The NBA recently announced the starting lineups for the 2010 All-Star Game. If you don't live under a rock or prefer Jai alai to basketball, you're already well aware of the fiasco that is Allen Iverson starting in what will surely be his last All-Star appearance. Adding insult to injury is the fact Tracy McGrady just barely missed being named a participant.
Clearly, the NBA needs to do away with limiting the voting process solely to fans; players and coaches should have a say too.
Personally, I don't care who makes or doesn't make the All-Star Game. I know who the real All-Stars of 2010 are, and that's all that matters to me. After reading this post, you'll know who they are too.
CENTER: Dwight Howard. Howard earns this spot simply because of his defense, which has been nothing short of phenomenal. Offensively, he's having his worst season since 2007, averaging only 17 points per game and turning the ball over at an alarming rate (3.5 per game).
He's on pace for 286 turnovers and could challenge the 317 he committed in 2006 (the most turnovers in a season by a non-guard since 1989). Still, he's a guaranteed 50 wins just by himself.
FORWARD: Gerald Wallace. Where to even start? He's averaging 19 points and 11 rebounds on 48/35/76 shooting percentages, not turning the ball over, and anchoring what is the best defense in the league. The Bobcats are over .500 41 games into the season, which is a first for the franchise.
It's a two-man race for Defensive Player of the Year honors, and if he keeps this up, Wallace could edge out Howard.
FORWARD: LeBron James. The best all-around player since Michael Jordan is having another magnificent season. His points, assists, and shooting percentages are all up from last season, and the Cavaliers are currently tied for the most wins in the league.
GUARD: Dwyane Wade. His numbers are down from last year, but he's still the best guard in the league not named Kobe Bryant.
GUARD: Rajon Rondo. I absolutely hate point guards who can't shoot free throws (he might be the worst ever at 59 percent), but it's impossible to argue Rondo shouldn't be starting in the All-Star Game. Amongst all guards in the league, he's tops in steals, third in assists, and second in field goal percentage. Furthermore, he's the reason the Celtics are 28-13 despite injuries to Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce.
CENTER: Brook Lopez: 19 points, 10 rebounds, 2 blocks, 50% FG, 84% FT. The only bright spot in New Jersey, Lopez is having an impressive season. You can argue, "Well, he puts up numbers because he's on a bad team." My counter would be, "Who do teams focus their defensive attention on stopping when they play the Nets?" He's the real deal.
CENTER: Al Horford: 14 points, 10 rebounds, 58% FG, 76% FT. Unspectacular, but maybe the most important player on his team. There's a reason why Horford, and not Joe Johnson or Josh Smith, is leading the Hawks in win shares by a full point.
FORWARD: Chris Bosh: 24 points, 11 rebounds, 52% FG, 79% FT. He's having the best season of his career.
FORWARD: Josh Smith: 15 points, 8 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 blocks, 51% FG. Question his maturity all you want, and call him reckless, but Smith impacts the game in a way only Wallace and Rondo do.
FORWARD: Paul Pierce: 19 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists, 47% FG, 47% 3FG, 84% FT. Pierce is quietly having one of the best seasons of his career. He's playing efficiently, picking his spots right and averaging only 2.3 turnovers, a career low.
GUARD: Joe Johnson: 21 points, 5 rebounds, 5 assists, 45% FG, 83% FT. He's the leader of the Hawks and the reason why they're 28-14 and in first place in the Southeast.
GUARD: Derrick Rose: 19 points, 6 assists, 4 rebounds, 47% FG, 75% FT. He's fourth amongst guards in the East in scoring but plays within the flow of the game (unlike Gilbert Arenas).
SNUBS: David Lee (19 points, 11 rebounds) and Joakim Noah (second in league in rebounds). Both players are deserving but not ahead of the players above (I also can't have a bench composed of only forwards and centers).
Also consider that both Lee and Noah benefit from being the lone big men on their respective free-wheeling teams, both of which are a combined 36-47. Unlike Lopez, they're not featured go-to guys whom opposing defenses target.
A case could also be made for Andre Iguodala (18 points, 7 rebounds, 6 assists), but I can't pick him when his team is 14-28 and he's the subject of trade rumors.
CENTER: Tim Duncan. The Player of the Decade turns 34 in a few months but still remains the best big man in the game. Duncan, who paces himself these days, is still posting 20 points, 10.5 rebounds and 2 blocks per contest on 54/73 shooting percentages.
Most importantly—to him, especially—the Spurs are eight games over .500 (25-17) and just 2.5 games behind Dallas for the division lead. Only LeBron James has a higher PER this season.
FORWARD: Dirk Nowitzki. Fans are so quick to praise the hyped ones that they forget about the quieter guys who absolutely kill it on a consistent basis.
Check out Dirk's league rankings this season: minutes (8), field goals (6), free throws (7), free throw percentage (7), defensive rebounds (10), points (7), win shares (9). There's a reason why the Mavericks are atop the toughest division.
FORWARD: Carmelo Anthony. The breakout we've all been waiting for has finally arrived. Carmelo is tied with LeBron James for the highest points per game average with 29.7, which is seven points per game higher than he posted last season. The difference? He's being far more aggressive attacking the basket and as a result is only second to Dwight Howard in free throw attempts per game (and he's making 86 percent of them).
GUARD: Kobe Bryant. His numbers have pretty much dropped across the board, but I'm sure the fact he's playing with a broken finger has much to do with that. Talk about guts. Kobe remains the best all-around guard in the West.
GUARD: Chris Paul. The best point guard in the league is shooting a ridiculous 50/42/85 while scoring 20 points and maintaining the best assist-to-turnover ratio in the league.
CENTER: Amar'e Stoudemire: 21 points, 9 rebounds, 56% FG, 76% FT. He still remains a matchup nightmare.
FORWARD: Kevin Durant: 29 points, 7 rebounds, 48% FG, 87% FT. Say hello to the NBA's next multiple scoring title champion. OKC is on pace for 46 wins, which will be a 23-game improvement from last season. What changed? Durant went from wide-eyed and awestruck to realizing he can more than just hang in this league. His confidence is in space right now and, come April, no team will want to face the Thunder in the first round.
FORWARD: Zach Randolph: 21 points, 11 rebounds, 51% FG, 80% FT. I'm still in disbelief over Z-Bo's performance this season. He has put up these kinds of numbers before, but it's his maturation from a knucklehead into a team leader that earns him a spot here. Oh yeah, Memphis is four games over .500 and just one game out of the eighth seed.
GUARD: Steve Nash: 18 points, 11 assists, 53% FG, 43% 3FG, 94% FT. If he's not the best shooting point guard in league history, I don't know who is. Nash is no spring chicken but he's still getting it done.
GUARD: Deron Williams: 19 points, 10 assists, 49% FG, 40% 3FG, 77% FT. Who are the forwards on the Jazz? Who are the guards? If you had to pick Williams or Carlos Boozer, whom would you choose? Williams is the heart and soul, and MVP, of his team.
GUARD: Brandon Roy: 23 points, 5 rebounds, 5 assists, 48% FG, 79% FT. A no-brainer pick for the bench. Roy is just too good.
GUARD: Chauncey Billups: 19 points, 6 assists, 42% FG, 42% 3FG, 90% FT. How valuable is Billups? In the eight games he missed due to injury, the Nuggets went 3-5. One of those wins was by one point against the lowly Warriors.
Billups is third amongst all guards in free throw attempts per game. He may not be the most talented point guard in the league, but he's the steadiest, smartest and most clutch.
SNUBS : Carlos Boozer (19 points, 11 rebounds), Monta Ellis (26 points, 6 assists), Chris Kaman (20 points, 9 rebounds), and Corey Maggette (21 points, 6 rebounds, 54% FG). Ellis is a volume player on a bad team. He's second in the league in shot attempts per game (Kobe is first) and tops in turnovers. He and Maggette cancel each other out.
Kaman is breaking out but not doing enough to impact his team's record. Boozer is having a great individual year but has also done much to distract and disrupt his team.