are positive signs of development as a post player and shot-creator. He's working to become more multidimensional contributor. However, he still does most of his damage on put-backs, dunks or in transition.

    And fans can't get enough of it.

Western Conference Starting Forward/Center: Dwight Howard, Houston Rockets

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    What's an All-Star Game without the thunderous dunks and impromptu three-pointers of Dwight Howard?

    The NBA's best center is also its most popular one, as no other big man commands the kind of attention D12 gets.

    He begins a new chapter in his career with the Houston Rockets, and he hopes to get back to dominating the paint and competing for championships. When Howard is at the top of his game, he's worth the fuss.

    Kevin McHale and the Rockets' supporting cast could make Dwight more formidable than he's ever been. Will we see some of his new and improved low-post moves when the All-Star Game tips off in February?

Western Conference Backcourt Reserves

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    James Harden, Houston Rockets

    Houston's prized playmaker has what it takes to be a starter for the West, but unfortunately he's competing against Kobe Bryant and Chris Paul for votes.

    The starting lineup's loss is the bench's gain: Harden will bide his time and wreak havoc as a reserve.

    Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors

    It seemed like some sort of crime to exclude Stephen Curry from the 2013 All-Star Game, so you can expect the coaches to get him to the 2014 game one way or another.

    All he has to do is hold up his end of the bargain in the first half of the season, unleashing his usual shooting and passing barrage for the Golden State Warriors. Even if his 2013-14 output isn't quite as spectacular as his 2013 playoff performance, he'll still be in good shape to make the squad.

    Curry is the kind of electrifying player that makes the Association one of the most exciting sports leagues on the planet, let alone in the U.S.

    Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City Thunder

    Speaking of electrifying.

    Oklahoma City Thunder star Russell Westbrook is coming off a frustrating spring and summer, one in which he sat out most of the team's playoff run. 

    An early playoff exit by OKC only served to highlight Westbrook's value, and that's something the guard would like to validate on the court throughout the fall.

    Tony Parker, San Antonio Spurs

    Now more than ever, the San Antonio Spurs are Tony Parker's team to run. They'll need him to direct traffic, distribute the ball, score from the outside and, most importantly, score in the paint.

    Parker is on the back end of the prime of his career, which means he's still better than 95 percent of the league.

Western Conference Frontcourt Reserves

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    Marc Gasol, Memphis Grizzlies

    Much like Joakim Noah in the Eastern Conference, Marc Gasol deserves All-Star recognition for his all-around skills, especially defensively.

    He doesn't post awe-inspiring numbers, but his dependable jumper and interior passing skills help run Memphis' methodical attack. His stopping skills are what really clinch the All-Star berth for him.

    Kevin Love, Minnesota Timberwolves

    If he stays healthy, Kevin Love will be back to his rebound-gobbling ways, along with his scoring prowess from inside and out.

    The T-Wolves desperately need his 20-plus points and 13-plus boards per night, because they're not even close to being a playoff team without him.

    DeMarcus Cousins, Sacramento Kings

    I'm making this pick despite my reservations about DeMarcus Cousins.

    If he can stay hungry and focused throughout the season, he will do some special things in Sac-town. After three years of being a promising (yet immature) big man, it's time for Cousins to take the official step to stardom and flirt with the 20/10 club.