NBA All-Star Weekend is one of the most popular events in sports thanks to cleverly thought-out skills competitions (including everyone’s favorite – the dunk contest, which has been lacking for quite some time ever since Vince Carter and Jason Richardson hung up their shoes). The NBA All-Star game caps off the weekend in style, as the world’s best basketball players gather for one game where they get to fool around, throw a lot of bad passes, take some ill-advised shots, and just generally do a lot of things they do not do regularly that got them selected to the game.
It is usually fun, because getting to see a lighter side of those we look up to has always proved to be compelling. The votes for the 2011 NBA All-Star Game are already starting to tally up, and one could probably make sound predictions as to who will be starting on that night.
Here is a list of ten players that probably will not be starting, but who should be.
It is hard to make a case against Derrick Rose right now, but if there was one player that one could make a case for being more deserving of starting in front of him, it would unquestionably be Rondo. No, his stats are not as gaudy when compared to Rose, especially in the points per game department, but the league’s leader in assists per game can boast about leading the old and weathered Celtics to one of the best records in the league so far.
To put it simply, he makes the Celtics “go”. He consistently finds Ray Allen for corner threes, Paul Pierce for penetrating layups, and is always there to set-up KG in the post. The closest to him in assists per game is Steve Nash, who will most likely start again this year, and he is nearly 3 assists behind her per contest!
No, he should not be starting over Kobe Bryant, that is for sure, but Manu has the ability to play the small forward position as well, so it is not totally out of the question to make a case for him. To go along with his 19.1 ppg so far, Ginobili is the ultimate intangibles guy. He will do whatever it requires to win, All-Star game or not. The fact that he is still playing at a remarkable clip at the age of 33 despite all the pounding his body has experienced in his career is a testament to what a phenomenal, one of a kind player he is.
His percentages are not the best and there are some more players putting up more points and grabbing more boards – but this is the All-Star game. Wouldn’t you like to see Manu dribble between a guy’s legs or cross over an opposing defender before slyly putting in a layup or dunk with his left hand (like he always does – even if you try to guard his left) to get things started? I know I would.
Tim Duncan will probably be starting this upcoming All-Star game due to the reputation he has established over the years as the ultimate team-player, as well as the fact that the Spurs have a healthy international fan base. While Duncan is still irrefutably strong and is saving his strength for the postseason, so far he is not All-Star starter worthy, at least from a stats perspective.
Gasol on the other hand has continued his solid play so far this year, averaging a double-double and proving to be interchangeable between the four and five spots on the court. His defense and length is what makes him so hard to guard on offense and get around on defense. There are a few candidates who should be starting ahead of Duncan but probably will not be, and Pau is one of them.
Like Duncan, Steve Nash of the Phoenix Suns will probably be starting again due to his history in the league. It is always hard to displace a former two-time MVP. Paul will probably be coming off the bench this All-Star game, but given his shooting percentages as well as the brief resurgence that the Hornets experienced at the start of the season – it is hard to make a case that he should not be a starter.
Like Nash, Paul is an excellent distributor, one who looks for his teammates first. However, when he is open, Paul takes smart shots. He does not make as many “wow” passes as Nash does, but he is slightly quicker on the open floor, and given the fact that the NBA’s superstars are right around the age of Paul, maybe it is better to let the young guns start the game, and letting the old vets finish it.
Durant has not had his best shooting year (especially from three-point land), but he is still putting up 28.1 ppg. Carmelo Anthony of the Denver Nuggets will probably start at Durant’s spot given the fact that he is more recognizable globally and the fact that Denver is a slightly bigger market than Oklahoma City.
It will not happen, but voters should consider leadership when it comes to voting. What Melo has put the Nuggets through this past year is ridiculous. Asking out of the city is one thing, but sending mixed signals out throughout the duration of the season is going to mess with your team’s chemistry. Durant is focused on winning, as you probably saw during this summer during the FIBA World Championships.
Right now, I cannot say with confidence that the same is true for Melo, as it appeals his desire to increase his brand even more so worldwide is on his mind nowadays (and New York City will help you improve that).
As already said, Tim Duncan will probably be starting at the power forward position. One could make a case that if Pau is not the primary candidate to start over Tim, that Millsap is just as deserving. He does not have as impressive numbers so far compared to Pau, but the fact that this guy hung around and stayed patient in Utah being Carlos Boozer’s backup when he could have blown up so easily and asked for a trade is something very impressive.
Fans generally do not look at that kind of stuff, but Millsap’s calm demeanor and overall outstanding attitude throughout his career thus far is something to be admired. He has also proven to be a clutch player, most notably when he single-handedly willed the Jazz to an incredible comeback victory against the Heat in Miami earlier this year. He is a tad undersized, but nothing ever scares him, despite being in a loaded Western Conference which shows no signs of weakening anytime soon.
While not the three-point shooter Nash and Paul are, Westbrook makes up for this with jaw-dropping penetration as well as stifling defense. While Durant is still the primary leader of the Thunder, Westbrook has at times been forced to pick up some of the slack – and he has done it with style.
His quickness can be blinding at times, and his 2.0 spg indicate that he is no slouch when it comes to defense. His strength at both sides of the floor is what makes him such a complete player, one who will only continue to get better, and one who should be starting this year in front of Nash due to his ability to become a star player when the lead man (Durant) is having an off-night.
Even more than Paul and Westbrook, the number one choice to be starting over Steve Nash this upcoming All-Star game is Deron Williams. In addition to being one of the best pace-setters in the game, Williams has the strength of Westbrook combined with the good outside shooting of Paul. He is a monster of a player, one who muscles his way into easy shots due to his size and skill, and one whose ability to find teammates at impossible angles is always entertaining.
He is not as sexy a pick as say, Westbrook or Paul, because he does not try to make the big play as often as those guys, rather he attempts to play the game correctly and methodically at all times. However, he is the best point guard in the Western Conference right now, and one whose level-headedness will keep any opposing team on its heels.
Both Pau Gasol and Paul Millsap are worthy candidates to start ahead of Tim Duncan at the power forward spot, but the number one selection has to be Kevin Love. In addition to posting the first 30 point, 30 rebound game since the days of Moses Malone, Love’s down-to-earth nature (seen recently on Bill Simmons’ podcast “The BS Report”) will work wonders for the Timberwolves eventually.
The Timberwolves themselves are not a good team right now, but Love has to be their brightest spot at this point in time. He is averaging 20.6 ppg and 15.5 rpg.
Think about that for a minute.
He has shown to be a guy with a positive attitude who also possesses the hunger to get even better than he is now. Based on the stats he has put up this year combined with his hard work on both sides of the floor, Love should be starting at power forward for the West. But he will not, primarily due to the Timberwolves struggles.
Nobody likes a sad story. If Yao Ming ever found a way to stay healthy, he might be in discussion for “Best Centers Ever” debates. As it stands now, his history with season-ending injuries outweighs his on-court accomplishments. If he had found a way to stay healthy and play a regular amount of minutes during this year, he would undoubtedly be the starting center for the Western Conference this year given his worldwide appeal, especially seen in his home nation of China. However, due to another leg related injury, Yao has been forced to call this season quits, as well as take a hard look at his future playing career.
We hate to see talented players’ careers cut short by injuries. Yao looks to be headed toward retirement at this point in time, barring some miraculous comeback that enables him to play for another couple of years.