Predicting NBA All-Star Selections, Snubs for 2011-2012 Season

Alex JosephAnalyst IAugust 9, 2011

Predicting NBA All-Star Selections, Snubs for 2011-2012 Season

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    At this point, the 2011-2012 NBA season is, well, not looking so great.

    It seems like we're going to be guaranteed to have a shortened season, but I guess a short season beats no season at all, right?

    There has to be an optimist in all of us, and the optimist in me is currently saying, "Yes, Alex. There will be a season. The lockout will be over in the next few weeks. Free agency will start and be more exciting than the NFL's, and Joe Johnson will realize he's making too much money for a player of his caliber and he'll write you a check for at least $10 million!"

    Okay, maybe the optimist in you doesn't have to be that optimistic, but a boy can dream...

    And if I'm going to start dreaming, I'm going to start making some predictions about next season, and I'm going to write about them in slideshow form.

    Without further ado, here are next season's (because we're going to have a full season of hoops to watch) All-Star selections and snubs for both conferences, starting with the defending champs: the Western Conference. 

Guard: Chris Paul (New Orleans Hornets)

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    Predicted stats at All-Star break:

     16.3 points per game, 10.4 assists per game, 3.6 rebounds per game, 2.1 steals per game 

     

    Surprise, surprise. The best point guard in the league is my starting point guard for the Western Conference All-Stars. 

    This would make five straight appearances in the all-star game for Chris Paul, with three of those appearances being in the starting lineup. 

    The Hornets got off to an incredible start last season. They looked like the team to beat for the first month and a half; however, their gritty defense only took them so far before they flat-lined into the seventh seed come playoff time.

    Their somewhat inconsistent play and David West's season-ending injury didn't stop Paul from doing what he does best, though: playing All-Star-caliber basketball with little to no help. 

    Paul is in the Steve Nash mold in the sense that he can always make average to below-average players look better than they actually are. The fact that he averaged almost 10 assists per game last season without any real scoring threats (besides West, but like I said before, the injury...) should be a big enough achievement to earn him MVP credibility. 

    Hopefully West returns to the Hornets healthy as can be, and hopefully the Hornets are smart enough to re-sign him, because Paul needs all the help he can get. 

    Regardless, he's going to be a starter on the Western Conference All-Star team next season. 

Guard: Kobe Bryant (Los Angeles Lakers)

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    Predicted stats at All-Star break:

    26.2 points per game, 5.0 rebounds per game, 5.8 assists per game, 1.1 steals per game

     

    So far, nothing new. Both Chris Paul and Kobe Bryant started in the backcourt for the Western Conference All-Stars last season, and this may be their last chance to do it.

    I think this next season will be Bryant's last hurrah, at least statistically speaking. The lockout may actually is a blessing for Bryant. With age and injuries adding up, it may be his last chance to really give everything he has for 35 to 40 minutes per game.

    Bryant will benefit from the (proposed) shortened season for sure—the rest and his fiery competitiveness will allow him to do whatever he has to to win another championship. 

    By the time the All-Star break rolls around, I predict Bryant will be competing in the top five in scoring while also boosting his assist total. 

    But really, the bottom line is that this will be Bryant's 16th season in the NBA. He's going to play well, he's going to have great averages, and he's going to have his 14th All-Star appearance.

    Hey, if Tim Duncan made it last year, Bryant is a shoe-in for the next five. 

Forward: Kevin Durant (Oklahoma City Thunder)

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    Predicted stats at All-Star break:

    27.3 points per game, 6.5 rebounds per game, 3.0 assists per game, 1.2 steals per game

     

    Still, nothing new. This will be Kevin Durant's third All-Star appearance and his second straight start. 

    I love everything about Durant, and I'm quite aware he has been the scoring champ for the last two seasons, and I'm even more aware of the showcase he put on while he was in New York this last week. But I still think his points per game total is going to drop a bit.

    We saw this happen last season, too. In the '09-10 season Durant averaged 30.1 points per game; this dropped to 27.7 points per game last season. 

    A lot of people would contribute the slip in points to the "selfish" play of Russell Westbrook, but really, this was the first time Durant had another elite scoring threat on the floor with him in Oklahoma City. Westbrook stepped up his offensive game and this allowed Durant some cushion to do things other than score.

    And it wasn't just his scoring stats that slipped—all of his stats slipped a little. This is due to the role players, such as Serge Ibaka and James Harden, stepping up and getting better. 

    Don't get me wrong: Durant is still the superstar of the team and one of the best in the league, but if Harden gets inserted in the starting lineup, Durant will have another scoring threat on the court with him and Westbrook, and his scoring will likely take a marginal slide again. 

Forward: Kevin Love (Minnesota Timberwolves)

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    Predicted stats at All-Star break:

    18.4 points per game, 13.9 rebounds per game, 3.1 assists per game, 1.0 steals per game 

     

    Finally, the Western Conference starting lineup gets a change. 

    After nearly being the biggest All-Star snub last season, Kevin Love made it into the game on a technicality (Yao Ming was injured), but there should have been absolutely no question as to whether Love should make the roster or not. 

    The fact that Yao can still get enough votes to make the starting five in a year that he played in five total games is remarkable, but with his retirement, there will be no chance of that happening this year. 

    It's finally time for Love to be appreciated. 

    Last season, Love averaged a remarkable 20 points and 15 rebounds per game, but he did this on another terrible Timberwolves team. 

    After a few key pickups (Derrick Williams, Ricky Rubio), the Wolves actually look like a decent team this season. It will take time to mesh together, but Love will finally have some support.

    Unfortunately, he will suffer the same fate as Kevin Durant. When the people around you get better, your stats are going to slip a little. I doubt Love will mind, though, since he hasn't been on a winning team since his years at UCLA. 

Forward: Dirk Nowitzki (Dallas Mavericks)

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    Predicted stats at All-Star break:

    23.5 points per game, 6.8 rebounds per game, 3.1 assists per game, 95 percent free throw shooting

     

    This is where the starting lineup gets tricky. The only "center" in the Western Conference that has a decent shot of starting this game is Pau Gasol, but technically he's a power forward, too. 

    The West is filled with tweener forwards/centers that are good enough to get All-Star recognition, so I'm giving the nod to Dirk Nowitzki in hopes that he'll carry the momentum he had in the playoffs into next season. 

    Nowitzki is the most unguardable player in the league. His ability to create with the ball, his shooting range and his height make him virtually unstoppable, but unlike most big men, you can't just foul him and hope for the best. 

    Nowitzki shot 89 percent from the line last season and 94 percent from the line in the playoffs, and he should continue his impressive scoring next season. 

    With a healthy Caron Butler and Tyson Chandler hopefully returning, the Mavs have as good a shot as anyone at another title next season. 

Western Conference Reserves: Guards

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    Russell Westbrook:

    Westbrook should earn his second All-Star berth in as many years next season. I foresee Westbrook staying around the 20-points-per-game mark while averaging about nine assists and five rebounds per game. 

    Based on statistics alone, Westbrook should be the most impressive point guard in the Western Conference next season. However, with Chris Paul still in the West, there's likely no shot of Westbrook taking the starting spot in the All-Star game anytime soon. 

    With James Harden hopefully moving into the starting lineup, Westbrook will be able to cut down on his turnovers as he won't be trying to force so much on the offensive side of the ball. 

     

    Tyreke Evans:

    It's time for Evans to earn his first All-Star appearance. Playing on a Kings team that features a lot of promising talent, Evans will have a chance to be on a hopeful-contender team. 

    Barring any injuries, I see Evans upping his points and assists averages next season to 19 points and seven assists per game. 

    The Kings are going to be one of the most exciting teams to watch next season. With Evans, Marcus Thornton, John Salmons, J.J. Hickson, DeMarcus Cousins, Jason Thompson, Samuel Dalembert, Donte Greene, Francisco Garcia and Jimmer Fredette all being able to start on any given night, the Kings have become one of the deepest teams in the league. 

     

    Manu Ginobili:

    Somebody has to make it from the Spurs, right?

    With Tim Duncan getting his unwarranted All-Star appearance last season, that leaves room for either Ginobili or Tony Parker to earn theirs this season. Because Westbrook and Evans are already going to be on the roster, Ginobili earns his spot by being the only true shooting guard on the West's bench. 

    I think Ginobili will still put up good stats if he can remain healthy. His averages of 17 points, five assists and four rebounds per game from last season should be very doable. He may even improve on those stats. 

    Ginobili will be, once again, the best offensive player for San Antonio, and with George Hill now in Indiana, Ginobili will be playing a hefty load of minutes for the Spurs. 

Western Conference Reserves: Forwards

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    Blake Griffin:

    Griffin had a super impressive rookie campaign, averaging 23 points, 12 rebounds and four assists per game. 

    Consequently, Griffin earned both the title of Rookie of the Year as well as his first All-Star appearance. It won't be his last, either.

    The Clippers are going to be a better team this season, anchored by both Griffin and Eric Gordon. I think Griffin's averages will remain about the same, and he may even have a good chance of starting over Kevin Love.

    One thing remains certain: He will be the front-runner to win the Slam Dunk Contest again. 

     

    Zach Randolph:

    Z-Bo has always averaged great numbers on terrible teams while playing the role as the "great player with bad character." 

    Seemingly, he has found a home in Memphis, Tenn. where he is adored, and his character issues have been resolved. The Grizzlies were a fan favorite last year in the playoffs, and it was Randolph's play that made them so competitive. 

    He is a walking double-double, so he will continue those ways next season averaging around 20 points and 11 rebounds a game. 

    This would only be Randolph's second All-Star appearance (his other coming in 2010), as he was one of the many unfortunate "snubs" last season, but it's hard to argue when the forwards who beat you out are the above-mentioned Griffin, Nowitzki, Love and the soon-to-be-mentioned Pau Gasol. 

     

    Pau Gasol:

    Like I said earlier in the article, Gasol may be the only "center" candidate that the West can put on its roster, but he's still more of a power forward.

    If the Lakers want to make another run at the title, they're going to have to get great play from their two All-Stars: Gasol and Kobe Bryant. Gasol played really well in the regular season, averaging a double-double with 19 points and 10 rebounds per game, but in the postseason he only averaged 13 points and eight rebounds per game. 

    I expect Gasol to return to form next season, averaging a double-double again while helping the Lakers compete for a top seed in the West. 

    He may be the only chance the West All-Stars has at stopping—or at least slowing down—Dwight Howard

     

    Rudy Gay:

    Didn't see this one coming, did you? Gay will be the second Grizzly to earn a spot on the Western Conference All-Star roster.

    When healthy, Gay is one of the top small forwards in the league, and before his season-ending injury in 2010-2011, Gay was off to his best year yet. 

    With the emergence of Z-Bo, Marc Gasol's continually better offensive game and Mike Conley's ability to create and score, Gay may take a slight hit in his scoring average. I think he'll still be averaging at least 17 points per game come time for the All-Star break, though.

    Gay gets the nod as the last forward on the West's roster due to the lack of small forward presence in the lineup. He and Durant will be able to split time during the game, and Gay will provide size and athleticism to matchup with the East's probable small forward dominated bench. 

Western Conference Snubs

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    LaMarcus Aldridge:

    Quite possibly the biggest snub from last season, Aldridge unfortunately will suffer the same fate again this season. 

    After the injuries to Brandon Roy shelved the All-Star guard for most of the season, Aldridge stepped up and proved he was capable of carrying his team to the playoffs. He really blossomed into one of the best power forwards in the league right before all our eyes last season.

    He will likely play just as well if not better next season, keeping intact his averages of 22 points and nine rebounds per game, but I still don't think it will be enough to get him chosen over Love, Nowitzki, Griffin, Randolph and Gasol. 

    Playing in a power forward-heavy conference, Aldridge really falls victim to being snubbed for years to come. 

     

    Gerald Wallace: 

    Here's another Blazer that may fall victim to the "snub." Wallace may actually have a better shot at making the team than his likely more-deserving front-court friend (Aldridge). 

    That sounds stupid, right? Well, I really think that last forward spot has to be reserved for a small forward, because adding another big man leaves Durant as the only small forward on the roster. That's why I gave the nod to Gay, who I believe is in line to have a big year on a top Western Conference team.

    Wallace is the only small forward in the West who should give Gay a run for his money. Wallace is also in line to have a big year, as he and Aldridge will be trying to get the Blazers back into the playoffs.

    It's not out of the question for Wallace to average 18 points and 10 rebounds a game. If this happens, he would be a logical decision for the last forward spot, but I predict Memphis to have a better record than the Blazers at the All-Star break, and that seems to weigh pretty heavily on voters. 

     

    Monta Ellis:

    Monta is always averaging All-Star-caliber stats, but he hardly ever gets the recognition due to playing on lousy teams. 

    This year, things are a bit trickier to predict. As soon as the lockout ends, the consensus is that Ellis will be shipped out of town for the best offer. 

    So where will he end up? Maybe he'll stay in Golden State? 

    Whatever the case, if Ellis remains in the West, he's going to still score at will and average solid stats across the board. 

    I don't think he'll have a chance to be picked over Westbrook, Evans or Ginobili, but he may get shipped off to a team that's contending, thus making his resume look better. That's the best-case scenario right now.

     

    Honorable Mentions:

    Stephen Curry, David West, Eric Gordon

     

    Now, for the Eastern Conference All-Stars...

Guard: Derrick Rose (Chicago Bulls)

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    Predicted stats at All-Star break:

    24.4 points per game, 6.5 rebounds per game, 8.2 assists per game, 1.2 steals per game

     

    Derrick Rose earns his third appearance in as many years and his second straight start. He's coming off an MVP season—whether it was deserved or not remains questioned—but there's no doubt he will continue to produce MVP-quality statistics. 

    If the Bulls acquire a shooting guard in free agency that can actually score, Rose won't have to shoulder so much of the offensive load. His points per game should drop marginally, as well as his rebounds per game with a fully healthy Joakim Noah and a motivated Carlos Boozer, but his assists should go up with better weapons around him.

    Personally, I'm one who believes Rose's MVP award was rightfully given to him, but if LeBron James or Dwight Howard would have received it, I would have been more than okay with those selections, too.

    Rose carrying the Bulls to the best record in the league without much offensive help is more impressive than any PER stat out there. 

Guard: Dwyane Wade (Miami Heat)

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    Predicted stats at All-Star break:

    27.3 points per game, 5.9 rebounds per game, 5.0 assists per game, 1.8 steals per game

     

    Dwyane Wade is the best shooting guard in the league. No question. He will earn his eighth All-Star appearance and keep last year's Eastern Conference All-Stars' backcourt in tact. 

    After losing to the Mavericks in the finals, Wade will come out of the gate strong next season, motivated and hungry to get another shot at the title. 

    I foresee Wade improving on all of his averages next season. His scoring and assist averages dropped a bit last season, but that was all due to the arrival of LeBron James and Chris Bosh. After having a year under their belt, Wade should be more comfortable.

    The Heat certainly have to do something about their lack of depth, but when you have Wade and James in your starting lineup, no game is out of the question. 

Forward: LeBron James (Miami Heat)

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    Predicted stats at All-Star break:

    26.5 points per game, 7.5 rebounds per game, 7.5 assists per game, 2.1 steals per game

     

    For all the LeBron James haters, please remember that he's still the best player on the planet, he just doesn't have a ring (yet) to prove it.

    James will be selected to the East's roster for the eighth time in nine seasons and, in all reality, he probably should have been selected his rookie year, as well. This is no coincidence: He's really that good, regardless of his performance in the finals. 

    He consistently averages near triple-double statistics every season, and he is by far the most important player on the Heat's roster. 

    I think Wade will actually outscore James next season by a slim margin, but that's only because Wade will take more shots. James will keep up his rebound and assist averages, and hopefully he'll put it all together and win his first title. 

    It's going to be the only way to temporarily shut the haters up, that is, until they start talking about how many more rings he needs to win. 

Forward: Carmelo Anthony (New York Knicks)

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    Predicted stats at All-Star break:

    27.7 points per game, 6.8 rebounds per game, 3.1 assists per game, 1.1 steals per game

     

    As you can see in the picture, Carmelo Anthony played for a different All-Star team last season. If it wasn't for Anthony, the East's starting lineup would remain completely the same, but his arrival in New York has given his teammate and last year's starting forward for the East (Amar'e Stoudemire) some competition for the job. 

    Stoudemire very well could be selected to start again over Anthony, but I think Anthony will be the leading scorer in the league come All-Star break, and that alone could give him the start. 

    Anthony really does have to shoulder most of the offense for the Knicks, and with Durant being more of a "I'm going to share the ball with my teammates"-type of player, Anthony could easily end Durant's scoring champ streak next season.

    If Anthony does get selected to start, the East would have to play a bit smaller with essentially two small forwards, but when you have the guy on the next slide in the middle, it makes it a bit easier. 

Center: Dwight Howard (Orlando Magic)

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    Predicted stats at All-Star break:

    24.2 points per game, 14.7 rebounds per game, 2.6 blocks per game, 7.0 DUNKSONYOURFACE per game

     

    Barring any injuries (and he hasn't had any so far), Dwight Howard should remain the starting center for either the East or West (depending on where he ends up) for the next 10 years.

    There's just nobody that compares to him. When listing the best centers in the league there's Dwight Howard at No. 1 and then Amare Stoudemire and Al Horford at a distant No. 2 and No. 3. 

    Howard should likely be the most solid MVP candidate every season. He always has great stats, plays on a winning team and is the main (and sometimes only) reason those teams are winning. He is the definition of "most valuable player." 

    Jameer Nelson is the most consistent player he's had as a teammate. Howard has to get out of Orlando. I'm just hoping he doesn't get swept away to the Lakers. 

Eastern Conference Reserves: Guards

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    Joe Johnson:

    I picked the picture of Johnson solely because he's the only guard I have listed that played in the game last year for the East. 

    Johnson gets his sixth All-Star appearance as the reserve shooting guard for the East, a spot that he will likely never better with Dwyane Wade still playing in the East. 

    He is still the second best shooting guard in the East, and he is still a great scorer, but a dark horse candidate to take his spot will be DeMar DeRozan. 

    It's unlikely, but it could happen.

     

    Deron Williams:

    Williams will be the most deserving reserve for the East All-Stars, and he remains a top three point guard in the league. 

    Williams saw his points per game average slip all the way from 21 to 15 in the 12 games he played for New Jersey last season, but that shouldn't be a reason to panic. Williams was merely adjusting to a new team and he will come back next year with better numbers.

    It remains to be seen how long Williams actually remains in New Jersey, as he has been subject to trade talk already, but Williams will always produce to like an All-Star no matter the city he's in. 

     

    John Wall:

    Much like Tyreke Evans, Wall will earn his first All-Star appearance this year.

    I'm giving the nod to Wall over Rajon Rondo for the last guard spot on the East's roster for a few reasons, one of them being that even though Rondo seemingly played well enough in the playoffs with a dislocated elbow, that is never an easy injury to recover from. Another reason is that the Celtics are going to be down this year. The "Big Three" are near retirement, they are in desperate need of a center and their bench is anything but exciting—especially with Glen Davis possibly leaving town.

    Wall, on the other hand, is going to be playing with a young, talented, much-improved Wizards team that I think has a real chance at competing for a playoff spot next season.

    Wall had good enough numbers last season to earn him a Rookie of the Year award, it just so happened that he was up against Blake Griffin. With a year under his belt, Wall will be more prepared and should bump up all of his already impressive averages. 

Eastern Conference Reserves: Forwards

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    Paul Pierce:

    Last season the Celtics managed to produce four All-Stars: Pierce, Rajon Rondo, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen. Lets just say that this year they'll be very lucky to produce two All-Stars.

    Pierce, though, is an almost for-sure candidate. This would be his 10th All-Star appearance and possibly his last. 

    Pierce is the heart and soul of the Celtics. He was one of the best small forwards in the game for a long time, and now that he's older he's actually quite a bit underrated. Pierce finished with the fourth highest PER last season among small forwards. 

    Not too bad for a soon-to-be 34-year-old with barely any knees left. He's still going to average around 18 points and five rebounds per game if he stays healthy. But if Jeff Green stays, he's going to need Pierce's minutes to reduce considerably if he wants some burn. 

     

    Amar'e Stoudemire: 

    Even though Carmelo Anthony will take his starting job, Stoudemire will still be the first forward/center candidate off the bench. 

    Upon his arrival in New York last season, Stoudemire proved his worth and had his best season since the '07-08 season. He finished with averages that looked like this: 25.3 points per game, 8.2 rebounds per game, 1.9 blocks per game. 

    Of course, his points per game could drop next season with Anthony in town for all 82 games, but Stoudemire will still get plenty of opportunity to score.

    Here's to hoping the Knicks can get past the first round of the playoffs next year. 

     

    Al Horford:

    I'm entirely confident that Horford will earn his third All-Star appearance next season, I'm just not entirely confident that he will deserve it. 

    Horford has indeed steadily improved every year, averaging 15 points, nine rebounds and one block per game last season. 

    Even though Horford's true position is power forward, he has solidified himself as a top three center in the league.

    He will likely average a double-double, which should be enough to earn him an All-Star spot, but other East centers will give him a run. You'll hear about them on the next slide. 

     

    Danny Granger:

    Granger has averaged All-Star-like numbers for the last four seasons, but he only has one All-Star appearance to show for it (2009). 

    Hopefully he'll be recognized for the second time next season. 

    Even though Paul George has proven himself worthy as the Pacers' starting shooting guard, he remains a small forward at heart. With Granger always involved in trade rumors, this could be the right time for Indiana to move him.

    No matter if this happens or not, Granger remains an All-Star and one of the most underrated players in the game. 

Eastern Conference Snubs

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    Rajon Rondo:

    I've already explained why Rondo won't make the team over Deron Williams or John Wall, but that doesn't mean his name won't be mentioned when analysts start mentioning snubs.

    For what it's worth, Rondo may actually make the All-Star team again if he can get the support from his teammates. I can almost guarantee people would vote in Rondo before John Wall solely based on reputation. 

    I still think Wall will have the better resume come All-Star break, but as we have seen in the past, that sometimes doesn't matter. 

     

    Brook Lopez:

    Lopez may actually have the best case for being a snub come All-Star break—that is, if Deron Williams can stay healthy.

    Lopez averaged 20 points and six boards a game last season, and those numbers will either stay the same or go up with a healthy Williams playing the full season. 

    His rebounding definitely needs to go up for any consideration, and that may be hard with rebound-hungry Kris Humphries playing alongside him. But Lopez is tall—at 7' he needs to get more than six rebounds a game. 

     

    Andrew Bogut:

    Bogut has been plagued with injuries his entire career. He played in all 82 games during his rookie season, but since then he has averaged 63 games per season.

    I think this is the season he puts it all together, stays healthy and has career statistics in the process. Why, you ask?

    Stephen. Jackson. 

    I know Jackson is getting old, but the guy can still play. He's an upgrade over John Salmons, and now Bogut will have two players in the starting lineup with him that can help carry the load offensively.

    I'm predicting a season average of 16 points, 11 rebounds and three blocks per game for Bogut. If this happens, he could challenge Al Horford for a reserve spot.  

     

    Honorable Mentions: 

    Josh Smith, Chris Bosh, Andre Iguodala