The NBA All-Star Game, which is being played in New Orleans this year, is still more than a month and a half away (Feb. 17). Fan voting for the game is already well under way, with Kevin Garnett currently leading LeBron James and Kobe Bryant in total votes.
Every year, some players who are less deserving than others end up in the starting lineups or on the bench, but that’s just the way it is. The starters are selected by fans, the reserves are selected by the coaches, and other players are selected by the commissioner, David Stern, to replace injured choices. With only 12 spots on each team, every worthy player can’t make the team.
Not counting fan or coach voting, here’s what my East and West All-Star Teams would look like:
Chauncey Billups, PG, Pistons -- Jason Kidd will probably get the starting role in the East, but Billups should be recognized for being the best player on a solid team. Billups is averaging 17.5 points, 2.9 rebounds, and 7.6 assists per game while leading the Pistons to a 23-7 mark, which is good enough for second-place in the East. Even though the Celtics have the NBA’s best record, the Pistons beat them the first time the two teams met, with Billups playing a huge role.
Michael Redd, SG, Bucks -- Normally Dwyane Wade would be the pick here, but he’s not completely healthy and the Heat have been a huge disappointment. Redd, though, continues to shine on a bad team by averaging 24.1 points, 2 threes, 5 rebounds, and almost 4 assists per game. Selected in the second round of the NBA Draft by Milwaukee in 2000, Redd, similarly to Gilbert Arenas, keeps improving every year and proving that he shouldn’t have been a second-round choice. Redd’s point totals are slightly below his averages from the past two seasons, but he’s improved his all-around game by grabbing more rebounds and compiling more assists.
Caron Butler, SF, Wizards -- The easy pick here is LeBron James; the right pick is Butler. Leading the short-handed Wizards to a 15-14 record, Butler has filled out the stat-sheet night-in and night-out while playing huge minutes -- over 40 a game. He’s averaging 22.1 points, 1.1 threes, 6.9 rebounds, 4.4 assists, and 2.2 steals so far this season while shooting just under 50% from the field. Without Butler’s career performance this season to help replace the injured Gilbert Arenas, the Wizards would surely be well under .500 and no where near 5th place in the East.
Kevin Garnett, PF, Celtics -- Garnett has helped to lead the Celtics to a remarkable 26-3 record by putting up 18.8 points, 10.5 rebounds, and 3.6 assists per game. Teaming up with Ray Allen and Paul Pierce and several other overachieving role players (Rondo, House, Perkins), Garnett has helped to completely turn the Celtics around and has transformed them into a championship contender this season.
Dwight Howard, C, Magic -- Perhaps no other player deserves to start in the All-Star Game for the East more than Howard. Despite recently only turning 22, Howard is averaging huge numbers -- 23.1 points, 15.3 rebounds, and 2.7 blocks. Howard is the best young center in the NBA, and it’s hard to imagine how he has gotten this good in such a short period of time. Howard's strong play in the paint allows the rest of the Magic to get open looks from the perimeter. (See Hedo Turkoglu, who is having a career season.)
Jason Kidd, PG, Nets -- 11.5 points, 8.6 rebounds, 10.6 assists -- Excellent all-around numbers, but the Nets (as a team) have struggled so far. Kidd is also shooting only 37% from the field.
LeBron James, SF, Cavaliers -- 28.8 points, 7.2 rebounds, 7.6 assists -- James has awesome numbers, but the Cavs should be better than 14-17. They pretty much have their whole team back, the team that somehow went to the NBA Finals last year, and they’ve been average at best. At this moment, Butler just deserves it a bit more.
Dwyane Wade, SG, Heat -- 24.8 points, 4.2 rebounds, 6.9 assists -- Wade has been great when he actually has played, and he’s not the reason why the Heat have been awful. Somehow Ricky Davis wasn’t the solution to improving the team? Wow, who knew? By the way, Wade also has the unique ability to announce his own name, which is helpful, annoying, and hilarious at the same time.
Joe Johnson, G, Hawks -- 22.1 points, 3.9 rebounds, 5.6 assists -- Johnson has been the best player on a much-improved (15-13) Atlanta Hawks team. Someone from the Hawks deserves to go to New Orleans, and that player is Johnson.
Antawn Jamison, F, Wizards -- 21.8 points, 10.8 rebounds, 1.6 assists -- Jamison has helped steady the Wizards frontcourt by averaging a double-double even though he’s an undersized power forward.
Chris Bosh, PF/C, Raptors -- 19.9 points, 9.3 rebounds, 2.2 assists -- I’ve been trying to figure who the second best center in the Eastern Conference is for the past 15 minutes and Bosh wins. (Sorry Zaza Pachulia fans.) The Raptors (16-15) have been pretty good this season when Bosh plays strong in the paint. Fun Fact: Did you know Rasho Nesterovic makes $7.8 million this year?
Paul Pierce, G/F, Celtics -- 21.6 points, 5.4 rebounds, 4.9 assists -- Tough choice for the last spot, but Pierce has been better than other possible All-Stars such as Richard Jefferson, Andre Iguodala, and Ray Allen, at least in my opinion. Pierce has better all-around numbers than all of them, and he also happens to play for the team with the best record in the NBA.
Next post -- Western Conference selections…