Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Picking the 2012 NBA All-Stars

In the NBA, there’s about half a dozen or so superstars, and then on the next tier down there’s the All-Stars - players who are pretty damn good (for one season at least) but in all likelihood will never be the main guy on a championship team, and in 10 or 15 years may hardly be remembered at all. Really, if crowds were more realistic in their support of their favourite players, they would less often chant ‘M-V-P! M-V-P!’, and more often chant ‘All-Star Reserve! All-Star Reserve!’ Because for many players that’s really the pinnacle they have to aspire to.

Being named an All-Star reserve is an honour though, despite some dubious choices over the years, which is why so much column space is devoted to arguing who should and will be on the team. Even I have an opinion on it, and I’ve barely watched a second of basketball this season thanks to Channel One dropping the NBA from their TV schedule (fuck you, Channel One!), but I’m not going to let that stop me from reading and regurgitating other people’s views on who should make the game so as to come up with my own list.

First off, we know who the starters for the All-Star game are, and anyone with knowledge of YouTube clicks and American population densities could have predicted those before voting even began. For the East, we have Derrick Rose (Chicago) and Dwyane Wade (Miami) as the guards, LeBron James (Miami) and Carmelo Anthony (New York) as the forwards, and Dwight Howard (Orlando) as the center. For the West, we have Chris Paul (LA Clippers ) and Kobe Bryant (LA Lakers) as the guards, Kevin Durant (Oklahoma City) and Blake Griffin (LA Clippers) as the forwards, and Andrew Bynum (LA Lakers) as the center. All of those guys deserve to be there, with the possible exception of Anthony, but since every New York sports writer and countless others have pointed out that his former team is playing much better without him, I won’t repeat those arguments here.

First off, the West, where it’s easier to find deserving candidates. Everyone I’ve read seems to think that Kevin Love (Minnesota), LaMarcus Aldridge (Portland) and Russell Westbrook (Oklahoma City) are locks, and I’d have to agree. Finding a back-up center for both conferences is a bit of a stretch, given the lack of quality centers nowadays. Marc Gasol (Memphis) seems to be getting a lot of support, but Al Jefferson (Utah) is putting up similar numbers on a more successful team so I think he’ll get it. As for the other spots, we need two more guards - one of which has to be Tony Parker (San Antonio) given he is putting up impressive numbers on a good Spurs team, and the other of which I think will be James Harden (Oklahoma City). Kyle Lowry (Houston) and Steve Nash (Phoenix) are both a chance, but the Thunder has a really good record, and it looks a bit strange to me to pick three point guards on the bench. I’ll go for Danilo Gallinari (Denver) over Paul Millsap (Utah) for the final spot, so that another of the West’s Cinderella teams has a representative, but given Gallo’s recent injury Millsap would slot into the team in any case.

In the East... ugh... Chris Bosh (Miami) is having a good season (or so I’m told, Channel One!) and won’t have any questions about his selection this year. Andre Iggy should get his first call-up given Philadelphia’s success. (Sorry, I can never remember to spell Iggy’s surname and I can’t be bothered looking it up, and anyway, being known colloquially as ‘Iggy’ can only help his case.) Chicago sits atop the East, and so by the Grand Rules of Coaches’ All-Star Voting they need another representative, making Luol Deng the other forward. For the guards, Deron Williams (New Jersey) hasn’t set the world on fire but he remains one of the few top-shelf players in the East. I’m a bit dubious about Brandon Jennings’ (Milwaukee) All-Star credentials, but he’s scoring well, which always goes down well when it comes to voting, and he’ll get the credit for the Bucks not being horrendous despite Andrew Bogut’s injury woes. It’s a toss-up between Rajon Rondo (Boston) and rookie Kyrie Irving (Cleveland) for the last spot, but I think Rondo wins out through seniority. I’m omitting Joe Johnson (Atlanta), even if it does give three point guards on the bench, purely because I think the words ‘Joe Johnson, six-time All-Star’ should never be uttered. At the center position, someone made the case that the Knicks’ struggles are not Tyson Chandler’s fault, and if you look past the problems of his teammates he has clearly been the second-best center in the East. The guy is making 70 per cent of his shots! Good enough for me.

Anyway, we’ll find out later this week who made the cut. I’m hoping against hope that young Greg Monroe, despite the Pistons’ diabolical win-loss record, will still get a gig.

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