This time of year, NBA writers’ thoughts turn to the All-Star game. Some feel real passion about this subject and write long and well-reasoned articles about who the best players in the NBA really are and how they should be recognized. I can understand that perspective but I am firmly of the opinion that the game is not particularly interesting or meaningful. By extension, the process by which players are chosen doesn’t interest me that much either. The NBA All-Star game is probably the best of these professional exhibitions but I have found my personal apathy/ambivalence towards the All-Star game growing by the years. True, there is some merit to wanting to throw in two cents on who the best of the best are for the moment. It means little but it definitely means more than the game itself and is worth our taking a stab at picking teams. With that enthusiastic introduction, here are our All-Star picks.
As a prefatory note, in choosing All-Stars, I don’t particularly care how good a player’s team is, except to the extent that it is a tiebreaker between two otherwise even players. The other issue to consider is that roster construction also matters. While I don’t care who wins the game, if the goal is to construct a roster to win, the team must have players who fit a team (i.e. enough of each skill position) and not contain any significant holes. So, if an unworthy starter is voted, this will likely squeeze off a bench player at the same position. Here’s our take on the how the 2014-15 All-Star rosters should be filled, with a few sidebars.
-G, Kyle Lowry
-G, John Wall
-F, Carmelo Anthony: The horrific Knicks are not his fault. He is still a very good player. I may have chosen Chris Bosh over him but it is pretty close call.
-F, LeBron James: By PER, 10 of the top 11 players in the NBA are in the Western Conference. The only East player in the mix is LBJ. James’ 26.1 PER is his lowest since 2006-07. James has declined this year in rebounding and he has a career-high turnover rate. Also, he hasn’t shot quite as well as usual (he has had his lowest finishing rate on close shots since his rookie season). Nothing here looks like permanent loss of athleticism (he can still get to the line and block shots) so expect continued improvement.
-C, Pau Gasol: You can quibble with whether he is really a center but who knew he would be this good? The jump in block rate is impressive. I have some concern that he’s playing too many minutes but the voters got this one correct.
-G, Jeff Teague: His stellar player clearly supports this pick, as he has been the best point in the East so far. The Hawks’ improvement won’t hurt his narrative either.
-G, Jimmy Butler: The scouts liked him but indicators that he would turn into a scoring threat were not in the prior numbers.
-G, Dwyane Wade: Young Wade is never coming back but he is still very effective and the East isn’t exactly full of great guards. Both Brandon Knight and Kyrie Irving are in the running here too. Kyle Korver is definitely having a nice career year but I don’t see any way to justify putting him on the team over the other players, let alone Knight or Irving.
-F, Paul Millsap
-F/C, Al Horford
-F/C, Chris Bosh: Did you know Bosh is shooting even more than he did for Toronto?
-C, Nikola Vucevic
-G, Stephen Curry
-G, Kobe Bryant: Soon to be James Harden given Kobe’s injury. It’s not Kobe’s fault that he got this ridiculous voting win based upon popularity. Had he played, Kobe would have been in for that same awkward moment that A.C. Green had with Karl Malone so many years ago.
-F, Blake Griffin
-F, Anthony Davis: So, Davis now has a PER higher than anyone in the NBA since they started counting threes, block, steals, and turnovers (inches ahead of LBJ 2008-09 and MJ’s three best seasons). Does the MVP have to be from a playoff team? I don’t think so. New Orleans is a good offensive team but they really need to fix that poor defense. The best way to fix that is usually with a new coach. Anyone have George Karl’s number?
-C, Marc Gasol
-G, Russell Westbrook: I don’t care how much time he’s missed. Even in half the games, he is better than almost every other guard in the non-Curry/Harden division.
-G, Chris Paul: He’s slowly wearing down, kind of like Wade. Even slightly below his peak, Paul is the third best point in the NBA (behind Curry and Westbrook). I wouldn’t quibble if one wanted to take Damian Lillard over CP3.
-G, Klay Thompson: His background is quite different from Butler’s but they have the same theme this year….the pretty good player jumps to a level few saw coming. He takes seven threes a game and makes .458%. Crazy.
-F, Kevin Durant: Ditto the Westbrook comment, except only Davis has been better than KD.
-F, DeMarcus Cousins: His defense is still not great but the offensive game is so impressive that you can’t keep him out.
-F, LeMarcus Aldridge: Apparently he will try to play through his hand injury. He has been a trace more effective than the competition of Zach Randolph and Derrick Favors.
-C, Tim Duncan: TD is actually a little better than last year and Popvoich is even playing him a bit more. The other competition is DeAndre Jordan and Tyson Chandler are close but Duncan’s legacy breaks the tie, particularly where he is still a tad better than they are.