Ray Allen and the Boston Celtics are having a great season. That fact was recognized when Allen, along with teammates Rajon Rondo, Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce, were chosen to represent the Eastern Conference in the All-Star game.
But, is the 35-year-old's placement among the elite of the East warranted?
The biggest problem with the NBA All-Star selections this year seemed to be the disparity between the West and the East. While the East plays host to a number of the top teams in basketball, the West certainly has a stronger middle class of teams and individual players.
As a result, there were a number of snubs in the West, while there were few in the East. However, there is one name that I keep coming back to: Luol Deng.
Deng seems to be the only legitimate challenger for Allen's spot on the roster, and the two have posted similar numbers this season.
Deng has been tagged with the "inconsistent" label throughout much of his career. Maybe this disposition is why there wasn't much pull for him as an All-Star outside of Chicago.
However, the 2010-2011 season has been different. While his stats aren't eye-poppingly fantastic, Deng's versatility on both ends of the floor is one of the main reasons that the Chicago Bulls have the third best record in the East (37-16).
Listed at 6'9", Deng is a true NBA slasher. He can be streaky at times from long range, but his size and athleticism make him a nightmare matchup for the opposition night in and night out.
Defensively, he can guard three positions—the point, 2, and 3—with success, and can occasionally slide into the 4 if the opposing team goes small. He generally gets the tough defensive assignment; Deng is usually responsible for chasing the oppositions best scorer around the hardwood. This ability has shined through in Tom Thibodeau's defensive-oriented system.
He can also rebound the ball effectively, and is currently tied for a career high in APG (2.5).
So does Deng deserve to make the All-Star game? In my opinion, he does. But, not at the expense of Allen.
It's hard to justify leaving a probable Hall of Famer and one of the greatest shooters of all time off an All-Star team when he is having arguably the best shooting season of his career (currently averaging career highs in field goal and three point percentage).
Defensively, he does a lot of the same things as Deng. He's the one who gets the call to guard the likes of Dwyane Wade and Kobe Bryant. Yet, despite his effort on the defensive end, his impeccable conditioning allows him to jet around screens on the offensive end.
Allen never stops moving, one reason why he's completely outperformed Dwyane Wade this season when the Celtics and Heat have matched up against each other. He goes to work on the defensive end, then outruns and outshoots his defender on offense.
There's another man on the East All-Star squad who I feel is slightly less deserving than both Allen and Deng. His name is Joe Johnson.
For comparative purposes, let's examine their statistics:
|Ray Allen||Luol Deng||Joe Johnson|
|Games||53 of 53||53 of 53||45 of 54|
While Johnson has the slight edge in scoring, he's taking more shots per game and shooting worse percentages than both Deng and Allen. He doesn't expend nearly as much energy on the defensive end as Deng and Allen do on a nightly basis, yet he's having a poorer offensive season.
Not to mention Allen and Deng have been the model of consistency for their respective clubs. They have both appeared in every single game for their team, while Johnson has missed nine of the Hawks' 54 contests.
If that weren't enough, Allen's true shooting percentage (.625)—which takes into account two-point field goals, three-point field goals, and free throws—is the seventh highest in the NBA, and the fourth highest among guards. His effective field goal percentage (.591)—which takes into account the point differential between two-pointers and three-pointers—is fourth highest in the league.
Deng's defensive win shares of 3.3 is the eighth highest mark in the NBA, which would support the theory that he's doing a great deal of damage on the defensive end for the Bulls.
In my opinion, both Ray and Deng should have made the All-Star team, while Joe Johnson should have been left off.
Dan is a Boston Celtics featured columnist. Follow him on Twitter @danhartelBR.
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