It’s that time of the year again when all of the game’s most deserving players get their All-Star nod. They’ve sweat buckets, sharpened their skills, and have battled the TSA on a daily basis, all while avoiding the cheap thrills that come with stardom. Not to mention that their respective teams sit comfortably at the top of the wins column.
That’s the world according to absolute fairness. But in the NBA, and in a process that values fanboys over exploits, things don’t always turn out right.
This year’s All-Star starters include some repeat offenders. Rounding out the starting five for the West are Kobe Bryant, his teammate Dwight Howard, scoring phenom Kevin Durant, Chris Paul, and the rock-a-rimmer Blake Griffin. For the East, there’s Carmelo Anthony, defending champs Dwyane Wade and LeBron James, and current Bostonians Kevin Garnett and Rajon Rondo.
KD, LBJ, Bryant, and Paul are clear no-brainers. Wade could be as well when you take in the Heat’s record and his 20.1 PPG, 4.4 APG, 4.6 RPG statline. But it’s become increasingly clear that it’s LeBron’s show in South Beach, and that The Flash’s “flash” has waned as of late. His throne as the East’s go-to shooting guard no longer seems so out of reach.
Speaking of being out of reach, that’s exactly what a winning record has been for the likes of Garnett, Rondo, Howard, and Kobe.
KG is a living legend, there’s no denying that, but he was put over more deserving players in order to make his 15th All-Star appearance. Rondo’s selection is harder to argue against, considering that the other two most notable “points” in the East, Jrue Holiday and Kyrie Irving, are on losing teams and play seesaw with Rondo when factored for statistical prowess.
Howard has put up better numbers than his treatment by trollers suggest, but his selection seems based more on legacy than lethality. The Lakers are also dreadful to watch. As his teammate, Kobe should get some points detracted for The Lakers’ unwatchability as well, and should be more scrutinized for his pathological willingness to defer blame and defenders this year. Still, one of the GOATs, Bryant is having a stupendous year. Add on that he cracked the top-5 for most offensively-prolific-of-all-time this year and it’s hard to give him a pink slip.
Below are some of the league’s most deserving players of an All-Star reserve spot, as well as some haiku-esque rants on them. They are ranked under categories that suggest their likelihood of success (The Charity Stripe, 18-Footers, and Half-Court Buzzer Beaters). As we all know, except for maybe Dwight Howard, a free throw usually has a higher rate of success than a heave from half court (especially if Westbrook is involved).
The Charity Stripe
It’s a tossup at the moment on who is having a better year: Rondo, Holiday, or Irving. All three are exceptional point guards, and mean very different things for their squads. Joe Johnson has hit what seems like a gamewinner a week. George is recovering nicely from a shaky start, and almost single-handedly took down the Heat. It’s fitting that Chandler’s career started with the Bulls because he brings a defensive grit-and-grind Noah has extended in Chicago.
Four of the Western Conference starters come from Los Angeles, with only the Clippers deserving of two player positions given their record. Mark Jackson must be thinking “mama, there goes that man!” a lot this season with how Lee and Curry are gelling. The “Tim Duncan Rule” need not apply to The Big Fundamental, who is defying age and expectations in 2013. Z-Bo leads the league in double-doubles and Kendrick Perkins intimidations. Fear the beard.
Deng was integral in important wins over the Miami Heat, New York Knicks, and the Atlanta Hawks in the month of January. J.R. Smith has been Joe Johnson-lite in several game-clinchers this season, and is in the 6th Man contention. Brook Lopez has improved defensively and is a major reason why the Nets are still semi-relevant. The Hawks experienced a major lineup shakeup, but Horford and Smith have kept them as perennial playoff contenders (if albeit, just for the first or second rounds).
AK-47 might go down as one of the most important “statless” players to ever play the game. Lillard isn’t the team anchor Aldridge is, but has made Anthony Davis a last-year fad. J-Crossover is the king of the NBA’s best bench. Quietly improving and still to hit his prime, Mike Conley has been an important part in the Grizzlies’ success. Mr. Asik and Destroy brings a Bench Mob grit to the Rockets that Lin might not have been exposed to at Harvard.
Half-Court Buzzer Beaters
Boozer still has the hops of a newborn but just came off being named the NBA Eastern Conference player of the week (which seems like a strange dream for Bulls fans). D-Will has admitted he isn’t playing at an All-Star level but is still on par with the best efforts from second-string guards. Hill gets little mention despite Fantasy-worthy numbers, and Teague is right there with him. Sanders might be my favorite player of the moment.
The Manimal might have the best nickname in the league and is infectious to watch. His Denver teammates, Ty Lawson and Iggy, have also helped get Denver back to expected form. Gay won’t be traded, which spells good things for Grizzlies title run―how good, is still to be seen. Ibaka The Shot Blocka benefits from playing around the league’s most potent duo (sorry LBJ & D-Va), but has remained incredibly consistent in his shotmaking ability. Barea is the little engine that could. Playing for the Jazz makes people forget about you, but Millsap has been putting up All-Star worthy numbers again.