Well, folks, the halfway point of the season is upon us, and the 2013 All-Star reserves will be announced live on TNT at 7 PM. This year, the NBA stuck to its usual procedure and left the big decisions up to the coaches, but if they’d elected to put me in charge (and I expect that they will once they catch wind of my awesome picks) these would be the seven Eastern Conference players swangin’ down to H-Town to sip on drank and ride on fo’s (and play basketball).
BC: Kyrie Irving — The Cavaliers are really bad, but Kyrie Irving is really good. Really, really good. At the age of 20, Irving has already made himself the NBA’s sixth-leading scorer, and he’s done so whilst shooting an efficient 46.7% from the floor. His assist-to-turnover numbers are underwhelming, but look at who he’s passing to. Save for Chris Paul, a healthy Derrick Rose, and maybe Tony Parker, I’m already taking this young man over any other point guard in the league. He’s top tier, and it’s going to be damn obvious the second the Cavaliers give him some help.
BC: Jrue Holiday — The Damaja was a no-brainer selection for me despite the Sixers’ sub-.500 record. Simply by looking at his numbers — 19 points, 9 assists, 45% FG — you’ll see that he stands amongst other Eastern Conference guards. The field simply isn’t very strong, and Holiday is having himself an extremely solid season.
FC: Paul George — It can be argued that George’s own teammate, David West, is equally deserving of this spot. All season long, West has been an extremely reliable source of points for the offensively-challenged Pacers. He’s been the team’s second-best shooter behind Lance Stephenson (which means he’s really the best because he shoots a lot more) whilst averaging just a fraction of a point less than George. When the Pacers need a bucket, they give the ball to West and let him go to work. The strength of the argument for George — which I decided is a winning argument — lies in his value as a two-way player. As he often guards the other team’s primary offensive threat, George leads the Pacers in scoring at 17.2 PPG. It should also be noted that his poor month of November, during which the Pacers struggled, has actually hampered his numbers a little bit. Since the start of December George has averaged 19 points per game and the Pacers have gone 18-8. He’s had some of the best games against the Knicks, Bulls, and Heat, and goddammit I can’t deny him a spot on the All-Star team having watched him destroy LeBron James on national television. Sorry, David.
FC: Brook Lopez — Brook Lopez has been the best offensive player for a Nets team that is suddenly just 2.5 games out of first place in the East. Weirdly, he’s even rebounding the basketball at a respectable rate of 7.4 per game. Maybe a little bit of Reggie Evans is rubbing off on him… or maybe not, because he’s maintained his offensive capability. At nearly 19 PPG, Lopez has been one of the league’s best scorers on the block this season. I feel like the consensus is that he’s an obvious choice for the All-Star game, and I support that line of thinking.
FC: Joakim Noah — Three Bulls are legitimately vying for what will likely be one All-Star roster spot, but I think Joakim Noah will and should be the player who wins the nomination. He’s the anchor of the defense, and his passing ability (4 APG, first amongst centers) is absolutely vital to Chicago’s success. The Bulls lead the league in assists per field goal made, and the primary reason they’re able to do so is Noah’s ability to find people from the post. Also, he averages 12 points, 11 rebounds, and 2 blocks. That’s just pretty damn good.
WC: Al Horford — I am not an Al Horford fan. Nothing he does has any aesthetic appeal to it, and I have absolutely no desire to watch him play. From his jump shot to his face, everything about Al Horford is awkward. Basketball, however, is not about how one puts the ball in the basket, only whether or not he puts the ball in the basket. Al Horford puts the ball in the basket. He does so for a team that’s gone 24-18 despite losing its best player in the offseason. In the East, that’s an All-Star berth.
WC: Tyson Chandler — The Knicks’ defense has steadily gotten worse as the season has progressed, and that’s certainly been damaging to Chandler’s All-Star cause. What about his impact on the other end of the floor, though? While Tyson obviously remains a very limited offensive player, he’s managing to average a career-high 12.2 PPG on a league-leading field goal percentage of 67.4%. Aside from passing the ball to Carmelo and getting the hell out of his way, the pick-and-roll with Tyson as the roll man has probably been New York’s most effective method of putting points on the board. As I write this, Chandler ranks second in the league in dunks with 98. You can look at that statistic in one of two ways: Chandler is a tall guy converting easy attempts created by his teammates, or Chandler is finding a way to take more of the most efficient shot in basketball than anyone not named Blake Griffin. While I’m certainly not suggesting that Tyson Chandler’s offensive skill set is in any way comparable to that of Blake Griffin, I am saying that there’s a reason why he’s second in the league in slam dunks other than his being seven feet tall. To set great screens is a skill. To move effectively without the ball is a skill. Tyson Chandler has become top notch in both of these areas, and the Knicks are the beneficiaries. Also, Tyson is fourth in the league in rebounding and second in offensive rebounding. The “Tyson Tapback” has preserved countless Knick possessions, and I can’t recall seeing anyone use the tactic so effectively since Big Ben Wallace.
But what about…
…Chris Bosh? The Miami Heat have one big problem: they can’t out-rebound a private middle school’s junior varsity team. Chris Bosh is their starting center, he averages seven boards a game, and I think he can do better job but just doesn’t for some reason. I’m disappointed in Chris Bosh.
…Deron Williams? Deron Williams is better than almost all of the players I’m sending to Houston. He’s not having a better season than any of them, though, and that’s what this is all about. Sorry, Deron, but you were shooting below 40 freaking percent through December and I’m not handing out lifetime achievement awards.
….Paul Pierce? I was born in ’88 and grew up in New England, so for me, Paul Pierce has been synonymous to All-Star caliber basketball since before I even understood what that meant. It pains me — it truly does — to leave him off of this All-Star team, especially because I could make the case that he belongs. Pierce has played some great, memorable games this year (think Madison Square Garden), but has he had a better season than any of the seven players I’ve nominated? The answer, unfortunately, is no. Also, if Pierce made it, the 20-21 Celtics would be sending three players to Houston. When it comes to All-Star consideration, I weigh individual play more heavily than I do team success, and Pierce shouldn’t be punished because two of his teammates got voted in by the fans… but the sub-.500 Celtics having three All-Stars still seems wrong.
…Carlos Boozer? He’s been a hell of a lot better than he was last season, and I commend him for that. However, he got off to a bit of rough start and sometimes sits out the end of close games because he can’t guard a tin can.
…Luol Deng? Another Chicago Bull with a reasonable case, but there simply ain’t room for everybody. Props to Deng for being on pace to lead the league in minutes per game for a second consecutive season, though. I can appreciate that.
…JR Smith? Look, I’d love to see JR in an All-Star game as much as the next man, but no.
…Brandon Jennings? Another guy I’d love to see in an All-Star game, but another no.