Where have the East All-Star guards gone?
November, 21, 2013
By Ethan Sherwood Strauss
Getty ImagesMeet your backcourt for the 2014 East All-Star team: Arron Afflalo and ... Jeff Teague?The New Orleans Pelicans have a nice little local ad that you can spy from afar through your League Pass telescope. The spot touts Anthony Davis, for obvious reasons, but it also makes sure to flaunt "All-Star" Jrue Holiday.
It’s true, Holiday is technically an All-Star, having been named to the East's team last season. But the claim isn't totally accurate, either, even if it is rooted in fact. The Pelicans’ trade for the All-Star point guard doomed his future All-Star hopes. Because the West is dense with All-Star talent, too dense to celebrate Holiday’s passable play. And the East is a barren hellscape, where “All-Stars” are sometimes merely the best of what’s around.
The field out West is stacked this season, and that's before a possible early return from injury by Kobe Bryant potentially nabs a fan-voted spot in the starting lineup. There are 10 Western Conference teams that boast winning records, so there’s plenty of credit to go around. Chris Paul, James Harden, Tony Parker and Stephen Curry are but a few worthy options.
Of the top seven point guards in PER right now, seven hail from out West. Of the top seven shooting guards in PER right now, the only East entrant is Arron Afflalo, who leads all other 2s at 22.08.
Yes, the 28 year-old Orlando Magic guard has arguably been the best backcourt player in the East this season. But with apologies to Mr. Afflalo, that's more a reflection of the East's bleakness than anything else. The Heat and Pacers are great. The Bulls are improving, and the Hawks are acceptable. No one else has a winning record. Roughly a quarter of the way to the All-Star break, those other teams have mainly served as a compelling advertisement for college basketball.
Derrick Rose hasn't quite returned, Rajon Rondo literally has't returned, and Deron Williams is hurt again.
Kyrie Irving's poor shooting percent on a team that detoured into an ominous “player’s only meeting.” Brandon Jennings might throw up more shots than points on an arguably worse team. Same goes for John Wall, whose Wizards epitomize foolish consistency. Jeff Teague's probably been the best East point guard so far by default.
And after Afflalo, the only East shooting guards of note are the slow-to-start Dwyane Wade and J.R. Smith, who has played badly enough to trend toward infamy.
Maybe this is the year for a slew of role players. It’s the big chance for Kyle Korver, Jimmy Butler, Lance Stephenson and Jeff Green. Maybe this is Bradley Beal's time to leave the League Pass shadows. If ever there was a time for Adam Silver to step in and stock the East with Western All-Stars, it’s now. The voting has already begun.
So what? This is a silly thing to care about, you might argue. Of course it is, as are all sports when you extend the scope of that logic. But within this particular sport, it’s equivalently silly to promote an exhibition of the best players without actually choosing the best.
The All-Star distinction does matter, even if its current validity is under assault in the Eastern time zone. The plaudit carries enough cachet for teams to zealously lobby for it. It holds enough weight for the Pelicans to tell you about Holiday’s grand achievement. It even impacts contract structure because of the Derrick Rose Rule. This year, though, the gulf between East and West somehow makes an absurdity out of a defense-free game that counts for nothing.