The votes have been tallied and the players have been picked. It’s the halfway point in the NBA season which means it’s time for the annual All-Star showcase. The event takes place February 15th through the 17th in Houston. The NBA changed things up this year by eliminating the center position on the ballot. Instead, the fans were required to vote for three frontcourt players and two guards, regardless of their exact position.
The West starting lineup will feature four players from the two LA teams; headlined by leading vote-getter, Kobe Bryant who is in his 15th straight All-Star game. Joining Kobe in the backcourt for the West will be Chris Paul. Blake Griffin and Kevin Durant will man the forward spots with Dwight Howard at center.
The East starting lineup also features four of its players from two teams, Boston and Miami. LeBron James, who was the second leading vote-getter behind Kobe, gets the start with Kevin Garnett and Carmelo Anthony playing alongside him in the frontcourt. Rajon Rondo will run the point and Dwyane Wade at the two-guard spot.
The reserves will be announced January 24th and are chosen by the coaches in each conference. Choosing the reserve spots out West is extremely difficult with the overflow of talent in the conference. Here are a few players that I feel are a lock to make it, as well as a couple guys on the bubble.
Westbrook is one of the most physically talented guys in the NBA and is a total nightmare to match up against. The knock on him has always been that he tries to do too much, which leads to mistakes and turnovers. This season something has clicked, he is averaging 23 PPG and a career high 8.2 assists. He still has a high turnover number at 3.4 per game but a lot of those come from the way the Thunder play. They run a fast, up-tempo offense that leads the league in scoring but is second in turnovers per game. Combine those numbers with the fact that OKC has the best record in the NBA and Westbrook is definitely in.
Parker has long been one of the most underrated players in the NBA. When his career first started his job was to get Tim Duncan the ball and get out of the way, with Duncan aging Parker has become the primary scorer for the Spurs. Parker is averaging a cool 19.7 points a night to go along with 7.3 assists and he only turns it over 2.5 times a game. The knock on Parker used to be that he couldn’t shoot, but that jumper has only improved with age and Parker is shooting 52% from the field and 40% from three. With the Spurs being the second best team in the NBA there is no reason why Parker shouldn’t be on the team.
There were a lot of questions coming into this season about whether or not James Harden could be a number one option on a team. He answered them pretty quickly on opening night when he stuffed the stat sheet with 37 points, 12 assists, six rebounds and four steals. Since that performance he has gone on to average 25.9 PPG, good enough for fifth in the NBA as well as 5.4 assists and 4.5 rebounds. The Rockets have been up and down this season with Harden and Jeremy Lin figuring out how to play together but there is no question that Harden’s play has been worthy of an All-Star nod.
Curry just might have the prettiest looking jump shot in the West. He has played great this season and is averaging career highs in PPG with 20.7 and assists with 6.6 per night. He is also lighting it up from three point range shooting 46.4% good enough for second in the NBA. The Warriors have been one of the feel good stories of the NBA this season and Curry is one of the main reasons why.
David Lee is the other big reason why the Warriors have been able to make the leap from cellar-dweller to contender this season. He is averaging a double-double with 19.6 PPG and 10.8 boards. While Lee’s numbers are great, they don’t tell the whole story of what he means to his team. He does all the dirty work for Golden State; grabbing rebounds and diving for loose balls, pretty impressive for a guy on a max deal.
Aldridge has great numbers this season scoring 20.5 PPG as well as grabbing 9 boards. Portland had been one of the bigger surprises of the season up until recently when they have hit a rough patch. His biggest disadvantage is that he plays in the West where there are so many talented players at his position. If he does get in, it will be deserved and if he doesn’t that’s just the luck of the draw being a big man in the loaded Western Conference
“The Big Fundamental” is just doing his thing like he does every year. With Duncan you know what you are going to get every single night out; solid defense, some nice low post moves and probably a win for the Spurs. Because Duncan has been so solid for such a long time he sometimes gets lost in the shuffle of things when it comes to the best players in the league. The Spurs’ record certainly doesn’t hurt his chances.
Jefferson is the go-to man for the Jazz and has been ever since Deron Williams left. He is playing well this season with 17.3 PPG and 9.8 rebounds. Jefferson had a somewhat slow and inconsistent start to the season but as of late has really picked it up. David Locke, the radio play-by-play voice of the Utah Jazz sent out a tweet about Jefferson and his production in the last five games:
Al Jefferson last 5 games- 21 pts – 10rebs- 3 ast46/80 shooting and Jazz are plus 46 with him on the floor
— David Locke (@Lockedonsports) January 23, 2013
If Jefferson had been putting up numbers like that all season there would be a good argument for him to be in the starting lineup. He has done a great job of overcoming his slow start offensively and is really starting to turn it on.
People will knock on him for his defense but Jefferson is actually in the top eight in the West in both blocked shots and steals for forwards and centers. While he may never make the all-defensive team there has been a huge improvement on that side of the court for Jefferson. Isn’t the All-Star game all about offense anyway?
When asked about what he thinks his chances are for an All-Star spot at shoot-around before the Wizards game on Wednesday, Al immediately started shaking his head, Nope, I do not get my hopes up for it no more,” Jefferson said, “I used to be excited about it my first and second year in Minnesota and I got disappointed, so to keep me from being disappointed I don’t think about it. If it happens I’m thankful, if it doesn’t, I’ll get some rest.”
Those are my predictions, we’ll have to wait and see what happens tonight but I really feel that Al Jefferson deserves a spot and Chad Ford, ESPN’s NBA Insider agrees with me. In an ESPN.com SportsNation chat on Wednesday Ford was asked about who should be the reserves and he picked Jefferson as part of the Western squad.
The Jazz are in contention for the playoffs currently at 23-19, good enough for seventh in the West and Jefferson is a huge reason why. The Jazz have a roster full of good players, but not great and for them to be able to contend and play as well as they have against the best teams in the league is incredible. Most of the other players on this list have a strong supporting cast around them with a lot of guys who can score, the Jazz just don’t have that; they have some nice players that one day could turn into offensive assassins but at this point it’s just not there. So what Jefferson is able to do with the entire offense running through him is pretty impressive.