Lights, Camera, Action: The NBA All-Star Teams Preview
The NBA All-Star weekend is one of the most exciting weekends in American sports. The festivities span three days and include a variety of activities.
The action kicks off Friday night with the league's top young players taking center stage in the Rookies vs. Sophomores game. It is followed by the Celebrity All-Star game, which features some of Tinseltown’s biggest stars and professional athletes competing head-to-head on the hardwood.
Saturday, some of the association’s brightest stars put their talent on display in a number of different competitions; The NBA Skills Challenge, 3 Point Shootout and of course the Slam Dunk Contest are the main attractions.
The weekend culminates Sunday with the NBA All-Star game. The best players on the planet collide in a game that is a cross between a competitive pick-up game and an AND 1 mix tape.
This year, the 60th annual game will take place in Los Angeles at the Staples Center. It is the fifth time L.A. will play host to the event.
Here is an early preview of what the two teams could look like on Feb. 20 barring any injuries. The roster includes two centers, four forwards, four guards and two bonus picks regardless of position.
Incidentally, I did not design these teams based on popularity which is a key component in All-Star voting. My rosters reflect players I genuinely believe will and should get a roster spot. If voting ended today, here are my votes for the 2011 NBA All-Star game.
1. EASTERN CONFERENCE COACH: Doc Rivers
In his seventh season coaching the Celtics, Doc Rivers has Boston primed to make another push for the title. Led by the big three of Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen, the Celtics won it all in 2008.
They came oh so close to winning a second title last year but lost in The Finals to the Los Angeles Lakers in a classic seven-game series.
This season, Rivers team is currently 30-9 and own the top record in the Eastern Conference and the second-best record in the NBA. If they remain healthy, they could find themselves back in L.A. this June.
2. WESTERN CONFERENCE COACH: Greg Popovich
Every year it seems there is talk about the demise of the Spurs. We've all heard the chatter; Tim Duncan is too old, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker aren’t what they once were, and they don’t have a supporting cast capable of competing with the top teams.
Well this season the pundits didn’t get a chance to make that claim. The Spurs have not only the best record in the West but in the entire league.
In addition, they are 20-1 against teams .500 or worst and 20-3 in the Western Conference. It is still way too early to count anyone out; especially the defending champion Lakers.
However, anyone who believes that the Spurs are not a legitimate threat to win the West, needs to take a long, hard look at Greg Popovich’s hand, that’s where you can find four NBA championship rings. He could have a handful by season’s end.
Eastern Conference Reserves
C – A. Horford 16.3 PPG, 9.6 RPG, 3.3 APG (ATL)
PF – C. Boozer 20.6 PPG, 10.10 RPG, 2.3 APG (CHI)
SF – P. Pierce 19 PPG, 5.20 RPG, 3.5 APG (BOS)
SG – J. Johnson 18.6 PPG, 4.1 RPG, 5.4 APG (ATL)
PG – R. Rondo 10.6 PPG, 4.5 RPG, 13.4 APG (BOS)
The Eastern Conference Reserves are led by Rajon Rondo who is having a ridiculous year statistically. He averages 10 PPG and over 13 assists per game. Rondo is joined by teammate Paul Pierce, who is an 8-time All-Star.
The rest of the Eastern All-Stars reserves are Al Horford, center for the Atlanta Hawks; power forward Carlos Boozer for the Chicago Bulls; and Horford’s teammate Joe Johnson.
Eastern Conference Starting Center: Dwight Howard
D. Howard (Orlando) - 21.2 PPG, 13.1 RPG, 1.2 APG
Howard is a 4x all-star and 2x Defensive player of the year. He has raised the level of his game this season and his new-look Magic are in the mix to win the Eastern Conference.
Howard leads all Eastern Conference players in all-star votes.
There is no question that he will be the starter for the Eastern All-Stars.
Eastern Conference Starting Power Forward: Amare Stoudemire
A. Stoudemire - (New York) 26.3 PPG, 9.1 RPG, 2.6 APG
Few people thought Amare Stoudemire made a good move last summer by signing with the New York Knicks. Halfway through the season and Stoudemire has the team in playoff contention and is a serious MVP candidate.
If he can convince fellow All-Star Carmelo Anthony to come to town, Amare and the Knicks could find themselves competing for an Eastern Conference crown.
Stoudemire is a 5-time All-Star who is coming into his own in the Big Apple; not to mention he rocks the coolest set of eyewear in the NBA.
Eastern Conference Starting Small Forward: LeBron James
L. James 25.3 PPG, 7 RPG, 7.2 APG (MIA)
Love him or hate him, LeBron James is still one of the top players in the game today. He averages 25 points, seven rebounds and seven assists per game, all while having to share the ball with Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh.
James is a six-time all-star who’s played in this game every year he’s been in the league. This year’s All-Star game will make him a perfect 7-for-7.
Eastern Conference Starting Shooting Guard: Dwyane Wade
D. Wade 24.9 PPG, 6.6RPG, 4.2 APG (MIA)
While Wade’s stats have declined (mainly because he doesn’t have to do as much) he has shown that he is second fiddle to no one.
Along with LeBron James and Chris Bosh, the 6-time All-Star has the Heat playing good ball despite a rocky start.
Wade was last year’s All-Star Game MVP after posting 28 points, 11 assists, 5 steals and 6 rebounds. He will get a chance to go for two in a row in L.A.
Eastern Conference Starting Point Guard: Derrick Rose
D. Rose 24.3 PPG, 4.5 RPG, 8.1 APG (CHI)
In two and a half NBA seasons, Derrick Rose has established himself as one of the top point guards in the NBA. He is posting career bests in PPG 26.8, RPG 4.4, APG 8.3 and 3 point% at 38.5%
Rose was the 2009 Rookie of the Year and was an All-Star last season. He should make his first start and second appearance in this year’s game.
Eastern Conference Bonus Picks: Raymond Felton and Danny Granger
Picking two bonus players was no easy task, but two players' contributions to their teams earned them a spot on this list.
New York Knicks point guard Raymond Felton has been a solid No. 2 option behind Amare Stoudemire. His averages of 18 PPG and 8.7 APG, coupled with the Knicks success should get him into the All-Star game.
Like Felton, Danny Granger is an exciting young star; He made his first All-Star appearance two seasons ago.
Granger is the best player on an Indiana Pacers team struggling to make the playoffs. Whether he’ll make the official team remains to be seen but his 20 PPG and 5.7 RPG are sufficient enough to get him strong consideration.
Eastern Conference Snubs
1. Joakim Noah (CHI)
2. Ray Allen (BOS)
3. Steven Jackson (CHA)
4. Gerald Wallace (CHA)
5. Chris Bosh (MIA)
Bulls center Joakim Noah was averaging a double-double before he went down due to a hand injury. He is joined by Celtics guard Ray Allen, who is having another solid year.
Charlotte Bobcats teammates Steven Jackson and Gerald Wallace are turning their team’s season around.
Charlotte looked to be dead in the water but a new coach, Paul Silas, has them heading in the right direction. Miami Heat forward Chris Bosh rounds out the best players not to make the roster.
Western Conference Reserves
*C – Nene 15 PPG, 7.6 RPG (DEN)
*PF – B. Griffin 21.8 PPG, 12.6 RPG, 3.3 APG (LAC)
*SF - C. Anthony 23.8 PPG, 8.2 RPG, 3.1 APG (DEN)
*SG - M. Ginobili 19 PPG, 3.8 RPG, 4.7 APG (SA)
*PG – D. Williams 21.8 PPG, 3.7 RPG, 9.3 APG (UTA)
Blake Griffin missed all of last season after knee surgery. The year-long wait was well worth it for both the L.A. Clippers and the NBA fans.
Griffin has treated the universe to some of the most mind-blowing dunks over the past few months. He will be a huge favorite to win the NBA’s Slam Dunk contest and will find himself playing in his first all-star game the following night.
Joining Griffin will be Denver’s Carmelo Anthony and his teammate Nene. The Spurs' Manu Ginobili, who is having arguably his greatest NBA season, will make his second All-Star team.
Deron Williams of the Utah Jazz should make his second straight All-Star game appearance to round out the reserves for the Western Conference.
Western Conference Starting Center: Emeka Okafor
Emeka Okafor 10.9 PPG, 10.1 RPG (N.O.)
Emeka Okafor hasn’t enjoyed too much success in the NBA since winning the rookie of the year in 2005. Okafor was traded to the Hornets last season and started all 82 games.
This season, Okafor is averaging a double- double and New Orleans started the season winning their first eight games. They currently sit in sixth-place in the Western Conference.
Western Conference Starting Power Forward: Pau Gasol
P. Gasol - 18.5 PPG, 10.8 RPG, 4.1 APG (LAL)
Pau Gasol is a 3-time all-star, 2-time NBA champion and one of the best big men in the game today.
Gasol averages a double-double for the Lakers and he is the game’s best passing big man with 4 APG.
Kobe may get more headlines, but Gasol is equally as important to the Lakers success. He should be one of the 10 men on the court when the all-star game tips off.
Western Conference Starting Small Forward: Kevin Durant
K. Durant - 28 PPG, 6.3 RPG, 3 APG (OKC)
The “Durantula,” as he is cleverly nicknamed for his gangly wingspan, is the most dynamic scorer in the game today.
In only his fourth year in the league, Durant leads the NBA in scoring with 28 PPG. His Oklahoma City Thunder are one of the hottest teams in the NBA and are tied for the No. 3 seed in the Western Conference.
If selected, this will be Durant’s second consecutive All-Star game.
Western Conference Starting Shooting Guard: Kobe Bryant
K. Bryant - 25.2 PPG, 5 RPG, 4.5 APG (LAL)
Kobe Bryant is a 12-time All-Star who would love nothing more than to win his fourth All-Star game MVP, in his lucky 13th appearance, at home in L.A.
Led by Bryant the Lakers are on a seven game winning streak and sit in second place in the Western Conference.
Bryant and the Lakers have their heart set on winning their third straight title but don’t be surprised to see him try and put on a show for his hometown fans in this year's All-Star game.
Western Conference Starting Point Guard: Chris Paul
C. Paul 16.9 PPG, 9.7 APG, 4.3 RPG (NO)
Chris Paul continues to improve and carry the Hornets on his back. He does more with less than arguably any other player in the league.
Paul averages nearly a double-double and the 6’ guard somehow manages to snag 4.3 RPG.
Paul is a 3-time All-Star who should provide a highlight reel of plays during the All-Star Game.
Western Conference Bonus Picks: Russell Westbrook and Tim Duncan
1. R. Westbrook - 21 PPG, 4.9 RPG, 8 APG (OKC)
2. T. Duncan - 13.6 PPG, 9.3 RPG, 3 APG (SA)
Russell Westbrook has taken his game to a new level in this, his third NBA season. The former UCLA guard is having his best year in scoring, rebounding, field goal% and Free Throw%.
He is often overshadowed by teammate Kevin Durant, but make no doubt about it, Westbrook is an All-Star.
He takes one of my bonus spots but you have to wonder with Deron Williams and Chris Paul already on the ballot, will a third point guard get voted in?
Tim Duncan is not as dominant a force as he once was, but he is still an All-Star. The veteran has made the team 12 previous times and was the game’s MVP in 2000.
The “Big Fundamental” is eyeing a fifth ring and his San Antonio Spurs currently have the best record in the NBA. The Spurs are off to their best start in Duncan’s career.
Western Conference Snubs
1. K. Love (MIN)
2. S. Nash (PHO)
3. T. Parker (S.A.)
4. Z. Randolph (MEM)
5. L. Scola (HOU)
At age 36, Steve Nash is still able to run the court with the best of them. However, his team is not in the playoff race at the moment and there are some players who more deserve to make the roster this year.
Along with Nash, Tony Parker will probably find himself watching the all-star action from the stands.
Zach Randolph, who was an All-Star last year might also be watching the game from the stands despite a terrific individual season thus far.
Luis Scola is the best player on the Rockets and it will be a shame that he more than likely won’t be selected to play in the game.
The biggest potential snub appears to be Kevin Love, who seems to just walk in the building and get a double-double. Unfortunately, for Love he has two things working against him and his chances of making an all-star team.
First, he plays on a team with just 10 wins and secondly, he has guys like Tim Duncan, Blake Griffin, and Pau Gasol who most likely will be given spots over Love.