With yesterday's announcement of this season's NBA All-Star reserves, the Eastern Conference and Western Conference rosters for February 20th's NBA All-Star Game in Los Angeles are set.
Well, they're set with the one caveat that Yao Ming will obviously need to be replaced due to injury, but otherwise, we've got our 12-man squads for each side. There are some surprises, but mostly lots of familiar names, and only two All-Star virgins.
But sure, they're all All-Stars this year, but what does that really mean in the long run? Here at Bleacher Report, we thought it'd be fun to look into the future, and rank each All-Star's chances of one day becoming something more: a Hall of Famer.
Some guys are locks, others are not, and there's lots of room for debate. What do you think?
Horford is a very good young player making his second straight All-Star appearance.
But to talk about him in a Hall of Fame context at this point in his career is more than premature. It's irrational. He's in just his fourth season, and he's averaged just 12.7 points per game so far in his career.
Now, combine that with his career rebounding average of 9.7 per game, and it's nothing to sneeze at, by any means. And he's continuing to improve, averaging career highs in scoring and assists this season.
But even with those good signs, he won't be within sniffing distance of the Hall anytime soon.
If I had been writing this piece as recently as two years ago, Yao would appear much higher. But now, the future of his career is in such doubt that I had no choice but to drop him down to the bottom.
Yao was a revelation early on, a 7'6" giant with the skills of a smaller man. He has made eight All-Star appearances (though this year's selection is a bit of a joke), and has averaged 19.0 points and 9.2 rebounds per game in his career.
But he missed the entire season last year with a foot injury, and after playing just five games this year, was again forced to the sidelines for the remainder of the season with a fractured ankle. He's also already had three other seasons cut significantly short due to injuries.
The fact is, as much as we all hope it's not true, his career as a great player may very well be over. Sorry, Yao.
You can still write a check, though.
I'm not trying to bash on the Hawks by placing their two All-Stars at the bottom of this list.
The fact is that they belong here. Joe Johnson is a very talented player who has averaged over 20 points per game each of the last five seasons, and he's making his fifth All-Star appearance.
But he's never become something more. The Hawks have won just two playoff series during his tenure on the team, and he's not really someone who makes his teammates better.
He's still young enough to do something about that in the years ahead, but right now, he's just not there yet.
Manu Ginobili has become quite valuable for the Spurs, but it seems like he's always been the third of the three musketeers.
He's won three NBA championships with San Antonio, and has always stepped his game up in the playofs when it matters most. But he's had the luxury of never being the true focal point. While other teams concentrate on stopping Tim Duncan and Tony Parker, Ginobili has been the ultimate beneficiary.
That's no knock on his game. It's served him very well. But this is just his second All-Star appearance, and he's already 33. He's often come off the bench, and he's never averaged more than 31 minutes a game. An excellent player who thrives in the Spurs' system? Sure. A Hall of Famer? Not sure about that.
The fractured kneecap that forced Blake Griffin to miss his entire rookie season may have been a blessing in disguise.
It allowed him to be a year older, a year stronger, and a year wiser when his talents were finally unleashed on the NBA. And it's been worth the wait. Griffin has become an instant superstar, leading all first-year players with 23.0 points and 12.7 rebounds per game. Those numbers are good for 12th and 4th, respectively, in the entire league this season.
His potential is unlimited. He's a ferociously skilled big man with instincts beyond his years. He'd rank higher is he had more time under his belt, but if his first 48 games are any indication of his future, fan's of L.A.'s other team might finally have something to crow about for some time to come.
Russell Westbrook's superstar status is inescapably linked to the career path of Kevin Durant.
With Durant's star shining as brightly as anyone's, Westbrook is enjoying good times. He's perfectly suited to run the Oklahoma City offense, distributing the ball to Durant and picking up open looks for his own shots in the process. He's rapidly improved in each of his first three seasons, to the point now where he can realistically be counted as one of the best point guards in the league.
This year, he's averaging 22.4 points, 8.5 assists, and 5.1 rebounds per game. Those numbers are reminiscent of a young Jason Kidd. And at still just 22 years of age, for Westbrook the sky is the limit.
Rajon Rondo's career has already been an eventful ride, even though he's in just his fifth NBA season.
Given up on by the Phoenix Suns as soon as they drafted him, he didn't quite fit in in Boston at first. He was an afterthought as a rookie, and during his second season, he was often benched during the fourth quarter throughout the Celtics title run. People questioned whether coach Doc Rivers would ever trust him to run the offense.
But he persevered, and now he finds himself sitting pretty. Last year he led the league in steals, and this season he's leading the league in assists, with 12.5 a game. He's learned how to use the weapons that the Celtics have, and his future looks bright.
The only question that remains is what happens when the big three go away? Will he be able to maintain his level of play when he's no longer flanked by three players who are all future Hall of Famers?
Derrick Rose got the nod over Rondo as the Eastern Conference starter at point guard for this year's All-Star Game.
It was a bit of a controversial call, but there's certainly reason to give the edge to Rose. He's an explosive scorer, and he's the focal point of his team. He's having an MVP caliber season, averaging 24.6 points, 8.2 assists, and 4.6 rebounds, all career highs.
He's also leading the Bulls, a .500 club each of his first two seasons, to the top of the Central Division, with a 34-14 record. He's a player that Chicago can build around for the future, and at just 22 years old, that future still stretches to the horizon.
A bit too early to say "Hall of Fame" just yet, but it won't be too early for long.
Ah, the third member of the new Big Three.
Bosh has put up some very impressive numbers in his first seven and a half years in the NBA. But he has failed to reach the transcendent status of his two new superstar teammates. So while he certainly has a good shot at the Hall if his career continues to blossom, his chances are just slightly more distant than those of Dwyane Wade or LeBron James.
And his numbers have taken a bit of a dip this season. Obviously, that was bound to happen with Wade and James taking up the bulk of the offense, but it's still something to keep an eye on. After averaging 22+ points and 10+ rebounds in three of the last four seasons, this year he's dropped to 18.4 points and 8.1 boards.
Getting traded to the Lakers dramatically altered Pau Gasol's place in the NBA stratosphere.
Overnight, he went from a good player on a somewhat irrelevant team, to a key piece of the championship puzzle for the league's most recognizable franchise. Now, three Finals appearances and two NBA titles later, he's arguably the best power forward in the game today.
It really doesn't seem like he's been around for a decade already, but he has, and his career averages of 18.8 points and 9.1 rebounds, along with a Rookie of the Year award and four All-Star appearances, make the idea of him as a Hall of Famer when all is said and done not such a ridiculous proposition anymore.
He's not there yet, but he's playing the best basketball of his career right now.
Losing Carlos Boozer as his ever-present sidekick has put more responsibility and pressure on Deron Williams' shoulders, but he's proved so far this season that he's more than up to the task of being a one-man show.
He's averaging a career-high 21.9 points per game this year, and has been as responsible as anyone for keeping Utah in the Western Conference playoff race, nipping at the heels of the Nuggets and the Thunder in the Northwest Division.
Surprisingly, this is just his second All-Star selection, but he's been a star for far longer, boasting three seasons averaging 10+ assists. Whether or not he'll be happy staying in Salt Lake City long-term is an open question at this point, but regardless of what team he ends up on, his toughness and tenacity will continue to make him an All-Star in the seasons to come.
Will it make him a Hall of Famer? Perhaps.
Amar'e Stoudemire has rejuvenated his career with the move to New York.
He's looked like an MVP candidate while averaging career highs in points, assists, and blocks, while avoiding any semblance of the injury problems that have sometimes plagued him in the past. His signing with the Knicks was seen almost as an afterthought in the middle of all the LeBron drama, but he's the most important reason the Knicks are finally relevant again this season.
Stoudemire's career averages of 21.8 points and 8.9 rebounds per game are certainly Hall worthy if he can keep it up. And since he only just turned 28, he should have no problem doing that for some time to come.
Just make sure to keep wearing those glasses, Amar'e.
Durant ranks in the middle of the pack on my list simply because he hasn't been doing it for long enough yet.
Obviously, his body of work so far puts him right at the top of this list, but I'm factoring in experience as a major component of the equation. And the fact is, as spectacular as he's been, he's still in just his fourth season in the league.
But with one scoring title already under his belt, and another one potentially coming this year, as well as a World Championship, and the status of being one of the league's top young superstars, we probably just need to give him a little more time to show that he's gonna be around for good, and he'll shoot up these rankings without breaking a sweat.
Chris Paul is, in my book, the best young point guard in the game.
He's already led the league in assists twice, and steals twice, and he's leading the league in steals again this season. He's a dynamic force on both ends of the court, with his uncanny vision and quick hands, and he's got a basketball IQ that's off the charts.
Like with Durant, he simply hasn't logged quite enough seasons yet for me to list him as the lock that some of the older guys already are. But he appears to be well on his way towards becoming one.
Dwight Howard has already been so good for so long that it's easy to forget that he just turned 25 years old.
Howard has worked hard in recent seasons to expand his game, and become something more than just a great athlete who dunks a lot. But even when he was that, he was still nearly unstoppable. He's already led the league in rebounding three times, and in blocks twice, and this season he's averaging a career high 22.3 points per game.
He's also a five-time NBA All-Star, and is the two-time defending Defensive Player of the Year. He's so big, and so mobile, that if he gets the ball anywhere near the rim, it's already too late.
He's also been remarkably durable for a man of his size, missing just five games in his seven-year career.
Much of the talk surrounding Anthony this season has been about his contract situation, and the trade drama that surrounds it, but if we focused on his play, we'd see that he's done a good job of leaving the distractions in the locker room.
He's been his usual scoring machine self, and he's actually noticeably improved on the defensive end, averaging career highs in rebounds and blocks. He's averaged over 20 points per game every season of his career, and is still just 26 years old.
And if he gets his wish to be playing in New York sooner rather than later, his profile and status will increase exponentially.
Dwyane Wade grew up in Chicago, so we know who he idolized as a player when he was a kid.
And since Wade has entered the league, he's done as good a job as anyone of tracing out a similar career arc. He's already a seven-time All-Star, he's won an NBA Championship, he's been an All-Star Game MVP and a Finals MVP, and he's won a scoring title.
Not bad for having played just seven and a half seasons, and having just turned 29.
And he's been just as dynamic a presence as ever, even with having to share the stage with his new fellow superstar teammates, averaging 25.4 points per game this season, while setting a career high pace in rebounding.
If he can stay healthy moving forward, he'll be as much of a Hall lock as anyone.
Dirk appears this highly on this list because he's already got the body of work.
In his 13th NBA season, Nowitzki is the longest tenured Maverick, and has been the face of the franchise as long as anyone can remember. He's a 10-time All-Star, and was the 2007 NBA MVP. He's averaged 20 or more points 11 times, and has already scored more than 22,000 points.
Above and beyond all of those facts, though, is that he's a singular talent for a man his size. No seven footer previously has ever been as much of an all-around threat as Nowitzki, and he's been a matchup nightmare for every team he's ever faced since his rookie season. If you put big men on him, he blows by them. If you go smaller to blunt his quickness, he just shoots over them.
People have at times questioned his toughness and his heart, but that's just silly talk. The fact is, there are 29 other franchises who would love to have him on their team.
Don't get your panties in a bunch, LeBron's obviously as much a lock as anyone. He just still needs to put in a few more years of work, that's all. Dude did just turn 26, after all.
You know the facts. Arguably the most hyped prep star ever, LeBron stepped into the NBA in 2003 and immediately became King James. He's a force of nature, a perennial threat to win the scoring title and MVP award. He's got the size and strength of a power forward, with the quickness and athleticism of a guard.
Plus, regardless of what you think about how he did it, his chances of winning a ring (or two or three) just got a whole lot better this year. And he knows as well as anybody that rings go a long way towards defining your legacy.
Hey, it's better to be hated than to be not cared about at all, right?
Celtics fans, now is your time to pay attention to this article, as the next three guys on the list all wear green.
Pierce gets the credit for being a Celtic lifer. So few players nowadays play their entire career with just one organization, that the ones that do deserve extra recognition. Pierce now ranks fifth on the all-time franchise list in games, third in scoring, and second in steals. His 2008 NBA title, along with the Finals MVP award that year, cemented his legacy as one of the C's all-time greats.
He's also a nine-time All-Star, and this year surpassed 20,000 career points. Things have turned out all right for Paul.
Ray Allen, the second of the Celtics' big three, is one of the best shooters in NBA history.
He's just eight three-pointers away from breaking Reggie Miller's all-time NBA record, and he hasn't just accumulated great quantity, he's done it through quality as well. He's shooting nearly 40 percent for his career from beyond the arc, and his 46 percent this season is the best mark of his career.
He's been an All-Star for three different teams, and continues to play at the top of his game due to one of the most rigorous workout regimes of any player in the league. He's probably more fit than most of the players a decade younger.
Plus, he played Jesus in a movie. Sure, his last name was Shuttlesworth, but that's a minor detail.
Kevin Garnett completes the shamrock triumvirate.
Garnett ushered in a new age of high school phenom's making the transition directly to the NBA. He was the first of the modern wave, in the 1995, and make the leap, and his success directly affected teams' future willingness to take chances on players like Kobe Bryant and LeBron James.
Plus, he helped to redefine what a big man could be. He's essentially a seven foot small forward, and his athleticism and quickness made the traditional center seem outdated. He led the league in rebounding four years in a row, and was the 2004 NBA MVP.
Winning the title in 2008 was icing on the cake, cementing his legacy and letting him legitimately be mentioned in the same sentence as the great Bill Russell. A 14-time NBA All-Star, Garnett's talent, intensity, and passion will easily carry him to Springfield.
Tim Duncan is the power forward the sport of basketball imagined when it invented the position.
He's a 13-time NBA All-Star, a two-time MVP, a three-time Finals MVP, and a four-time NBA champion. He's been first team All-NBA and first team All-Defense 10 times each. He tops the Spurs' career leaderboard in games and rebounds, and is second in points and blocks.
You can set your watch by the guy. And through everything, he's done it all without a shred of machismo, a quiet, humble, unassuming man who lets his actions do the talking. He isn't called 'Big Fundamentals' for nothing.
And oh yeah, he's helped lead the Spurs to the best record in the league so far this season. Not bad for a 34-year old 14-year veteran with creaky knees and an achy back.
Kobe Bryant continues to play at a level mere mortals can only dream of.
A 13-time NBA All-Star, Bryant's resume also includes three All-Star Game MVP awards, two NBA Finals MVP's, and 2008 NBA MVP honors. He's also won two scoring titles, but indisputably is most proud of his five championship rings.
He's matured as a player over the years, rounding out his game to address criticisms when he was younger that he was just a scorer. As a reward, he's now been named first team All-Defense eight times. He's done it as a sidekick, and now as a centerpiece.
And through it all, he's been clutch. Whether you're a Kobe fan or a Kobe hater, you can't deny that there's nobody in the game today you'd rather have taking the last shot. He'd be a first-ballot Hall of Famer if he retired yesterday.