Though the Eastern Conference continues to close the gap in talent-level with the Western Conference, the West remains superior -- for now.
Steve Nash, PG, Suns -- Nash earns this spot by averaging 16.8 points and 12.4 assists per game for the Suns. Nash paces the Suns up-tempo offense and has Phoenix right behind the Spurs for the West’s second-best record. Not really a surprising choice here, but Nash does have some company now from other top point guards in the West -- more on that later.
Kobe Bryant, SG, Lakers -- Bryant finally realized that not only would a trade to Chicago be a really bad idea, but that he also had some pretty good players already on his team. Bryant is averaging 27.1 points, 6.2 rebounds, 4.9 assists, and 2 steals per game, and he’s helped to lead the Lakers to a strong 19-11 record.
Shawn Marion, F, Suns -- Although Marion shoots like he’s heaving a medicine ball towards the rim, he continues to be one of the most reliable and versatile players in the entire league -- 16.3 points, 10 rebounds, 1.9 assists, 2.1 steals, and 1.7 blocks per game. Carmelo Anthony may be voted in by fans, but Marion is the better choice because he plays hard-nosed defense. Marion, playing an undersized power forward for the Suns at 6’7, routinely matches up against bigger players and shuts them down. He very rarely creates his own shot, but he plays with Steve Nash, so why would he have to?
Carlos Boozer, PF, Jazz -- The Utah Jazz (16-16) have definitely underachieved so far, but don’t blame Boozer, who’s averaging 24.2 points, 11.5 rebounds, 3.1 assists, and 1.4 steals per game. Boozer and Deron Williams have formed one of the NBA’s best 1-2 scoring punches. Boozer was selected to the All-Star Game last year but was unable to play. This year he should definitely see plenty of time on the court.
Marcus Camby, C, Nuggets -- Plenty of other centers could start in this spot, such as Yao Ming or Amare Stoudemire, but none of them plays defense like Camby has this season. Camby is averaging just 9 points a game, but he’s also grabbing 14.2 rebounds and blocking 3.7 shots a game as well. He seems like a strong possibility to win the Defensive Player of the Year award. (Just to note, I fully believe Camby will get left off the team. These things happen.)
Carmelo Anthony, SF, Nuggets -- 25.7 points, 6.7 rebounds, 3.6 assists -- No surprise here -- Anthony is an outstanding player and can score points in bunches. It’s very hard to believe that he’s only 23 years old.
Chris Paul, PG, Hornets -- 21.4 points, 3.9 rebounds, 10.0 assists, 3.0 steals -- Paul is one of the best point guards in the league, and also one of the fastest. He leads the NBA in steals per game by more than a half a steal, and he also commits less than 3 turnovers per game -- almost one less per game than Nash.
Baron Davis, PG, Warriors -- 22.3 points, 4.9 rebounds, 8.1 assists, 2.5 steals -- Finally healthy for an extended period of time, Davis is showing that he’s one of the elite guards in the league. Just ask the Mavericks about how good Davis is.
Dirk Nowitzki, PF, Mavericks -- 21.7 points, 8.7 rebounds, 3.9 assists -- Nowitzki is averaging almost three points less per game than he did last year, and he seems a little more timid this year. He has still played solid basketball, but if the Mavericks are ever going to overtake some of the elite powers in the West, Nowitzki will have to be the reason why.
Amare Stoudemire, C, Suns -- 21.8 points, 9.0 rebounds, 2.1 blocks -- Stoudemire has been much more efficient so far this year. He’s averaging 1.4 more points per game, fewer turnovers, and slightly more assists. But if the Suns are ever going to win the West, he’ll have to improve his defense against Tim Duncan, which is easier said than done.
Allen Iverson, G, Nuggets -- 26.3 points, 3.0 rebounds, 7.1 assists, 2.4 steals -- This is the hardest pick because Iverson’s addition means that Deron Williams gets left off the team. Williams is averaging 19.4 points and 8.8 assists per game, but Iverson can play both the one and the two guard and is simply a more dynamic scorer. With all of the talent in the Western Conference at point guard, it’s not that hard to believe that someone as good as Williams doesn’t get to play in the All-Star Game.
Tim Duncan, PF/C, Spurs -- 18.3 points, 10.2 rebounds, 3 assists, 1.8 blocks -- Duncan is arguably the best player in the NBA, and even though he’s been hurt and he’s scoring a couple less points per game this year, he has still led the Spurs to a strong 21-8 record. As long as Duncan is healthy, he’ll always deserve a spot on the All-Star roster.
The West is so talented that these are some of the names that I had to leave off of the roster:
Chris Kaman (seriously, he's been great this year)
But, again, that’s what happens with only 12 spots available on each team. There are more than 24 elite players in the NBA, so plenty of talent will get left off of each roster.
Let the debate begin nationwide -- and by debate, I mean countless NBA analysts getting way too angry about which players aren’t invited to New Orleans. Be prepared for Stephen A. Smith and some guy named Bill Walton. You’ve been warned.