It’s All Star season boys and girls. You know what that means! All sorts of wacky basketball will be going down in H-town. I don’t actually know if H-town is a legitimate nickname for Houston, but I was on a roll. Anywho, there’ll be three point shootouts, a slam dunk contest, 2ball, skills competitions, Rookies vs. Sophomores (which has always bothered me—these guys aren’t really sophomores), and the crème dela crop, the celebrity game. It’s a chance for the Bow Wow’s and Nelly’s of the world to finally get back at Justin Bieber.
This week the All Star starters, as voted on by we, the fans, were announced, and Ajamie covered that last night. I always wondered why the NBA and MLB All Star starters were chosen by the fans. I understand that it’s the one time a year that the leagues can allow the fans to feel like they genuinely had an input on a game, but, jeez, that’s a helluvan input. I mean, look at baseball. They might as well call the first three innings Red Sox/Yankees vs Cardinals/Giants, but I digress. This year the fans voted in Dwight Howard and Kevin Garnett. Nice try, y’all. Those two should have appeared in this column, the one about the probable reserves.
Voters from respective conferences have been tasked with the task of filling the remaining 7 roster spots with the best of the rest. Some of the decisions will be mind numbingly easy, but some of the choices will be quite difficult. The real rosters will be released this Thursday. Until then, I get 5 days of unabated, salary cap-free, rosterbation. I get to fill out two rosters with the best players available and I don’t have to worry about salary or chemistry or anything. I’m giddy. Anyway, let’s do this thing.
Eastern Conference Reserves
Kyrie Irving, PG, Cleveland- The question is not whether or not Irving should make the team, but whether or not he should be starting. If Rondo stays in the East, these two should be competing for this roster spot for years to come. Irving leads all East guards in points at 23.3 per game, despite being the focal point of every defense he faces. He takes more shots per game than any guard in the East, but has the third best shooting percentage of guards in the East that take more than 10 shots a game. His shooting triple slash looks like this 23.3/.463/.832. Taint bad.
Jrue Holiday, PG, Philadelphia- You were probably expecting someone else, but Holiday really is having the most All Star worthy season of any East guard. NBA.com has a way to rank players based on their Points+Assists+Rebounds. While not being the most complete way to categorize a basketball player, the fact remains that these are the three stats that fans look at first. Out of East guards, Holiday ranks first. He is ahead of Rondo and Wade, the two East starters. The biggest knock against him is his propensity to turn the ball over. He may be leading the East in turnovers per game, but guess who’s second and third. Yup, Irving followed by Rondo. Holiday leads the East’s guards in minutes, but they are very solid minutes.
Josh Smith, PF, Atlanta- Smith pretty much does it all for the Hawks down in Hotlanta. He’s a freak of nature athletically. Coming into the league out of high school, Smith was known for his ridiculous dunks, but he’s become a real life basketball player during his 8 years as a pro. He leads the East forwards in blocked shots, and is top 10 at his position in points, rebounds, assists, and steals. Now and again he’ll spot up from behind the arc, where he shoots a tick above 30%. He narrowly beats out fellow Atlanta biggun Al Horford because the All Star game is made for freakazoid athletes like Smith to shine.
Paul Pierce, SF, Boston- Do I feel good about it? No. Am I happy that in my rosterbation fantasy there are three Boston Celtics in the 2013 All Star game? No. Is there anything I can bloody do about it? There is not. This year Paul Pierce has played out of his mind, but in the adorable old man way. Instead of pooping his pants, he’s played like the patchy-faced assassin that’s treated the Pacers like the scrawniest guy at Souza-Baranowski. He’s leading the Celtics in scoring, while playing solid perimeter defense for a 63 year old man.
Tyson Chandler, C, New York- The back-up Center spot for the East could have gone to a number of people. Personally, I wanted to reward one of the efficient bigguns in the East. I think every team needs someone who doesn’t mind getting out of the way on offense and taking what’s given. Three guys stand out in the East that fill this role, but Chandler does it for the best team. Anderson Varejao does for Cleveland’s defense what Irving does for the offense, and Joakim Noah has played a huge roll in keeping the Bulls in the East playoff picture. Given the lack of a true Center in the East’s starting lineup, Chandler’s defensive abilities around the rim will suffice.
Best of the Rest
Paul George, SG/SF, Indiana- Despite my undying allegiance to the Indiana Pacers, this choice was not out of fandom. George actually deserves to be included in the All Star game. Given the makeup of this team, a hybrid shooting guard/small forward like George is the perfect fit. His ability to effectively guard anyone in the league in the 6’3”-6’10” range makes him ideal for the All Star game. He can create his own shot, but being paired up with elite passers could be exciting. The game is all about showing off the skills of the best and brightest, and George would fit in quite well.
Brook Lopez, C/PF, Brooklyn- Coming into the season, Lopez didn’t look like the likeliest choice to represent the NBA’s newest team in the All Star game. He plays with Deron Williams and Joe Johnson, each of whom are usually perennial All Star candidates. But this season has belonged to Lopez. He leads the team in scoring, and shoots over 50% from the field. He’s effective at protecting the rim, averaging more than two blocks a game. His rebounding has always been underwhelming. Despite being 7 feet tall, he averages less than eight rebounds a game, which suggests he’s a very finesse player, but the All Star game is all about finesse. Lopez is the type of player that absolutely thrives in this type of game.