Stop the presses—LeBron James made the All-Star Game.
Alright, so some All-Star selections were obvious, such as King James himself, Kevin Durant and even Paul George of the NBA-best Indiana Pacers, but there were plenty of intriguing decisions on the line when the teams were officially announced.
The fans vote in the starters every year, and as always, there are some questionable picks. Of course, this game is solely for entertainment purposes (it would be crazy to have it determine home-court advantage in the NBA Finals, right?), so who’s to argue with the fans voting in the players they want to see most?
The game will take place on Sunday, Feb. 16 at New Orleans Arena, and the two head coaches will be Frank Vogel of the Pacers for the Eastern Conference and whichever coach has the best record in the Western Conference through games played on Feb. 2.
So let’s jump right into a discussion about every All-Star starter selection.
The eastern conference All-Star starters! pic.twitter.com/AioSFzIu69— Bleacher Report NBA (@BR_NBA) January 24, 2014
Kyrie Irving, Guard, Cleveland Cavaliers
Dwyane Wade, Guard, Miami Heat
LeBron James, Forward, Miami Heat
Paul George, Forward, Indiana Pacers
Carmelo Anthony, Forward, New York Knicks
First things first—if this were an actual team in the NBA, it would have serious issues stopping a true center down low. Of course, it would also probably finish with 80 wins, but come playoff time, an opponent with a bruiser of a big man might give it fits.
The inclusion of Wade in the starting lineup jumps out immediately. Grantland’s Zach Lowe breaks down why he doesn’t think Wade should be a starter:
Wade is the best guard in the Eastern Conference, but he has missed 25 percent of the Heat’s season—for very smart reasons. But that’s enough to knock him out of my starting lineup.
Yes, Wade is averaging 18.9 points a game to go along with 4.8 rebounds, 4.7 assists and an impressive 21.9 PER, but he has simply missed too much time to be deserving of a starting spot.
No argument can be made against Wade’s teammate being named a starter. James, the defending MVP of the league, is posting an absurd 28.9 PER and once again stuffing the stat sheet with 26.2 points, 6.7 rebounds and 6.5 assists in tandem with a ridiculous 58-percent shooting clip from the field.
Glass-half-full Cleveland Cavaliers fans who believe that James will come back to where it all began next year will get a chance to see Irving start alongside James. Irving has largely fought off the injuries that typically plague him this season and earned a spot on the All-Star squad. The shoot-first point guard has struggled with turnovers at times, but his 20.0 PER is solid.
The two remaining forwards have enjoyed polar-opposite seasons in terms of winning and losing. George’s Pacers have the NBA’s best record thanks in part to his all-around talent (23.3 points, 6.2 rebounds, 1.8 steals). He scores from anywhere on the floor, plays formidable man-to-man defense against anyone and has to be seriously considered in MVP discussions at this point.
There is no doubt George belongs in the starting lineup.
As for Anthony, his New York Knicks are in a tailspin despite his impressive statistical output. He is scoring 26.1 points and grabbing 9.0 rebounds a game (he rarely gets credit for his rebounding), but it is hard to look past the respective records when debating over Anthony and Roy Hibbert for the final starting spot.
The western conference All-Star starters! pic.twitter.com/6TZGdB8WxV— Bleacher Report NBA (@BR_NBA) January 24, 2014
Stephen Curry, Guard, Golden State Warriors
Kobe Bryant, Guard, Los Angeles Lakers
Kevin Durant, Forward, Oklahoma City Thunder
Blake Griffin, Forward, Los Angeles Clippers
Kevin Love, Forward, Minnesota Timberwolves
Dwight Howard will not be starting for the Western Conference.
For a while, it looked like Howard and Griffin would be the two big men in the starting lineup. Howard receives a lot of criticism, but he has posted 18.3 points, 12.6 rebounds and 1.8 blocks a game with a 21.9 PER. Griffin has shown some improvement in his offensive arsenal and is averaging a double-double (22.6 points and 10.0 rebounds) along with a 22.5 PER.
However, the argument can be made that LaMarcus Aldridge is deserving of one of those frontcourt spots.
The Portland Trail Blazers have been the surprise team of the first half primarily because of Aldridge’s 24.2 points and 11.6 rebounds a night. Love has been even better and was rewarded with a starting nod thanks to 25.0 points, 13.0 rebounds, 4.1 assists and a LeBron-like 27.2 PER.
The only argument against Love is the fact that Minnesota has struggled in the win column.
No argument can be made about Durant’s inclusion in the starting five. He has been must-watch television since Russell Westbrook was lost to injury and is averaging 31.0 points, 7.7 rebounds and 5.1 assists behind an incredible 30.7 PER. If he continues this torrid pace, he will win the MVP award over James.
As for Bryant, injuries have defined his season. Sure, Bryant is one of the best shooting guards to ever play the game, but he doesn’t belong anywhere near the All-Star Game in 2014.
Even Bryant himself doesn't think he deserves the spot, as ESPN's Dave McMenamin alerted us to:
Kobe: "With all due respect to the fans that voted me in ... you got to reward these young guys for the work that they’ve been putting in"— Dave McMenamin (@mcten) January 24, 2014
Chris Paul may be the best point guard on the planet, but he has missed significant enough time that a reserve spot may have been more appropriate. That opened up a spot in the backcourt for Curry, who is much more than just a shooter. He is averaging better than nine assists and almost two steals a game to complement a very respectable 22.3 PER.
He also adds plenty of entertainment value to the exhibition, which is really what it is all about.